This is something that has plagued me for a while now. Here we have someone who, through meticulous archival research, in the original language, is taking apart the single greatest slur made against socialism and proving it to be false. You would think that everyone would be jumping for joy and cheering him on. Not so. A certain new brand of “maoist” represented by KASAMA and the NCP (LC) not only opposes Grover’s efforts, but has tried to silence him (Carlos Rivera-Jones played an active role in the recent attempt to delete the Wikipedia article on Grover). In some case, they even revert to reactionary, bourgeois, and even snobbish arguments to try to discredit Grover, such as “his degree isn’t in history” or “he teaches at a middle-level college.”
Why would they act this way? Is it concealed anti-communism or is something else involved?
For the longest time, I felt that their actions revealed their anti-communist core; and while this still may be the case, I think that there is something more profound at play here. I think that they find Grover’s research threatening for a very different reason and in a very different way: Grover’s work challenges their version of “maoism.”
A certain rejection of Stalin has always been part and parcel of some brands of “maoism.” Mao himself famously judged Stalin’s legacy as “70% good and 30% bad.” Mao published critiques of Soviet economics and cited Stalin for supposed errors and excesses. This has been taken up by some “maoists” to demean the importance of Stalin’s work to ML theory and to lessen the importance of his legacy to the world communist movement. This also provided some “maoists” with a variant of the old trotskyite gambit of “Stalin was horrible, but if only Trotsky. . . ” The new and improved version being “The bad things that happened were because of Stalin, but Mao. . . ”
So, where did Mao’s criticisms of Stalin come from? Obviously, Mao had no insider experience of what was happening among the Soviet leadership while he was in Yenan. The only information Mao could have had about Soviet events before 1949 would only come from either published sources or report-backs from deputies who had traveled to the USSR. Mao would have had no access to archival documents relative to Soviet decisions or internal disagreements — the very archival materials Grover is now uncovering. So, where did Mao’s information about Stalin’s “errors and abuses” come from?
They came from Khrushchev.
If one looks at Mao’s criticism of Stalin and the indictments made by Khrushchev against the former Soviet leader, they are pretty much identical. The difference between the two being one of perspective and interpretation; with Khrushchev making his charges to condemn Stalin, while Mao accepted those charges, but argued that Stalin’s “mistakes” were outweighed by his contributions. One is saying these charges are damning, the other saying the charges are “minor”. But both accept the same charges.
Thus, by proving Khrushchev’s charges to be false, Grover is not only revealing Khrushchev to be a liar and opportunist, but he is also removing the foundation for much of Mao’s criticism of Stalin.
This, then, is utterly unacceptable to the “new-maoists” because it undermines their very raison d’etre, the very reason for their brand of “maoism” in the first place.