Aymeric Monville, French philosopher, director of the Les éditions Delga publishing house in Paris, deputy editor-in-chief of La Pensée magazine, in an interview with the Pravda correspondent in Western Europe, Andrei Dultsev, about the problems of perception of the historical and theoretical legacy of J.V. Stalin in Western European historiography.
Andrei Dultsev [AD]: You have just published a book about Stalin, And For a Few More Canards: Counter-inquiry on Stalin and the Soviet Union. What do you think is the problem of the perception of Stalin in the West today?
Aymeric Monville [AM]: In the West, historical analysis, if you can call it that, is based on a comparison of Hitler and Stalin, which is necessary above all to justify Western democracy. The vision of World War II is based on the fact that an objective collusion between Western capitalism and Nazism, which are in fact two sides of the same economic formation at different stages of political development, is being pushed into the background, and the term ‘totalitarianism, itself ill-founded, is used as a propaganda and ideological tool to show that Nazi Germany and “Stalinism” are the main threats to the society of Western values’.
With my book, I want to return the Marxist view of things to the public space. That is, a conspiracy between Western democracies and Nazism, the perception of which suffered in the West under the influence of the ferocious anti-communism of the post-war era, which was also implanted in France, which is the weakest link in the political structure of the West. After all, France is the country of the Commune, a country of a very strong workers’ movement, a country where (along with Italy) there was the most powerful Communist Party outside the socialist community. Therefore, it is interesting to analyse the development of the vision of the USSR and the Stalin era here.
The Black Book of Communism, which was imposed on us, received extremely negative international reviews from the scientific community, due to its intellectual fatuousness. But it was in France that this book was written, to begin to change
the way things are viewed in the scientific community.
If in the countries of Latin America there is a coup d’état and the coming to power of a military junta, then universities are surrounded by tanks and professors are killed. But in France Marxists are tolerated even in universities. Here there is a different revolutionary tradition, which some time ago was once again confirmed by the example of the movement of ‘yellow vests’; therefore intellectuals are waging a fierce struggle, trying to change minds by ‘soft methods”, from within.
This intellectual battle for minds is being waged by the infantile method of demonising such an ordinary phenomenon as the cult of personality’; and, judging by the result, this method has so far been effective in deforming consciousness.
Demonisation is part of the construction of a picture of the apocalypse, with Stalin as a ‘red tyrant’ and Katyn executioner. In fact, all this serves anti-Soviet propaganda, denigrating the USSR and deepening modern Russophobia. It is here that the friendly attitude of the French people towards the Soviet people, their gratitude, is a lump in the throat of anti-communists of all stripes, because, as Maurice Thorez once said, “France will never enter a war against the USSR.” This statement by Thorez is primarily associated with the sacrifices made by the Soviet people on the altar of victory in the struggle for the liberation of Europe from fascism.
When the representative of the Russian Federation was not invited to the May 8 celebration in France last year, the memory of the Soviet feat, the memory of the 27 million victims of the Soviet people in this massacre unleashed by Hitlerite Germany, was spat upon for the first time. The demonisation of Stalin certainly contributes to the whipping up of this hysteria. This is reflected in the results of opinion polls: while, at the end of the war, the majority of French people were convinced that it was the Soviet Union that played a decisive role in the defeat of Nazism, today the situation is the opposite – most people believe that the United States won the war.
This is first of all a consequence of the influence of Hollywood. American films have led the population here to believe that it was the United States who came to liberate France, when in fact they came to impose Operation Overlord, which aimed to make France a vassal of the United States. We owe our relative independence to the strong Communist Party, which actively participated in the struggle against the German fascist occupation.
It should also be noted that it was General de Gaulle (few people mention this fact, since they usually write only about his merits) who ordered the destruction of the chapel at Fort Mont-Valérien near Paris, where many Resistance fighters were shot [the walls were demolished, the crypt was preserved -AD]. On the walls of the chapel, the Resistance fighters wrote before their execution: “Long live Stalin!” For General de Gaulle, this was a thorn in the eye, because it became obvious that the role of the communists in the Resistance movement was overwhelming and the traces of this memory had to be erased.
