Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Letters to a Stalinist" [1953]

On 16 June 1953 workers in East Berlin started an uprising against rising productivity demands, rising food prices, and anti-democratic practices of party and trade union leaders. Early wild-cat strikes spread in East Germany as initial wages/hours demands were met.  Within days a hundred thousand workers were sitting down.

The workers organized themselves to defend their pickets.  For a time they even ran their own government in the town of Bitterfeld.

The repercussions of this struggle, eventually beaten down by Vopos, Soviet military units, and harsh judicial sentences, were felt around the world in the vanguard of the labor movement. After the Moscow "doctor's plot" and Stalin's death earlier in the year, it was a third shock to the Stalinist system.

The U.S. Socialist Workers Party approached the East German events on a variety of fronts.  They continued with articles by John G. Wright on the struggle in Moscow between Stalin's inheritors, principally Beria and Malenkov.  Art Preis covered the revolt itself.

Wright wrote this about the stakes of the East German events in the 20 July 1953 issue:

The Malenkov regime was caught by surprise and rocked to its heels by the East German events.  The regime is especially fearful of repercussions inside the USSR resulting from the massive reappearance of the German working class as an independent force on the political arena.  This is clearly shown by Pravda, chief mouthpiece of the post-Stalin regime. Within six days of the uprising of the East German working class, Moscow organized an All-Union propaganda campaign to hide the truth about East Germany from the Soviet workers, a campaign still going on by early July.

One of the most interesting columns, of which I have found only five, is a Page Two series by Murray Weiss called "Letters to a Stalinist."  In them Weiss writes to a friend names Phil, a thoughtful rank and file member of the CPUSA who has been rationalizing several decades of Stalinist betrayals and treachery against workers and their exploited allies at home and abroad.

The tone of Weiss's letters is calm, patient, and serious. They are letters comradely in tone, but also stern and sharp, as the moment demanded.  They are a model of recruitment in a period of confusion in the camp of one's political enemy.

One of the strengths of the columns is how they deal with Moscow's smear of the workers' revolt as being inspired by Washington and local fascists.  The same kind of smears are being used today against the workers of Ukraine in their own rebellion for political space and against 300 years of Great Russian chauvinism.

1.  20 July 1953:

2. 3 August 1953:

3.  24 August 1953:

4.  19 October 1953:

5.  28 December 1953:

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