Stalin – national hero or tyrant? A re-writing of history.

According to the BBC

one of Russia’s biggest television stations is due to announce later today the winer of a nationwide vote for the greatest Russian ever to have lived. A highly controversial figure who could win the contest is the former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, one of the blood thirstiest leaders of the last century, who killed many millions of his own people.

Also from the report:

The official line now is that Stalin and the Soviet regime was successful in creating a great country and if the terror of Stalin is justified then the government today can do what it wants to, to achieve its aims.

  • Gael gan Náire

    “greatest Russian ever to have lived”

    He wasnt Russian, he was a Georgian.

  • Comrade Stalin

    A lot of people either don’t know or don’t care about that, including a lot of Russians.

    I don’t know why I’m getting all this bad press lately. Really, I’m a pussycat.

  • Kathleen

    A lot of people either don’t know or don’t care about that, including a lot of Russians.

    CS those who forget history, (or don’t know of it, or don’t care) are surely doomed to repeat it?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Kathleen, do you really think people remembering Stalin’s correct nationality would have anything to do with the esteem that he is held in despite his blood-soaked time in power ?

  • Kathleen

    CS yes, I think there a correlation between passing Stalin of as Russian and the rewriting of the past. I think the BBC failed viewers too, when they didn’t point that out.

  • marty

    [edited.marty all web design ideas go to mick not me. Please can we stick to topic]

  • blinding

    Well he did do a pretty good job at beating the jerries almost single-handedly(The Russians I mean)

    I don’t suppose thats enough to forgive all his other sins though.

  • Rory Carr

    I suspect that if a similar poll had been conducted in the UK in the immediate aftermath of WWII then Uncle Joe would have been a shoe-in to be elected as “the greatest leader in the world” at that time. The East End of London displayed banners proclaiming “Uncle Joe for King!” and those who fought in the war were all too concious of the price that the Soviet Union, under Stalin’s leadership, had paid in defeating the Third Reich – the Soviets suffered many, many more casualties at Stalingrad alone than all of the other allied casualties, civilian and military combined, during the whole of the war and 4 out of every 5 German soldiers killed were killed by Soviet troops.

    It’s no wonder that Russians hold fond memories of his leadership. Why I’d vote for him myself on that score alone. Anyway if Stalin doesn’t top the poll and it isn’t won by one of the great Russian literary giants I would not be surprised to find that Putin himself figures pretty high in the scoring and that, not by virtue of any vote-rigging, but rather sheer, genuine popular appeal. And who could blame them after that drunken Western-puppet thief, Yeltsin ?

  • Kathleen

    4 out of every 5 German soldiers killed were killed by Soviet troops.

    No wonder, look at the man power Russia had.

    It’s no wonder that Russians hold fond memories of his leadership

    All the others who have bad memories could be dead.

  • Posters who want to get a handle why Russians, and others in the former USSR so respect Stalin should read books like Chris Bellamy’s Absolute War, Geoffrey Roberts’ Salin’s Wars, and Rodric Breithwaite’s Moscow, 1941 to understand why.

    Stalin prepared the USSR for the coming struggle by making it an industrial state no matter what the cost, and then when the war came, despite some serious mistakes, he led it to victory.

    Everyone in the West owes much to the former Soviet leader for being free of Nazi domination now.

  • Kathleen

    Trowbridge then we are back to what it says in the report:

    The official line now is that Stalin and the Soviet regime was successful in creating a great country and if the terror of Stalin is justified then the government today can do what it wants to, to achieve its aims.

  • Of course you are correct in that the Red Army played the main role in defeating the nazis. Although in many ways it was in spite of Stalin not because of him. From the beginning he was a hinderance, from killing some of the best red army officers just prior to WW2, to refusing to believe Red Army intelligence agents like Richard Sorge and Leopold Trapper that Hitler was about to invade Russia.

    Actually during WW2, Stalin and his senior officers were in the main poor generals, they did not give a fig about the solders they commanded and if you judge a general on the number of troops they loose per enemy dead and casualties, as must modern military academies do, they were not even in the top ten of WW2 commanders.

    What saved them from annihilation was the way the nazis treated those they conquered, thus Stalin had an endless supply of well motivated manpower, plus material produced in the hinterland, and the Soviet Unions geographical terrane and climate.

    Plus of course that the Germans were far to over stretched, whereas their opponents only fought on one European Front at a time, the Germans fought on two, three if you include Tito’s partizans and after Italy surrendered four and that is without North Africa.

    Kate I make you right.(3)

    Happy new year to you both.

  • kuraaka

    My family owes Stalin… my paternal grandfather was arrested and shot along with two of his brothers. My maternal grandfather was deported to Siberia, luckily he managed to stay alive and returned after eight years.

  • dewi

    For people who like having nightmares “At the Court of the Red Tsar” by Simon Sebag Montefiore is an excellent expose of the bloodlust amongst Stalin & acolytes. Terrifying.
    Greatest ever Russian? Arkady Renko…

  • Comrade Stalin

    Kathleen,

    What past is being rewritten ? The phenomenon of Stalin being regarded as Russian goes back to when he was in power. He deliberately played down his Georgian origins since before he became dictator, and talked of the citizenry and character of Russia as being the glue which held the USSR together. It’s less of a rewrite and more of something that isn’t considered very important, like the German blood in the British Royal family.

    So I still don’t see what Stalin being a Georgian has to do with anything. I very much doubt that the people who regard Stalin as a hero would change their minds if they were informed of this – assuming they were not already aware of it.

    Trowbridge,

    Oh, where to start. Stalin didn’t have the initial objective of defeating the Nazis, he signed a treaty with them with the objective of expanding his own sphere of influence while keeping them out of the way. So the idea that the man was diametrically opposed to what they were about is something that amounts to dangerous revisionism. It was only when Hitler made his move that Stalin changed his mind.

    The USSR would have been ground into a pulp by the Nazis had it not been for lend-lease (it’s completely wrong, blinding, to write that he beat the nazis “single handledly”). Even then, it is a miracle that Stalin’s bungling military incompetence in 1939-1942 did not result in the collapse of the country. Germany steamrollered it’s way through the USSR at a record pace to the gates of Moscow and Stalingrad. This would not have happened had the USSR been prepared for war. The Western democracies did not have such a high casualty rate simply because they had better military strategy and they wouldn’t have gotten away so easily with using people as cannon fodder. Many of the casualties were lost not because of Stalin’s will to beat the Nazis in itself, but because Stalin wanted them beaten quickly so that he could extend his power throughout Europe before the Americans could get in the way.

    And I don’t accept the idea that the Nazis would be in control of Europe today had the USSR not been involved. The USSR certainly saved a great deal of bloodshed in Western Europe, but a cursory knowledge of the internal management of the Nazi government is all that is required to be aware of the fact that the only thing that kept it going was war, they were barely able to run their own country properly never mind the empire they temporarily assembled. Eastern Europe paid a very heavy price for the USSR’s assistance in the war; it will take them generations to shake off the years that they lost under the Soviet jackboot. Stalin believed that another global conflict was on the way as part of the new nuclear age of the post-war world; he provoked conflicts in Europe and the far east and I’ve no doubt that had he remained alive there would have been a major conflict between the USA and the USSR/China; neither Stalin nor Mao would have hesitated to deploy nuclear weapons.

    Mick:

    Actually during WW2, Stalin and his senior officers were in the main poor generals, they did not give a fig about the solders they commanded and if you judge a general on the number of troops they loose per enemy dead and casualties, as must modern military academies do, they were not even in the top ten of WW2 commanders.

    Eh ? Zhukov and Rokossovsky are widely regarded as some of the finest military commanders that WW2 produced. It was Stalin’s willingness to step back (to a limited degree) and accept their advice that turned the war around for the Russians. During the earlier stages of the war, he wouldn’t do this and that’s why the USSR suffered so badly up until that point.

  • I recently wrote about Russia’s relationship with Stalin here.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Comrade Stalin: “Zhukov and Rokossovsky are widely regarded as some of the finest military commanders that WW2 produced. It was Stalin’s willingness to step back (to a limited degree) and accept their advice that turned the war around for the Russians. During the earlier stages of the war, he wouldn’t do this and that’s why the USSR suffered so badly up until that point. ”

    Ah, but Zhukov had to be recalled from disgrace / exile in Siberia. Most of the creme of the Russian / Soviet officer corps had been purged, leaving few able and none willing to gainsay Josef’s crude attempts at strategy.

  • NP

    “He wasnt Russian, he was a Georgian”

    actually he had an Ossetian background.

    Re this Greatest Russian Poll, as Uncle Joe said himself :

    “Those who cast the votes decide nothing.
    Those who count the votes decide everything.”

    Dewi : “Young Stalin” by the same author is a better read.

  • Franzipan

    @Comrade Stalin

    I agree that it’s wrong to count the soviet commanders as universally poor. However lets bear in mind that their troops they commanded were often ill prepared and ill equipped. Sometimes whole battalions had twice as many men as they had rifles.

    The high casualty rates amongst the soviet army compared to it’s allies is largely down to the soviet army being poor, rather than their contribution to winning the actual war being that much greater.