AD: Although in the municipalities where the communists remained in power in the post-war years, both squares and boulevards with the name “Stalingrad’ have been preserved ….
AM: Undoubtedly, Khrushchev’s report at the XX Congress of the CPSU influenced the French Communist Party.
Nevertheless, the PCF remained a party that did not immediately recognise those parts of the report that seemed simply insane (for example, that the USSR was allegedly not ready for war). The French communists refused to renounce Stalin. But in the end, revisionism won out, and today it is very strong. For real communists, the issue has not been resolved.
I will cite as an example a collaboration with the wonderful writer, Domenico Losurdo, which is very important for me. I translated Losurdo’s works from Italian into French and facilitated the translation of his books into other European languages, and this is where I ran into censorship. As long as Losurdo criticised liberalism, he was published, including in English publishing houses. Criticism of liberalism is perfectly permitted.
But as soon as he came out in defence of real socialism, even China, the British stopped publishing him. This is censorship. It’s not even a matter of the author’s personality, but the fact that a certain theme is rejected – Lenin’s thinking and a clear orientation towards socialism as a social model. Leftists refer to all sorts of Trotskyist stereotypes – “party bureaucracy” etc – but just don’t talk about the construction of real socialism.
AD: As a member of the Honecker Committee on the Affairs of Political Prisoners – the leaders of the former German Democratic Republic who were persecuted in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) after the collapse of the Wall – do you think that this battle against Stalin, which is being waged by the European pseudo-leftists (Greens. Social Democrats, the ARTE channel), is a continuation of the historical revisionism to revise the results of the Second World War, initiated by historians and politicians of the FRG?
AM: The best example of this is the ARTE channel’s documentary about Katyn, where authoritative European historians in all seriousness rely on the documents transferred to Poland by Yeltsin, on which in 1940 instead of VKP(b)” was written “CPSU”, which testifies to the grossest historical fake. The same is the case with the Mednoye memorial complex, where 6,000 shot Poles were allegedly buried, but whose bodies were never found. Unfortunately, only historians are aware of these inconsistencies.
But, far worse than these historical disputes, the film does not recognise the real borders of modern Poland. It is wrong to say that Stalin ‘invaded Poland after the German-Soviet pact. These were the Belarussian and Ukrainian lands captured by the Poles after the Civil War in Russia. The problem of Poland’s borders is important for the Germans. This means that for the Germans Poland should be pushed to the east, so Germany could lay claim to the territory of today’s western Poland, which would open the door for the new Drang nach Osten [Drive to the East].
One can, of course, argue that current politicians do not know history and are not interested in it, but I think that this is sometimes a trick, because among them there are those who know it very well. I think that responsible politicians knew what they were doing on 22 June 2021, when Europe announced sanctions against Belarus. Considering the brazen financing of Nazi movements in Ukraine, one can safely assert there are plans for a new ‘fourth Reich’, hence solidarity with the German communists is urgently needed. We see the extent to which the German Communist Party (DKP) is persecuted, and the same applies to Junge Welt, which for me, like Pravda, is the standard of Marxist thought today. But Junge Welt in Germany is actually under threat of extinction.
Last year, even the Association of Victims of the Nazi Regime was attacked in Germany under the pretext of “extremism.” Undoubtedly, our creation of the Honecker Committee in France was symbolic, because it was this communist that the West German authorities imprisoned in the early 1990s in the same Moabit prison in which the Nazis threw him in the 1930s. West German justice knew perfectly well what it was doing. We must defend communists everywhere, all over the world in the face of anti-communist repression.
AD: One of the books that came out recently in your publishing house is a book by Italian historians Daniele Burgio, Massimo Leoni and Roberto Sidoli about Trotsky’s collusion with the Nazis, about previously unknown documents of the second ‘Moscow trial’ (against Pyatakov and Radek).
