Wang Weiguang (born 1950) served as president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences from 2013-18. This article was originally published in Studies in Political Economy No 4, 2022, and was adapted from the online Red Culture Network. It is reproduced from Red Sails, with thanks.
The evaluation of Stalin’s merits and demerits would at first seem to be a matter of measuring a historical figure, a question with a definitive conclusion, but in reality it is deeply linked to a series of ongoing issues in today’s struggle.
In the final analysis, it’s a question of life and death between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie – between socialism and capitalism – where one side must triumph over the other, and this must not be minimised.
First, the complete negation of Stalin is in essence the ideological assault of western hostile forces aiming to subvert the socialist regime. The vigorous development of the Soviet Union and the world’s socialist movement at large caused fear and anxiety in the capitalist world; capitalists feared that the Marxist doctrine of scientific socialism was everywhere materialising.
The demonisation of Stalin was a covert means to undermine the success of scientific socialism, and an important means for the west to succeed in the ‘battle for hearts and minds’. After the second world war, US-led western hostile forces attempted to gain a competitive advantage over socialism through rapid technological, economic and social development, inaugurating the cold war between capitalism and socialism.
The anti-Stalinist movement catered to the needs of US-led western hostile forces, disrupting socialism in the midst of turmoil, and opening a big gap in the ideological field of the already-consolidated socialist camp, the inevitable outcome of which was the growing ideological and political chaos in socialist countries, with various contradictions and conflicts growing in prominence.
Second, the complete negation of Stalin in essence substitutes the class interests of the bourgeoisie for the class interests of the proletariat and the masses of the people. In the present era, the masses of people, led by the proletariat, are the real force of social and historical development – the masters and subjects of history, the creators of all material and spiritual wealth in society, and the agents of social change.
Socialism is a new social form representing the fundamental interests of the proletariat and the vast masses of the people. Capitalism is the last exploitative society in human history, a backward social form representing the interests of the bourgeoisie. The struggle between socialism and capitalism is a struggle between the interests of two fundamentally opposed classes.
Socialism in the Soviet Union under Stalin’s leadership achieved a great increase in state power and mounted a great defence of the interests of the masses, creating a miracle unprecedented in human history.
Khrushchev thoroughly ignored this basic reality, completely repudiated Stalin and reversed his positions, and, under the guise of advocating for a “harmony of interests” and the turbulent transformation that brought with it, cultivated a privileged capitalist clique within grasp of the western bourgeoisie. He did what the enemy wanted to do but could not do: brought disaster to the whole of Soviet socialism and the people of the world.
Third, the complete negation of Stalin is in essence the denial of the inevitable historical trend of socialism overcoming capitalism. The essence of the anti-Stalinist strategy is to transform opposition to Stalin into a complete denial of the great achievements of Soviet socialism in revolution and in construction, and thus to completely deny the historical inevitability of socialism replacing capitalism.
Regarding this inevitable trend of sociohistorical development – and the inevitable law of history that socialism replaces capitalism – the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, representing different class interests, will take different perspectives, and will draw different and even opposite conclusions.
Despite the bourgeoisie’s efforts to concoct various myths about the invincibility of capitalism – its efforts to forestall its own fate with various measures, the intensification of its struggle against socialism, its suppressive measures against socialism ranging from the military to the economic, from the political to the cultural, and even its adoption of certain concessions and collaborative measures to save itself from the inevitable tendency towards decay and extinction – no matter what it does, it cannot fundamentally change the inevitable tendency of history. Even in the contemporary western capitalist world there are many educated people who openly admit this.
The great victory of the October revolution, the rapid development of socialist construction in the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin, and the vigorous development of socialism with Chinese characteristics all fully prove the scientific correctness of historical materialism.
All hostile forces opposing Stalin advocate the complete negation of Stalin, which in essence is the complete negation of the October Revolution and the achievements of Soviet socialism, and the complete negation of the historical inevitability of socialism replacing capitalism.