Stalin on veneration and children’s books

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

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Can one be a disciple of Stalin?

Not according to the man himself, as he writes in a letter from 1926:

I object to your calling yourself “a disciple of Lenin and Stalin.” I have no disciples. Call yourself a disciple of Lenin; you have the right to do so … But you have no grounds for calling yourself a disciple of a disciple of Lenin’s. It is not true. It is out of place. (Works, vol. 9, p. 156)

Stalin may have played a major role in fostering the veneration of Lenin, especially in the context of struggles with Trotsky over Lenin’s heritage, but he was dead against veneration of himself.

Stalin and Lenin 02a

Lenin in Russian folktales

Deeply into the veneration of Lenin, so to speak. Much of the secondary material is pretty trite (the ‘cult’ was engineered from above etc.), but what emerges between the lines is how pervasive the spontaneous wave of popular veneration was. The government realised what was going on and thought ‘holy shit, what do we do?’ Publish them at least, and then try to channel them in useful directions. Here’s one, from Orenburg:

The tsar was informed by one of his leading generals that there was someone, ‘of unknown rank, without a passport, who goes by the name of Lenin’. This person was threatening to entice the tsar’s soldiers to his side with one word, and then grind into ashes the commanders, generals, officers, even the tsar himself, and throw them into the wind. The tsar grew afraid and decided to do anything he could to prevent Lenin saying the word. So he made contact with Lenin, offering to divide the country in half. Lenin agreed to the proposal, but with one condition: the tsar must take the ‘white’ half, that is, the generals and officers and wealthy people, while Lenin would take the ‘black’ half, the workers, peasants and soldiers. The tsar couldn’t believe his good fortune in keeping all that mattered to him, so he quickly agreed. But to his dismay, he realised soon enough that Lenin had tricked him. His officers had no soldiers to lead, the rich people had no workers, the tsar had no people to make the country run. So the white part under the tsar went to war with Lenin’s black part, in order to win the latter back. But the white was unable to survive for long. So it was that Lenin took the country away from the tsar.

Ленин всегда с Тобой – Lenin is Always With You

Almost time to turn from a long immersion in Lenin’s miracle=revolution, with its dialectic of spontaneity and organisation, operating within and without the system, and the paradox of the genuine universal of an explicit partisan freedom that abolishes the conditions for distinguishing between formal (limited) and actual (absolute) freedom. So my next focus is the fascinating topic of venerating Lenin. A complex web of factors here, such as the Orthodox superstition that the bodies of saints do not decay, Lenin’s perpetual metaphors of decay, rotting alive and disease, his concern over his health coupled with his love of (and skill in) skating, swimming, hiking, mountain climbing and cycling, the continued influence of Lunarcharsky’s God-Building after the revolution, and the clear recognition by the communists that the revolutionary leader, especially his own body, is vital.

Plenty of stuff here, such as this great song, ‘Lenin is Always With You’

Lyrics:

ЛЕНИН ВСЕГДА С ТОБОЙ

День за днем бегут года —
Зори новых поколений.
Но никто и никогда
Не забудет имя: Ленин.

   Ленин всегда живой,
   Ленин всегда с тобой
   В горе, в надежде и радости.
   Ленин в твоей весне,
   В каждом счастливом дне,
   Ленин в тебе и во мне!

В давний час, в суровой мгле,
На заре Советской власти,
Он сказал, что на земле
Мы построим людям счастье.

Мы за Партией идем,
Славя Родину делами,
И на всем пути большом
В каждом деле Ленин с нами.

   Ленин всегда живой,
   Ленин всегда с тобой
   В горе, в надежде и радости.
   Ленин в твоей весне,
   В каждом счастливом дне,
   Ленин в тебе и во мне!

1955

Translation of chorus:

Lenin is always alive
Whether you laugh or cry
Lenin is (in) your spring
He is (in) every great thing
Lenin is within thee
As he is within me