La Bookfest…


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De la Marx, prin Lenin, spre Stalin…


Nu încape îndoială, filosoful politic și economistul de secol XIX pe nume Karl Marx nu a fost strămoșul intelectual direct al lui Stalin. Filiația a fost mediată (vermittelt) de Plehanov, Lenin, social-democrații gruzini, până la un punct chiar de marxismul austriac. Și totuși, așa cum au arătat Leszek Kołakowski, Martin Malia și Andrzej Walicki, stalinismul a fost unul din principalele curente ale marxismului într-un secol al devastatoarelor furtuni ideologice. Stalin da, s-a perceput pe sine ca marxist și a acționat în consecință. Nu a fost vorba doar de simpla sete de sânge, vendetă compulsivă sau vreun apetit gargantuesc pentru putere printre factorii care i-au motivat operațiunile genocidare, dar, mai mult ca orice altceva, a fost vorba de convingerea sa fermă că era adevăratul discipol al lui Lenin. La rându-i, Lenin fusese convins că era singurul succesor apostolic al lui Marx…

Stalinism for all Seasons


The Communist Party of Romania (section of the Third International) was founded on May 8, 1921. For all its existence, legal, clandestine, in power, it was deeply committed to the Stalinist mythology and viscerally opposed to any liberal temptation. In 1956, the Romanian communist leaders rejected de-Stalinization and embarked, first timidly, then openly in de-Sovietization without liberalization. Once Ceaușescu came to power in March 1965, succeeding Gheorghiu-Dej, he stimulated, manipulated, and exploited nationalist emotions, including anti-Semitism and Hungarophobia. In this respect, as we try to to demonstrate, Marius Stan and I, in a paper we are working on, there were significant features that defined what we call National Stalinism in Romania, Poland (Mieczysław Moczar and his Partisan faction), and Enver Hoxha’s Albania. 1968 was a crucial year in highlighting the major differences between Titoist national Communism, Dubček’s socialism with a human face, and the ethnocentric National Stalinism.


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Apostolic genealogies: From Marx, through Lenin, to Stalin


Definitely, the 19th century political philosopher and economist Karl Marx was not Stalin’s direct intellectual forebear. The relation was mediated (vermittelt) by Plekhanov, Lenin, the Georgian Social Democrats, to some extent even Austrian Marxism. Yet, as Leszek Kołakowski, Martin Malia, and Andrzej Walicki have shown, Stalinism was one of the main currents of Marxism in a century of fierce ideological storms. Stalin conceived of himself as a Marxist and acted accordingly. It was not sheer lust for blood, compulsive vindictiveness, and a Gargantuan appetite for power that motivated his genocidal undertakings, but, more than anything else, his unshatterable belief that he was Lenin’s true disciple. In turn, Lenin was convinced that he was Marx’s only apostolic successor…


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May 1: The Dreams Betrayed…


On May 1, thinking of the Spanish Civil War, the Stalinist confiscation of the internationalist dream, the liquidation of POUM, George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia”. The Spanish tragedy was both a civil war (lost by the loyalists and won by the Fascists supported by Hitler and Mussolini) ) and a libertarian revolution (strangled by the Stalinists)…


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Image: POUM poster, World War II Museum, Gdansk

Ideological storms


The Counter-Enlightenment critique of liberalism was based partly on politics and partly on religion. With regard to politics, Counter-Enlightenment thinkers denied that it was possible to run a stable and tranquil spolitical order on the basis of liberal ideas. Implicitly and quite often explicitly, contemporary counter-Enlightenment votaries of what Albert Hirschman called the rhetoric of reaction draw from the tradition explored by Isaiah Berlin.


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Image: Sir Isaiah Berlin by Richard Avedon, 1993


The Fate of Marxism in Russia


 Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov (1856-1918) was the patriarch of Russian Marxism. In 1917, he fiercely opposed the October Revolution. In 1922, his former disciple, Vladimir Lenin, wrote a paean to Plekhanov calling him the most influential Marxist of his lifetime. Yet, neither Lenin, nor Trotsky took seriously Plekhanov’s anguish regarding the birth of a totalitarian regime pretending to express the will of the proletariat. In 1924, Vagarshak Arutyunovich Ter-Vaganian (1893-1936) published a comprehensive biography, comprising almost 700 pages, specifically devoted to the development of Plekhanov’s socio-political views.

In 1920, Ter-Vaganian started to work at the Marx-Engels Institute , which was headed by one of the most authoritative scholars of the history of international social democracy and Marxism of his time—D. B. Ryazanov. Vaganian served as editor of the theoretical journal, “Under the Banner of Marxism.” Acknowledging the interest that Ter-Vaganian had shown for the works of Plekhanov, Ryazanov created a Plekhanov Department at the institute and employed Ter-Vaganian to prepare the 24-volume collected works of the founder of Russian Marxism. One intermediary result of the studies Ter-Vaganian undertook was his work “An Attempt at a Bibliography of G. V. Plekhanov,” which appeared in 1923. A new, expanded edition of this book was prepared in the early 1930s, but it was not published because, by that time, Stalin had adopted a hostile attitude toward Plekhanov. In 1936 Ter-Vaganian was among the defendants in the first Moscow Trial and was sentenced to death along with Zinoviev and Kamenev…

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