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Dmitry Volkogonov: from Stalinism to anticommunism.

By F. Kreisel; June 18, 1996

This essay is an expanded version of an obituary of Volkogonov's work written by this author on the day the historian-general died. In addition to dealing with Volkogonov's books themselves it addresses the way the Western anticommunist press greeted his "revelations" and ideological conversions.

One of the foremost Stalinist, anti-communist liar "historians" has died in Moscow on December 5, 1995. General Dmitry Volkogonov climbed to the top of the Soviet bureaucratic pyramid along three "ladders": he rose to the rank of colonel-general in the military, as a historian he headed the Institute of Military History, and as a good Party man he was the deputy director of the Political Department of the Soviet Army, which was a sub-department of the Central Committee. Volkogonov bailed out of the collapsing Party early enough to take on the role of Yeltsin's chief military and historical advisor. Since 1992 he was one of three people advising Yeltsin on issues related to reclassifying the Soviet secret archives, and he toured the US and other countries a number of times representing his "democratic" boss.

Volkogonov must be classified as a court historian, i.e. a bemedalled and bejeweled courtier of the ruling elite who specializes in serving up the historical myths required and requested by his masters. Every king, Pope, tsar and President needs such a lackey, a specialist in prettifying and glorifying his rulers, a crafty scholar who confuses and mystifies the people, thus protecting and preserving his odious regime. General Volkogonov will be remembered as one of the top practitioners of what Trotsky so aptly described as "Stalin's school of falsification". What makes Volkogonov's career so interesting is the way it highlights the anti-Marxist and anti-Communist nature of Stalinism.

Volkogonov was brought up in, and later headed a school of historiography which was remarkably crude and unsophisticated. Unlike Western historians, their Stalinist colleagues did not need to make their stories coherent or even related to historical facts. Nevsky, Yaroslavsky, Gusev, Zhdanov, Suslov and Volkogonov got to the top of the class by concealing facts, silencing and murdering witnesses, pulping history books, inventing tales out of whole cloth. The ruling elite needed massive doses of lies precisely because it was itself a living lie. The Stalinist bureaucracy pretended to be Communist, and was not; it pretended to be revolutionary and progressive, yet was one of the most reactionary forces in history; it pretended not even to exist, yet it was the most visible, overstuffed, corrupt and corrosive malignancy within the Soviet system.

The reading public in the United States should have been all the more surprised by the extraordinary treatment with which Volkogonov's latest works were received. The American historical establishment went out of its way to praise and promote these volumes. They were translated and published in record time, they were reviewed in all the elite magazines, and the reviews were for the most part flattering and uncritical. In view of the deserved contempt with which Western historians had in the past treated Soviet historical monographs, this attitude was astonishing. We shall deal with the reviewers later but now we must turn to the books themselves.

It is beyond the scope of these essay to present a thorough analysis of every lying myth woven by Volkogonov on the thousands of pages of his last monographs: the "anti-biographies" of Stalin, Trotsky and Lenin. For one thing, Volkogonov's books are extremely difficult to read from cover to cover; they are, mildly speaking, uneducational and intellectually stultifying. They do not present any coherent or continuous picture of the developments. Just the reverse, their very form is such as to prevent any consistent story line (that is especially true of the last subject: Lenin). The author jumps from one period to another, tears facts out of their historical and chronological context, constantly strikes moral poses, thunders out denunciations, and piles up slanders on every page. I shall therefore simply present some of the more outrageous falsehoods found in his three last major works. I am citing from the Russian language editions of these books and am translating on the fly.

1988: Triumph and Tragedy — Stalin

In the 1988 biography of Stalin (according to its author it was written before 1985) Volkogonov still presents a traditional view of Lenin and the October Revolution. According to Volkogonov, Lenin was a genius and the October Revolution was his crowning achievement and a glorious milestone in the history of mankind. Nevertheless, we simply do not see any historical presentation or analysis of this epochal event. This book differs from hundreds of others written in the Soviet Union from 1956 and 1985 in one respect only: Volkogonov had received permission to quote from the secret archives and the book cites hundreds of heretofore top secret documents. These quotations in no way change the overall orthodox post-Stalin Stalinist world view of the author.

