We next asked Prof. Grover Furr why there is such a lack of academic objectivity, when academics study the history of the Soviet Union.
Let me start off with this example. There are a very large number of documents from former Soviet archives that have been made public either in books or on the Internet since the fall of the Soviet Union. And we now have a great deal of evidence that many of the falsehoods spread not only by anticommunists (capitalists) and Trotskyists, but also by figures like Nikita Khrushchev and Gorbachev – we have evidence that what they stated about the Stalin period are flat-out lies. They are false. And in the case of figures like Khrushchev and Gorbachev, we can easily call them lies because they had the evidence that we have. They had more evidence that we have. They had the evidence that the statements that they made were false, so in their case we should have no qualms about saying that they were lying. Now, I’m going to give you a couple of examples. First of all, we have a lot of evidence that the high-ranking Soviet military commanders – Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky and several other high-ranking Soviet military commanders, all arrested by May, 1937, for plotting with Germany and with Trotsky against the Soviet Union to overthrow the Stalin leadership and the Soviet government, to ally with Nazi Germany – we have lots of evidence that they were guilty. We have the transcript of the trial. We have many, many transcripts of their interrogations. We have no evidence that they were not guilty. Now, if you follow the practice of the mainstream historical profession, you decide historical matters on the basis of primary source evidence. And on that basis Tukhachevsky and Co. were guilty.
And since they were guilty, this changes the way we need to look at world history. Because if Tukhachevsky and the other generals conspiring with him had been successful in overthrowing the Stalin leadership, the Soviet Communist Party leadership, and taking power in the Soviet Union, and in allying themselves with the Axis – Germany, Italy, and Japan – the whole history of the world would have been different, the history of World War 2 would have been tremendously different. It’s quite likely that England would have been invaded. But at the same time, it’s also possible that the British and the Americans and the French would have made separate deals with Hitler. These deals would have been very much to the detriment of the working classes of the world, and certainly to the detriment of the colonial possessions of all of these imperialist countries.
In short, world history would have been far, far darker for the majority of the population of the world. And World War 2 would have been completely different. Imagine what Japan could have done to the United States if it had had access to the petroleum reserves of Eastern Siberia, which was one of the things that the military commanders, and Trotsky, who was conspiring with them, were willing to turn over to Japan. Japan would have been a much more powerful adversary against the United States.
Lots of scenarios are possible, but all of them would have been far more authoritarian, far worse for the majority of people of the world if the Stalin leadership had not ferreted these conspiracies out, if they had not tried and executed the Soviet commanders and pursued this conspiracy in the rest of the Red Army. So that when the war came, the Soviets, after devastating initial losses against the Nazi blitzkrieg, were able to stop it and then ultimately defeat the Nazi army.
That is what the primary source evidence shows us. But it’s clearly unacceptable to acknowledge this, to acknowledge that Stalin actually saved the world from Nazism not just once, in World War 2, but twice, but cutting off the Trotskyist and military conspiracies in alliance with the Axis. So that’s the difference between objectivity and the lack of objectivity.
Clearly, being objective — which means questioning your own biases, and deciding historical issues on the basis of primary-source evidence – clearly, this is unacceptable to mainstream history and to the capitalist world at large, including, of course, the Russian leadership of today. It’s unacceptable, because it means that the Soviet Union not only achieved the great things that I spelled out a few minutes ago, but it achieved even more than that. It defeated the Nazi plan to make the Nazi power a great power in a lasting way, at least equal to the other capitalist powers.
So sure, objectivity – the desire to discover the truth – is unacceptable to mainstream historiography. And likewise, or as a corollary, it is unacceptable not to adhere to the Anti-Stalin Paradigm (ASP). The research that I have done shows that the ASP is false, that the accusations that Stalin committed all these atrocities, are all false. That is what an objective study of the primary -source evidence shows. And I try very hard to be objective, meaning to question my own conclusions, to doubt the evidence that points in that direction, to give an especially generous reading to evidence that tends to contradict that evidence that shows that Stalin was innocent of this crime or that. That’s what objectivity is. Clearly history, not only in Russia – about the Soviet Union – but in the rest of the world itself, can not afford to be objective.
