Josef Stalin and the Problem of Political Opposition

Josef Stalin and the Problem of Political Opposition

Reflections on the anniversary of the announcement of Dekulakization

by John F. Di Leo

In the Declaration of Independence, our Founding Fathers declared the only legitimate purpose of government:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness… that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

So, this was not just the plan for the United States. This part of the Declaration comes before the listing of our Founders’ grievances against King George III and his puppet majority party in Parliament. The Founders here were speaking of the philosophical agreement of the thinkers of the Enlightenment: governments exist to secure the rights of the citizenry.

There may be many different ways to do so. In some countries, a republic governed by popularly elected representatives in a bicameral legislature might be the best approach. In some, a hereditary monarchy might. In some, a military dictatorship is the only way. We must recall that the first obligation of government is to secure the God-given rights of the citizenry; the effort to find the most effective and moral approach to constructing that government for the country in question is actually of secondary importance.

Josef Stalin Identifies an Enemy

On December 27, 1929, the Soviet Union’s dictator – Josef Stalin, known to history as “The Georgia Butcher” – announced a policy of dekulakization: the elimination of the kulaks “as a class.”

“Kulaks” was a broad name for private farmers of all kinds: rich landowners with thousands of acres, small farmers with just a few acres, both those who sold most of their output and those who only grew enough to feed their families.   The kulaks were not really a social class at all, despite the communist effort to brand them all as a unitary demographic.  They were people who raised crops, animals, or both, that’s all they had in common.

(Worth noting: the Soviets claimed that kulaks were “the richer farmers” – but remember that the left really defines the word “rich” as “anyone with anything the government wants to take.”  To say “all kulaks were wealthy” is about as true as saying “all actors are movie stars” or “all shopkeepers are millionaires.”)

The Soviet Union was an agricultural nation, and Marxist theory was based on the premise that only an industrialized country would be open to Marxism.  They therefore assumed from the start that communism would be opposed by the (predominant) agricultural sector… but they couldn’t admit that all farmers opposed them, just as they couldn’t admit that all urbanites opposed them.  They had to implement a two step process: claim that an entire sector was uniformly wealthy, then blame that sector’s opposition to Marxism on their wealth.

When in doubt, Marxists always blame opposition on their opponents’ wealth, whether they really have any or not.

The communists ruled with an iron fist in the cities, and they controlled the military.  The Bolsheviks therefore felt a need to cripple the vast majority of rural people across their enormous nation, and they used the old tactic of “class” demonization to do it, whether they really objectively qualified as a class or not.

With a willing fifth column in the foreign press – Walter Duranty et. al. – the Stalin administration had no problem convincing the world that the only real remaining opponents of state socialism were those rich landowners, akin to the faceless ADMs, Cargills, and CHS Incs of today.  It’s always easier to demonize a conglomerate; the masses are often happy to forget that conglomerates are made up of real individuals like you and me, and they join in, all too willingly.

Destroying an Innocent Domestic Enemy

Once he announced who his opponents were, and ensured that his supporters were on board with the demonization, Josef Stalin made no secret of how he would eliminate the private farmers. He announced a three-part plan for dealing with all private farmers who disagreed with socialism:

  1. The first group, after summary confiscation of their property, was to be shot or imprisoned as decided by the local political police.  Since the local political police rarely had resources to feed their prisoners, they were more likely to just shoot them.
  2. The second group, their lives spared by the local political police, would be sent to Siberia, Kazakhstan, or the other distant penal colonies… after summary confiscation of their property.
  3. The third group, their lives also spared by the local political police, would be sent to nearer work camps, to labor in the service of the state… after summary confiscation of their property.

There are several points worth noting here.

  • The local communist party had full power to mete out life or death to political enemies; never forget that’s how socialism works…  When opposition to the party gets you a potential death sentence, you’re much less likely to come out in public as an opponent.
  • The order above isn’t mine; it’s the official order in which the Soviet government announced its implementation of Stalin’s order.  Killing first, distant imprisonment second, and nearby enslavement only third.  Communists do nothing without a purpose, even the order of such horrific punishment.  What if the local communist band was more gentle than most, or had a pre-revolutionary or counter-revolutionary friendship with the intended victims? Giving the impression that murder was the default choice might make the difference in keeping a good communist from allowing personal affection to get in the way of proper revolutionary hatred.
  • A large part of the consolidation of power under socialism is to separate the anti-communists from their communities as quickly as possible.  Demonization is only effective if the audience doesn’t allow the anti-communist to argue their point; physical separation ensures that they can’t talk the sheep into questioning their revolution.  By 1929, Soviet rule was a decade old, and an utter failure by any measure; the Stalinists knew they needed to quiet their opponents or people who started out as fans might be turned.  Kill many opponents; send most of the rest far away, and only allow a very small remaining number to remain close by, hopefully working so hard and in such privation as to not be a threat.

The Result

To put it mildly, by Stalin’s standards, dekulakization was a success.  The policy announced on December 27, 1929 resulted in about two million known deportations to work camps in Siberia, the Urals, Kazakhstan, and northern Russia, and at least fifteen million dead.  That’s the socialist way to eliminate political opposition, and don’t think it’s limited to Josef Stalin.

OGPU chief Efim Georgievich Evdokimov had no trouble recruiting the thousands it took to kill, imprison, or enslave all those millions of people.  True believers – of the Marxist mindset – are killers at heart, whether they ever get the opportunity to do so or not.  Answering to the call of Marxism instead of the law of God, they have no moral compunction against such crimes against humanity.

Through this process, the Soviet government nationalized all the farmland in the country.  Since they had already nationalized stores and factories (they controlled the cities first), this completed the Soviet mastery of the entire country.