Book 1, part 1, p. 52: "Despite his mediocrity, Nicholas II had for a long time and quite craftily zigzagged, searched for compromises, was ready to make partial concessions to the bourgeoisie, all in order to save the monarchy".

This weird remark is one of the few describing the tsarist regime and the social, political and economic conditions prevailing in the Russian empire. We simply do not know what caused the Revolution. In any case, this description of Nicholas II as a crafty politician is way off the mark.

Book 1, part 1, p. 76: "It is well known that the organizational preparation of the uprising was assigned to the Military Revolutionary Center composed of members of the CC (which consisted of five persons including Stalin), and also to the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet…"

This mythical Military-Revolutionary Center of the Bolshevik Party, which supposedly assisted the Military-Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet headed by Trotsky, is one of the earliest Stalinist lies. It was created in the late 1920's to give Stalin that leading role in the October uprising which the historical record had denied him. On the next few pages Volkogonov will also tell it the right way, i.e. that Trotsky led the uprising while Stalin was invisible. The goal of Volkogonov seems to be to set both Stalin's lie and Trotsky's truth on an equal footing and present it as a moot point where both antagonists just try to aggrandize themselves.

Book 1, part 1: In describing the last years of Lenin's life Volkogonov performs mental gymnastics to denigrate Trotsky and Trotsky's struggle against Stalin. On the one hand, Lenin does want to remove Stalin, on the other, Lenin does not want to block with Trotsky. Volkogonov is most crude on page 183 where he accuses Trotsky of falsifying the meaning of Lenin's Testament:

"Trotsky constantly attempted to attract attention to the "Testament", tearing out of it specific fragments and changing them beyond recognition".

On page 256 Volkogonov practically accuses Trotsky of responsibility for Stalin's murdering the members of Trotsky's own family:

"The tragedy of Trotsky's family, which finally led to the destruction of all of the children as a result of the bloody maelstrom into which their father's struggle against Stalin had pulled them, had given the exile an aura of a martyr in the West's eyes".

On the following pages Volkogonov accuses Trotsky of betraying his country:

"There came for Trotsky a decade of very active struggle against Stalin, and sometimes, willing or not, against the state which he had in the beginning actively helped to create and defend" (ibid., p. 259),

of historical falsifications:

"He (Trotsky) continued to publish his writings, often stooping to falsifications, exaggerations, inventions aimed at a single goal: to hurt Stalin to the utmost…" (ibid.), and of anti-Russian chauvinism: "such slavophobic, really chauvinist expressions…" (ibid., p. 260).

This book was published in 1988 when Gorbachev still pretended to be a "democratic Communist" a la Bukharin. In accord with Gorbachev's political requirement Volkogonov tries with all his might to present Bukharin in the best light possible. That is especially true of Book 1, part II, chapter "Dictatorship or a dictator?". Volkogonov's myth is that Bukharin's pro-NEP program was the real alternative to Stalin's totalitarian deviation. There isn't a single word about the rapid moral degeneration of Bukharin which accompanied his political evolution from the left wing of the party to its right wing. Although Trotsky has told us about it long ago, the Soviet reader only learned of this in 1991 with the publication of Bukharin's cynical aphorisms about Lenin's "Testament" and the anti-Trotsky struggle in the journal "Izvestiia TsK KPSS" #8. For history's sake we shall reprint two of these witticisms:

"If you want to be the Commissar of Military Affairs, slander Trotsky".

"Always fulfill the Testament (as opposed to a bequest) the other way around".

But let us move on.

1990-1991: the Trotsky biography.

In early 1991 Volkogonov completed his biography of Trotsky. In his earlier work about Stalin he had already begun to carry out the social requirement of the Stalinist-restorationist regime: to deny that Trotsky presented a socialist alternative to Stalinism. In this two-volume work Volkogonov is under two kinds of pressure. On the one hand, the works of Trotsky, and in particular the "Revolution Betrayed" had already appeared in the Soviet Union. To preserve his own authority Volkogonov needed to present a half way accurate review of Trotsky's work and publications. On the other hand, Volkogonov had already dispensed with Gorbachev and the old style Union-Party hierarchy and threw in his fortune with Yeltsin's privatizers and anti-Communists. The result of these contradictory pressures is an unobjectionable, although patchy, retelling of Trotsky's life. There is still no real historical living reality, but at least the crude lies are missing.

