Whoever Is Not Prepared to Talk About Leninism Should Also Keep Quiet About Stalinism

  • Michael Brie
Part of the Marx, Engels, and Marxisms book series (MAENMA)


During perestroika the critical reappraisal of Stalinism took centre stage in the Soviet debate while Leninism itself remained a positive point of reference for some time. Even post-Communist parties upheld this distinction during the upheaval. Correspondingly, in a speech at an extraordinary party congress of the Communist state party of East Germany, the Socialist Unity Party (SED), Michael Schumann summed up its quintessence in the famous phrase: ‘We are breaking irrevocably with Stalinism as a system!’ (Hornbogen et al. 1999, 179). Yet what he subsequently described were less the particular features of Stalinism so much as the structures gradually imposed in Soviet Russia and subsequently other countries under Communist state party rule after October 1917. Lenin’s era was deliberately omitted. There was talk of a ‘Stalinist line dating back to the twenties (of the twentieth century—MB)’ (Hornbogen et al. 1999, 182). As had previously been the case during perestroika, many in the SED now renamed SED/Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) believed reforming socialism entailed some kind of return to Lenin. Lenin’s brief period in government (at least when compared to Stalin) of only five years, however, forged a template that many subsequent Bolshevik-inspired revolutions and seizures of power would adhere to before eventually disappearing into historical oblivion or transforming itself like in China or Vietnam. The institutional framework of Soviet society remained unchanged during all these decades. This chapter analysis the main features of this framework.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Brie
    • 1
  1. 1.Rosa Luxemburg StiftungInstitute for Critical Social AnalysisBerlinGermany

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