[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]
The New York Times. 26 June 1931
STALINISM SOLVING MINORITIES PROBLEM
Many Languages and Customs in Soviet Union Are Welded by Communist Party.
RACIAL FAVORITISM BARRED
Heterogeneous Group in the High Posts of Russia Offers Hope to All Sections
PROGRAMS COVER NATION
Aim is to Foster Pan-Sovietism While Permitting Liberal Measure of Cultural Freedom.
This is the tenth of a series of articles on Russia today by The New York Times Moscow correspondent, who is at present in Paris.
By WALTER DURANTY.
Special Cable to The New York Times.
PARIS. June 25—One of the most evident ways in which Soviet Russia is modifying Marxism is in the matter of nationalities and Soviet federation, for which Joseph Stalin is directly responsible as Commissar of Nationalities during the period prior to 1923, when the Constitution of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics was adopted and the commissariat in question abolished.
Karl Marx conceived of the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship in a highly industrialized state, where the actual majority of the population would be urban workers speaking the same language and having the same needs, habits and aims. For this homegeneous majority the elimination or absorption of other classes and sections of the population would be a relatively simple matter, once it gained political power and held the economic reins.
Many Languages and Customs.
In Russia, however, things were quite different. The urban workers not only formed less than 15 per cent of the population and the peasants more than 80 per cent, but there was a vast divergence or race, 1anguage, custom and culture, to say nothing of religion, among the 160,000,000 inhabitants of the Soviet Union. And what, from the Bolshevik point of view, was no less important was the vast difference in “social consciousness” also.
In organizing the U. S. S. R. Stalin was forced to take cognizance of this anomaly from a Marxist doctrinal standpoint. He met it by a compromise, of which even British genius for making two ends meet need not have been ashamed.
Every nationality in the union was allowed full linguistic autonomy and what might have seemed a dangerously lavish degree of cultural and political autonomy. Thus the Jews who had remained alien expatriates under Czardom received a small autonomous area with the promise of an independent republic if and when the number of the population concentrated at any one point should justify the augmented status.
At first sight such an arrangement might seem to foster a spirit of petty nationalist and racial antagonism and universal disintegration—that is the exact opposite of what the Bolsheviki are trying to achieve. In a heterogeneous capitalist State—the British Empire, for instance—liberty given minor nationalities must have had a centrifugal effect, but in the U. S. S. R. the Communist party acts as a cement to bind the whole mass together and permit the facile exercise of central control.
For in practice two rules are followed in regard to the Soviet national system. First, the power is progressively restricted to “proletarian elements” of the population—the workers and poor peasants, whether industrialized or not. Secondly, 95 per cent of the political leaders are Communists, and, what is more, it is an almost invariable rule that the national Communist party secretaries and their most important district subordinates are either Russians or members of a different nationality from the people around them.
System Works Well.
The strictness of the party discipline does the rest, and, although there have been cases of regional friction and sporadic difficulty, the system on the whole seems to work more smoothly than any organization of a heterogeneous State yet devised by man.
Perhaps one of the secrets of its success is the annual convocation to the centre of the regional party executives for a conference or congress and their relatively frequent switching from one national] post to another. It must be admitted also that the Bolsheviki adhere with remarkable steadiness to their creed of Communist equality irrespective of race or color, which assures the members of former “subject’’ peoples opportunities to rise to the highest central positions and removes any feeling of racial inferiority.
Stalin is a Georgian, Trotsky a Jew. Rudzutak a Lett,. Dzerzhinskv was a Pole. These men offer salient examples for Communists of every nationality in the U. S. S.R. It is thus clear that the Soviet federal system, white reinforcing nationalism, did not sacrifice cohesion and centralized direction.
The subsequent evolution of Stalinism tended still further to fuse or coalesce these apparently opposite forces—first, by an intensive and union-wide propaganda for the “defense of the Socialist fatherland against capitalistic intervention.”
The purpose of the propaganda—and the achievement of it—was to divert and merge the fresh, strong currents of minor nationalism into a mighty river of Pan-Sovietism.
Construction in All Parts.
Secondly, the new industrial construction—new dams, railroads, mines and factories, often in remote parts of the union—was concrete proof that each for all and all for each was true. Thirdly, there is the new system of State and collective farms, not the least purpose of which is to bring the advantages of mechanized and organized effort to the humblest Tadzsik peasant or Kasak nomad.
Finally, there is the ever-driving energy of the Communist party, from graybeards to children, which the Kremlin radiates to the remotest edge of the U. S. S. R. like a current that makes all molecule cohere.
To say that this process. Is fully accomplished is premature, but there is small doubt that Stalinism has already achieved a marked degree of transmutation of petty nationalism into a great Pan-Sovietism—not aggressive, not, the writer firmly believes, “Red imperialism” aroused for world conquest, but strong and potent dangerous should attack from without provoke it to reprisal.
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