The term “Stalinism” refers both to the nature of the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin’s rule and to the interpretation of Marxism sanctioned by Stalin and promulgated by the Soviet Union while he was in power. Never official terms, “Stalinism” and “Stalinist” gained currency only after Stalin’s death and, particularly, after his denunciation by Nikita Khrushchev at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956. Both terms have tended to be used in a derogatory way to describe a repressive, dictatorial and totalitarian regime and a crude, dogmatic ideology. One key aspect of Stalinism is the idea and practice of revolution from above, led by the party and with a large and central role played by the state. In agriculture the approach under Stalin was one of “collectivization” where peasant farmers were brought into large collective or state farms. In industry the policy was one of rapid centrally controlled industrialization with particular emphasis on heavy industry. Both policies required the extreme centralization of power, a massive increase in the size of the state, and the widespread use of coercion. Stalinism is viewed by many as fundamentally totalitarian in character. The use of arbitrary repression was one of the most distinctive aspects of Stalin’s regime with what came to be known as the “Great Terror” seeing extensive use of arbitrary arrests, labor camps, and executions, along with more selective, but equally notorious, use of “show trials.” In the show trials many prominent Bolsheviks, including Nicholai Bukharin and Gregori Zinoviev, were forced to confess to crimes they had not committed, before being executed. Stalinism saw Marxist theory turned into an official state ideology with Stalin overseeing the creation of a dogmatic Marxist orthodoxy propounded in party documents such as History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1938). In this a simplified, reductionist and schematic account of Marxist philosophy was expounded, presenting dialectical materialism as a set of propositions and laws representing the MarxistLeninist world outlook, and characterizing Marxism as a science that had identified the laws of history. The Stalinist transformation of Marxism into an official belief system served to provide an ideological rationalization of the Soviet regime. In terms of specific content, the most significant tenet of Stalinist ideology was “socialism in one country.” This was directed against Leon Trotsky’s internationalist position that insisted on the necessity of international revolution in order to achieve socialism.
   For many Marxists and commentators on Marxism Stalinism represents a significant distortion of Marxism, but it is viewed by Stalinists and some opponents of Marxism as the fulfillment of Marxism and a logical progression from Leninism.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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