Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Over the last few years, I have become convinced by Losurdo’s argument that a socialist state must be a strong state. How else can you transform a society, economics and culture? How else can you develop world-leading affirmative action programs in relation to ethnic minorities, or foster anti-colonial struggles, or establish major infrastructure, or indeed develop five-year plans? Stalin was, of course, the proponent of a strong socialist state, but he had to deal with a curious observation from Engels concerning the ‘withering away of the state’. Losurdo shows how Marx and Engels actually recognised the need for the state to continue, observing that the whole idea of its withering was a petty-bourgeois, anarchist aberration. As for Stalin, he argued that it may be very well in the context of global socialism, but until then a strong socialist state is needed to deal with its many enemies. Or, as van Ree observes, ‘He was realistic enough and not enough of a utopian to embark on a course of self-destruction’.

This book has taken me longer than most, since I have been extra careful to justify my arguments with reference to the texts. I speak of my book on Stalin, which should be complete in the next few days. But I cannot help offering a few teasers, one from the venerable Frederick Copleston, of History of Philosophy fame, and the other from Michael Smith,  a specialist on the language policy in the Soviet Union:

The point to notice is that Stalin was very well aware that the revolution in Russia had given rise to tasks which required fresh ideas, a development of Marxism to suit the new situation. (Copleston, Philosophy in Russia, p. 326)

Stalin still has much that is genuine to teach us. (Smith, ‘The Tenacity of Forms’, p. 107).

Something to think about.