open letter press

Mr Reyes (Part 2)

(Reaper76. Gabriel asks a very important question.)

Part 1     Part 3

Jack had gotten home that very night with nothing but the gloriously ripped drop dead gorgeous Mr Reyes on his mind. He’d berated himself as soon as he had sat in the car, briefly smacking a hand against the steering wheel- and jumping when the horn sounded. Flushing bright red again, he’d waved apologies to the mothers picking up their children, and had pulled out of the parking space, before speeding away, still calling himself an idiot for falling for the act so quickly. Hana had, as normal, ranted about Mr Reyes all the way home. Apparently that day Mr Reyes had allowed them to pet the rabbit he’d been looking after, and, had told Hana most of the day that she looked a lot like her dad, cueing the comment about Jack being cute. Jack blew out a breath of air and took a deep one in, trying to cool himself down as he turned onto the main road and drove back towards home.

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To answer the first question – Is Stalin a dictator? – we must agree on what meaning is to be attached to the term dictator: otherwise argument is waste of time. Assuming that we accept the primary meaning of of the term dictator, as it is defined in the New English Dictionary –“a ruler or governor whose word is law; an absolute ruler of the state– and who authoritatively prescribes a course of action or dictates what is to be done” (the example given being the Dictators of ancient Rome) – Stalin is not a dictator.

So far as Stalin is related to the constitution of the USSR, as amended in 1936, he is the duly elected representative of one of the Moscow constituencies to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. By this assembly he has been selected as one of the thirty members of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, accountable to the representative assembly for all its activities. It is this Presidium which selects the Council of Commissars (Sovnarkom) and, during the intervals between the meetings of the Supreme Soviet, controls the policy of the Sovnarkom, of which Molotov has been for many years the Prime Minister, and since 1939, also the Foreign Secretary.

In May 1941, Stalin, hitherto content to be a member of the Presidium, alarmed at the menace of a victorious German army, invading the Ukraine, took over, with the consent of the Presidium, the office of Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, leaving Molotov as Foreign Secretary; in exactly the same way, and for a similar reason –the world war– that Winston Churchill, with the consent of the House of Commons, became Prime Minister and Minister of Defence with Chamberlain, the outgoing Prime Minister, as a prominent member of the British Cabinet.

As Prime Minister I doubt whether Stalin would have offered, as Churchill did, to amalgamate the USSR on terms of equality with another Great Power without consulting the Presidium of which he was a member. Neither the Prime Minister of the British Cabinet nor the presiding member of the Sovnarkom has anything like the autocratic power of the President of the U.S.A., who not only selects the members of his Cabinet subject to the formal control of the Senate, but is also Commander-in-Chief of the American armed forces and, under the Lease-Lend Act, is empowered to safeguard, in one way or another, the arrival of munitions and food at the British ports. By declaring, in May this year, a state of unlimited national emergency, President Roosevelt legally assumes a virtual dictatorship of the United States. He has power to take over transport, to commandeer the radio for the purposes of propaganda, to control imports and all exchange transactions, to requisition ships and to suspend laws governing working hours, and, most important of all, to decide on industrial priorities and, if necessary, to take over industrial plants.

In what manner, then, does Stalin exceed in the authority over his country’s destiny the British Prime Minister or the American President? The office by which Stalin earns his livelihood and owes his predominant influence is that of general secretary of the Communist Party, an unique organisation the characteristics of which, whether good or evil, I shall describe later on in this volume. Here I will note that the Communist Party, unlike the Roman Catholic and Anglican Church, is not an oligarchy; it is democratic in its internal structure, having a representative congress electing a central committee which in its turn selects the Politbureau and other executive organs of the Communist Party.

Nor has Stalin ever claimed the position of a dictator or fuhrer. Far otherwise; he has persistently asserted in his writings and speeches that as s a member of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, he is merely a colleague of thirty other members, and that so far as the Communist Party is concerned he acts as general secretary under the orders of the executive. He has, in fact, frequently pointed out that he does no more than carry out the decisions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

Thus, in describing his momentous article known as “Dizzy with Success”, he expressly states that this was written on “the well-known decisions of the Central Committee regarding the fight ‘against Distortions of the Party Line in the collective farm movement… In this connection”, he continues, “I recently received a number of letters from comrades, collective farmers, calling upon me to reply to the questions contained in them. It was my duty to reply to the letters in private correspondence; but that proved to be impossible, since more than half the letters received did not have the address of the writers (they forgot to send their addresses). Nevertheless the questions raised in these letters are of tremendous political interest to our comrades… In view of this I found myself faced with the necessity of replying to the comrades in an open letter, i.e. in the press… I did this all the more willingly since I had a direct decision of the Central Committee to this purpose.”

—  Sidney and Beatrice Webb, “Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation” (1944), pp. 20-21.