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Stalin's massive impact on Soviet history is often explained in terms of his inherent evil, personality defects, and power lust. This volume argues that Stalin's thoughts and actions are best contextualized in the inter-relationship between war and revolution in the first half of the twentieth century. Kevin McDermott incorporates recently declassified materials from the former Soviet Party archives and provides a critical review of western and Russian historiography.
• List of Abbreviations and Glossary of Terms
Posted June 14, 2006
Stalin¿s single purpose was, as Professor Richard Overy has noted, ¿to preserve and enlarge the revolution and the state that represented it.¿ His policies were forged in war and revolution. How could World War One¿s slaughter of Russians be stopped? How could the counter-revolutionary war of 1917-21 be defeated? How could a feudal peasant society be modernised? How could the kulaks be defeated? How could the fifth column linked to Hitler be defeated? How could Hitler¿s invasion be defeated? How could the Soviet Union be rebuilt after the war¿s devastation? Capitalism caused all these problems liberalism compounded them. Stalin¿s answer was class war ¿ war against the warmongers. How else could Russia have survived these lethal threats? So, without a capitalist class, without profits from exploiting people in other countries, without investment by foreign firms, and without foreign aid, the Soviet people built an economy that transformed their country from the backward semi-colonial land of the tsars into the world¿s second industrial, scientific and military power. They collectivised agriculture and created an iron and steel industry, tractors, machine tools, agricultural machinery and aircraft. They brought electricity to the whole country and built coal and oil industries. There was no unemployment, and people had free housing, free education and free health care: children got free vitamins. The late Lord Bullock, not the friendliest witness, wrote, ¿the achievement of the Russian people on the economic front, under the Soviet system and Stalin¿s leadership, was remarkable.¿ The supreme test was the Second World War. Soviet forces inflicted 90% of Nazi Germany¿s military casualties. As Albert Seaton wrote of Stalin, ¿he must be allowed credit for the amazing successes of 1944¿, which are ¿among the most outstanding in the world¿s military history.¿ General Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, judged that Stalin had `a military brain of the very highest order¿. The veteran American diplomat Averell Harriman wrote of Stalin¿s ¿high intelligence, that fantastic grasp of detail, his shrewdness and the surprising human sensitivity that he was capable of showing, at least in the war years. I found him better informed than Roosevelt, more realistic than Churchill, in some ways the most effective of the war leaders.¿ Henri Michel, the French historian of the war, wrote, ¿The Soviet victory was the Red Army¿s victory, but it was also the victory of the Soviet economy and of the Bolshevik regime ... finally, this victory was Stalin¿s victory.¿ As they say in Russia, Stalin found the country a wreck and left it a superpower Gorbachev found it a superpower and left it a wreck. Without Stalin¿s leadership of the Soviet Union, Hitler could have defeated the Soviet Union, then occupied Britain and won the war, so we owe Stalin and the Soviet people a huge debt.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.