Same Party, Different Views

Despite being of the same political party, Stalin and Lenin express very different opinions on the Soviet Union’s issues. Stalin’s document “Concerning the Presentation of the National Question” from May 8th 1921 describes the differences of the national questions as given by the Communists in relation to the national question adopted by the leaders of the Second and Two and-a-Half Internationals, Socialists, Social-Democrats, Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries, and other parties. He explains that they differ in four points, then goes on to explain those points. First, Stalin explains the merging of the National question with the general question of the liberation of the colonies as a whole. Secondly, Stalin determines the vague slogan of “the rights of nations to self-determination” to mean a nation’s right to autocracy. Thirdly, he explains a connection between national and colonial questions of the rule of capital. He explains that in order to “win the war” there is a need to revolutionize enemies. Lastly, Stalin describes the need for equality of nations and not just “national equality of rights”.

Lenin criticizes Stalin’s Presentation of the National Question in his own writings “On the Questions of the Nationalities or of Autonomization” on December 30th of 1922. He declares the question of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics to be the question of autotomizing. He outwardly criticizes Stalin’s want for autonomization and claims it to be “wrong and untimely”. He also questions Stalin’s explanation behind the want for autonomization. Lenin goes on to explain that Stalin did not show enough concern in taking measures to defend those from other nations, and outwardly declares the Soviet’s fatal role to be Stalin and his preoccupation with the administrative aspect and by his rage against social-nationalism.

One common thread in both documents is that both Stalin and Lenin declare imperialism as the common enemy. However, other than having a common enemy, Lenin throughout his writing makes a great effort to show his disagreement with Stalin’s actions and opinions. He even goes as far as questioning Stalin’s understanding of “nationalism”.  Lenin also seems to find Stalin’s actions and explanations behind his actions to be unsound. With that, Stalin’s document provide some insight into his arguably irrational mindset in some areas, as Lenin points out. Lenin sheds light on these issues by asking why Stalin believes autonomy to be the best option, and why then? Also, Lenin’s outward disapproval of Stalin and of his positions and actions acts as a harbinger to Stalin’s abusive years ahead. If the epitome of the Communist party was feeling weary about Stalin, that should have been warning enough for his turbulent years ahead in power.

3 thoughts on “Same Party, Different Views

  1. My understanding of Stalin’s “Concerning the Presentation of the National Question” was that he mainly argued that noticing the need for “national equality of rights” does not equate implementing measures to ensure “national equality of rights.” As you point out, he also critiques nations who justify autonomy through a slogan of “the rights of nations to self-determination.” While reading, I did not view Stalin’s main argument as pro-autonomization. Rather, he outlined solutions that he thought would help ensure “national equality of rights.” In comparison to Lenin, who discussed minorities in Russia, I found Stalin’s approach to be more focused on the global proletariat. Perhaps this meant that he did not see an issue in the “national equality of rights” of these Russian minorities, or perhaps he was mainly critiquing his predecessors for not focusing on global minorities. Either way, his support of “equality of nations” would have rung some bells in the West, where the French and British were reaping benefits from their colonial empires. Communism was a powerful pull for colonized intellectuals such as Aimé Césaire, who wrote “Discours sur le colonialisme,” and who initially supported Communism. In a largely colonized world, Communism emerged as one of the first major oppositions to this type of rule.

  2. I found it very interesting that Stalin was writing on a global approach as he wrote on “Socialism in One Country” so I think that it reflects his ability to write and take sides on whatever he sees as favorable to his position. With the rise of imperialism, the far left had to take a stance on it, and Lenin believed that trying to act Russian could detract them from their final goal while Stalin believed that was a necessary path to it.

  3. The idea that Stalin found Russian nationalism to be the tool that would combat imperialism is a direct contrast to Lenins ideology. I find your comment about Lenin’s distaste with Stalins actions to be an interesting point. Perhaps if the Bolsheviks had used Lenin as their platform to attack Stalin they would have been able to stop his rise.

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