an extremely lengthy response to my short piece Cuba, Stalin and Trotsky
, (see below appendix 1), where I argued with Celia Hart, a Cuban
The following is my reply to Alan Woods.
The Saga of Woods
By Israel Shamir
Do not take my polemics with Alan Woods for a learned discussion of
the Russian Revolution; the argument is not about Leon Trotsky and
Joseph Stalin (let their souls rest in peace in the bosom of Marx
in the Communist paradise) but about extremely relevant issues of
our day, though presented in historical perspective.
Woods draws a full picture of the sort of communism he subscribes
to, and wishes you to adopt it. It rests upon three whales, as did
the world in ancient cosmography.
Whale No. 1. No to Socialism in One Country.
These words are mentioned by Celia Hart, and they are extremely dear
to Woods. He repeats them many times, for instance: “At the heart
of the ideology of Stalinism is the so-called theory of socialism
in one country. The anti-Marxist theory of "socialism in one country",
first expounded by Stalin in the autumn of 1924, went against everything
the Bolsheviks and the Communist International, had preached. Such
a notion could never have been countenanced by Marx or Lenin.”
Let us disengage ourselves from the Talmudic discussion about what
exactly was said by Marx, Lenin or Stalin. This thesis of Woods means
that in no country should Communists attempt to take over power; because
if they will, it will be “socialism in one country”. Communists a-la
Woods would peacefully wait until the world bourgeoisie surrenders
its power on the planetary scale. If Woods were on the place of Joseph
Stalin he would quietly return Russia to the Tsar or to Kerensky,
in order to avoid this abomination of “socialism in one country”.
Woods ascribes this view to Lenin: “Lenin knew very well that unless
the proletarian revolution triumphed in Western Europe, especially
in Germany, the October Revolution would ultimately be doomed… How
was it possible to construct a national socialism in a single country,
let alone an extremely backward country like Russia?” In Woods' view,
this means that after defeat of revolution of Germany in 1920, the
Russian communists were to crawl back underground.
Such positions of Trots turns them into dear friends of the Western
imperialism, for in their view, the nations of the world should endure
their regimes until the Second Coming, i.e. the world revolution.
Real Communists – branded as ‘Stalinists’ in Trots’ vocabulary – were
and are for revolution, a takeover of power and socialism everywhere
– now! Mao and Lenin, Castro and Ho Chi Minh did not shy away from
power, they did not say: “Oh no, we won’t seize power, our countries
are too backward, we shall wait for the world revolution”; for they
felt responsibility and love for their countries -- for China and
Russia, for Cuba and Vietnam.
Whale No. 2. No to Patriotism.
Woods stresses: “Nationalism and Marxism are incompatible”; or Lenin’s
hatred of Russian nationalism was so great that for some time after
the October revolution the word “Russia” disappeared from all Soviet
Patriotism, love of one’s country, is a great force; this force should
be fully utilised in our struggle against the enemy. Communism a-la
Woods positions itself for globalisation; love for one’s country,
this proud “Patria o Muerte” is anathema for a Trot. A Woods Communist
should dislike or ignore his country and his people, should wish to
have its very name erased; and should never attempt to bring his compatriots
together to fight a foreign invasion or imperialist takeover. Woods
disagrees with Zyuganov’s “characterization of Russia today as a colony,
oppressed by foreign capitalists” as “this analysis leaves the door
wide open to a policy of collaborating with the “progressive national
(Russian) bourgeoisie” against the bad foreign capitalists.”
Comrade Woods, Western capitalists are indeed bad for the health of
Russians and other non-First-world nations. And real Communists –
Stalinists to you – were for collaboration with national non-comprador
bourgeoisie against Western imperialism. So did Mao when he collaborated
with Kuomintang against Japanese, Stalin while fighting the Germans,
Castro when he united Cubans against Yanksand Palestinian communists
when they united with Fatah in their struggle against Zionist Jews.
Real communists seek to create a broad coalition with nationalist
forces in order to regain power in Russia, too.
Now in Iraq, the US occupation forces effectively opened the Iraqi
economy for a Western takeover by granting equal access rights to
the foreign companies. This act brings Iraqi nationalist forces into
greater conflict with the imperialists. Objectively, Woods is on the
side of Western TNC, as he precludes nationalist defence of people.
Communists a-la Woods won’t cooperate with Iraqi nationalists against
American imperialism, for nationalism is their main enemy.
This discussion of nationalism is not a new one. Marx and Lenin stated
that communists should support nationalism of the oppressed nations
and fight nationalism of the oppressors. However, the New World Order
introduced a new keynote in the old discourse, for even the nations
of the First World – of North America and Western Europe – are being
undermined by the new policies of their masters.
