Today is Stalin's birthday
December 21 marks the birthday of Joseph Stalin, leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953.
Though reviled in the West, Stalin oversaw the period of socialist construction in the USSR. Under his leadership the country abolished illiteracy, unemployment, homelessness, and put an end to Russia's centuries-long history of famines. Under the leadership of Stalin, the USSR played a key role in turning back the tide of fascism and the defeat of Nazi Germany. This victory was not just a victory for the Soviet Union and socialism, but a victory for the peoples of the world. Under his leadership, the country went from an agrarian backwater to a major industrial power, well on its way to becoming the world's greatest space power. During the time he led the world revolutionary movement, the number of countries governed by working people grew from two to twelve.
The leader of the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Lenin, died in 1924. Upon his death, opposition forces in the country which had been cowed into submission by Lenin's personal prestige made their move, and a power struggle ensued. At a leadership level, the struggle pitted Stalin, who had been Lenin's closest political ally, against Leon Trotsky, who had fought Lenin many times over the preceding 22 years. The main policy difference was that Trotsky did not believe it was possible to construct socialism in the USSR; he believed they would have to wait until revolutions happened in other countries to move forward. Stalin's victory in this struggle was a political precondition for the construction of Soviet socialism.
Much of Stalin's time in leadership was occupied with the problem of defending the country from foreign invasion. In 1931, he remarked that the country was industrially and economically 50 or a 100 years behind the developed countries. “We must make good this distance in ten years,” he said. “Either we do it, or we shall go under.” The next ten years were spent in frantic efforts at industrialization, and great sacrifices were made in this effort.
But when, in 1941, Nazi Germany and a coalition of other countries invaded the USSR, only the great strides in industrialization that the USSR had made allowed them to fend off this genocidal assault.
Stalin also played a tremendous role in the anti-colonial movement. In 1924, most of Africa and much of Asia were still occupied by European powers. The Soviet Union under Stalin gave an enormous amount of support to the peoples in these countries struggling for freedom and equality. Vietnamese anti-colonial rebels even named a mountain after him.
The Soviet Union has been gone nearly 30 years, but it remains dangerous to the world's rich people, because it remains an example of a successful society which did away with rich people entirely. Because of this, the USSR and its leaders, and above all Stalin, are subjected to an unending litany of abuse and defamation.
Still, if the wealthy hate him, the revolutionaries still remember him positively. Stalin told his close comrade Molotov in 1953: “I know that after my death a pile of rubbish will be heaped on my grave, but the wind of history will sooner or later sweep it away without mercy.”
No one should expect to make a revolution with the approval and the advice of the class they are attempting to overthrow. The rubbish heaped on Stalin is itself simply a reflection of the reality that he held to a revolutionary course throughout his life. As the great Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara said, “In the so-called mistakes of Stalin lies the difference between a revolutionary attitude and a revisionist attitude.”