It didn’t “work,” of course, as we usually define the word.  Dekulakization didn’t produce more crops to feed the people; agricultural production plummeted.  But regular factory production had plummeted with the government takeovers too, and they didn’t mind that.  Shops that had been full of goods, entering into willing commerce every time a customer walked in the door, before the revolution, were now devoid of goods and customers alike.

Emaciated comrades filled the nation, desperate for food and drink, for heat and shelter, and this didn’t change until the government finally collapsed at the end of the 1980s.

But for the time being, it was a success for those in power – the Soviet rulers, from Stalin and Evdokimov to the local party apparatchiks in the small towns, from the work bosses in Siberia to the wardens in the city lockups.

And all it required was for a political ideology to take hold, enforced by a ruthless minority with absolute power.

Just History, or a Prophecy to Heed?

This all happened 80 to 85 years ago; and it’s easy to view it from outside a fishbowl, with the glass wall of the aquarium keeping this truth and the life of the  viewer completely separate.  There’s no reason why dekulakization should scare us today, is there – a continent and an ocean away, remote by generations of human lives and nearly a century of years.

But the study of history is always relevant, because if Einstein was right that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result, then burying one’s head in the sand and failing to notice when someone is doing the same thing that caused an evil result in the past is suicidal.

Mao, Pol Pot, and the Castro brothers all copied Stalin’s methods, and achieved similar results in their respective countries, decades later.  The same methods are repeated wherever Marxists and their acolytes are empowered, regardless of the year or location.

The United States are at a crossroads; avowed Marxists fill the national executive branch from president to bureaucrat.  Marxists occupy a minority of seats in the national legislature, a majority in some state legislatures, and who can estimate the percentage of state and federal judgeships they hold?   To look at recent laws passed and signed, and court decisions handed down from assorted benches, they have indeed approached a critical mass.

The modern American Democrat Party uses demonization as the same political tool that Stalin and Che Guevara relied upon for their reigns of terror.  Today in the United States, it might be insurance companies, oil companies, bankers, small businesses, doctors… the target changes from week to week, and from issue to issue, but the cudgel of demonization is still employed.

Today’s Democrats don’t distinguish between a nationwide hospital system and a local medical practice; the accusation of overcharging and systematic victimization of the patient is applied equally to the entire “class” of healthcare providers.

Today’s Democrats don’t distinguish between a manufacturing conglomerate that owns factories in thirty countries and a local small business that employs a hundred people in a single plant.  The accusation that owners are fat cats, exploiting and underpaying the masses, is levied across the board against the entire “class” of manufacturers.

And perhaps worst of all, they don’t acknowledge the Constitutional limits on their offices, so they push the envelope as far as they can, issuing unconstitutional restrictions on the American people, day by day, hour by hour.  When one regulation is struck down, they write another.  When one referendum is defeated at the polls, they try it again at the next election, or bypass the public entirely by legislating from the bench.

They don’t give up.   To the modern American Left, all methods are fair game, as part of the endless campaign against whatever subset of the nation is being demonized at the time.

Obamacare was designed to drive companies out of business.  The IRS has been politicized, to hamstring anti-administration organizations. The EPA has been transformed into an army of bureaucrats devoted to crackdowns that bury small businesses.  The FDA’s calorie testing and labeling rules for foods, manageable by multinational companies, are gradually pushing small and midsized food companies out of business.

Viewed individually, each such policy might be an error, or an excess by well-intentioned functionaries.  But viewed as a group, from the vantage point of an onlooker studying the twentieth century, this trajectory should be terrifying indeed.

The Purpose of Government

Let’s return for a moment to our Declaration of Independence.  The construction of government is open to interpretation; we in these United States have tried many approaches, from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution, with different states experimenting with different terms of office and splits between the branches.

But first and foremost, remember the purpose of government: it is to secure the rights of the citizenry.

When government selects one or more law-abiding segments of the populace for demonization – whether they are called kulaks or bourgeoisie or businessmen or shopkeepers – it’s time to recognize the tell-tale signs of Stalinism, and reactbefore it’s too late.

Twenty years ago, in the battle over Hillarycare (Obamacare’s dry run), Hillary Clinton was accused of setting up a policy that would be fatal to a whole class of business, the ones large enough to not be exempted, but small enough that they couldn’t absorb endless costs or carve out their own exceptions through Washington connections.   Tellingly, the First Lady and future Senator and Secretary of State snapped “I can’t be responsible for every undercapitalized business!”

Translation:   Socialist policy is designed to empower the administration, the apparatchiks, the party apparatus.  It is not designed for the good of the public at all.  The true socialist will demonize any segment of the public that opposes their policies; they will seek, not compromise, but destruction, of any opposition.

This is their attitude: the nation is a piggy bank to ransack, a pie to divvy up amongst themselves.  The structure of government is an enforcement arm to accomplish their consolidation of power.

Our Founding Fathers made it impossible for a communist to take power in a single day, but no matter how hard they tried, they could not build a wall that would hold against dictators and tyrants forever, given years to prepare and build, and given a somnambulant and gullible electorate.

We must recognize the ongoing assault on our system, our culture, our national character, our economy.  And we must find a way to return – hard – to the severely limited government of our fathers, a government that left no room for such demonization and demographic assaults.

If those in power – both elective and appointed – use their offices to restrict our rights rather than to secure them, then it is time to shut down the taxpayer-funded institutions that empower these tyrants, and stop the class warfare technique once and for all.

Copyright 2014 John F. Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicago based international trade compliance manager and trainer.  His columns appear regularly in Illinois Review.

Permission is hereby granted to forward freely, provided it is uncut and the IR URL and byline are included.  Follow John F. Di Leo on Facebook and LinkedIn, and on Twitter at @johnfdileo.


“Josef Stalin and the Problem of Political Opposition” was first published in Illinois Review, HERE.

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