    Also if Axis rather than German casualties are considered that 4 out of 5 figures drops dramatically.

  • dewi

    Zhukov also fought off Beria’s executioners at gunpoint after the war.
    At the beginning the Red Army might have been poor but at the end of the war pretty damn effective. Moving their army from the German Eastern Front to smash through the Japanese one of the most astonishing and least known episodes of the War.
    I’ve not read Young Stalin – will give it a go. Since the Wall came down the literary output on Stalin and wartime Russia has been fabulous.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Dread, agreed. The war started to go right for the USSR once Stalin stepped back and listened to the ideas of his generals. Once the war was out of the way Stalin immediately began to sideline them, taking the credit for the victory for himself.

    NP:

    “Those who cast the votes decide nothing.
    Those who count the votes decide everything.”

    A Stalinist perspective often used to great effect in American politics.

  • Kathleen

    CS those who forget history, (or don’t know of it, or don’t care) are surely doomed to repeat it?

    Surely it is those who never forget history who are doomed to repeat it. Learned stupidity is quite common in this society.

  • Schicklgruber

    Perhaps the Germans should vote Hitler the greatest of their countrymen.

  • You don’t know what you are talking about, Comrade Stalin. You have apparently adopted the site name to give posters the impression that you do.

    Stalin took all the territory from deals with Hitler in the hopes that they would given his forces more space to mount a defense in depth.

    Lend lease was too slow in coming, especially the betrayals by Churchill when it was needed.

    Britain only provided 5% of what it was forced by the American to promise during 1941, and refused to keep open the lines of supplying in the hopes or anticipation that Hitler would finish off the Soviets.

    Lend lease only paid off when the Soviets, thanks to mobilizing 2,000,000 women, were in the process of beating the Nazis.

    The Western democracies did an IRA aka I ran away during the war, especially during its phoney stage when an attack on Germany might well have succeeded, but they were trying to make sure that the Nazis kept going eastward after defeating Poland.

    You are simply blaming Soviet problems all on Stalin rather than giving some recognition to the German assault, the problems Moscow had in maintaining contact with its troops, given its avoidance of the use of radios, reliance upon land lines which German special forces cut, the eagerness of western parts of the USSR to Hiter’s forces until they learned that Hitler was even worse than Stalin, etc.

    You do not realize the difficulties of defending against an armored assault in open territory like the Russian plain – what the Soviets were only able to mount, once they had their backs up against the Volga and the Caucasus. Showed what they had learned after the rolled up the Germans, and then defended successfully at Kursk.

    It is true that Stalin was too prone to the use of attack, but Zhukov was even a bigger proponent. It was only when Rokossoskii reined them both in that the Soviet casuality rates started to drop.

    And your claim that the Western allies could have beaten the Axis without the Soviet effort is simply daft.

    Go read the books I mentioned, and then come back to talk some sense, as history of anything is always undergoing revisionism.

    The crackpots in the West think that their first efforts about the conflict are written in stone.

  • Valenciano

    “Stalin didn’t have the initial objective of defeating the Nazis, he signed a treaty with them with the objective of expanding his own sphere of influence while keeping them out of the way.”

    Correct. His main hope seems to have been that the Western democracies and Germany would destroy each other allowing the USSR to pick up the pieces afterwards at their expense. His meddling in Spain for example seemed aimed at prolonging the conflict rather than giving the government the tools it needed to win.

    As for the following comment

    >>Everyone in the West owes much to the former Soviet leader for being free of Nazi domination now.<

  • nebular

    the words “Nazi” and “Soviet” are pretty much interchangeable

    but the nazis are worse than the soviets because their right wing

  • What I said to Comrade Stalin applies to you too, Valenciano.

    And while you’re at it, read Anthony Beevor’s wonderful book: The Battle For Spain, especially the part, as I recall, where the republican forces – which broke out of Barcelona – were only interested in a hopeless assault on Teruel, the Nationalists’ Stalingrad, rather than in battles where they had some chance of winning.

    SZtalin washed his hands of the whole mess after Teruel.

  • NP

    “Koba, why do you need me to die?”

    “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.”

    Dewi: my fave Renko is “Polar Star” a grim tale of cold war fishing, “wolves eat dogs” in the Chernobyl zone is good too

  • ulsterfan

    We are discussing the Greatest Russian.
    I hope Stalin does not get the award.
    Any votes for Gorbachev who single handed and in a peaceful manner brought to an end old style communism.

  • dewi

    NP- Gorky Park wonderful. Irina stonking….

  • Rory Carr

    Rather than debate the pros and cons of Stalin’s leadership of the Soviet Union which is a bit futile within the limits of space and time of a short medium such as this we might instead ask ourselves why it is that the originator of the thread, Kathleen, seems so eager to push the BBC line on this poll.

    I suspect in any case that there is largely a generational divide on opinions of the positive value of Stalin’s wartime leadership (we can ignore any views from Trotskyites as being simply sour grapes from sore losers) with older guys like me being perhaps more influenced by the BBC of old who assured our parents at least that Stalin was a great hero and noble leader of his people. But that was during the war when the Soviet Union was saving all our bacon. Then they told the baby-boomers that he was a nasty horned devil. But that was during the Cold War when they were terrified of socialism infecting the masses here.

    Now the purpose of the propaganda is aimed at Putin’s leadership in Russia which has been effective in rooting out the worst of the rapacious crooks who robbed the Russian people blind in the Yeltsin era and in bringing a measure of stability that leaves Russia less susceptible to the rapaciousness of ruthless Western financial piracy and driven their crooked Russian billionaire henchmen into exile in London. If the purpose is to compare Putin with Stalin as a strong leader who will defend Russia against all invaders then perhaps the BBC are on the right track. But then so is Putin and I suspect that Russians will love him all the more for it.

  • Jimmy Sands

    “Latvia for example was the third richest country in Europe in 1935 and probably would have been on a par with Norway today had it not been for subsequent events.”

    Stalin stopped Latvia having oil?

  • Henry94

    Stalin didn’t get to count the votes this time. He came third.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7802485.stm

  • Valenciano

    “but the nazis are worse than the soviets because their right wing”

    Both specialised in mass murder, the only difference is that Stalin was a bit more successful, but ignoring that detail, no great difference.

    “Stalin stopped Latvia having oil?”

    Yeah it’s impossible to have a successful economy without being a major oil producer innit? I guess no one told the Swiss that. What he did was turn Latvia from one of the top economies in Europe in the 30s to one of the worst today. Most of the other conquered nations suffered the same fate and it will take them decades to return to pre war levels.

  • Harry Flashman

    Oh dear there really still are useful idiots willing to peddle the nonsensical line that Stalin and his thugs beat the Nazis, have they read no history or do they persist in simply regurgitating Communist propaganda?

    Stalin didn’t beat the Nazis, the people and army of the then Soviet Union beat them, rest assured they are most certainly not the same thing. At every single, conceivable step along the way Stalin hindered and almost wrecked the war against Hitler, there is not one thing, not one thing about the conduct of the war against the Nazis that would not have been handled better by a democratic Russia. The mistakes, idiocies and crimes committed by the Communist government in the struggle against Hitler are so legion that it would take weeks to list them all fully and it would almost lead one to believe that the Communists actually wanted the Germans to win (they certainly did so in the previous war).

    The war would have been over three years earlier (indeed it might not have started at all), it would have been less bloody and the results more benign if it hadn’t been for the psychopathic, murderous folly of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

    Stalin and his comrades are possibly the most god awful criminals in the modern history of the world. They are utterly without any redeeming quality, may they and their grisly ideology rot in the pits of hell.

  • Dewi

    Alexander Nevsky = I must admit I had to Wiki him = seems a worthy winner.

  • Just more ignorant, venom-spewing crap from Harry Flashman. It is the most absurd set of statements I have ever read.

    The claims that I mentioned in books about Stalin’s role in WWII are not communist propaganda but the work of recognized, non-communist scholars who have done research both in Western and Russian archives in coming up with the evaluations.

    Geoffrey Roberts, a history professor at University College, Cork who wrote Stalin’s Wars, published by Yale University Press, completely destroyed Falshman’s claims that Stalin was the moral equivalent to Hitler, a far lesser military leader than either he or Churchill, did not finally mobilize the Soviet peoples to defeat the Nazis, tried to exploit the postwar world for imperial purposes, started the cold war, etc.

    As the book’s dustjack stated:

    “While frankly exploring the full extent of Stalin’s brutalities, and their impact on the Soviet people, Roberts also uncovers evidence leading to the stunning conclusion that Stalin was both the greatest military leader of the twentieth century and a remarkable politician who sought to avoid the cold war and establish a long-term détent with the capitalist world.”

    And the books by Bellamy and Braithwaite that I mentioned, just add to the validity of Roberts’ findings.

    In sum, do some up-to-date reading about the matter rather than just continuing to rely upon the claims of cold war polemicists.

    I am still glad that Stalin didn’t win the award for being the greatest Russian – given he was a Georgian, and such a controversial leader – but the voters certainly begged the question by going for Nevsky and Stolypin.

