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Bolshevik morality

By       Message Ludwik Kowalski     Permalink
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In a recently published book on Stalinism (1) one finds several descriptions of what Soviet Bolsheviks said about themselves, and about communist morality. But first let me quote a slogan which has been engraved in my memory since I was ten years old.  My mother and I lived in a settlement called Dedevievo, about 30 miles north of Moscow. The slogan, made of huge white letters, was at the elevated bank of the famous Moscow-Volga channel, close to the bridge. It said

THERE IS NO FORTRESS THAT CANNOT BE CONQUERED BY BOLSHEVIKS

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(Niet takich krepostei kotorych bolsheviki nie smogli by wziat) What made Bolsheviks so different from other social engineers? What made them so efficient?

Unlike other leftists, they viewed themselves as militarily-organized professional revolutionists. Strict top-to-bottom discipline was a precondition for membership; Lenin believed that capitalism could not be defeated without violence. Progressive improvements of capitalism were not on the Bolshevik agenda. That is reflected in expressions they often used, such as: basic battle plans, storming the fortress of capitalism, mobilizing masses, seizing the initiative, strongholds of reaction, temporary alliances, final smashing, etc. etc.

Here is what an old Bolshevik, Juri Pyatakov, said to his friend (as quoted on page 46; see reference 1 below): “We are not like other people. We are a party who make the impossible possible.... And if the party demands it, if it is necessary or important for the party, we will be able by an act of will to expel from our brains in twenty-four hours ideas we have held for years.... Yes, I will see black where I thought I saw white, or may still see it, because for me there is no life outside the party or apart from agreement with it." It is ironic that in 1937 Pyatakov, the deputy minister of heavy industry, was accused of anti-party activities and executed at once. The same happened to another old Bolshevik, Nikolai Bukharin in 1938. In famous show trials both men confessed. Were they tortured or were they persuaded to willingly serve the party for the last time?

A related topic has to with moral judgments. According to Lenin and Stalin, morality should be subordinated to the ideology of proletarian revolution. Denying the validity of religion-based morality, they wrote: what is useful to us is moral, what is harmful to us is immoral. Morality is a weapon in class struggle. Party and Komsomol members were drilled to accept that position, and to act accordingly. Bolshevik morality sanctions anything done “in the interest of class struggle.”

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The justification was simple. The world is full of injustice and immorality. We want to replace it by a much better “scientifically designed” social structure -- communism. That is why what we do is right, by definition. Here is a good illustration. An act of torture committed by our enemy should be exposed as unspeakable barbarism. We do this to gain sympathy and support of naive people believing in “bourgeois morality.” But an act of torture committed by us to punish an enemy of revolution is not immoral. It is a historical necessity. Likewise, slave labor and killings in German camps were considered immoral while slave labor and killings in Soviet gulag camps were considered moral. In that way communist morality was not at all better (as claimed) than morality practiced by other despotic rulers. Stalin declared that the gulag camps served the interests of revolution and this made them moral.

A gulag survivor, M. Solomon (2) wrote that  “the rules of Stalin's game of terror were desperately crude and desperately simple. They told you about them as soon as you entered the compound: In order to survive you must work, and in order not to die from work you must know how to make others work. Hunger was the regime's other whip. A man of culture looking for food in rotten garbage would have certainly exclaimed ‘It took a million years to make a human being from the animal, but it takes less than a few weeks to reduce him to that status again.’ “

References

1) Ludwik Kowalski, "Hell On Earth: Brutality And Violence Under The Stalinist Regime;"-  Wasteland Press, 2008, Shelbyville, KY, USA. See excerpts at:

2) Michael Solomon, ''Magadan'', A Vertex Book, Princeton, 1971
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http://csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/life/intro.htm
Ludwik Kowalski is a retired physics teacher (Professor emeritus, Montclair State University, New Jersey, USA). He is the author of two recently-published FREE books:

1) "Hell on Earth: Brutality and violence under the Stalinist regime" (more...)
 

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