Continuing with this piece by Evgeny Krutikov, but before moving on to Beria’s (putative) Big Plan for internal reforms, I just wanted to linger a tad longer, on the issue of Soviet foreign policy. Because the casual Western philistine still believes that the Stalinist Soviet Union was some kind of radical expansionist force in the world; which had to be contained by the Western Democracies. To that notion, I would retort with one word: “Balderdash.”
I think Krutikov showed, and made a good point, that Beria’s foreign policy was really no different from Stalin’s, in the post-war world. As a retort to those who believe that Beria would have been a nicer guy, and reunified Germany and won over the West with his charm offensive…. As if Stalin didn’t try that tactic and get rebuffed over and over…
In fact, as I believe I showed in my previous Chase/Trotsky series, Stalin had zero interest in inciting or spreading socialist revolutions, even when he was an Old Bolshevik himself! Stalin was a member of the more “conservative” (some would say, more “liberal”) Bolshevik wing, including Kamenev and Zinoviev, who did not believe that Russia was ready for the socialist revolution; that it had to proceed first through the bourgeois revolution. Lenin, on returning to Russia, demolished that faction with his “April Theses”. To the dismay of the latter, Lenin allied with the more radical Trotsky (a man they all hated passionately), whose “Theory of Permanent Revolution” was one and the same with the April Theses. Namely, that newly formed revolutionary governments could skip over the stage of bourgeois government and go straight to socialism. Using their own forms of government, such as the Soviets.
Although Stalin, like the others, was swept away by Lenin’s force of personality, he never actually changed his views and (secretly) remained a skeptic. As proved by his “theory” of “Socialism in one country”, which was the main bone of contention between him and Trotsky. And Stalin trotted (no pun intended) out this completely bogus “theory” before Lenin’s body was even cold.
After the defeat of the German revolution (1918-1923), then the Chinese revolution of 1927 (where, again, Stalin and his cronies, in full Menshevik form, insisted that the Chinese Communists had to kow-tow to the bourgeoisie, as a result of which the former got their asses handed to them by the latter); — indeed, without any international support, the Russian socialist experiment was fairly doomed at this point; except that Fate handed Russia one more chance: The Spanish Revolution of 1936. Which was a rather big deal. And Stalin, by then the undisputed Autocrat of the USSR, did everything in his power to see that the Spanish Revolution failed. Leaving the Soviet Union isolated in the world, as the only Communist country. Which is the way that Stalin wanted things to be. (And when I say “Stalin”, I don’t mean just the man, but also the functionary caste that he represented, that goes without saying.)
But, the astute Reader will retort, what about the post-war buffer zone and the creation of Communist states such as Czechoslovakia and East Germany? Indeed, that appears to be a counter-example to my contention that Stalin never really desired to see any form of socialism take root anywhere, be it Russia, Germany, Spain, China, or anywhere else. And yes, this is a counter-example. But, as Wagner’s Wotan might say: “Something appeared in the world that had never been before.” And even Stalin, conservative and anti-revolutionary though he might be, was forced to create these buffer-zone states against his will — the only other option was a new war and a new invasion, this time coming from America. And when building a new state, the Soviet functionaries didn’t know any other way to do it, except by their own model. So they built Soviet-style states with the local Communist Party functionaries in charge. As a purely defensive move.
In addition to the buffer states, we also see other socialist states arising more spontaneously in the late-Stalin era: China, Cuba, Vietnam, etc. How can these facts be explained away? Well, I can assure you that Stalin had no desire or intention for any of these revolutions to succeed; but sometimes things happened outside of his control. And sometimes geopolitics just overrides all other considerations. (For example, explaining why a capitalist like Putin supports a socialist like Maduro in Venezuela!)
In the case of indigenous revolutions (China, Cuba, Vietnam), Stalin’s first demand, always, to the indigenous revolutionaries, was they purge any Trotskyist factions within their ranks; secondly, they had to pay lip service to the “Great Stalin”, denounce Trotsky, and so on. In any mass demonstrations or parades, they were forced to carry Stalin’s portrait alongside those of Marx and Lenin. That is, if they wanted to receive any Soviet aid, which of course they did. Hence, for example, the Vietnamese Communists, who had previously incorporated both Stalinist and Trotskyist factions working together amicably for the common good — were forced to physically liquidate all their Trotskyist cadre. Leaders of these movements, while objectively carrying out a form of Trotsky’s “Permanent Revolution”, in order to please Stalin they had to pay lip service to the bourgeois revolution, which they called the “Popular Front”. Only thusly could they receive the necessary support and aid. Under these circumstances, it was rather a miracle that any of these revolutions actually succeeded. But they did. That’s how strong was the undercurrent of this revolutionary force in the world. Even Stalin had to sort of hang ten and surf this wave, although it must have made him feel nervous.
And this objective revolutionary wave, by the way, also split what remained of the post-war Trotskyist movement of this time. Within the ever-splintering Trotskyists, a faction emerged known as “Pabloite Revisionists“. Trotskyists were ecstatic when they saw revolutions like Cuba happening, even though Trotsky had assured them that no revolution could happen under Stalin’s aegis. Well, Stalin was dead by then, the Soviet Union was in the process of reforming itself, becoming a nicer place to live, and some positive things (like China and Cuba) were happening in the outside world. Maybe, the Pabloites thought, it was time to bury the hatchet and just work together, even with Stalinists sometimes, to support these young socialist nations.
Meanwhile, back in the Soviet Union, Beria was carefully compiling his kompromat on all of Stalin’s former henchpersons, while planning his own ambitious project of internal reforms…
[to be continued]