  • kuraaka

    Personally I find the claim that a history professor destroys the claim that Stalin was the moral equivalent to Hitler rather ludicrous. hah. It can be argued that Stalin was not as entirely mad as Hitler and was a far more successful leader… but destroying the lives of millions of people (including the lives of my grandparents)… sounds pretty much like the moral equivalent to Hitler to me. And yes, I despise and loathe him utterly. From a rather personal perspective.

  • dewi

    It seems as far as this poll was concerned the Kremlin had the last say, their people came in 1@2.

    Rory

    I cannot let you get away with your nasty little stalinist outburst about the Trotskyist. Whilst I have little time for the heirs of Trotsky, nor do I believe he was without his faults, nevertheless, there is little doubt he and his supporters in the USSR were the first group to understand exactly where Stalin and his murderous lackeys were leading the first workers state.

    To dismiss their contribution as sour grapes smacks of sour grapes on your part, probably because they were proved correct and not a single worker came out riffle in hand to defend Gorbacevs USSR. All that remained of the great experiment that was the Russian revolutions was a power hungry clique from the KGB who eventually turned the country over to Putin.

    By the way Rory, who did Lenin appoint to create the Red Army, Stalin or Trotsky? Was it any wonder that Stalin, the murderous thug and grave digger of the Russian revolution never felt safe in his bed until he had murdered the cream of the Red Army, the overwhelming majority of whom have been given their first commands by Trotsky.

    Comrade Stalin

    I note you made no attempt to challenge my reasoning for dismissing most of Stalins generals as third rate gofers. Lets hope you never have to serve under a senior officer who regards his own neck or his masters glory as more important than the lives of his solders or seeing they are properly armed etc before they go into battle.

    Trowbridge

    Post 24 excellent. The war in Europe as others have pointed out was won by the men and women of the Red Army, just as D-day plus was on by the ordinary GI and Tommy, etc, etc, it cannot be otherwise because modern warfare is such a chaotic endeavor and the first think to go is more often than not, the plan.

  • Dewi

    Mick – link didn’t work.
    Harry – apart from your over optimistic view on shortening the war I agree totally. The scale of the murder was industrial.
    In the purge of the army three of five marshals were shot as were 13 of 15 army commanders, eight of nine admirals , 50 of 57 army corps commanders, 154 out of 186 division commanders, 16 of 16 army commissars, and 25 of 28 army corps commissars.
    In the CPSU – 1,108 of the 1,966 delegates to the 1934 party congress were arrested and almost all died.
    Out of six members of the original Politburo during the 1917 October Revolution who lived until the Great Purge, Stalin himself was the only one who remained in the Soviet Union, alive.Four of the other five were executed, Trotsky managed to escape for a while……
    In the country:
    Official Soviet figures say that during 1937 and 1938, the NKVD detained 1,548,367 victims, of whom 681,692 were shot – an average of 1,000 executions a day. Many think these figures are underestimates.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Trowbridge, you make a lot more sense when you’re busy waffling about Stakeknife. The motivations of the man who signed a pact with Hitler need to be carefully accounted for in any consideration Russia’s contribution to the ending of the war, which surely cannot be properly considered without discussing their role in prolonging it.

    Mick Hall :

    I note you made no attempt to challenge my reasoning for dismissing most of Stalins generals as third rate gofers.

    I don’t know what your reasoning is, but I’m dealing with facts, namely the widely recognized truth that some of Russia’s generals were among the best in any theatre on any side in the war.

    Lets hope you never have to serve under a senior officer who regards his own neck or his masters glory as more important than the lives of his solders or seeing they are properly armed etc before they go into battle.

    Mick, it was the Soviet government that pushed the army into ill-planned operations without proper equipment or weapons, not the military leadership. In the later stages of the war the military commanders did needlessly sacrifice men, but that was because they were ordered to do so by the government. This was a time when anyone showing any hesitancy in was being summarily shot by SMERSH.

    I cannot let you get away with your nasty little stalinist outburst about the Trotskyist. Whilst I have little time for the heirs of Trotsky, nor do I believe he was without his faults, nevertheless, there is little doubt he and his supporters in the USSR were the first group to understand exactly where Stalin and his murderous lackeys were leading the first workers state.

    Stalin and his lackeys led it in the direction that Lenin set it off on. They were determined to implement their plans and anyone who got in the way was to be eliminated. You can’t seriously argue that life would have been different under Trotsky.

    To dismiss their contribution as sour grapes smacks of sour grapes on your part, probably because they were proved correct and not a single worker came out riffle in hand to defend Gorbacevs USSR.

    The Conservative reaction failed disastrously as well, Mick, and Yeltsin’s government (and subsequently Putin’s) were enthusiastically supported. The USSR was killed dead long before Gorbachev inadvertently nailed the coffin shut.

    All that remained of the great experiment that was the Russian revolutions was a power hungry clique from the KGB who eventually turned the country over to Putin.

    Russia is now run in the same way that it was during when the CPSU were in charge. The difference is that they don’t call themselves communists anymore and they don’t bother trying to present themselves as committed to the pipe dream of a worker’s republic. All the other stuff – the institutionalization, the croneyism, the blame culture, the suppression of opposition – is the same.

    Rory:

    by the BBC of old who assured our parents at least that Stalin was a great hero and noble leader of his people. But that was during the war when the Soviet Union was saving all our bacon. Then they told the baby-boomers that he was a nasty horned devil. But that was during the Cold War when they were terrified of socialism infecting the masses here.

    The British and American governments both talked up Stalin as a dead-on chap who was going to help us beat the Nazis. They deliberately overlooked and indeed buried bad news about what life was really like under his regime, and sold themselves out to the Poles and the rest of Eastern Europe in order to keep him on side. They stopped doing all that once the Nazis were beaten and the war was out of the way. I don’t think people were so terrified of socialism infecting the masses as they were of the Russians successfully invading, killing large numbers of people and enslaving the rest under their insane idea of a worker’s paradise which in reality was anything but.

  • Dewi

    I “read somewhere” of a lighthouse keeper shot for spreading sedition but can’t find the reference…..

  • You, Comrade Stalin, can find answers to your questions in the books I have recommended – i. e., Roberts, p.30ff.; Bellamy, p. 50ff., and Brathwaite p. 47ff.

    I am not going to repeat them, as I expect you to read them.

    As for allegedly waffling about Stakeknife, I have done no such thing, claiming that they were two different people, one in the PIRA Council, and the other a much lower volunteer, Freddie Scappaticci.

  • Earnan

    I don’t have time go go in depth there, but some of the Soviet’s own historians admitted in the 60s (after Stalin’s death) that the USSR would have been unable to stop the nazi onslaught, let alone turn the table without material aid from the United States.

    Regardless, it was Hitler’s insane strategies (declaring war on America for no reason???) that led to their defeat. They didn’t even go into a “total war” economy unti late 1943. It was a poorly run country and disorganized one, especially for one that many would call “totalitarian”.

  • Harry Flashman

    “Just more ignorant, venom-spewing crap from Harry Flashman. It is the most absurd set of statements I have ever read.

    Forgive me Trow, tell me all about the book you just read that claims Stalin was a misunderstood genius. Does it explain how massacring the entire officer class of the Red Army two years before the war for the Soviet Union’s existence was a good idea? Or how invading peaceful Finland with a hopelessly equipped and utterly useless army would convince Hitler that Russia was a serious military power? What about the previous years training Nazi pilots in Russia,was that clever?

    Tell me please the strategic brilliance in signing a pact with your mortal enemy in which you agree to supply him with vital supplies and logistics right up until the morning your enemy is sweeping over your border.

    Is ignoring the massive amounts of intelligence from Britain and Japan that you are about to be handed the biggest arsewhipping in history and then ignoring it and instead trusting the word of a world renowned liar who has already publicly stated his intention of invading and raping your territory the actions of a modern day Alexander the Great?

    That must be one interesting book, I must recommend a few of my favourites, one explains that the earth is in fact well and truly flat and the other explains that indeed there were fairies at the bottom of Victorian gardens; apparently Olaf Palme sent them there.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Trow, sorry, I’ve no inclination to debate anything with you at all. I’ve nothing to add to that written by Mr Flashman, who has summed up my view of things fairly well, which is pretty surprising given that we disagree on most things.

    Earnan, agreed. Germany barely held itself together, Hitler was a poor administrator. His sole achievement was invigorating and unifying the German and Austrian population and cannily persuading them to follow the path that he laid down for them; everything that happened flowed from that. Stalin learned to put reality before ideology in the war, and he realized that military experts needed to be in command; Hitler did not. He was a gambler who believed that triumph flowed directly from pure willpower.

    Had Russia stayed out of the war and Hitler contented himself with the pre-Barbarossa borders of his new empire, it’s very hard to say how long it would have taken to dislodge him. But ultimately his regime would have collapsed under it’s own weight.

  • Sorry, Harry Flashman, but you are just displaying more of your ignorant, venon-spewing crap.

    Regarding the purge of the Red Army, 34,000 officers were dismissed, headed by Marshal M. N. Tukhachevskii and seven other high-ranking associates – who were charged with plotting to overthrow the regime for the Nazis, found guilty, and shot. (p. 15ff.)