For instance, Sweden, an extremely developed West European nation,
now loses its industry: the famous SAAB car plants were bought by
the TNC, closed down and the production moved into more profitable
areas. Tens of thousands of skilled workers lost their jobs, while
thousands of local owners were proletarianised. The same process takes
place in the US, where industries migrate south, while their profits
migrate to the Eastern Seaboard. Workers and small owners may now
create a new nationalist coalition against their new trans-national
In the US, there are nationalist forces - from Patrick Buchanan to
Gore Vidal to Justin Raimondo - who object to world-wide plans of
trans-national imperialism. Real communists – Stalinists for Woods
– would cooperate, interact, influence these forces in the struggle
against common enemy. Communists a-la Woods would preserve their virginal
and doctrinal purity; for them, the fight against nationalism is more
important than fight against imperialism.
In Europe, local nationalist forces stand up against the American
onslaught in culture and economics; here again, real Communists will
interact with the anti-globalisation movement, while Woods would fight
local nationalism and objectively support TNK.
3. Whale No. 3 Alliance with Jewish nationalism.
Despite his anti-nationalism, there is a sort of nationalism acceptable
to Woods, namely, trans-national Jewish quasi-nationalism. A Woods
communist would fight every nationalism save the Jewish one. For him,
Stalin was bad, for he tolerated and utilised Russian nationalism
and fought against Jewish nationalism.
He states: “The Bolshevik Party had always fought against anti-Semitism”.
True; but this is only half of truth. The second half missed by Woods
is that the Bolshevik Party under Lenin and Stalin had always fought
against Jewish nationalism.
As every Jewish nationalist, Woods repeats the mantra of Stalin’s
anti-Semitism. He writes: “One of the most repulsive features of Stalinism
was its anti-Semitism.” Does Woods mean that Stalin adhered to a racial
theory of Semitic and Nordic races? Unlikely; this son of Georgia
was not particularly Nordic. Does he mean that Jews were persecuted
as racial group under Stalin? Obviously not, for Stalin’s daughter
was married to a Jew; some of his best comrades and party leaders
had Jewish wives (Molotov to Voroshilov) - or Jewish sons and daughters-in-law
(Malenkov, Khrushchev). So much for racism. Were Jews discriminated
against under Stalin? In 1936, at the pinnacle of Stalin’s power,
his government included nine Jews, among them Foreign Minister Litvinov,
Home (secret services) Minister Yahoda, the foreign trade minister
etc. Did Stalin ever expressed hatred or even acute dislike of Jews?
No; he actually declared that every anti-Semite would be shot.
However, Stalin was an enemy of Jewish nationalism. When some prominent
Soviet Jews planned to create a Jewish state in Crimea after the expulsion
of Crimean Tatars, Stalin put paid to their plans. When some Jews
tried to ally with Zionism, he did not tolerate it. He attempted to
check Jewish over-representation in the power structures, as Jews
were overrepresented in the Party, the Government and Secret Services
of the Soviet state and constituted over 50% of Cheka-GPU-NKVD top
This is what Woods calls “Stalin’s anti-Semitism”. [He is aware of
problem of “over- and under-representation” as long as it concerns
Russians, for he writes:
“The drive to russify the non-Russian peoples is shown by the composition
of the leading bodies of the "Communist" Parties of the Republics.
In 1952, only about half of all leading officials in the Central Asian
and Baltic Republics were of local nationality. Elsewhere, the proportion
was even lower. For example, in the Moldavian Party only 24.7 per
cent were Moldavians, while only 38 per cent of recruits to the Tajik
Party in 1948 were said to be Tajik.”
Woods opens a dangerous (for him) route of discourse. How many leading
officials in the Trotskyite parties in the US and Europe were, and
are, of “local nationality”? Using Woods’ logic, a high proportion
of Jews indicates their drive to judaise. Or this argument can be
used only against the Russians?]
Stalin wanted to have Jews serving the Soviet state; but he did not
want the Soviet state to serve a Jewish agenda. As a result, Jews
retained some of their privileges, but their exalted position went
down a notch or two, and a good thing: the party and the government
were opened to people of ‘local nationality’.
The saga of Woods is a timely reminder of present-day Western Trotskyism’s
sorry state. The Western Trots keep themselves at arm’s length from
other comrades; sabotage local revolution in the name of “world revolution”;
they are anti-patriotic, anti-nationalist, unable to attract masses,
often connected to Jewish nationalist circles. Their slogans are attuned
exclusively to minorities; they think of gays and immigrants, Jews
and single parents; but the majority is of no interest for them. This
explicit and obsessive attraction to minorities is a non-communist,
even anticommunist trend. Communism is for majority against minority;
for dispossessing minority in the name of majority.
In a way, Communism is Christianity mutilated by Occam’s Razor. St
Paul dispossessed the Jews and gave their spiritual treasure to the
majority, to the whole mankind. Marx dispossessed the capitalists
and gave their material treasure to the majority.
Preoccupation with minorities is, therefore a sign of anticommunists.
Trots, indeed, provide imperialists with support from the left. Woods
speaks disparagingly of five-hundred-thousand-strong Russian Communist
Party; I doubt whether his organisation has even five hundred members.