It is interesting to look at Volkogonov's changed evaluation of Trotsky's worldly, international mind set and viewpoint. In 1988 Volkogonov accuses Trotsky of hatred of the Slavs, of anti-Russian chauvinism. In 1991 Volkogonov congratulates Trotsky on his immersion in European culture, praises his knowledge of Western literature, art and psychology, and flatters him as being the "most European among the revolutionaries" (see Book 1, pp. 94-96). Frankly, I prefer an established Western biographer of Trotsky, such as Isaac Deutcher, Albert Glotzer or Robert Wistrich who do not change their opinions on the direct orders from above.

1993-1994: the Lenin biography.

By now, Volkogonov has come full circle in his political-historical reorientation. In 1988 he was a "Marxist-Leninist": Lenin was God, Stalin was a fallen angel, Trotsky was an anti-Communist renegade and an anti-Soviet enemy of the people. In 1990-91 Volkogonov had seen the light of democracy and became a cosmopolitan democrat who cares about goodness, morality and humanitarian ideals. But in this latest book Volkogonov has seen another light. This time it is Mother Russia which is to be his guiding principle, Russian patriotism is to be the measure of all things. He has in the meantime discovered that Lenin was an evil genius who masterminded the abominable October putsch. Stalin was a true Leninist who continued in the footsteps of his teacher. Trotsky was, is and shall always remain an abomination, a Demon of the revolution, worse tyrant than Stalin, and so on.

This book is the least readable of the three. All sense of a story line is lost as Volkogonov dissembles, takes us on long excursions to different places, persons and periods, ruminates on morality and religion. The absurdities and internal contradictions of Volkogonov's presentation are glaring. Taking advantage of the general condemnation of Marxism by both the Western and the ex-Stalinist "historians" he resorts to the method of the Big Lie. Here are some examples.

Writing about the opening of WW I: "The Russian Emperor, Nicholas II, undeservedly forgotten as a peacemaking Tsar, tried to stop the slaughter" (vol. 1, p. 183). On the same page Volkogonov continues to mock reason and history by praising Nicholas.

Volkogonov resurrects the hoary tale of German gold financing the Bolsheviks and Lenin being a German agent. Evidence — the same insinuations concerning Ganetsky and Parvus which had been discarded decades ago by serious historians. Despite his diligent and privileged search in the super-secret KGB and Party archives he was unable to come up with any concrete facts, and on page 200 of Vol. 1 he confesses his failure:

"I cannot state categorically… it is a big mystery…" etc.

Flipping the pages at random we encounter another pearl:

"…the Orthodox religion is deeply humanistic in its spirit. It did not know Inquisition, did not burn heretics on the stake, did not organize religious Crusades. The Orthodoxy had always condemned violence". (Vol. 2, p. 225).

When we recollect the bloody Jewish pogroms ceaselessly promoted by the Holy Orthodox Church, the anathema pronounced against Leo Tolstoi for his blend of pacifism and pastoral beliefs, and the Beylis trial of 1912 — 13 which accused the Jews of blood sacrifices, we must wonder: is Volkogonov trying to be funny or does he think that we are total idiots?

It is interesting to trace the changes in Volkogonov's world view. In this last book the "democratic humanism" of 1991's "Trotsky" gives way to the old fashioned Great Russian chauvinism and monarchism. He resurrects the old Stalinist lies about Trotsky's hatred of the Russians, but now throws this same accusation of russophobia at Lenin. He condemns Lenin for a "despicable attitude towards Russia and Russians" (Vol. 1, p. 31) and proclaims him an "internationalist-cosmopolite" rather than a Russian (ibid., p. 52). "Cosmopolite" was the Stalinist code word for Jews, and during certain periods became a call for official pogroms. Volkogonov's careful tracking of Lenin's non-Russian (German, Swedish and Jewish) bloodlines (see chapter 1, "The deep roots") rather recalls the theorizing of Alfred Rosenberg, one of Hitler's racial specialists.