    While Roberts finds the charges a bit far-fetched, he does not completely deny them, admitting that Tukhachevskii was a Napoleonic-type character who had strong ideas of his own about rearmament, strategic doctrine and civil-military relations which did not suit Stalin and his associates.

    Moreover, Reinhard Heydrich claimed that he put together documents which showed that the Soviet Marshal and his subordinates were working with him to overthrow Stalin while they were testing equipment for the Nazis. Roberts alluded to this when he added that “…there was a background of tension between the Red Army and the communist party which placed a question mark over the military’s political loyalty in times of severe crisis.” (p. 19)

    Roberts returned to Tukhachevskii et al.’s reliability when he discussed the collapse of Soviet resistance at Minsk during July 1941. When General Pavlov was arrested, he was charged with being part of “… an anti-Soviet conspiracy – much as Tukhachevskii had been in 1937 – but when the military tribunal sentenced him to death on 22 July it was for cowardice, panic-mongering, criminal negligence and unauthorized retreats.” (p. 98) Sounds like treachery to me.

    Then Red Air Force Generals Proskurov, Ptukhim, Rychagov and Smushkevich were all shot without trial in October 1941 for having failed to protect their forces when the Germans attacked.

    In sum, there were serious grounds for believing that there was treachery among the Soviet officer corps.

    And its purge did not effect its fighting effectiveness as much as anti-Soviets claim, as 12,000 of the dismissed officers, especially K. K. Rokossovskii, were reinstated, and those who weren’t were not the better ones.

    In sum, getting rid of 22,000, either through retirement or death of some kind, hardly constituted the whole Red Army officer corps.

    That’s enough for your tutorial now.

  • Dewi

    Trow – have a look at post 15 for the scale of the pre war purge….

  • I have seen it, Dewi, and it just adds to my claims.

    While purges of any sort are not nice for those involved, in this case getting rid of the old cavalry marshals and divisional commanders, the battleship admirals, people in the economy who were opposed to industrialization, farmers who wanted to keep the country on an agricultural basis, party members who thought that the Soviet Union could meet the Nazi challenge on a incremental basis, etc., had to happen if the USSR was to survive.

    It obviously aroused a massive opposition which resulted in hundreds of thousands being shot. I am sure I would have been one of them if I had been a Soviet citizen.

    Without Stalin’s terror, however, the USSR would not have survived the Nazi onslaught.

  • Andy

    Interesting debate here, even if it runs over similar ground to the previous debates we’ve had over Uncle Joe

    Mick Hall – if you havent already done so I reccommend reading “The Great Game” by Leopold Trepper. A truly inspirational character.

    Also gives the lie to the idea of Stalin being some latter-day Hannibal. His squandering of absolute first-rate intelligence assets is enough surely to nail that legacy..

  • To suggest the purges on the upper echelons of the Red Army did not effect its effectiveness borders on the infantile, apart from killing or imprisoning some of the most competent officers, who had proved themselves in the civil war and in China and Spain, it gutted the back bone out of the Red Army officer corp to such an extent that despite honorable exceptions like Rokossovskiy, most senior Red Army officers acted in Stalin’s presence like nodding dogs.

    Solders like Tukhachevskii who had learnt to think on their feet whilst on active service and had knowledge of the German army were removed and replaced by brutal careerists without a revolutionary thought in their heads and little real experience of warfare.

    ‘comrade stalin’ has reduced down his claim of greatness for stalins generals to ‘some’. I doubt he can name five of Stalins general who would fall into that catorgy? (without googling them)

    Stalin murdered the upper echelons of the Red Army because they had a history going back to Lenin’s day and were independently and revolutionary minded. Thus at the first opportunity they may well of topped the satrap, after all there are countless examples of Stalin betraying the revolution in the same manner that sent other men to the firing squad.

    They were not the type of men to fear the NKVD nor did they believe Stalin was a great leader, simple a leader amongst many able men. They certainly would not have stood quiet whilst Stalin turned over members of the German Communist party exiled in Moscow to the Gestapo, nor would they have stood by whilst he massacred the leadership of the Polish communist party.

    ‘comrade stalin, you claim ‘some’ senior generals in the Red army acted as they did out of fear, maybe, but thankfully just carrying out orders, whether through fear or not is not an excuse for committing war crimes, As the judgment at Nuremburg made clear.

    Killing the Polish army officer corp and intellectual elite was bad enough and a war crime. but placing NKVD special forces behind your own lines with their guns aimed at the backs of advancing red army solders, with orders to fire if the solders need ‘to be encouraged’. sums up these men perfectly and dwarfs the crimes of the British generals in WW1.

    Not only were these men out of there depth as Generals, but also cowards and war criminals. I’m with Flashman on this, may they rot in hell, they have nothing in common with socialism or socialists as I understand it, they were incompetent and cowardly brutes.

    We now have enough information available to us to understand that Stalin was a monster. For many of us on the left, his greatest crime was that he led through rivers of blood, men and women who came to socialist politics to build a better world.
    Thus making it all the harder for the left today to get our ideas across.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Throw in Stalin’s role in re-arming and training the Luftwaffe and the Panzer korps., allowing Germany to create the necessary cadre to develop a modern military, along with their transfers of necessary materials for German economy and war machine, the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact and Joe’s ability as a leader / ruler seem to be a bit short.

    Poor in peace, barely adequate in war.

  • Dewi

    I’ll name 5 Mick – Zhukov, Konev,Vasilyevsky,Rodimstev, Panfilov

  • Right on, Dewi, and don’t forget S. M. Shtemenko, B. M. Shaposhnikov, Vasily Chikov,Yakov Cherevichenko, and Pavel Gudz, though Paniflov left something to be desired for his conduct at the Volokolsamsk battle despite the myth.

    The whole Soviet experience proved the advantage the Germans had gotten from the provisions in the Versailles Treaties which restricted the numbers of their Reichwehr – what got rid of the deadwood in the military. Stalin had to do the same weeding by force.

    Also, the comments from the Roberts book about the dealings between the trusted military officials and the Soviet dictator indicate a much more give-and-take.

    More later.

  • Mick Hall, are my posts excellent or merely infantile?

    I haven’t a clue where you are coming from, or where you are going.

  • ulsterfan

    Stalin did not save the Russians when Leningrad was besieged.
    In fact some of his decisions made matters worse.
    Kruschev did not get credit for what he did to keep morale high.
    The Nazis just like Napoleon were defeated by one of the harshest winters on record and they were poorly equipped with a shortage of oil.

  • I see Stalin was going to win until the producers put out an appeal for people to vote for oher people. Hardly makes the result trustworthy.

    As for all the jibber jabber about the USSR and WWII. There can be no doubt that it was the peoples of the Soviet Union that suffered the most losses and played the greatest part in the victory over fascism. In Churchill’s words, the Soviets ripped the guts out of the Nazi army. The war in the west was a picnic in comparison to what happened in the east. Compare the Allied losses on D-Day with an average day at Stalingrad. So people can pull out the counter-factuals all they like. The reality is that the Soviet Union the war, and won it because of the system developed by the Communist Party and the masses who supported them – and, contrary to what many would like us to think, the regime enjoyed massive popular support, otherwise the huge achievements of the USSR during this period would never have been possible, and the victory would also have proved impossible.

    In fact, Time has only ever got its man of the year right once.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mick,

    ‘Solders like Tukhachevskii who had learnt to think on their feet whilst on active service and had knowledge of the German army were removed and replaced by brutal careerists without a revolutionary thought in their heads and little real experience of warfare.

    So where does Voroshilov fit into this little fantasy of yours, Mick, and can you tell me who appointed him, who replaced him, and why ?

    Killing the Polish army officer corp and intellectual elite was bad enough and a war crime. but placing NKVD special forces behind your own lines with their guns aimed at the backs of advancing red army solders, with orders to fire if the solders need ‘to be encouraged’. sums up these men perfectly and dwarfs the crimes of the British generals in WW1.

    Are you saying that this was all the idea of the generals, and not Stalin to whom the NKVD and SMERSH reported directly over the heads of the military ? I’m confounded trying to comprehend what kind of a leap it would take to get to that point of view.

    Not only were these men out of there depth as Generals, but also cowards and war criminals. I’m with Flashman on this, may they rot in hell, they have nothing in common with socialism or socialists as I understand it, they were incompetent and cowardly brutes.

    You just described the USSR as a “worker’s republic” when it was founded (even though it was founded by a bunch of students and intellectuals and led by a lawyer) which was perverted by Stalin and his cronies. I think your understanding of Socialism is closer to what happened in the USSR than what you are willing to let on.

  • Valenciano

    “the regime enjoyed massive popular support”

    Which explains the purges of the 1930s and the refusal to hold elections I guess not to mention the events of 1989. Time to get real, no communist movement at that time period ever enjoyed anything approaching “massive popular support.”

    The “huge achievements of the USSR” meanwhile involved ignoring all intelligence reports and the evidence of their own eyes (in terms of the concentration of millions of German troops at the frontier) in favour of concentrating much of their air force near the border where it was destroyed early on. To this can be added the encirclement of large Soviet armies and the ruthless sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of people as cannon fodder. If that’s a success then it was a very pyrrhic one and one that could have been achieved in a much shorter period by a democratic regime half as paranoid as Stalin’s was.

