Stalinism: A Study of Internal Colonialism

by Alvin W. Gouldner

Abstract from Philosopher's Index:

Stalinism is historically analyzed as a regime of terror in furtherance of a property transfer which utilized a personal dictatorship and a burgeoning bureaucracy. The terror is seen as a function of the fact that the regime represented a minuscule urban elite seeking to impose itself upon an overwhelming rural peasantry who was unwilling to comply with the directives coming from the urban center. Terror evolved here as a means of state control, rather than the use of moral suasion, because the peasants at the periphery were not seen as part of the elite's moral community. Not being part of one moral community, the principle of reciprocity was not felt to apply and unequal exchange and internal colonialism resulted. The regime of terror derived also from its inability to supply material incentives and, also, because the party's ideology of "scientific socialism" led it to expect that the peasantry would be reluctant to collaborate in building socialism. The core of what happened was a property transfer centering on the "primeval episode"—the forced collectivization of 1929—which led the tiny elite in the besieged urban center to institute the regime of terror.

And note the introductory sentence to section titled "Great and Little Traditions":

The new Soviet State was at first controlled by an urban-based elite, preponderantly Russian and in part Jewish, whose advanced education, cosmopolitan travel and culture, and town origins were basically alien to the vast rural majority united in resistance to them, but whom they remained determined to rule.

SOURCE: Gouldner, Alvin W. "Stalinism: A Study of Internal Colonialism," Telos #34, Winter 1977-78, pp. 5-48. (Click on link for full text PDF file.)

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