The Stalinist past still shapes Soviet society today, even if no longer defining it. Nowhere is this more evident than in the crises of procurement with which Soviet agriculture recurrently beset the Soviet economy. From the October Revolution to détente, the peasantry have been a destiny for the Soviet State. This, however, need not have been the case : that "destiny" was a man-made one. If the "thaw" of 1956 was short-lived, this is not surprising considering that it had been ushered in by one of Stalin's closest political associates, the sturdy survivor, Nikita Krushchev. Krushchev's exposé was thus not a critique of the surreal social system whose chief architect Stalin had been, but of Stalin the man, his "sickly suspicions," and his "crimes against socialist legality." Louis Althusser is correct in seeing the profound limits of Krushchev's critique of Stalinism and of any other that merely sees it as a departure from Soviet legality, while overlooking its embedding in the fundamental structures of Soviet society and of the organizational culture of the CPSU. This, however, is a commonplace deemed worthy of public utterance only by those whose life commitments confine them within the inane limits of official Communist discourse, and who, with leaden earnestness, debate whether Stalinism was a "deviation" or merely an "error."
It is revealing that Althusser manages to miss the humanly liberative character of Krushchev's exposé, which buoyed even Althusser's own project for an anti-humanist Marxism with its quixotic quest for freedom-within-Stalinism. As usual, Althusser presents only programmatic theatrics; never actually presenting his own critique, he allows it to be leaked by his student and translator, Grahame Lock. Thus, he brazenly condemns Krushchev's speech at the 20th Congress of the CPSU as a "critique from the right," reducing it, with his typical "theoreticism," to a theoretical diagnosis, thereby missing its liberative character as a political act which had the almost immediate consequence of freeing some 5,000,000 political prisoners in the Soviet Union, whose massive presence could not but profoundly affect the entire public atmosphere of the USSR. Moreover, Althusser apparently writes in ignorance of the fact that Khruschev's revelations at the 20th Congress were an impromptu act of great personal and political courage, and that his revelations at the 22nd Congress in 1961, made in open not closed session, were even more damning in their implications than his first talk...
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"Theory and Ideology" by Alvin Gouldner