    Amidst this, all of you also miss the elephant in the room. If Hitler had come third in a poll to find the greatest “German” there would rightly be uproar and serious concern in the West, yet the fact that Stalin, who murdered far more people comes third in such a poll is mentioned in passing in a blithe “did you know” way. This illustrates a very Western centric view of WWII. In the East there was no real victory, one dictator simply replaced another with the result that thousands of people were deported and met early graves.

  • No cummonist movement enjoyed massive popular support in the 1930s and during the war? Riiight.

    And of course democracy was what on offer in Russia as the alternative to the Bolsheviks at that time. Just ask the people Kerensky had shot. Or even better, ask Kornilov.

    And what happened in the east was that the peoples of the Soviet Union defeated fascism.

  • Dewi

    Not bad, but you understand the subject, I asked the other guy because he pretends he does but his aim is an anti socialist tirade. Although even with the generals you named, my original argument still stands firm as the percentage of casualties their troops suffered was appalling; and would have been unacceptable in any other European or north American army. Indeed with their dead and injured they would have been removed from command and rightly so

    ‘comrade stalin’

    Please do not make things up, I do not recall ever writing workers republic to describe the Soviet regime. [if I did it was a mistake.]

    I used the term workers state, as that was the intention of those who originally set it up, dictatorship of the proletariat and all that. Sadly as Rosa Luxemburg predicted, with the Bolsheviks methodology it could quickly degenerate into the dictatorship of the party, then the dictatorship of the brightest heads in the party, then the dictatorship of a single first rate, but brutal politician; and so it proved, although this was not inevitable as you claim, as Russia was still in a state of flux until the end of the civil war, if not beyond..

    But beyond claiming it was all down to Lenin you are not interested in understanding how this occurred, are you? You just wish to use it as a stick to beat the left.

    Please tell me your not claiming Voroshilov as one of your great generals, the prick at the start of WW2 believed cavalry should be used against the Germans. Even Stalin treated him as a joke, but kept him about the place as his house trained old Bolshivik, due to their ‘relationship’ on the southern front in the civil war. Stalin’s idea of fun was to get Voroshilov to co side his friends death warrants, which he readily did.

    Trow,
    I do not think I mentioned you in my last post, I am trying to keep our relationship on an even keel.

  • abucs

    Putting aside whether you like or dislike him, may i ask what are the top three good political things that Joseph Stalin was personally responsible for ?

    Not for things that happened while he was leader but that he personally devised and implemented as a leader.

    Thanks.

    disclaimer : i know very little about Joseph Stalin.

  • I would consider these three things among Stalin’s greatest achievements:

    1. Building up a modern industrial basis in the Urals – thanks to the establishment of collective farms which freed a great amount of manpower – which was able to keep up basic industrial output during the war while at least half of it further west was either destroyed or moved. The USSR was producing just as much essentials for war-making at the end of the war as at the beginning-

    2. Stalin’s willingness to resign after the full scope of the German destruction during the first week was determined, especially the capture of Minsk through incompetence or betrayal of General Dmitri Pavlov. Stalin took to his dacha on June 29th in apparent retirement, and was only recalled to duty by the entreaties of his colleagues.

    3. Stalin’s inducing the Moscow population to fight to the death to save the Soviet capital, and almost certainly the USSR itself, by feigning that he was leaving as the German forces were at its outskirts.

    And there are many other competitors for these top spots.

  • abucs

    Thanks Trow.

    If you know –

    How did Stalin/Russia build up the collective farms ?

    Did he/Russia import foreign machinary or build up domestic industries.

    Do you have an opinion on the extent of the industries that were built up ?

    Just asking, feel free to go tell me to look it up myself if you like.

  • DK

    So Stalin came 3rd. Not bad for someone who isn’t even Russian. Maybe they’ll have Ghengis Khan at number 4.

    Stalin seems a bad choice – an ally of Hitler, until invaded. Ignored warnings of the invasion and continued to supply the Germans in their war against the imperialists up until the day of the invasion itself. Then ran away and hid, before coming out and ignoring all previous socialist propaganda in declaring a national struggle for the motherland!

    They should have beaten the Germans much faster. Even the British Commonwealth alone out-produced Germany in armament production – with a chunk of it going to the soviets via the appalling arctic convoys & other routes. Some 10% of soviet tanks and most of their lorries were built by the western allies.

    Mind you, Stalin was helped by the German’s indecision in selecting the main axis of their advance in 1941, and then increasingly ludicrous micromanagement by Adolf after that. Plus the racialist behaviour of the invaders in alienating the common people who rose up and wanted to help defeat Stalin.

    More russians served in the German army than any other non-german nationality.

  • I recommend that you read Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, abucs.

    It puts the Russian economic sitation in good comparative perspective, showing just how backward Russia was, and the incredible tasks Stalin had in bringing it up to date.

    The real problem for the USSR was that it was so isolated, forcing it to do almost everything by itself for fear that it was being infiltrated, and subverted by foreign, capitalist powers – for which there is a good deal of evidence.

    Constantly, the USSR was on an almost war footing throughout the thirties, producing many more airplanes, tanks, etc. than almost the rest of the world combined. Then, of course, many of these weapons were obselete by the time WWII started. As Kennedy stated, for example, only 967 of its 24,000 tanks were comparable to the best ones the Germans had (p. 325)

    The problem was with the cumbersome character of its command economy which cranked out quantity rather than quality weapons. Then the Soviets had been led astray by the conduct of the Spanish Civil War, concluding that there was not much to be said about the use of mass armored forces.

    Kennedy does overstate, IMHO, the causes and consequences of the military purges since the USSR still increased its production of planes and tanks after they had finished.

    “It was even more difficult,” Kennedy added, “in a country with a suplus of peasants and desperately short of skilled workers, to man a modern army and air force; despite the massive educational program, the country’s chief weakness in the 1930s probably still lay in the poor training of many of its workers and soldiers.”

    Still it persisted, making tanks whose chasis could be used for tractors, etc., and by 1942 it really started to pay off when the simpler, less breakdown-prone Soviet tanks and to a lesser extent planes started matching the performance of the German ones.

    The victory at Kursk in 1943 was a much a testament to the quality of Soviet equipment, especially armor, as it was to its strategy.

    This gives you a smattering of only the Russian part of this most informative book which I recommend you read in full.

  • Trow,

    I love the way these Russian dictators use the word dacha to describe their palatial villas in the country, as if they were a small shack in the woods. Putin does much the same today.

    The way you dress up Stalin’s failures as a plus displays both your age and politics, nothing wrong with that, but there is far more on the public record these days. Not least Stalin’s refusal to believe Hitler was about to invade the Soviet Union, even though Stalin had been told this in good time to react by more than one reliable source (Sorge) and many others who were perhaps less reliable but never the less verifiably.

    Yet he still refused to mobilize the Red Army, then had the generals shot who ignored this order or where overrun in the German advance, which according to Stalin could not be taking place. That he believed Hitler and Ribbentrop over a tried and tested communist like Richard Sorge, shows what a political degenerate he had become.

    Never the less I will concede that his decision taken against advice not to evacuate the government from Moscow was his most helpful act during the war, and the final red army victory partially flowed from this decision..

  • Comrade Stalin

    Trow,

    I look forward to your debunking of Robert Service’s detailed analysis which says that industrialization would have happened in the USSR without Stalin.

    Mick,

    Trow says that the mass killing and imprisonment of millions of people for absolutely no reason on trumped-up charges (the Terror) by deprived sexual sadists like Yezhov and Beria was necessary in order to win the war, which was the justification that Molotov gave much later in his biography; I need look no further. The fact that most of the other senior figures in the regime who lived to write their autobiographies, eg Khrushchev, admitted to what they had done (to a limited extent) and how wrong and unnecessary it was is telling, as is the fact that so much of it was kept secret until the USSR collapsed. If it was necessary and obvious then why keep it secret ? It amazes me how people like Trow can delude themselves.

    I assume that he also believes the mass famines brought on by forced collectivization were either an unfortunate minor byproduct or the work of fifth-columnist saboteurs. These are the words of someone who has bought the propaganda hook, line and sinker.

    And yes, of course I use regimes like those in China, Russia, North Korea, East Germany, Romania and Cuba to bash the Left. Any time the left manage to take supreme political power, they implement a despotic regime centred around a cult of personality. The public are systematically lied to about the nature of the government (even politicians and administrators in the upper level of the Soviet government did not get to see the real state of the country, according to Gorbachev), any possible threat to the government, no matter how rational, is suppressed; economic systems are destroyed and famines are instituted. The destruction levelled by these amateur marxist administrators is then blamed upon the very people the system claimed to be saving, and they are subjected to imprisonment for sabotage as a result.

    It works across the board, look at people like David Blunkett, for example. Lots of fuzzy Left credentials there, but then you make him a minister and all of a sudden he’s cutting benefits, fining single mothers and “welfare cheats”, and coming up with ways to suppress people’s liberty. Tony Benn was provoked on the Ali G show into saying that people like the comedian hosting the show would be shot in the perfect society he envisaged.