In short, the advice of Woods is as good for the communists as the
advice of the New York Times: it leads into isolation, sectarianism
and political suicide. Celia Hart will do the right thing if she rejects
his suit: friends of Cuba are real communists who are ready to act
in real conditions, to interact with real partners, warts and all,
and fight real enemies. Woods and other Western Trots will always
find a good and moral reason to be against Cuba in critical moment:
if not for its human rights record, then for the unashamed masculinity
of its leader or for its production of cigars.
Cuba, Stalin and Trotsky
(Israel Shamir replies to Celia Hart whose essay "Socialism in one
country" and the Cuban Revolution appeared in TRICONTINENTAL MAGAZINE
as A contribution from Cuba, by Celia Hart on
May 10, 2004)
I applaud your beautiful essay and share your faith in vitality of
Cuban revolution. However your anti-Stalinist fervour seems to be
out of place, a remnant of Khrushchev’s de-Stalinisation. 'Stalinist'
is a Trotskyite slang for a Communist, the word they use to curry
favour in the eyes of anti-Communists. Even if you like Leon Trotsky
you do not have to be against Joseph Stalin. Years and decades passed
by, and we should be able to accept the adversaries of yesteryear,
like Marx and Proudhon, or Stalin and Trotsky.
Much of what you say is built on misunderstanding. You wrote about
internationalism, but all your examples are taken from the inter-Latin
scene. There is mutual help of Cubans, Dominicans, Argentines, even
Angolans or Spaniards - but all of them belong to one Iberian civilisation.
It is a sort of internationalism, but I doubt the nations mentioned
are really all that different from each other in their traditions.
All of them are Catholic, Iberian (Castilian, Gallego, other Spanish
or Portuguese) by language and united by blood and history.
Joseph Stalin ruled a country which is a civilisation by itself; a
vast continent with many nations and languages; whose interrelations
with Western Europe were, at best, troublesome. He was an internationalist,
too, and Russians under Stalin supported the Spanish Republic and
the Red Army of Mao. But he was a Russian internationalist, and his
first duty was to the people of the USSR. Leon Trotsky did not understand
the continuity of Russian history. He was involved in terrible persecution
of the Church, in robbery and destruction of churches. He was involved
in mass executions of peasants and workers, of officers and of intelligentsia.
He lost the war with Poland and failed to make peace with Germany.
He alienated Russian intellectuals and working people. In his drive
for permanent revolution he did not pay enough attention to Russia;
it was his undoing.
Joseph Stalin made the Soviet Union a strong modern state, ensured
full employment, rights of workers, free education and health care.
He created the industrial base and advanced science. He fought and
won the hardest of wars Russia ever experienced. Under his rule, Socialist
Russia survived endless assaults of the American imperialism. He kept
down pro-Western and pro-Capitalist forces in the country.
Now the people of Russia look back at Stalin's days - no, not with
nostalgia, but with understanding that it was heroic period of their
All Communist forces in Russia and in Europe are being described as
'Stalinist' if they do not accept Pax Americana. The Trotskyites in
Russia are pro-Western and pro-American force, even more anti-Russian
than Leon Trotsky was. The same is true about many (though not all)
Trot groups in Europe.
By all means, be interested in Trotsky's legacy, but do not be dismissive
about real Soviet Communism, the one that helped Cuba and the one
you call now 'Stalinism'.
2. This letter of mine was forwarded by a Trot, Roland Garret on a
left-oriented Spanish list with following intro by Garret:
The is a letter from a Stalinist, who still believes in Stalin. Who
does not understand or refuses to acknowledge the horror of Stalin
and Stalinism. When he talks of the Spanish Republic, he forgets that
the lack of Soviet aid in Spain allowed imperialism to feel secure
from revolution. To start WWII, or to finish WWI, which was stopped
by the 1917 Revolution.
The Bolsheviks never supported capitalist wars. Stalin did.
3. My response to Garret:
Roland Garret, Stalin for me is an important historical figure, not
a substitute of God; for God does not need any substitutes. A person
who respects, say, Churchill's or Jose Marti's contribution to mankind
does not have to 'believe' in them. 'Stalinists' do not exist - it
is just a Trot-made label to be attached on a Communist. Equally,
'Horrors of Stalin and Stalinism' is but a classic cliché of
anti-Communists. In connection to Cuba, people you describe as 'Stalinists'
are great supporters of Cuba, while people who speak of 'Stalin's
horrors' usually are enemies of Cuba.
As for historical question whether Russian help to the Spanish republic
was sufficient: Russia lacked means of delivery and could not do much
more. Do not forget that the Red Army took severe beating from Poland
in 1920 and from Finland in 1940. It is also possible that real and
justified fear of a western crusade against Soviet Russia also placed
some limits to Russian aid. Russians did not feel their country is
just 'a match to lit the bonfire of world revolution' and did not
want (and could not) export revolution beyond the borders of their
civilisation. The Russian Communists were not some Red equivalent
of neo-cons keen to expand their ideological domination: they were
ready to help, but did not wish to impose their will. Trots, on the
other hand, were extremely aggressive, like the neo-cons, and were
willing to disregard all consequences of their rash actions.