Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Problems of Leninism" by Josef Stalin: an example of Soviet super censorship

"Problems of Leninism" is an interesting book because it was written before Stalin assumed complete and total power, and as such it actually presents arguments for his side of things instead of just a kind of decorticated boiler plate like his later writings feature. This is historically interesting. But upon getting a copy of it that was printed in the Soviet Union I noticed that there were serious differences between the "Problems of Leninism" that I'd read part of on the web on the From Marx to Mao website and the book I held in my hand. For one thing, the copy on "Marx 2 Mao" is hundreds and hundreds of pages long; this one was only two hundred pages in larger than normal type. There were large parts missing. Then, looking over it and reading sections that I read online I had the feeling that I was reading something different entirely.

Well, I looked on the web and it turns out that there are significant differences between their copy, which is from a first edition, and the copy that the Soviet Union issued, probably in the '50s although it's undated. Besides being only one section of the book, the "Problems of Leninism" from the Soviet Union is so censored and redacted that it doesn't even make much sense. To give an example of what I mean, the section "The Permanent Revolution", which was addressed to Trotsky, has been shrunk from pages and pages to three pages, and more amazingly Trotsky's name never appears in the Soviet edition of it....even though the Permanent Revolution is one of the main features of Trotskyism both then and now! The original has quotes from Trotsky and Stalin refuting them. In the redacted version the only quotes are from Lenin, and the idea of a "Permanent Revolution" is laid on people like Martov, a Menshevik, and the members of the "Two and a half international", which was a group of people who didn't agree with either the Second International of Social Democracy or the Third International, but who still wanted a radical revolution. These people were based in Austria and had nothing to do with events that went on in Russia. Yet they're the people that the section on the "Permanent Revolution" is putatively responding to.

The rest of the sections seem to be similarly destroyed, although I haven't correlated them with the online edition.

It appears that late Stalinist Soviet society was so pro-Stalin that even Stalin's own works were edited into irrelevance in order to not offend the official censors appointed by people who Stalin in turn appointed.

*on edit: looking over it, it turns out that it's not as bad as I thought. The book labeled "Problems of Leninism" is actually the short work "Concerning Questions of Leninism" from "Problems of Leninism". In fact, the chapter on the Permanent Revolution is quite short in the original and Trotsky isn't mentioned by name. On top of that, Trotsky's name is mentioned in the book, albeit in a different section.

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