I have always marvelled at the old fogeys, who manage to swim throughout winter in these parts, even in water that would make a normal person blue with cold and suffering the effects of the cold on motor control. I speculated that perhaps such people had begun to lose the function of some nerves, so that they lost feeling to some extent. I wondered whether the many experiences of life made what once seemed like extremes into rather normal events.

Today, 9 August 2015, I decided to go for a swim in the ocean. This is the last month of winter in these parts, with chilly nights and fresh days. The water still has its winter feel. Down on the beach, I was the only person headed for the water. The few others present were rugged up, seeking to find some quiet on a winter’s afternoon by the water – albeit only for a look and the touch of the biting wind.

As I strode towards the water, I expected a brass-monkey and breath-taking dip, for perhaps a few seconds. Instead, it was glorious! I dove under waves, caught a few, sensed once again the salt water on my skin. Eventually, I came out of the water and went to change. I felt as though I was glowing.

Instead of a once-off event, I do believe this is the beginning of yet another swimming season. They seem to get longer every year. Another pleasure of age – they keep increasing in number.

Earlier I wrote a post on Stalin’s definition of cultural revolution, in which education played the central role. On that occasion I called the pentecost of languages and people. But by 1939 he began to include the creation of a Socialist intelligentsia in his definition:

As regards the cultural standard of the people, the period under review has been marked by a veritable cultural revolution. The introduction of universal compulsory elementary education in the languages of the various nations of the U.S.S.R., an increasing number of schools and scholars of all grades, an increasing number of college-trained experts, and the creation and growth of a new intelligentsia, a Soviet intelligentsia – such is the general picture of the cultural advancement of our people.

I think that the rise of this new, Socialist intelligentsia of the people is one of the most important results of the cultural revolution in our country. (Works vol. 14, p. 391)

In the 1930s, appreciation and even veneration of Stalin was on the rise. One example was a proposed children’s book concering Stalin’s own childhood. He was not impressed. When this item is cited, it is usually done so to point out that Stalin preferred not to have some uncomfortable experiences from his earlier life recounted. However, no attention is paid to the main reason for his misgivings: that it would foster the veneration he detested so much.

I am absolutely against the publication of ‘Stories of the childhood of Stalin.’

The book abounds with a mass of inexactitudes of fact, of alterations, of exaggerations and of unmerited praise. Some amateur writers, scribblers, (perhaps honest scribblers) and some adulators have led the author astray. It is a shame for the author, but a fact remains a fact.

But this is not the important thing. The important thing resides in the fact that the book has a tendency to engrave on the minds of Soviet children (and people in general) the personality cult of leaders, of infallible heroes. This is dangerous and detrimental. The theory of ‘heroes’ and the ‘crowd’ is not a Bolshevik, but a Social-Revolutionary theory. The heroes make the people, transform them from a crowd into people, thus say the Social-Revolutionaries. The people make the heroes, thus reply the Bolsheviks to the Social-Revolutionaries. The book carries water to the windmill of the Social-Revolutionaries. No matter which book it is that brings the water to the windmill of the Social-Revolutionaries, this book is going to drown in our common, Bolshevik cause.

I suggest we burn this book. (Works, vol. 14, p. 327).

Stalin unknown 01

This observation speaks much not only of role of the communist party (as part of a dialectic of transcendence and immanence), but also of the direction of any veneration:

The leaders come and go, but the people remain. Only the people are immortal, everything else is ephemeral. That is why it is necessary to appreciate the full value of the confidence of the people. (Works, vol. 14, p. 302)

As I read through History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), commonly known as the Short Course, I am increasingly intrigued by the genre of communist historiography. This was the first time a communist party was in power and had the power to write a history. Examples of course continue today, but this first effort is most intriguing. Earlier, Stalin had already begun commenting on efforts to write such histories, giving advice to the writing teams. For instance:

Without these explanations the struggle between factions and contradictions in the history of the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R., would appear to be merely the facts of an incomprehensible dispute and the Bolsheviks to be incorrigible and tireless quibblers and scrappers (Works, col. 14, p. 299).

As one would expect, these accounts are usually dismissed as ‘ideologically driven’, but that dismissal misses the unique shape the genre first took and has taken since.

I must admit I have a love of pocket watches, carrying one of my collection around with me at all times. So I was thrilled to read this, an address given to collective farm workers from Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in December, 1935:

Secondly, that the government has decided to make a gift of an automobile truck to every collective farm represented here and to present every participant at this conference with a gramophone and records (applause) and watches – pocket watches for the men and wrist watches for the women. (Prolonged applause.) (Works, vol. 14, p. 123).

watch

In a long and important piece on the Stakhanovite movement, Stalin has this to say about the speed of trains. Keep in mind that the movement was part of the extraordinary and rapid transformation achieved through industrialisation and collectivisation:

We shall have in the first place, to persuade these conservative elements in industry, persuade them in a patient and comradely manner, of the progressive nature of the Stakhanov movement, and of the necessity of readjusting themselves to the Stakhanov way. And if persuasion does not help, more vigorous measures will have to be adopted. Take, for instance, the People’s Commissariat of Railways. In the central apparatus of that Commissariat, there was, until recently, a group of professors, engineers, and other experts – among them Communists – who assured everybody that a commercial speed of 13 or 14 kilometres per hour was a limit that could not be exceeded without contradicting “the science of railway operation.” This was a fairly authoritative group, who preached their views in verbal and printed form, issued instructions to the various departments of the People’s Commissariat of Railways, and, in general, were the “dictators of opinion” in the traffic departments. We, who are not experts in this sphere, basing ourselves on the suggestions of a number of practical workers on the railway, on our part assured these authoritative professors that 13 or 14 kilometres could not be the limit, and that if matters were organised in a certain way, this limit could be extended. In reply, this group, instead of heeding the voice of experience and practice, and revising their attitude to the matter, launched into a fight against the progressive elements on the railways and still further intensified the propaganda of their conservative views. Of course, we had to give these esteemed individuals a light tap on the jaw and very politely remove them from the central apparatus of the People’s Commissariat of Railways. (Applause.) And what is the result? We now have a commercial speed of 18 and 19 kilometres per hour. (Applause.)

Works, vol. 14, pp. 107-8.