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Issue #1429      23 September 2009

Culture & Life

Restoring a legacy

The editor of Soviet Russia, the newspaper published by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), told me three years ago that a survey the KPRF had carried out showed that by a sizeable majority most Russians wanted the Soviet Union restored.

They didn’t necessarily want the Communist Party as well, but they did want the prestige and influence of the glory days of the USSR again.

This sentiment is particularly galling to the anti-communists in the US State Department, in fact the anti-communists in all the chancelleries of imperialism, be they in London, Berlin, Paris or Brussels.

Think of all the time, effort and especially money that has been expended to blacken the name of Communism and the name of the Soviet Union in particular, and still the Soviet State remains a potent symbol of working class power, of anti-imperialist policies, the enemy – in fact, the nemesis – of fascism.

In Russia, at this moment, anti-communists are trying to create a furore over, of all things, the restoration of a Moscow Metro station. After years of reconstruction work, magnificent Kurskaya Station reopened on August 25, restored to the way it looked when originally built more than 60 years ago.

And that is what has outraged the small but vocal clique of anti-communists who function under the umbrella of “human rights” in Russia. Openly advised and funded by US agencies claiming to support those same human rights (except where the regimes doing the oppressing are backed by the US government, of course), these anti-communists reserve their worst invective for J V Stalin.

The only time they ever speak out against fascism is when they want to blacken the name of socialism by equating it to Hitler’s regime.

The imperialists will never forgive Stalin and the USSR for smashing the mightiest army imperialism had ever been able to assemble, nor for the triumphant diplomacy that split the imperialists and forced the bourgeois democrats of Britain and America (supported by the workers) to join with the Communists of the USSR to fight their common enemy.

Ever since the revisionist Nikita Krushchev used Stalin as a whipping boy by which he could consolidate his own shaky grip on power, since his opponents were openly identified with Stalin’s line and legacy, it has been open season on Stalin in the West and also in first the USSR and then later in post-Soviet Russia.

Under Brezhnev, a start was made on rehabilitating Stalin, but Brezhnev also exalted the trappings of material success and careerism within the Party (remember Nixon telling David Frost of the wonders of Brezhnev’s yacht?) and any attempt at ideological renovation was necessarily hesitant and piecemeal.

Soviet symbols were everywhere, however, and people queued for ages to view Lenin’s mausoleum, but at the same time, Stalin’s image was never seen: even his name was largely taboo.

I was shown a Metro station’s marble entrance graced with a quotation about peace, in bas-relief. It was a quotation from Stalin, but his name had been carefully chiselled off. Everyone knew, of course, but the “offending” name had had to go nevertheless.

Another station had a very large false archway; it didn’t lead anywhere, it was just a blank wall. But it was obvious that it once enclosed a very large portrait or more likely a mural. Not hard to guess who would probably have been prominent in the mural.

The tentative rehabilitation steps that began under Brezhnev came to a shuddering stop when Gorbachev finally succeeded in getting the top job. He took a page from Krushchev’s book and attacked his opponents by launching a new attack on Stalin.

Gorbachev was nothing if not an apologist for imperialism, and his attacks on the Soviet Union were welcomed as “revelations” by the propaganda mills of imperialism. But there was disappointment, too, such as when he dutifully opened the archives of the CPSU Central Committee and the number of people executed for being part of Nazi Fifth column activity turned out only to number in the thousands when it had been confidently expected to number in the millions.

(Blithely ignoring the facts they themselves had sought, the anti-Communists still today refer to “millions” as having perished in “Stalin’s purges”.)

The restoration of the Kurskaya Metro Station to the way it looked on completion in 1950 includes a line from the Soviet national anthem around the ceiling of the entrance lobby: “We were raised by Stalin; he inspired our faith in the people, our labour and deeds.”

Unveiling the restoration coincided with the death of Sergey Mikhalkov, the author of the Soviet Union national anthem. An extremely nice and rather humorous man whom I met at the Moscow Children’s Film Festival, his stories for children were phenomenally popular in the USSR, although they did not translate well for English-speaking countries.

In 1977, Mikhalkov had to renew the anthem, removing the name of Stalin from it. The reappearance at the station of the line about the former USSR leader is “the restoration of historic truth,” Pavel Sukharnikov, head of the Metro’s press service, said, a view supported by Vladimir Lakeev, head of the KPRF faction in the Moscow City Duma.

The daily newspaper Gazeta noted that this year will see the 130th anniversary of Stalin’s birth. The paper also reported that the statue of Stalin that was originally situated in the station’s vestibule at the time of its opening has now been restored.

Now it’s a case of whether the city authorities, the architects, the Russian Left and progressive opinion generally can withstand the inevitable assault by every group and affronted individual that imperialism can round up to protest this latest “outrage”.

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