In general, Volkogonov's method in this book is unabashed ahistorical amalgam: mixing up of circumstances and historical context. In condemning the anti-democratism of Lenin he leaves out the circumstances of Civil War, foreign intervention and blockade. One is left to wonder what we are to think of the horribly anti-humanist actions of George Washington in suppressing the pro-British loyalists of upstate New York during the War of Independence, or of the orders given to General Sherman by Abraham Lincoln to burn Georgia down during the famous march to the sea.

The national question.

Volkogonov repeatedly denounces the Bolsheviks and Lenin in particular for betraying Russia in 1918 and signing the demeaning and injurious peace treaty with Germany. Signing this treaty is for Volkogonov the proof positive of Lenin's betrayal of Russian interests. "For him (Lenin) the revolution, his power, the party were incomparably dearer than Russia. He was, after all, ready without hesitations to give half of European Russia to the Germans just to hold on to his power!" (Vol. 1, p. 52). Yet some pages later Volkogonov seems to second guess Kerensky and recommends to him to hold on to power by means of … a separate peace with Germany! (ibid. p. 285). Even more glaring are the historical facts which Volkogonov chooses to leave out: the cooperation in 1917—1918 of numerous tsarist generals with their erstwhile German enemies against Soviet power, e.g. Mannerheim in Finland, Skoropadsky in Ukraine, Krasnov on the Don, A.P. Rodzianko and Yudenich in Estonia.

Examining the events of 1917—1918 in their historic context, a task which Volkogonov avoids, we must consider that the upheaval of World War I brought about the collapse of four great empires: Germany, Austro-Hungary, Russia and the Ottoman empire. Of these four, only Russia was able to consolidate itself against furious external and internal opposition and reconstituted itself in an almost intact form. True, great swathes of western territories: Finland, the Baltics, Poland (including the western parts of Ukraine and Belorussia) and Bessarabia were taken from Soviet hands (usually through foreign intervention), yet on the whole, the internationalist class-based national policy of the Bolsheviks must be judged supremely successful in maintaining a unified state.

Here is what a thoughtful and a far more honest historian wrote:

"But it would be difficult to exaggerate the significance of Soviet nationalities policy either in its historical setting or in its ultimate influence. It was at the outset the crucial factor in Lenin's astonishing achievement of the reassembly of nearly all the former dominions of the Tsars after the disintegration and dispersal of war, revolution and civil war" (E.H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, vol. 1.).

Unlike the principled and ultimately successful policy of Lenin we might examine the national policy of Volkogonov's boss. Yeltsin used Russian nationalist slogans in 1990-91 in opposition to Gorbachev. Having promoted Russian nationalism against Gorbachev's slogans of "Soviet patriotism" as well as the economic benefits which come from a large unified state, Yeltsin helped to shatter the Soviet Union into separate pieces, so that he could then grab the largest one, Russia. He then went on trying to rule the Russian Federation, again basing himself on the idea of the Russian nation and its primacy. This short sighted policy has led to the present bloody debacle in Chechnia and to looming problems in every province of Russia, whether the particular region is inhabited by native Russians, or by the Tartars, the Ugri, the Chechens, etc. Local rivalries are growing in every province as the local elites rapaciously grab for and loot all the resources, and Russia itself is threatened with collapse as a unitary state. Volkogonov's "ideals".

Volkogonov's training in climbing up to the top of the Soviet hierarchy from its three sides (military, Party and scientific) has made him extremely sensitive to the deeper social and historical requirements of this milieu. It is therefore instructive to check which political regime he has been recommending lately. On page 188 he writes:

"In general, despite a difficult situation, Russia had far from exhausted its material and spiritual resources to continue the war … But the tsarist regime, having become, in certain respects, a Duma regime, exhibited its inability to govern".

In other words, the beneficial absolutism of the Romanovs has been undermined by the 1905 constitutional reforms. True, Volkogonov hesitates and vacillates, his sensitive nose sniffing the prevailing winds. In the next sentence he contradicts himself by criticizing Nicholas II for taking over the post of supreme military commander. But on the next page he gathers courage and proclaims:

"Due to its ancient traditions Russia has gotten used to a single state ruler personified in the aura of a concrete individual".