AM. This book seems to me absolutely necessary, because it talks about the second ‘Moscow trial’ in January 1937 and provides irrefutable evidence of the collaboration of Trotsky and the Trotskyist centre in the USSR with the Nazis. I insist on the word “irrefutable”, given that Khrushchev’s report cast doubt on this entire period.
Undoubtedly, the period of party purges had its dark spots, but it is necessary to distinguish between the activities of the People’s Commissar Yezhov and ‘Yezhovism’ and the Moscow trials. The problem is that “Yezhovism”, and later the very report of Khrushchev at the XX Congress, defamed the “Moscow trials”: this term has become in Europe a synonym for a falsifed trial.
Through this publication, I want to demonstrate that the second “Moscow trial”, in particular, was justified. This is confirmed by the state of the sources of the case, which cannot be denied; this is the problem of Trotsky’s archives, which the inconsistency of his texts of that period, his statements before the Dewey Commission. The book carefully compiles Trotsky’s lapses, his previously unknown letters that were found in the archives which prove, for example, that he was in con tact with Radek, although both denied this,
The main subject of the investigation of the historians was the secret flight of Yuri Pyatakov to Trotsky in Oslo in December, 1935. We have all the evidence that the Norwegian authorities lied by denying it. To meet with Trotsky, Pyatakov took advantage of an official mission: in December 1935, he flew to Berlin on the instructions of the Party in order to search for suppliers of industrial goods (after the Nazis came to power, economic relations between the USSR and Germany which at the end of the 1920s were more than intense, and remained so for some time). Then, from Berlin, Pyatakov flew to Oslo lo see Trotsky for a one-day meeting, which could not be done without the complicity of the German authorities, who gave him a visa.
The question is, rather, why did Pyatakoy undertake such an action, knowing that he was under the supervision of the Soviet embassy? Because Trotsky presented him with the fait accompli of an alliance with the Nazis. And because Pyatakov decided to meet with Trotsky at any cost and with such a risk, since from their point of view there was a possibility of a coup d’état in the USSR.
AD: Do you agree that behind the attack on Stalin lies an attack on anti-fascism and the ideas of socialism in general?
AM: Further in 1939, Trotsky took a position in support of the independence of Ukraine, publishing four articles in which he passionately stood for it, supporting nationalists and knowing full well that Ukraine was the key for the Germans to the Caucasus and the oil rigs of Baku. These facts must be matched with the positions of today’s Trotskyists and Western leftists. Being anti-Stalinists, and following Trotsky’s line, they side with the social democrats in defending the European Union.
Take, for example, the Dimitrov trial in Nazi Germany in the face of absolute lawlessness and the Nazi terrorist regime, Dimitrov courageously defended himself, and Goering could not prove anything against him. So why did Pyatakov and Radek, who had all the means of defence, in the face of socialist democratic justice, not do something like this?
Of course, the Stalinist period is controversial, but considering it, one must understand that Stalin was a man endowed with the greatest political responsibility for the fate of the world in the twentieth century. Yes, Stalin is a man of contrasts, who sometimes had to make difficult political choices. But it is a shame that the books of this ‘wonderful Georgian’, as Lenin called him, are not being published in Europe today.
AD: In your book A Few More Canards you also return to the real number of repressions in the USSR, rejecting the nonsense about “hundreds of millions murdered”. To what extent is your book capable of making a breakthrough in changing the balance of power in the battle for historical truth?
AM: I like to participate in debates using the slightest opportunity and platform. But given the West’s strategy against the USSR and Stalin, I have little hope. In the case of our new book, Pyatakov’s Flight, we prove to our opponents the historical correctness of the Moscow trials. Moreover, if you familiarise yourself with the materials of those trials, you will see that such an amount of evidence is impossible to fake.