    So no, I don’t trust the left. People like Tony “nuclear” Benn make good listening, but you need to keep them the fuck away from power, they’re insane.

    Trow:

    2. Stalin’s willingness to resign after the full scope of the German destruction during the first week was determined, especially the capture of Minsk through incompetence or betrayal of General Dmitri Pavlov. Stalin took to his dacha on June 29th in apparent retirement, and was only recalled to duty by the entreaties of his colleagues.

    Jesus Trow, you really are completely nuts. Stalin resigned because he was exposed as an utterly incompetent fake as the destruction caused by his failure to properly prepare for the war became obvious. You’re trying to blame it on the generals, ignoring the fact that Stalin ignored all the intelligence and all the advice on how to correctly prepare. Since he had carefully eliminated anyone who would be able to properly compete with him to led the USSR, the Politburo had no choice other than to ask him to return to power. The withdrawal of power in order to force people to reassert you as the leader, essentially clearing the slate, is a well documented trick which has been used throughout the ages, most frequently by John Major when he resigned as leader of the Conservative Party in the 90s.

    I hadn’t put you down as a Bolshevik. This conversation has been most revealing.

  • abucs

    Thanks Trowbridge.

  • Comrade Stalin

    abucs :

    Putting aside whether you like or dislike him, may i ask what are the top three good political things that Joseph Stalin was personally responsible for ?

    Not for things that happened while he was leader but that he personally devised and implemented as a leader.

    I’ve only got one for the list, and that was the nature of his political genius for anticipating threats to his hold on power, and eliminating them violently. Stalin’s supreme objective was to be the supreme ruler of the USSR, and he achieved that objective in the 1930s and held onto it until his death. He achieved this by carefully promoting sychophantic supporters into senior political positions, and playing them off each other, making them compete for his approval; and establishing an elaborate secret police apparatus to immediately destroy anyone (and their families) who threatened to get in the way. I don’t think Trotsky, Bukharin et al knew what had hit them.

  • Thanks, Mick Hall, for all your patronizing comments about me, but it is you who are living in the past, as the books I have used and recommended are all most recent.

    Stalin certainly knew that Hitler was going to invade the USSR – it was just a question of extractly when and where.

    Stalin was understandly most suspicious of British warnings because they were not only publicized so openly but also he rightly believed that it wanted to induce him to start it – what Stalin knew would be disastrous because of their state of readiness, training, lack of defensive positions if it faltered, etc.

    “His calculation were entirely overthrown by the speed and completeness with which the Germans destroyed the French army and defeated the British in May and June 1940,” wrote Rodric Braithwaite in Moscow, 1941.

    Still, Stalin was finally persuaded during the evening before the attack, warning that an attack was possible at any moment, to occupy their positions in secret, and to disperse and camouflage equipment.

    While the directive reached Pavlov’s headquarters two and a half hours before the attack, nothing was done about it there and little elsewhere, resulting in the incredible losses during the first few hours of the war.

    Pavlov had spent the evening at a concert, and had left no one responsible at command headquarters while he was away. Pavlov did not even see the order until a half hour after the German bombers had struck the unprotected airfields. (Moscow, p. 54)

    While this does not speak well of Stalin, it speaks even worse about the performance of the Western Military District in protecting its men and equipment against a German attack.

    And Sorge never supplied any information about when exactly the Germans were going to attack, only reports to Vladivostok on the day in question like this:

    “The German ambassador in Tokyo. Ott, told me that war between Germany and the USSR is inevitable. German military superiority affords opportunity to destroy the last great army in Europe…The reason is that the strategic defences of the USSR up to now are even less fit for action than was the case in the defence of Poland.” (Quoted from Robert Whymant, Stalin’s Spy, I. B. Tauris,London, 2006, p. 177.)

    The quotation shows that Stalin was in even a more difficult position than his detractors are willing to admit while crowing about the treachery of the Non-Aggression Pact.

    That’s enough for now. And please do some up-to-date reading on your own.

  • I have no interest in discussing anything with you, Comrade Stalin.

    I am just noting for the administrators of this site that you have called me a Bolshevik for just repeating what Rodric Braithwaite said in Moscow, 1941 about Stalin’s willingness to resign after the full scope of the debacle was revealed. (pp. 82-3)

    That makes the former British Ambassador to Moscow (1988-1992) one too.

    For these libels, I recommend that you be given the red card.

  • Comrade Stalin

    You said :

    Without Stalin’s terror, however, the USSR would not have survived the Nazi onslaught.

    There were no quotation marks there, so that makes you a Bolshevik, and anyone who argues that the terror was necessary is also a Bolshevik. Not only that, you’re a Stalinist, and that makes your (feeble) attempt to have me silenced particularly unsurprising.

    Why would anyone bother following up reading recommendations of anyone who thought that slaughtering stacks of innocent people was necessary ? I mean, do you really think that killing Bukharin was necessary to win the war ? Or Zinoviev ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Trow,

    While I’m at it, I don’t know what you’re doing quoting from sources in the 1940s. The extent of the terror and the truth of the events surrounding the war itself are much better known since the Soviet archives were opened following the collapse of the USSR. I appreciate, though, that it suits you to quote from sources caught up in the spirit of the times

  • I’ve only got one for the list, and that was the nature of his political genius for anticipating threats to his hold on power, and eliminating them violently. Stalin’s supreme objective was to be the supreme ruler of the USSR, and he achieved that objective in the 1930s and held onto it until his death. He achieved this by carefully promoting sychophantic supporters into senior political positions, and playing them off each other, making them compete for his approval; and establishing an elaborate secret police apparatus to immediately destroy anyone (and their families) who threatened to get in the way. I don’t think Trotsky, Bukharin et al knew what had hit them.

    Posted by Comrade Stalin

    ‘comrade stalin’

    I agree with the above completely, but more to the point history does too. Although I do not feel you can blame old Bolsheviks like Bukharin for not knowing what hit them as it was outside all there previous life experiences. This is also why some people refuse to face the facts about the great terror.

    It was much the same for many people within the US and UK during WW2 when they were first told the Nazis were implementing a program of annihilating the Jews.

    There was also the fact that Stalin in the early days could be a very amiable fellow and was the consummate politician in the western sense, he could massage egos, hand out and call in favors like the best within Tammany Hall, whilst pork barreling was second nature, he could also spot a kindred spirt or a crooked or pliable politico at 100 miles.

    Thus he was able to pack the soviet party and bureacracy with many of his creatures whilst Bukharin and Trotsky wrote great tomes and pontificated to the masses.(a bit harsh but hope you get my point) It is interesting that both men has dreadful political entena as sadly to have many of the latter’s heirs.

    By the time Trotsky was exiled in Turkey he had come to understand Stalin’s intentions perfectly, but even then he could not bring himself to admit that Stalin was a very able politico, I think he called Stalin in the second rank, or some such. After all it was not for nothing that Lenin said in his will that Stalin and Trotsky were the party’s two foremost leaders.

    By the way, I might have been a bit sharp with you yesterday, grumpy old man syndrome

  • runciter

    Tony Benn was provoked on the Ali G show into saying that people like the comedian hosting the show would be shot in the perfect society he envisaged.

    Jesus wept.

    Benn was pointing that casual violence would be the natural outcome of the kind of cynicism that Ali G was expressing.

    He was not advocating it as the trait of an ideal society. Obviously.

  • Rory Carr

    Mick Hall might like to consider that the reason that Russians call a holiday dwelling in the country a dacha is that ..er, dacha is the Russian word for such a rural retreat. It may be humble or well appointed though I think that even to describe the most luxurious as “palatial” would be stretching it a bit.

    I don’t know of anyone, except Mick Hall, who has ever suggested that any of the dachas appropriated by the state and used to accomodate Soviet and Party leaders was “a small shack in the woods”. You can hardly claim to have been misled, Mick, when the only thing misleading you was your own ignorance and imagination.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mick,

    I agree with most of what you wrote there. But I still believe Trotsky was mainly sore that Stalin outwitted him and went on to implement all of his ideas and take the credit for them for himself. I don’t believe that the USSR, under Lenin had he lived longer, or under Trotsky would have been substantially different. The Terror came once Stalin was safe enough in his position that he was able to use threats against himself as a reason to have someone executed. I think had Lenin or Trotsky worked themselves up that point they’d have behaved similarly.

    runciter, I’m very wary of people who warn me that my freedom of speech will get me shot.

  • Rory,

    One of Stalin’s favorite ‘modest country retreats’ was recently sold for $10 million to the Tories favorite Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. As you seem to have an interest in Stalin’s ‘modest life style’, I googled Blizhnyaya the name of his dacha near Moscow and found this, which makes your talk of a modest country retreat seem a little thin.

    “Stalin, as he was a common Soviet person, liked having a rest. That’s why he acquired a dacha. Several dachas, to be exact. His favorite dacha was called Blizhnyaya. It was located really not far from Moscow – in Kuntsevo. Nowadays it is one of Moscow neighborhoods. It is here Stalin met with his suite and gave ceremonial banquets to celebrate the coming of foreign delegations.