We know that there are now strong monarchist currents within the Russian (and Ukrainian, and Kazakh, etc.) ruling circles. The various power cliques, whether the fake Communists of Zyuganov, the fake democratic liberals around Yeltsin or the fake Liberal Democrats of Zhirinovsky (this fascist party is actually named "Liberal Democratic") all tend towards the Leader principle. They all make a fetish of state power, they all embrace the totem symbols of God and Monarch. Volkogonov is here carrying out the ideological requirements of the ruling elite to establish an authoritarian, perhaps even hereditary, state power, all in the name of Russia, of course.

Volkogonov is not the only "historian" whitewashing the empire of the tsars and promoting a return to an absolute hereditary rule. I have on my shelf a Russian history textbook published in 1993 by the Plekhanov Institute under the direction of professor Sh. M. Munchayev. This modest paperback is also revising the history of the Russian empire to fit with the monarchist views. Accompanying such revisions of history there is a religious campaign to canonize Nicholas II, and various political and military clubs and organizations are agitating for a restoration of the monarchy.

If any proof were needed for the Marxist view of the primacy of matter over ideas, the quick changes of philosophical and moral ideals of Volkogonov and of thousands of other "intellectuals" amply provide it. Here is Volkogonov's own explanation of his miraculous conversion:

"I wrote my two-volume book on Stalin before 1985, when I could not know all these documents… And we all, myself included, deeply believed in the "great humanism" of the proletarian leader" (Vol. 1, p. 144).

The idea that the chief censor and propagandist of the Soviet military was a simple dupe defies credulity. Volkogonov, of course, had for many years enjoyed the rare privilege of access to both the archival documents and to the thousands of volumes of Western books of sovietology. It should be noted that this "democrat" did not publish these tons of documents so that everyone could read and evaluate them. He controlled and monopolized the access to the records and took every advantage of such restrictions.

Furthermore, despite his loading of the bibliographic sections of each volume with pages of references to secret archives, very little of significance (new to the Western reader) actually emerges. We knew about the Red terror during the Civil War. Thousands of books denounced the closing of the Constituent Assembly by the Bolsheviks in January 1918; rather fewer publications denounced Yeltsin's shooting up of the Russian Parliament in October of 1993. The Bolsheviks did not hide their Terror. Just the reverse, like the Jacobins of 1793 they proclaimed it publicly, since public knowledge of the terror was one of the most effective instruments in winning the Civil war in both France and Russia.

Alas, the cause of Volkogonov's speedy conversion from an "atheistic Marxist-Leninist" first to a humanistic democrat, then to a God-fearing Russian nationalist lies not in the intellectual liberation of a historical scientist. The reason for this ideological metamorphosis is much more pedestrian, and is directly related to the ideological needs of the rapacious and criminal Russian bourgeoisie. This is a social layer whose past is a melange of abuse of office, theft of state assets and criminal speculation with these stolen goods. Its future is equally uncertain since all evidence shows that Russian industry is now headed for extinction. The so called revival of Russian capitalism has much in common with some Voodoo cult of raising the dead. (In defense of Voodoo, it must be said that they try to raise the freshly dead while Russian capitalism collapsed some four score years ago). Russian capitalism has played itself out historically in 1917 and it cannot be resurrected now. Hence, the ideologues of capitalism must turn to myths, shamans, relics of saints and tsars, and other supernatural miracles.

But what about the Western critics?

If there was one area in which Western historiography justifiably prided itself during the past three score years it was in its contempt for the lies and falsifications published in Stalin's and post-Stalin Russia. It is all the more puzzling that in the case of Volkogonov's collections of contradictory fables and evasions the elite of Western historians have collectively suspended their critical faculties and have indulged in an orgy of flattery and adulation.

We shall not bother the reader with a thorough analysis of the many reviews of Volkogonov's books which have appeared in the most prestigious journals over the past five years. They are too many to mention. They do have one thing in common: the reviewers devote more attention to the author that to his story.