Now, most historians do not specialize in Soviet history of the Stalin period. Most historians in the world write about other periods. But the way in which they write about it assumes the ASP, assumes that the specialists in Soviet history, who falsify it in a grotesque manner, assumes that what they write about it is true. That’s even true about many historians who write about Soviet history. I’ve talked with historians of the Soviet period who write about very, very specialized issues – the politics of a given area, agriculture in a given area – who take for granted the bigger picture of the ASP and don’t question it, don’t investigate it. So history, not only on a world scale, but history of the Soviet Union, is seriously, seriously false as a result of a lack of objectivity. But it’s clear, I think, that this lack of objectivity is wedded to anticommunism. Anticommunists simply cannot afford to look at the truth as the evidence shows it. I hope that is a full enough explanation.
Much of the Marxist left also fails to be objective when talking about communist history. Why do self-described Marxists so often fail to provide a Marxist analysis?
Marxists are materialists. “Dialectical Materialism” is one way of expressing the kind of materialism to which Marxists adhere – most Marxists. But certainly, all Marxists, whether they use the term “dialectical materialism” or not, are materialists. They decide truth or falsehood on the basis of evidence and logic. Now, that’s even true in the sciences, right? Scientists are materialists. Marxists strive to be materialists. So to the extent that Marxists do not decide the facts of Soviet history, or the history of the communist movement in general, or Soviet history of the Stalin period, on the basis of primary-source evidence and on the basis of drawing logical conclusions from this evidence, to that extent they yare not Marxists.
So, for one thing, Trotskyists are not Marxists, to the extent that they are Trotskyists, they are not Marxists. To the extent that they write about Soviet history, or have anything to say about Soviet history, they are not Marxists, because they reject the use of primary-source evidence to decide the facts about Soviet history of the Stalin period. Now, Trotskyist might have useful analyses of other subjects that do not involve making statements about Soviet history of the Stalin period. But to the extent that they are Trotskyists, that they follow Trotsky’s understanding of, Trotsky’s writings or Trotsky’s ideas about Soviet history of the Stalin period, to that extent they are not Marxists.
And the same is true of other socialists. Many people who call themselves socialists are naïve. They may be young, or they may not be young, but they embrace socialism for its call for a just society, and have never really delved into the history of this movement. So many people who call themselves socialist accept, in a naïve and uncritical way, the ASP. But many of the socialist leaders know exactly – many of the Trotskyist leaders, know exactly what they are doing when they repeat what Trotsky said without ever checking it against the evidence. For example, the last couple of books I have written – and another one is coming out soon – show that there is just a huge amount of evidence that Trotsky did collaborate with the Nazis, as he was accused of doing in the three public Moscow trials of 1936, 1937, and 1938. Certainly, Trotsky was guilty. Of course, he denied it. Who wouldn’t deny it? That’s not probative in any way. We have a lot of evidence. Trotskyists simply ignore this. Probably, as I said, most Trotskyists don’t know – most socialists don’t know — that it exists. And it isn’t publicized, for dishonest reasons – because it would dismantle the ASP, and of course the Trotskyist paradigm is a kind of subsidiary of the ASP. And in a kind of similar way, so is the so-called “democratic socialist” model. Right? Democratic socialists, however they define themselves, define themselves in many ways against the communist movement of the 20th century, about which they don’t know anything except falsehoods, except the ASP.
So, this is the situation on the Left in the United States and in much of the world. Now, I do want to close these particular remarks by saying that in some countries there is more sympathy with looking at the Stalin period in an objective manner, than in others. The anticommunist socialists and Trotskyists are very prominent in the United States, perhaps also in the United Kingdom. But in some other countries in Europe they are less powerful. And other forces, people who are able to be objective about the Soviet Union of the Stalin period, are more prominent. And certainly in the non-industrial world, the former colonial world like India, perhaps also in China, perhaps in other areas, there is a willingness on the part of many people who would describe themselves as socialists and communists, there is more willingness to look at this period objectively. But in Western Europe in general, and certainly in the United States, this is not so.
So in general, most people who regard themselves as socialists and Marxists in fact are not Marxists, because they do not base their evaluations of the communist movement of the 20th century on primary-source evidence. They base it on the research, or popularized, semi-popular research of anticommunist scholars, or on Trotsky. And that’s a tremendous problem! I don’t think the Left is going to make any progress until that situation is challenged, and ultimate overturned.