However, what, in fact, to prove? If in December 1935 Trotsky boasted that Pyatakov had come to him in Norway, then later Trotsky perjured himself before the Dewey Commission in saying that he, while in Norway, fell on skis and could not meet with anyone. Yes, there was a fall, but it happened ten days later, after Pyatakov’s visit. We also proved the inconsistency of the reports of the Oslo airport, where the words “not a single foreign plane arrived” were played up. But Pyatakov flew in from Berlin on a Norwegian plane.
Further: Trotsky’s diary up to 1935 has been published, but his notes of the last years of his life were never published…. We are pleased to disclose all these facts. Our main task is to restore historical justice with an approach open even to non-Marxists. I believe that in the long run, we will prevail.
AM: At the same time, Stalin’s texts are extremely important and modern: it is necessary to study his works on linguistics, on the national question, on the problems of socialism in the USSR. It is necessary to study Stalin precisely as a theoretician. I read the book by Viktor Trushkov, Stalin as a Theorist, with great interest and I have great respect for the tremendous work he has done.
In France, we are far from this, we must first study the historical role of Stalin, understand the organisation of the Land of Soviets, the architecture of the economic breakthrough of the first five-year plans, the role of market mechanisms in the transition from capitalism to socialism. This is all part of the analysis we need in France.
AD: This year in France Hitler’s book Mein Kampf was republished, with commentaries by historians, in a circulation of 55,000 copies, which is a record today. At the same time, no one publishes Stalin’s works, and Lenin and Marx are extremely rare on the shelves ….
AM: In les Éditions Delga we do not publish the classics of Marxism-Leninism, this is not our format, but we are going to publish, for example, the transcripts of the “Moscow trials” in order to expose the lie in the West that they were falsified. Many people here have a false opinion that, after the assassination of Kirov, Stalin, like a crazy tyrant, pressed all buttons on all floors. That’s bullshit.
AD: Why is Stalin the first target for anti-communists of all stripes?
AM: Jean-Paul Sartre once said that, after the Hungarian events of 1956, the bourgeoisie breathed a sigh of relief: they found something to criticise behind the Iron Curtain”. Until 1956, the bourgeoisie was constantly under attack unilaterally due to the injustice of capitalist society, its internal disorder, and in 1956 they saw that a conflict was brewing within the socialist bloc – and they played this card. This is the whole tragedy of the XX Congress.
For the bourgeoisie, after the war, Stalin became a kind of monolith that had to be destroyed at any cost. They promoted tales of the horrors of the Gulag to justify their own crimes – while the Soviet penitentiary system based on re-education, in which there were libraries, independent activities of prisoners and treatment (the same Solzhenitsyn was cured of cancer), is incomparable with the Nazi death camps, in which lampshades were covered with human skin.
In the same way, it is wrong to call Stalin the red tsar – he never was, he remained until the end of his days a Bolshevik. a Leninist. Stalin is a collective image of what the anti-communists cannot accept. The Soviet experience, Stalin, and to some extent the success of today’s China, are causing headaches for the capitalists. For them, this is an incomprehensible matrix. They are unable to comprehend the reasons for the economic and military miracle of the Stalinist USSR. Hatred of Stalin gives us Marxist Leninists the key to realising the hatred of the imperialists for any form of social organisation more modern than capitalism.
Interview published in Russian in Pravda No 140 (31200). 21-22 December 2021, and available online at https://tinyurl.com/2p9xhk6f.
This article was https://tinyurl.com/2p9xhk6fpublished in Communist Review (Britain) Spring 2022, with translation into English by the CR editor, using online facilities. Aymeric Monville’s book, Et pour quelques bobards de plus (And for a Few More Canards) was published by les Éditions Delga in 2020 and 2021 [pbk, 106 pp. €10+ p&p, ISBN: 978-2-37607-189-1] and may be ordered from https://editionsdelga.fr/produit/et-por-quelques-de-bobards-de-plus/.