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Lenin-Stalin Comparison Essay, Research Paper

Social Science 201


A great luck for Russia was that at the times of hardships she was

headed by such a genius and talented commander as Joseph Stalin.

Stalin was a man of extraordinary energy, erudition and a powerful

will. Him even I, a person taught by the Parliament, could not counter.

W. Churchill

“Stalin is the Lenin of today,” said a popular propaganda slogan of the thirties and the forties. The situation has changed drastically since that time; people’s opinion of Stalin has changed in light of the new facts that came out during the course of history. One of such influencing factors was the “secret” speech given by Khrushchev during the Twentieth Congress of KPSS. This speech, however, does not give a real picture of either Stalin or Lenin: Khrushchev denounces the idolization of Stalin but supports the cult of Lenin. He also does not pay attention to Stalin’s deeds that do deserve to be criticized (from an non-Communist point of view), but looks sharply onto something that Stalin should be thanked for. Khrushchev puts Stalin in opposition to Lenin and fails to recognize that those leaders were in many ways similar.

The first blame that Khrushchev puts on Stalin is idolization. To be honest Khrushchev never says that Stalin created it himself, but he never denounced it either. Khrushchev puts Lenin as an example of modesty. However, the cult of Lenin has been created as well, and though, Lenin did denounce it, his denunciation never had much result. Stalin’s personal modesty is known as well. He had never concerned himself with having many awards, as, for example, did Brezhnev with Five Stars of the Hero of the Soviet Union. Stalin only had one, but never wore it (the only award we see him wearing is the Star of Hero of Socialist Labor). At his fiftieth birthday, to all the panegyrics Stalin answers: “ To all the organizations and comrades congratulating me… Your greetings I refer to the great party of the working class, which gave me birth and taught me.” (Radzinsky, 262) Stalin did not care for the pleasant words. His concern was real power. Stalin also wanted to look good in the eyes of history. That is why all the history books were rewritten.

Khrushchev also indicts him of fabricating cases against honest Bolsheviks. That is his major blame of Stalin. How could he destroy the party that brought him to power? Khrushchev gives Lenin as an example of a leader who forgave people even if they made mistakes (Revolutions, 81). However, it was Lenin who said that by the age of 50 revolutionaries should be sent to their ancestors (Radzinsky, 341). The honest Bolsheviks “murdered” by Stalin were Tukhachevsky, Blucher, Frinovsky, Yagoda, Kosior, Kamenev, Zinoviev, Bukharin, Radek, and many others who were a part of Stalin’s 1934 Congress of the Victors. There are, however, sound reasons for Stalin’s destruction of the Party. Reason one: most of those leaders still dreamt of the World Revolution, which would “bring freedom and prosperity to the oppressed.” Instead of concerning themselves with the industrialization and planning of the economy, they wrote about the “World proletariat, which through the class struggle disrupts the imperialists’ intentions to conquer the Soviet Union…” (Tukhachevsky, 166) Reason two: they were not professionals in economics, military affairs, or anything but the party life. The quote above is from Tukhachevsky’s book on strategy. There is no strategic teaching in it; only political activity. In 1937 Malenkov, who was an engineer at the time gave a speech where he said that 70% of secretaries of obkoms and 80% of secretaries of raikoms have primary education (Radzinsky, 341). And those people were in charge of industrialization. Most of the old party members got to the top not through hard work but through oppression of their own people during the Civil War. Tukhachevsky, Yakir and Blucher received their Red Banner orders for suppressing the Kronshtadt and Tambov Rebellions. Even the right-winged Bukharin talked about mass shooting as means of achieving Communism.

According to Khrushchev, Stalin had created an enormous beurocratic apparatus in the country, which was against Lenin’s principles and the Communist ideals in general. He says that Lenin was preached for the “indissoluble unity [of the Party] with the masses (Revolutions, 76). It was during Stalin’s times that the party nomenklatura started having its own shops, resorts, personnel, dachas, and plains. He “forgets” that Trotsky one of the “outstanding leaders” had his own train and enormous personnel over 250 people in it: the Latvian Red Guards, machinegun unit, cooks, secretaries, chauffeurs, and many others (Volkogonov, 269). The tendency started during the Civil War when the party bosses received everything separately from the people and there is no evidence that Lenin did anything to stop it (I do not want to mention any of the official propaganda). When Stalin achieved absolute power, this tendency continued with a major development. The nomenklatura had to pay a high price for all the luxury. This price was a constant fear. Stalin kept them all under control; something Lenin never achieved. He made sure that virtually everything they owned belonged to the state. Everything could be taken away in an instant. In fact everything was taken away from those arrested in 1937-38. Families of those arrested were left with nothing.

Nevertheless, it should be credited to Stalin that despite the terror, he had created a sort of leaders that could stand up for their views and were not afraid to oppose Stalin himself. Ezhov, Zinoviev, Yakir, all of them did not have any principles and did not have pride even when their fate was decided. When arrested Yakir wrote to Stalin a letter saying, “I will die with the words of love to you.” (Suvorov, 177) Replacing Yakir and Tukhachevsky came Apanasenko, Zhukov, Rokossovsky, and Vasilevsky. These people were professional at what they did, but most importantly, they stood up for their opinions even facing the risk of being arrested. In May of 1944 the greatest attack of the Second World War was launched on the Germans: the Belorussian offensive (Sorry, no D Day). Stalin, Zhukov, and Vasilevsky planned it. General Rokossovsky (who just returned from the camps before the war) had his own plan, which was better. He faced the opposition of all three and still defended his point and won. And beat the Germans. Would those destroyed by Stalin do anything like it? Those whose will was destroyed by Stalin did not deserve to be in power.

Khrushchev says that the NKVD fabricated cases against the people (Revolutions, 83). His real concern, however, was not with the people, but with the Party members. At the same time when he criticizes Stalin for suppressing the freedom of opinion within the Communist Party, Khrushchev fails to see anything wrong with oppression of those non-Bolsheviks who criticized Stalin and were sent to GULAG because of it. This is not a surprise. Such a policy comes from Lenin and is continued by Stalin and Khrushchev himself. During the time of Lenin’s leadership the CHEKA (GPU) was committing atrocities on a similar scale, but that was normal, because it was fighting the counterrevolution.

One of the few true things that Khrushchev says about Lenin and Stalin is that Lenin actually called for the Party Congresses to address problems and issues, which Stalin never did. He only called for Congresses when he needed them, not the Party. They were more like staged performances then real meetings. The same is true concerning the Politburo meetings. They all new what Stalin wanted and followed his will. I only have one explanation for it. Stalin, as an ambitious person, always wanted to be right. He never voted at the meetings unless he was sure of victory. Lenin, as a chairman of Sovnarkom, was outvoted (or close to it) many times. An example of it would be the case of the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty, when Lenin had to threaten to quit in order to influence the rest of the Bolsheviks. Stalin came up with a more efficient way to get his opinion to prevail.

Therefore, when Khrushchev talks about Stalin deceiving Lenin’s principles, he is mistaking most of the time. Stalin was politically raised the same way Lenin was and only diverted from Lenin’s ways achieving goals by developing and improving them. Stalin was successful in many areas where Lenin failed


Radzinsky, Edward. “Stalin.” Moscow

Vagrius, 1997

Suvorov, Viktor. “The Cleansing.” Moscow

AST, 1998

Volkogonov, Dmitrij. “Trotsky.” Vol. 1 Moscow

AST, 1998

Khrushchev, Nikita. “De-Stalinization speech.” Revolutions in Russia and China. 4th ed Ed. June Grasso et al. New York: McGaw-Hill. 2000. 75-90

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