I have in my hands a lovely thick book (800+ pages) by a non-Marxist historian – Geoffrey Roberts – called Stalin’s Wars. I can’t wait to sink into it over the next few days while in the bush. To whet one’s appetite, Roberts states his main theses:
First, that Stalin was a very effective and highly successful war leader. He made many mistakes and pursued brutal policies that resulted in the deaths of millions of people but without his leadership the war against Nazi Germany would probably have been lost. Churchill, Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt – they were all replaceable as warlords, but not Stalin. In the context of the horrific war on the Eastern front, Stalin was indispensable to the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. Second, that Stalin worked hard to make the Grand Alliance a success and wanted to see it continue after the war. While his policies and actions undoubtedly contributed to the outbreak of the cold war, his intentions were otherwise, and he strove in the late 1940s and early 1950s to revive détente with the west. Third, that Stalin’s postwar domestic regime was very different to the Soviet system of the prewar years. It was less repressive, more nationalistic, and not so dependent on Stalin’s will and whimsy for its everyday functioning. It was a system in transition to the relatively more relaxed social and political order of post-Stalin times.
Plenty to chew on, even with its mix of thorough debunking of some stereotypes and the perpetuation of others.