Editorial from the April 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard
So the Stalin legend is ended, struck down by the hands that built it up. Three years after his death Communist Party leaders of all nationalities who fawned on him and grovelled at his feet in his lifetime, and who slobbered hysterically at his funeral, vie with each other to speak ill of their dead hero. They now make charges that he was cowardly, conceited, ignorant and stupid, cunning and brutal, and his supposedly benevolent guidance of his admiring and loving people nothing but a betrayal of Communist ideals, a bestial reign of terror under which no voice of protest could be heard and no man of integrity was safe against arbitrary execution.
One thing we must, however, not forget. If the faction that wants to belittle Stalin carries the day we may expect the anti-Stalin campaign to be as richly ornamented with new lies as was the old campaign to build up the Stalin myth. History will be re-written again with no more regard for truth.
For the venal and sycophantic second-line leaders it is a cruel dilemma. While the dictator lived the drill was simple,. Since he was all-wise, when he turned they all turned; and fell over each other to praise his every tortuous twist of policy,. But, as has happened throughout history, the dictator's death launches his immediate circle into a bloody struggle for power, and the minor leaders and their followers suddenly have to make up their own minds which faction to support. So the British Communists are now anxiously disputing about the line they ought to follow,. This is the eventual fate of all organizations built up on leader-worship and Socialists can view their agonies with equanimity. The Communist Party has never been a force for Socialism and its disruption could only be a gain to the working class.
The way they reported the outbreak of the latest campaign against the dead Stalin is characteristic of their behaviour through the years of his rule. They always kept up the fiction that Russia, which they lyingly described as Socialist, was freely open to reporters and visiting delegations to see what they liked and tell what they saw. Yet in the issue of the Daily Worker of 17 March, 1956, when they summarised two agency reports of the string of charges levelled at Stalin by Khrushchev at the conference of the Russian Communist Party, they gave it non-commitally under the heading "Stalin: A Strange Story," and had to admit that "up to the time of going to press, no confirmation had been received of either story from the Daily Worker correspondent in Moscow, or from any Soviet news agency." But the speech was delivered as long ago as 25th February! Why did not the correspondent report it? In the first place it was delivered at a "private session." Why private? Why did the self-styled "democratic" Russian Communist Party exclude from its conference its British Communist brothers? And as other correspondents soon heard about the speech why did not the Daily Worker send on what was by then common talk in Moscow? Again what was the correspondent doing in all the years of Stalin's life never to have reported the truth about his rule?
From one angle the British Communists' behaviour is more excusable than that of the non-Communists who visited Russia and sent back glowing report that now appear as grossly misleading. For, after all, implicit obedience to the Leader was the Communist Party's one and only article of faith. No such excuse can be made for the other visitors to Russia, including Bernard Shaw. Many of them smothered the truth for other reasons, above all out of ignorance: not understanding Socialism they needed no persuading that the monstrous State Capitalism of Russia was its opposite, Socialism.
Of course the open defenders of Capitalism will rejoice at the demolition of the Stalin legend and will use it to besmirch Socialism, but Socialists will not be dismayed. This is not a new obstacle to Socialist propaganda but one that Socialists have had to deal with throughout the years of pretence about Russia under the Communists. The harm to the Socialist movement was done at the beginning when Communists first put over the lie that the Russian regime is Socialism. And though the Labour Party will also now use the issue to discredit the Communist Party let it not be forgotten that many of the leaders of the Labour Party in the period since the Communist dictatorship was set up have also given their support to the basic falsehood of Socialism in Russia.
From now on it will become more and more obvious how right the S.P.G.B. was to see in the Communist seizure of power, not the birth of Socialism but the unfettering of the development of Capitalism in Russia. This was true when Stalin was alive and honoured and is still true now that he is dead and dishonoured.