09 June, 2005

Trial and death of Stalin, pt. 2 (of 2, maybe 3 or 4)

As I mentioned a few days ago, Eugenio Corti's play Trial and Death of Stalin is in fact a trial and condemnation of communism, above all the "soft" communism of the West. His book of the same name presents the play first, then two sets of essays.

The second set of essays include arguments to further support Corti's assertion that Stalin was less an egomaniac than a true believer. In the essay Why Communism Failed in the USSR, Corti lays out five characteristics of a socialist society that, according to communist theory, provide scientific evidence that a communist society is near:

The Five Characteristics of a nearly-communist society

  • a factory worker's salary for all citizens;
  • abolition of the bureacracy;
  • abolition of the police;
  • abolition of the military;
  • a state on the irreversible path of extinction.
All five conditions are "scientifically" necessary, according to communist theory. This obsession with "scientific necessity" cannot be overemphasized, and Corti hammers it in the play; for example, Krushchev's remark to his co-conspirators:
[W]e have seen that the advent of communist society is scientifically certain: what do we have to fear [from the revelation of these crimes]?
The final condition may seem strange, but as Corti explains, communist theory holds that "the state is nothing more than the principal instrument employed by the exploiting classes to hold in subjection the more numerous exploited classes. With the disappearance of class exploitation, the state will have no more reason to exist." He cites both Lenin and Marx on this.

Stalin, the true believer
Now, imagine that you are Stalin. Lenin had believed, and proclaimed publicly, that the Soviet Union would have developed into a communist state within one decade, two at the most. At the end of the 1920s, however, not only had all five of these chararacteristics failed to materialize; not one of the five conditions had materialized. If anything, the bureacracy, the army, and the police had become more necessary, and while incomes were somewhat level, there were still differences in salary because otherwise people wouldn't perform well in certain jobs.

Stalin, a true believer in Communist theory, came to the only conclusion possible within Communist thought: the problem was sabotage, and a sabotage at all levels:
  • the small landholding farmers first of all, who resisted collectivization of their property and animals;
  • the bureacracy: good citizens were supposed to take turns, but those who rose to the bureacracy had the appalling habit of trying to hold on to those positions because of the security they entailed;
  • and so forth.
The scary part of reading this is, that it all makes sense.

On the other hand...
The redeeming feature of Stalin's purges, Corti argues, is that people were too frightened to become corrupt. Since Stalin targeted all levels, from the lowest to the highest, there was no benefit in corruption.

Instead, the "soft communism" of the following decades witnessed the entrenchment of a class of privileged citizens called the nomenklatura, who became more and more corrupt with the passage of time. In this essay (begun in 1991, resumed in 1994) Corti wrote the following passage; it surprised me because of its substantial agreement with what some of my Russian friends have told me:
Regarding the capitalists, the problem is even worse: in Russia, those who have accumulated disposable income are only the thieves and the corrupt of whom we spoke of [before]... Such people are structurally inclined to diffuse bad culture and corruption, which they are effectively diffusing as fully as possible. Meanwhile, many young people without scruples follow them impatiently and violently.
Hence, the Russian mafia.

Anti-Communism and Anti-Catholicism
While reading this text, however, the immense amount of detailed footnotes remind one of similar books on anti-Catholicism. Of course, I don't have time (or interest) in verifying the claims made by Corti. My vague impressions of communist theory, as well as my experiences with genuine communist activists, tend to confirm Corti's claims. Also, Corti hasn't written a single thing that I hadn't read about before in a more "universally accepted" environment. However, the similarity with the tone of anti-Catholic polemics makes me take a lot of this with a grain of salt.

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