    In 1941 a dacha exact to Blizhnyaya Dacha was built in Kuibyshev. It was planned to evacuate the government there in case Moscow would be surrendered to German invaders. There was one more dacha – Dalnyaya dacha. It was located in former ancient mansion “Lipki”.

    But the main Stalin’s dachas were in the Caucasus. One dacha was located in Sochi, the other – in Abkhazia high in the mountains not far from the city of Garga. In accordance with the architectural plan it resembled Hitler’s Adlerhorst (Eagles Nest) in the Alps. The third dacha was located on the Black seashore in the region of “Zelenyi Mys”, in a large park.

    Stalin’s dacha in Sochi was located (and is still there) in the territory of the sanatorium “Zelenaya Roscha”. When the leader wished to have accommodation in health resort, hundreds of experts literary dug over the whole region of Sochi. They assayed soil, water and air in order to find the most environmentally clean plot of land. It was the health resort “Zelenaya Roscha”.

    By the way, in the past the resort was the Michailovskoe estate that once belonged to Maecenas M.M.Zenzinov.

    The Dacha in Sochi like many other Stalin’s dachas were designed by the architect Merzhanov. The only Stalin’s wish about the outer appearance of the house was “no fountains.”

    Not sure but if you save you pennies you may be able to rent a room in one of these modest country retreats. It is a great puzzle to me why obviously decent and intelligent men like you and Trow, who want to see a more equitable world, are prepared to forgive almost anything the grave digger of the Russian revolution did.

  • You will never understand, Mick Hall, until you stop asking questions the answers of which you will not even acknowledge, much less take on board, if they do not agree with your settled positions.

    I am not willing to forgive much of the past – as I have already said that if I had been a Soviet citizen at the time, I would probably have died during the various purges – only trying to understand what happened, and why.

    Your explanation of Stalin’s accomplishments is only that of the West’s Cold War polemicists

    I a political historican and analyst, not a priest, psychologist, moral philosopher or the like.

  • DK

    Couple of points on Soviet tanks to counter Trow’s misinformation. In June 1941 the average soviet tank (T26 or T28) was better than the average German tank (Pz38t or Pz III) – better gun, speed, armament. What let them down was lack of experienced crew and lack of organisation (leadership and radios). This is why the Germans were able to defeat Soviet tank formations again and again. Same story in France.

    By the time of Kursk, the main German tank (Pz IV) was comparable to the main Soviet tank (T34) – but again the Soviet tank losses were much higher than the German – for similar reasons as in 1941. The difference was that the Soviets could make good their losses, but the Germans could not.

  • I beg to differ, as I have yet to see any recognized expert who goes along with DK’s assessment of the tanks.

    About the situation before the war started, Braitwaite wrote in Moscow, 1941: “The Russians had many more tanks than the Germans. But the older tanks were unreliable and many were worn out. The new KV-1s and T-34s were superior to the German macnines. But they were only just coming into service.” (p. 49)

    As I mentioned from Kennedy’s book, only 967 of the Soviet’s 24,000 were equal or better than the German ones (p. 325), a much larger number but I don’t know what it is.

    And the switching over by Soviet crews from obsolete ones to better one would obviously be a source of trouble in their having tactical success.

    Roberts’ comments about the whole matter are most revealing, showing that Stalin was willing to overrule himself and the general when it came to tanks.

    After his settlement of the Finnish war, he got rid of his crony Voroshilov who thought the Soviets could win through ‘peoples wars of liberation’, he restored the tank corps, rehabilitated many purged officers, and promoted officers who favored it.

    In January 1941, Stalin was still having to argue with his military colleagues about the advantages of tanks and engines over the virtues of horses! (p. 54)

    Regarding the numbers of effective tanks, Stalin was constantly complaining about the lack thereof.

    As a footnote, it is interesting to note what Roberts recalled about the alleged effects of all the military purges:…”most of the marshals and generals who led the Red Army to victory during May 1945 were already serving as generals and colonels in responsible positions when war began on 22 June 1941.” (p. 161)

  • “Your explanation of Stalin’s accomplishments is only that of the West’s Cold War polemicists”

    Trow,

    No I disagree completely, your position is far closer to the cold war warriors of today than mine. you even quote some of them to support your theories. You all agree Stalin had major accomplishments, whereas I reject this entirely and believe it was him who continuously undermined and betrayed the Russian revolution and the red army were victorous in WW2 despite Stalin, not because of him.

    Tito’s desperate message to Georgi Dimitrov head of comintern during WW2 sums this up. ” for christ sake if you will not help us do not hinder us.”

    You and almost all who support stalin have one thing in common, you lack confidence in the working classes, believing they need a great leader to take command. Thus you end up supporting dictators who have nothing in common with socialism beyond stealing the words of the old beards.

  • Sorry, Mick Hall, but you are just providing more polemic – this time about the alleged potential of the working classes versus their betrayers.

    I am not talking about anyone doing anthing.

    I am simply discussing a current view of history, the one best researched, about Stalin, the conduct of WWII, and its outcome.

    If you want to discuss the merits of socialim and its corrupters, start another thread.

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    I remember being in one or two of these before but this time the amount of knowlegeable contributors has exploded. Excellent stuff!

    >>And I don’t accept the idea that the Nazis would be in control of Europe today had the USSR not been involved. The USSR certainly saved a great deal of bloodshed in Western Europe, but a cursory knowledge of the internal management of the Nazi government is all that is required to be aware of the fact that the only thing that kept it going was war, they were barely able to run their own country properly never mind the empire they temporarily assembled.<

  • Comrade Stalin

    Prionsa,

    Apologies Tovarich for going back to your first(or second?) contribution. Are you saying that the involvement of the USSR was not needed to defeat Nazi Germany and she would have folded under her own mis-management?

    I think that Nazi Germany would have eventually collapsed under it’s own weight. It was sustained initially by rearmament and buildup to war, and then by an ongoing war effort. Without war the incompetence of Hitler’s government, and the negative effect of their hate ideology on basic economic realities, would have become apparent and led to their downfall.

    The involvement of the USSR in the war shortened it and saved a lot of blood on the Western side, that much is certain. The credit that the USSR might receive for this is counterbalanced by the fact that they spent time essentially shoring up Hitler’s regime. The desire of the Bolsheviks (Stalin) to remain in power overrode any ideological or political objections to Hitler’s government. The exchanges between Hitler and Stalin during the run up to their infamous pact make Stalin look like a slavering sychophant. Furthermore, a significant proportion of the blood sacrifice paid by the citizens of the USSR is attributable not to their passion to defeat the fascist beast, but the cavalier attitude to their lives shown by the Bolsheviks, their military incompetence (at least in the earlier stages), and their race to beat the USA into the heart of Europe to consolidate their new empire.

    Peace in Western Europe was paid for many times over by the Eastern Europeans who spent the best part of 50 years under brutal Soviet domination and oppression. It’s that fact that makes me very wary of worshipping the USSR as our saviour.

    The real saviour in the war was the USA. Their initial involvement helped the Soviets arm themselves. Unfortunately Roosevelt gravely underestimated Stalin and failed to properly understand what the Bolsheviks were about, and this miscalculation undoubtedly contributed to the depth of the cold war later. Nonetheless, if it hadn’t been for the Americans, Western Europe would have been overrun by the Bolsheviks and we’d have ended up the same way as the East. There were plenty of Soviet collaborators throughout Europe, including in the post-war UK Labour Party, who would have been quite happy about this outcome. Stalin used to laugh at how stupid they were when they provided the Soviets with proprietary jet engine trade secrets for gratis.

    A blip on an otherwise good contribution methinks. The German people showed right to the end that they were prepared to follow almost any order from the Nazi high command, many millions died doing so. Why would they just not conform to yet more Nazi mis-management in peacetime? It doesn’t make sense to me.

    My opinion is that it would have gone the same way as the USSR did. The Soviet Union eventually collapsed under it’s own weight. Being drawn into the Afghanistan trap obviously accelerated this process, but it didn’t take a military incursion to kill them off.

    Nazi Germany was killing off clever people, business proprietors, and scaring away many more, because in spite of their contribution to the German economy they didn’t fit the Nazi race theory. I don’t think that could have lasted in peacetime. On top of that you’ve got a government based around “working towards the Fuhrer”, acting to please the instincts and massage the ego of the Leader. I don’t think you can get away with that for long.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mick Hall,

    Tito’s desperate message to Georgi Dimitrov head of comintern during WW2 sums this up. “ for christ sake if you will not help us do not hinder us.”

    My favourite Tito quote (addressed to Stalin) :

    “Please stop sending people to kill me. If you don’t, I’ll send an agent to Moscow and I won’t have to send another one. “

  • Suggest you read Chris Bellamy’s Absolute War, Prionsa.

    When aid to the USSR was most critical, during the last six months of 1941, and well into 1942, the Allies, especially the Brits, did almost nothing.

    In 1941, they supplied 5% of what the Americans obliged them to promise, and then they failed to greatly ease passage of convoys to the Soviet arctic ports by occuping Bear and Svalbard islands, thanks to Churchill’s opposition, though his subordinates called for guns, not guff.