To some extent such a shift of attention is justifiable. The collapse of the USSR saw an unprecedented phenomenon: the ruling elite of a mighty state has consciously and deliberately overthrown its system and has almost to a man denounced the ideals and principles they were enforcing for decades with great brutality and thoroughness. The role of Volkogonov, as this elite's chief propagandist, was plain. He quickly had to craft some new historical myths to dress up Yeltsin's all too naked and disgusting character. The mental gymnastics of the post-Soviet intellectual elite are worth watching.

But this is one more reason for a reviewer to be on his guard, not to take Volkogonov's rationalizations at their face value, to examine his evidence under a microscope, to see who benefits from the new myths. Alas, most reviews were not written with a scientific purpose in mind, but with a very definite political angle. In fact, an analytical investigation of the tenor of such mainstream reviews would be very revealing.

For example, David Remnick's review of "Stalin" in The New York Review of Books for Nov. 5, 1992 is still quizzical of Volkogonov:

"Volkogonov was not an inspiring choice. He had published dozens of books and monographs on military ideology and none of them even hinted at independence, rigor, or critical thought".

Remnick remarks about the book that "Volkogonov found no definitive answers to the remaining riddles of history". Yet he concludes the first section of his review by stating that "the book is in no sense a failure" since it served a definite cultural purpose inside the Soviet Union in debunking and demystifying Stalin and the Soviet hierarchy. Then Remnick devotes the last three sections of this "review" to telling us about Volkogonov — the hero. This shift of emphasis from the historical subjects of interest to the glorification and idealization of Volkogonov is characteristic of almost every review.

While the Trotsky biography was published in 1991 in Russia, three years before the biography of Lenin, it was on the Lenin biography that most reviews concentrated. William Taubman set the tone of all these self serving pieces in the New York Times Book Review of Nov. 13, 1994:

"Anti-Communists East and West have long contended that Stalin's crimes derived directly from Lenin himself. Mr. Volkogonov has now come around to this devastating view of his former idol".

It was the anti-Leninism and anti-Communism of Volkogonov, and not the substance of his "scientific research" that attracted the growing flattery of all succeeding reports. Robert Conquest, the dean of American sovietologists picks up on this hatred for Lenin and develops it further:

"The obsessions with sheer destructiveness (of Lenin) struck me as even more dominant, even more humorless than those of Stalin" (The New York Review of Books, June 8, 1995).

We shall note this preference of Stalin over Lenin and only remark that Mr. Conquest shares it with a number of other political tendencies: in the 1930's Stalin's supporters included the Fabian socialists Sydney and Beatrice Webb, the Russian fascist groups abroad, and this circle of friends of Stalin enlisted Hitler in 1939; even President Roosevelt stood with Stalin against his victims in the Moscow Trials. Today the defenders of Stalin count among their number yesterday's KGB agent and the present head of the Orthodox Church Patriarch Tikhon, the leader of the "Russian Communist" party Gennady Zyuganov, certain trends in the various "Communist" parties, and the various academics who yearn for the security and certainty of the Cold War.

It is interesting to hear the few discordant notes in this chorus of cheerleaders. Roy Medvedev, writing in of January 30, 1995 makes a few worthwhile points. Firstly, Volkogonov used his position as "one of three people (along with Rudolf Pikhoia and N. Pokrovskii) who have headed the Russian government's Committee for Archival Affairs since 1992" to monopolize access to the archives. Secondly, while finding Volkogonov's book "useful", he states that "specialists probably would have preferred a simple publication of several volumes of previously unpublished Lenin documents". Thirdly, he criticizes Volkogonov for an "avoidance of real analysis" of Lenin's personality. Fourthly, Medvedev notes that Volkogonov "skipped over large periods of Lenin's life", and that "Volkogonov writes almost nothing about Leninism or its relation to Marxism and other socialist currents in Europe and Russia". Fifthly, Medvedev notes that "there are no revelations in the new documents, for even in the last ten volumes of the Soviet Complete Collected Works of Lenin there are analogous documents". To summarize, Medvedev, a man with rather longer, than Volkogonov's, pedigree of opposition to Stalinism and of scientific historical research, makes clear the worthlessness of Volkogonov's books for use in historical investigation.

