The Genesis of the Stalinist Social Order

The Genesis of the Stalinist Social Order

The Genesis of the Stalinist Social Order

The Genesis of the Stalinist Social Order

Excerpt

To what purpose is a study of the genesis of Stalinism, just at a time when hopes are grand that the world is about to witness its passing, according to Gorbachev's more or less explicit promises? The answer lies in the question. A deeper knowledge of the historical process which gave rise to Stalinist societies has never been so urgently necessary as today. Why? Because an evil cannot be effectively dealt with without a knowledge of how it came about. Because previous attempts to reform Stalinism have not led to its disappearance but to its rebirth as neo- Stalinism, and because its continued recurrence cannot be prevented unless the mechanisms of its birth are intimately known. Gorbachev himself has underscored this very point: it is by understanding the causes of the great errors--the tragic events of our history--that we will be able to draw lessons for the present, now that we want to renew society (from a talk January 8, 1988 to a meeting with managers of the mass media and the artists' unions). And, finally, because even while Stalin's present heir is doing battle with this encumbering heritage, at other places on the globe the genesis of Stalinism seems to be repeating itself, sometimes at the initiative of leaders who might have wished to avoid it. But a path cannot be avoided if its origins are not known. Russia was the first to embark upon this path, followed by China and North Korea in the 1950s, Cuba in the 1960s, and Vietnam in the 1970s, to take only these examples. The historical path of each of these revolutions was different, yet all had similar social consequences: the constitution of Stalinist-type societies. How is it possible for the Stalinist social order to be born from such dissimilar historical trajectories? A comparative analysis of the genesis and evolution of Stalinism in different countries and different epochs should provide some clues and is certainly necessary. But such an undertaking would have to be preceded by a less extensive, more in-depth study of the most revealing case--Russia, the first Stalinist society and hence the historical prototype for those that were to come later. The structural transformations that took place in Russia in the late 1920s would later be reproduced in most of their essential characteristics by every country that subsequently embarked on the same path, notwithstanding the various national traditions and cultural archetypes, the particular circumstances, and the individual actors involved.

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