    Then the Brits were most reluctant to supply naval escort for the convoys.

    Then the Luftwaffe damaged the Soviet icebreaker Stalin which was needed to help keep the convoys from going too close to Norway.

    Of the 20 ships in convoy PQ13 in early 1942, only 15 ships received the USSR. In the following convoy of 24 ships in April, only 7 got the Soviets.

    The Brits were dragging their feet during the deepest crisis of the war, either hoping or expecting the USSR to collapse.

    As prospects in the USSR improved, aid did improve vastly too, explaining, as far as Bellamy is concerned, why the Soviets were able to do so, given the massive losses.

    You should read Bellamy’s book, if nothing else for his insights about how the Soviets were still able to win.

  • Rory Carr

    In any case the original question that was pondered has been clearly answered by the Russian people in the poll results – they regard Stalin as a national hero. Of course the question itself, “Stalin – national hero or tyrant?” was badly framed as there is no reason why one could not be both. I suspect that he probably was also a bit of a tyrant, but then he got the job done and that’s what counts. I like him anyway and there has to be something rather endearing about anyone who annoys the Trots so much.

    Not that people may not be easily fooled into thinking that historical characters were of a stature that they never were in real life – look at how many people in Britain think that Winston Churchill was “the greatest Englishman” (or sometimes, “the greatest Briton”) ever when intelligent people really know that that title properly belongs to Sir Cliff Richard.

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    I certainly will try Trow it seems like it might be a good read.

    Though I still don’t understand how you can decry that supply on a massive scale did actually occur. Whatever events may have conspired to hinder or endanger. I could certainly argue the point over individual points that you have brought up, but the fact remains that this mass supply did occur and it was vital to feed, fuel and arm the Soviets. Also it was in Britains interests to have the Soviets in the war against Germany, and giving over a viable portion of her merchant Navy away from a decidedly Dicey Atlantic war showed great commitment.

    I should add that the weight of supply did not really become effective till well into 1942.

    Tovarich

    Good stuff! I’m prepared to accept there may be something in what you are saying about the Germans eventually ridding themselves of the Nazi regime. I suppose on any scale it would be inevitable. However your reference to the timescale needed in the Soviet Union kinda sums up that Europe, perhaps the world did not have that kind of time to wait for obvious reasons. ie. the core belief of many Nazi insiders thought their main priority to rid the world of Jewry. Thus the likeleyhood of the timescale needed versus the surety of their plans meant that a power large enough, and just as determined to get as deep and dirty was needed. This was the Soviet Union.

    >>The real saviour in the war was the USA.<

  • I don’t decry it, Prionsa.

    I just question that it was crucially important.

    By most accounts I have seen, the West supplied a bit less than 10% of the USSR’s overall materiel needs -though the Soviets generally put it at 6% now – especially in the area of motor vehicles, airplanes, tanks, and parts.

    They certainly speeded up the pace of the war, but the Soviets, despite what Khrushchev claimed when he was seeking more aid from the West after the war, still would have probably gotten to Berlin without them.

    But I do decry the foot-dragging in supplying aid, especially by Churchill and Admiral Pound, when it was most needed, and could have resulted in the loss of the war if it had not been for the human costs by the Soviet peoples.

    Just look at what Bellamy has to say about the lengths they went to in order to make sure that Leningrad and Moscow did not fall until the Americans were forced to enter the war.

    Unprecedented human losses and suffering must figure in some way in these computations as they wore down the fighting spirit of the German forces.

  • Greenflag

    ‘acting to please the instincts and massage the ego of the Leader. I don’t think you can get away with that for long.’

    President ‘Dubya’ got away with it for almost 8 years . Bernard Madeoff would still be getting away with it if the financial services meltdown had not pushed some of his investor ‘suckers’ to demand the return of their investments with his company .

    I agree that the USSR eventually collapsed under the weight of it’s internal contradictions . Nazi Germany would also have collapsed in time but probably not before inflicting death on millions more on whoever was next in line for ‘untermenschen ‘ status .

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    Hiya Trow

    >>They certainly speeded up the pace of the war, but the Soviets, despite what Khrushchev claimed when he was seeking more aid from the West after the war, still would have probably gotten to Berlin without them.<

  • Thanks, Prionsa, for your positive response, and while I don’t want to appear quibbling, the real objective was not getting to the Reichstag first, or of more of east Germany than the Soviets, but to make sure that they beat them to Schleswig-Holstein, Jutland, first, as my father’s division, the 87th, discovered when it was directed to stand down in western Czechsolvakia rather than head towards Berlin.

    The Allies’ strategy was to leave the Soviets’ the basketcase of eastern Europe while depriving them access to Scandivania because if the Soviets had gotten to Denmark, Scandivania would soon have been theirs too.

    The one thing that must be said about the Allies is that they knew what really mattered, how to get it somehow, and leave the other guys holding empty bags.

    And what you say about the North Vietnamese, the Vietcong, and US WWII weapons is not a sad irony but some unexpected chickens coming home to roost.

    In any case, enjoy tonight and a Happy New Year whatever you have to endure now, and remember that you are still a Prince to me.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Prionsa,

    I freely concede that I’m speculating here. It’s anybody’s guess how things would have turned out had a few key factors been different. Yes, the world did not want to wait; the collapse would have come anyway but not without a lot of death and suffering in the interim.

  • DK

    Trow – some of what you are now claiming is getting even more ludicrous than before:

    “In 1941, they [the British] supplied 5% of what the Americans obliged them to promise [to the USSR]”

    America didn’t enter the war until December 1941, by which time the British had been supplying the USSR for 5 months.

    “Of the 20 ships in convoy PQ13 in early 1942, only 15 ships received the USSR. In the following convoy of 24 ships in April, only 7 got the Soviets.”

    It was PQ17 that was massacred (25 lost out of 36). PQ14-16 suffered losses similar to, or less, than PQ13.

    The arctic convoys were hardly a reluctant undertaking by the British. This is the arctic we are talking about. Bear Island and Spitzbergen are barely habitable in peace time, although the latter was occupied by allied troops. You are probably concentrating on the human losses, which are always lower at sea than on the land. But in terms of material, a single arctic convoy is the equivalent of a major land formation. 400 tanks could be delivered by a convoy.

    As for your continued claim that: “only 967 of the Soviet’s 24,000 [tanks] were equal or better than the German ones”, lets look at the facts.

    The Germans invaded with some 3,000 to 4,000 tanks. About a third were Panzer I and II types, another third were Czech 35/38 types, and another third were Panzer III. (about 10-15% were ealry Panzer IV types).

    As has been noted, the main Soviet tank was the T26, the Soviets had some 10,000 in June 1941.

    The T26 had a 45mm gun, 25mm armour
    Panzer I only had a machine gun, the Panzer II a 20mm gun. Armour in both was maximum 15mm
    Panzer 38t had a 37mm gun and 25mm armour
    Panzer IIIs in 1941 were mostly 37mm, 30mm armour.

    However, in 1941 the Soviets also had about 1000 T34s and at least 500 KV1 tanks, both of which were superior to anything the Germans could field in 1941. In addition, they had 400 T28 tanks, which was heavier than the T26 – comparable to a Panzer IV.

    Then there is this clanger: “By most accounts I have seen, the West supplied a bit less than 10% of the USSR’s overall materiel needs -though the Soviets generally put it at 6% now – especially in the area of motor vehicles, airplanes, tanks, and parts.”

    Tanks supplied by the allies 22K (14K by the USA, the rest by the Commonwealth). Tanks produced by USSR 1941-1945 = 105K. That’s 17%

    Aircraft supplied by the US alone is 14K; aircraft produced by the Soviets = 157K. That’s 8% from the US alone, although I have seen figures of 14-17% elsewhere.

    In motor vehicles the figures are even higher: two-thirds of Soviet trucks in 1945 being allied made.

    Interesting that you should mention the icebreaker Stalin – she is famous for helping the Germans send a raider through to the pacific in 1940 when Stalin and Hitler were allies and lend lease was from the USSR to Nazi Germany.

  • Just more evidence of your refusal, DK, to read what I suggest, and what I say.

    If you looked at Bellamy’s book, you would learn that there was a Moscow Conference from September 29 to October l, 1941 “…guaranteeing that the USA and the UK would send every month, starting immediately, 400 aeroplanes, 500 tanks, 300 anti-tank guns, plus aluminum, tin, lead, molybdenum, colbalt, copper and zinc, and other ‘equipment’. The US would supply 1,250 tons of toluol – used to make high-grade fuel per month, and 100 tons of phosphorous while the Uk would supply $150,000 worth of industrial diamonds.
    In fact, only half a million dollars’ worth of aid arrived in November and December – 1 per cent of the amount proimised.” (pp. 420-1)

    It was a Lend-Lease deal, and I was wrong to overstate its shortfall by 4%.

    What I said about PQ13 and PQ14 is correct, and from Bellamy too. (p. 427)

    And my claim about the Soviets only having 927 tanks which were comparable or better than the German ones comes from Paul Kennedy, a noted historian who has much more credibility with me than you do.

    And so it goes. I just don’t have time to spend the afternoon, filling up your ignorance, and correcting your mistakes.