What political party did Stalin belong to? I know he identified as a communist, but he didn't act like one: he occupied a somewhat large portion of the Baltic states(Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia). He also did not suppress religion and was against the Permanent Worker’s Revolution even though the entire concept of communism is about giving rights to the workers. In addition, he repressed free speech.

There is an adage about how what matters is what a person does, not what he says. Stalin evidently (as I described above) didn't act entirely communist.

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    In Soviet Russia the party belongs to the secretary.
    – jmster
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 22:17
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    'There is an adage about how what matters is what a person does, not what he says. Stalin evidently (as I described above) didn't act entirely communist.' Actually, when we consider the actions if the vast majority of communists we can safely use this argument to prove he was one...
    – user31561
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 22:49
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    I did not understand the expression "did not act like one". How, on your opinion, communists are supposed to act?
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 23:53
  • his actions did not reflect his beliefs.
    – M. C.
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 0:40
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    1) question is the title and in the post are two very different questions, 2) the second, namely why he didn't act like a communist, is pretty much meaningless, as he behaved exactly like almost every other communists with power in history
    – Greg
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 2:01

1 Answer 1


Joseph Stalin was, for most of his life, a member of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (Bolshevik faction) (RSDLP(b)) and its precursor (RSDLP) and inheritor (Communist Party of the Soviet Union, CPSU) parties. He was singularly responsible for that party's own history of itself, revised from 1937-1956, History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks): Short Course.

Your question then comes down to two issues:

  • Was Stalin a good Bolshevik?

  • Were the Bolsheviks a Communist Party?

To the extent that Stalin dictated the criteria of being a good Bolshevik, and that these criteria were contested by old Bolsheviks (notably Trotsky and Bukharin) we ought properly to consider that Stalin's quality as a Bolshevik is "contested." Either he defined the party standards of conduct, in more than simply a nominal and political manner, or he failed to live up to transhistorical standards of conduct defined sometime before 1924.

The extent to which the Bolsheviks were a party that sought to and attempted to advance proletarian self-emancipation in real history is contested. That is: it is contested whether the Bolsheviks were a communist party. Much of this debate rests on questions of Lenin's politically unique position on the relationship between party and class. The communist credentials of most other potentially communist groups (IWW, CNT/FAI, etc.) are equally contestable. However, this is a debate about ideology (what constitutes advancing proletarian self-emancipation), not practice. And we can skip it.

Without needing to resolve the issue of Lenin on strategy, both the NEP and Five Year Plans were a permanent accomodation to the Party controlling the commanding heights of a value-form society, one where despite protestations, commodity and wage-labour confronted each other as capital and working class. That is: the critical elements of a capitalist society, according to Marx's analysis, existed in the Soviet Union. To the extent that wages, capital accumulation and commodity production existed in the Soviet Union, and Stalin bore significant administrative responsibility for this, no, Stalin was not a communist.

Did the Bolsheviks maintain as great a reserve of working class strength as possible through this? We must accept that the Soviet Union was not communist, however, it may not have been possible to develop communism in the Soviet Union. In such a case a communist movement will attempt to best develop the independent strength of the working class. Did the CPSU make this attempt? The answer is strictly no: the party was a cross-class institution and class only institutions were suborned to the party. Additionally the party had a shortage of, and then destroyed, the revolutionary intelligentsia which "stood in for" a proletarian vanguard within the party. To the extent that developing Communism may have been impossible in the Soviet Union, Stalin was significantly administratively responsible for the repression of reserves of working class political, economic and social strength, and so was not communist.

Please do note that Stalin was part of an administrative and political group who bore collective responsibility for their efforts in these areas. He is not communist in the manner in which all of his ilk were not communist—these are not specific attacks on Stalin, but on the ruling clique which he participated in. While Stalin was an able administrator, it took an entire party and nomenklatura to enact the shifting bolshevik platform.

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    Why is it never "real communism" - whether in USSR, Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, Cambodia, North Korea, Venezuela - once those who claim to be communists gain power? Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 22:17
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    @PieterGeerkens Now that is a good question, although it may take more than one volume to answer it! Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 22:20
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    @PieterGeerkens wage labour society, and a socially separate clique holding political power, continue in existence. You probably want to buff up your list with Catalonia. The diagnostic examples would be Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 where under working class pressure those who claimed to be communist began dismantling their political power, and some other of those who claimed to be communist sent tanks in to prevent such a thing. Communisation involving nomenklatura might be rare, but it has happened. The nomenklatura as a revolutionary party preserving capital is more common Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 22:38
  • Re "We must accept that the Soviet Union was not communist...", why must we accept this? Who says? I suspect it's a matter of rose-tinted glasses worn would-be Communists living in places not controlled by actual Communists.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 4:25
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    The immediately prior paragraph amplified and restated for clarity: “the critical elements of a capitalist society, according to Marx’s analysis, existed in the Soviet Union.” The cogent critique here is generally, “that communism is impossible,” rather than “that the Soviet Union was a classless society free of wage labour and the exploitation of man by man.” Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 7:29

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