Stalin on Revolution

Note: Where the period of republication of particular items for mass consumption is relevant to the discussion, this information is supplied in parentheses in the footnotes. Thus (1925-1939) means "originally published in 1925, republished until 1939," and (1925 to present) means "originally published in 1925, republished up to the present time."

THE stress laid by Stalin on the importance of theory is so foreign to American habits of mind that we are prone to underestimate the influence which theory plays in determining his action. Any such tendency would lead us into especially grave error when we come to estimating the importance of his theoretical conception of the nature of revolution; for on this he has been amazingly consistent.

In a preface to the first volume of his collected works, Stalin takes the trouble to point out deficiencies in certain views expressed in his youthful writings, years before the October Revolution.[i] Since then eight volumes of the collected works have appeared, but they contain no more prefaces by Stalin; the inference is that he considers the rest doctrinally correct. Stalin exhibits the same meticulous care about doctrine in a letter to members of the Politburo in which he opposes the republication of an obscure article of Engels' in Bol'shevik unless the errors in its conception of imperialism are pointed out. Publication of an article in "our fighting magazine," he holds, means that it is to be taken "as directive or at least deeply informative for our party workers." [ii] Back of such pains about detail on the part of so busy a man lies a conviction that correctness of theory is vitally important. Stalin denies that "Leninism is the primacy of practice over theory." On the contrary, "the tendency of practical workers to brush theory aside contradicts the whole spirit of Leninism and is pregnant with great dangers for the cause." And again: "None other than Lenin said and repeated tens of times the well-known thesis that: 'Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.

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