A review of another type was written by Theodore Draper. In the New York Review of Books for April 4, 1996 Draper wrote at length about some salient points in Volkogonov's "Trotsky" and concluded:

"Volkogonov's book does not add much that is new of revelatory… It does not supersede the work of Deutscher … but it adds enough to make it a minor contribution to the sizable library that has accumulated around the life and times of Leon Trotsky".

However, all educational value of this review was undermined by the "I don't give a damn about history" statement of Draper:

"To most people Trotsky has become an increasingly dim memory, and his prophecies, whatever they were, belong to a distant age".

This is a shocking statement to make for a historian. If we are to treat history as a science, which Marxists do, then Trotsky's analysis and his predictions (prophecies, if you like) must be examined in the light of our experience and current events.

Was Trotsky right or wrong in his "theory of permanent revolution", which forecast the socialist character of the coming Russian revolution? Was Trotsky correct in his evaluation of the Thermidorean bureaucracy in the USSR? Was Trotsky right or wrong in his analysis of the contradictory and transient nature of the Soviet Union? Was Trotsky right or wrong in advising the policy of United Front in the struggle against Hitler's victory in Germany? Was Trotsky right or wrong in his analysis of the events leading up to World War II? Was Trotsky right or wrong to defend Lenin's conception of the revolutionary vanguard? Was Trotsky justified in defending the Marxian analysis of the contradictions of capitalism? If history is a science, then we must evaluate social theories in the light of experience. Draper takes an abstentionist position.

A rather more telling blow for historical truth was delivered by Daniel Singer in "The Nation" for March 25, 1996. It is a good piece, and should be read for its own value. Comparing Deutscher and Volkogonov, Singer concludes:

"A tremendous gap separates an inspired writer from a pedestrian scribbler, the historian with a vision from a trimmer to fashion, a socialist thinker from a converted Stalinist hack".

We conclude this review of reviews with a look at the piece written for The New York Times Book Review of March 24, 1996 by an American court historian, Richard Pipes. Pipes made his name and career as an analyst of the strengths and weaknesses of the Soviet nationalities policy. In his early book "The Formation of the Soviet Union" he wrote: "The entire Bolshevik national program was designed to win nationalist sympathies through generous offers of national self-determination", and "In Lenin's opinion, it was necessary only to adopt a friendly, conciliatory attitude toward the non-Russian subjects". Pipes was at that time evaluating a strong and triumphant Soviet Union following its victory over fascism, and telling the Pentagon where the strengths of the enemy lay.

Neither Pipes, nor any other Sovietologist, foresaw the collapse of the Soviet Union and its betrayal by its own ruling elite. But after this collapse, they feel that, on the one hand, a realistic assessment of "Communist" strength from the military point of view is no longer needed, and, on the other hand, all opposition to their anti-Communist lies and falsifications had been removed. It is Pipes who resurrects Stalin's slanders against Trotsky.

Item 1: "Inordinately vain, arrogant, often rude, he was constitutionally incapable of the kind of disciplined teamwork that the Bolshevik Party required of its members".

Item 2: "Lenin valued Trotsky's brutality and contempt for mankind as well as his outstanding literary and rhetorical gifts. But of his political and administrative abilities he had a very low opinion".

Item 3: "He (Trotsky) did not lift a finger to help the victims of pogroms in the Ukraine in 1919-20".

Item 4: "After 1920 Lenin increasingly consulted Stalin rather than Trotsky"

Item 5: "He (Stalin) was Lenin's true disciple and legitimate successor".

Item …

But there are too many lies in this short article to enumerate. Here we see an anti-Communist hysteric rather than a writer, never mind, a historian. Pipes even repeats the bloody slander used by Stalin in the infamous Moscow Trials that

"Trotsky and Lev Sedov, his son and closest aide, frequently said and wrote that Stalin's regime had to be overthrown and Stalin himself assassinated".

Volkogonov is dead but there are plenty of liars and slanderers on both sides of the ocean. The fantastic nature of Pipes' falsifications reveals the desperate state of the self confidence within the American ruling class.

Volkogonov is dead, and this writer regrets the extinction of such a reliable gauge as to the intentions of the Kremlin elite.