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Stalin, Man of History Hardcover – 1 Aug 1982
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Quite simply, an adequate and detailed study of the Dictator. Full marks...
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Without a capitalist class, and without capital from abroad, without profits from exploiting people in other countries, or investment by foreign firms, or foreign aid, the Soviet people built an economy that transformed the Soviet Union from the backward semi-colonial land of the tsars into the second industrial, scientific and military power in the world. They collectivised agriculture, and created an iron and steel industry, and tractor, car, machine tool, chemical, agricultural machinery and aircraft industries. They produced electricity, coal and oil. 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."
Capitalist forces, internal and external, fought to prevent these working class achievements. The Soviet Union had to fight a war of self-defense against internal fascism, supported from outside. As the recently opened Russian archives show, during the 1930s approximately 300,000 people were killed in this war. This figure is far lower than the numbers publicised by, for example, Robert Conquest. Richard Evans, Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University, has explained how Conquest reached his exaggerated figures: "Robert Conquest's The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror Famine (New York, 1986) argues that the `dekulakization' of the early 1930s led to the deaths of 6,500,000 people. But this estimate is arrived at by extremely dubious methods, ranging from reliance on hearsay evidence through double counting to the consistent employment of the highest possible figures in estimates made by other historians."
Almost all subsequent writers and propagandists on the subject have relied completely on Conquest's hugely inflated estimates. For example, Charles Maier, an American historian, stated that Stalin caused more deaths than Hitler. But Maier omitted the 20 million deaths caused by the Nazi aggression.
Stalin had warned in 1931, "We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this lag in ten years. Either we do it, or they will crush us." Astonishingly, the Soviet people reached this goal: between 1928 and 1937, industrial production had increased each year by 16.5%. As Mark Arnold-Forster wrote in The world at war, "The first plan and its successors ensured Germany's eventual defeat in World War Two."
Stalin sought with every means in his power to stay out of war, whereas Hitler did all that he could to start it. The 1939 pact with Germany gave the Soviet Union an enormous strategic advantage in the inevitable war ahead. From the Black Sea to the White Sea, the USSR was able to shift its entire Western boundary 200-300 kilometres further West. And in the vulnerable northwestern sector, the border became shorter by almost 600 kilometres, so Leningrad and Kronstadt were now deep within Soviet territory, whether approached from the Baltic states or from Finland.
In June 1941, when Hitler's blitzkrieg menaced the Soviet Union, the Defence Ministry and the General Staff both urged Stalin to transfer a larger number of divisions from the reserves to the Western borders. Stalin rightly refused. The decision to keep the main forces of the Soviet army 200-300 kilometres from the border was absolutely correct.
After Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, "Russia tore the guts out of the German armies", as Churchill wrote, destroying 70% of the Nazi divisions. Henri Michel, the French historian, 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." Without Stalin's leadership of the Soviet Union, Hitler would have won the war and Britain would have been defeated and occupied. We all owe a huge debt to Stalin and the Soviet people.
In August 1945, General Eisenhower flew from Berlin to Moscow and "did not see a single house standing intact from the Russian-Polish border to Moscow. Not one." The Soviet Union, with Stalin's leadership, made an extraordinary recovery from unparalleled devastation. It built the atomic bomb, successfully deterring a US/British nuclear attack. It launched the world's first satellite, the Sputnik, and sent the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin.
Less than forty years after Stalin's death, Mikhail Gorbachev traduced Stalin, claiming that this would restore true Leninism. Yet when Stalin was, temporarily, effaced, Lenin and Marx went too. Gorbachev and Yeltsin adopted Trotsky's policies of demolishing the collective farms and selling concessions to foreign powers. The leader of Trotsky's `Fourth International', Ernest Mandel, wrote approvingly, "The reformer Yeltsin represents the tendency which wants to reduce the gigantic state apparatus. Consequently he follows in Trotsky's footsteps." (De Financieel Ekonomische Tijd, 21 March 1990.)
Stalin had always fought these policies, warning that they would wreck the Soviet Union and restore capitalism. And they did!
As the Russians say nowadays, Stalin found the Soviet Union a wreck and left it a superpower; Gorbachev found it a superpower and left it a wreck.
Forget Volkogonov, Deutscher, Conquest, Montefiore, and all the other Thatcherite/Trotskyites. This is the one to read.