How to deal with one’s opponents and critics – Stalin style

So how did Stalin deal with dissenters, critics and opponents? Expel them, exile them to Siberia, even kill them? Apparently not. Actually he was constantly warning others not to do so, both at home and in the international communist movement. As he wrote concerning the German Party’s propensity for dealing harshly with critics:

I am emphatically opposed to the policy of kicking out all dissenting comrades. I am opposed to such a policy not because I am sorry for the dissenters, but because such a policy gives rise in the Party to a regime of intimidation, a regime of bullying, which kills the spirit of self-criticism and initiative. It is not good when leaders of the Party are feared but not respected. Party leaders can be real leaders only if they are not merely feared but respected in the Party, when their authority is recognised. It is difficult to produce such leaders, it is a long and arduous process, but it is absolutely essential, otherwise the Party cannot be called a real Bolshevik Party, and the discipline of the Party cannot be conscious discipline. (Works, col. 7, p. 45)

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8 thoughts on “How to deal with one’s opponents and critics – Stalin style

  1. Here’s to authoritarian communism, absolutely necessary at certain points. I am not sure whether I prefer the metaphor of ‘purging’ (with its enema-like associations) or ‘sifting’ (as with flour – used in terms of the Red Army to ensure that recruits were sufficiently red).

    1. For some reason your approach – never really question the status quo – reminds me uncannily of Wallerstein’s description of Western academic disciplines: ‘The institutionalization of history and the three nomothetic disciplines – economics, sociology, and political science – in the last third of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth took the form of university disciplines wherein the Western world studied itself, explained its own functioning, the better to control what was happening’. (Wallerstein, Modern World System vol. IV, p. 264).

  2. Now, which revisionist scholarship do you mean? The revisionism after Stalin’s death and at the instigation of Khrushchev? The revisionism of ‘Western’ social historians in the 1970s and 1980s, which overturned the totalitarian hypotheses in favour of a ‘resistance hypothesis’ in which no-one supported Stalin (a bit of a problem in light of WWII)? The revisionism of the 1980s and 1990s in Russia, when Stalin and Lenin were fair game for anyone with yet more shocking revelations? Or the revisionism of war historians like Roberts, Glantz, Thurston, or Markwick, which explores how Stalin managed to garner so much popular support for the war effort against fascism? Perhaps a little reading and research would help.

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