Has Stalin’s time come?

It used be a joke with a serious edge to it: Stalin’s time will come, I used to say. Well, it may now be the case, with Domenico Losurdo, Grover Furr, Geoffrey Roberts, David Glantz and others leading the way. I have agreed to write a book on Stalin for Algoritm Press, an imprint of Eksmo. It will be a volume in a new series called ‘Stalin and the World,’ which draws on foreign scholars to present Stalin in ‘a positive way.’ And it will appear in Russian first. I can’t wait to get into this one – part of my project on ‘Saint Iosef.’


13 thoughts on “Has Stalin’s time come?

  1. Stalin is to be rehabilitated??
    “Kings most commonly, though strong in legions, are but weak at arguments; as they who ever have accustomed from the cradle to use their will only as their right hand, their reason always as their left. Whence unexpectedly constrained to that kind of combat, they prove but weak and puny adversaries.”
    Milton Preface to ἘΙΚΟΝΟΚΛΑΣΤΗΣ

    The idea that Stalin is to be rehabilitated is obviously both absurd and offensive. History has given its verdict. Stalin was a criminal: the case against him is supported by a mountain of evidence and is accepted by all reasonable, educated people. Even the Communists themselves condemn Stalin as Khrushchev did in 1956. If that was not enough, the Cold war has been over for twenty years. The collapse of the Soviet Union was the final proof that Stalinism was a political and economic failure. Both the Right and the Left are, of once, united in acknowledging that anti-Stalinism is the undisputed champion of the intellectual world.
    And yet.. The problem with undisputed champions is that they become soft. Without a contest in prospect the title holder becomes stale and performance becomes stereotype and sloppy. For lack of exercise, joints become stiff, reflexes slow, muscles waste away and turn to fat. It a challenge does materialise then the result can be something of a surprise.
    Stalin is to be rehabilitated because there are two forces pushing for it to happen: one is intellectual, the other political.
    Intellectually, the case against Stalin is by no means as neat and settled as it is commonly assumed to be. There is more than one grain of sand in the spiritual spinach of historians. These are anomalous facts and paradoxes that grate and act as a source of irritation.
    Politically, the defeat of Stalinism has not produced the results it was supposed to. In practice, anti-Stalinism is proving to be a source of difficulties. In particular it is a barrier to overcoming problems, in that the anti-Stalinist consensus forbids many obvious solutions.
    In both cases people are being prompted to ask questions, satisfactory answers to which require the rehabilitation of Stalin.

    1. There’s an interesting interview with Geoffrey Roberts, where he says:

      I argue, firstly, that Stalin was a highly effective and successful war leader and I reject many criticisms of his leadership that I see as rooted, on the one hand, in western cold war polemics, and, on the other hand, in the de-Stalinization campaign in the USSR. I think that Stalin and the Soviets played by far the greatest role in the defeat of Hitler and the Nazis and characterize Stalin as the dictator who, ironically and paradoxically, saved the world for democracy.

      Secondly, I argue in great detail – and this is the most original and most extensively researched component of the book – that Stalin was very committed to the grand alliance with Britain and the United States and wanted to see it continue after the war. While Stalin’s actions contributed to the outbreak of the cold war, he strove to avert the break up of the grand alliance.

      In this respect the book can be read as a vindication of those American revisionist historians (including David Horowitz!) who criticized US anti-communism and took a benign view of Stalin’s postwar foreign policy. At the same time I see my narrative and analysis as a kind of post-revisionist synthesis that incorporates important elements of the neo-traditionalist view of the origins of the cold war, particularly in relation to the role of communist ideology in motivating Stalin’s policy.

      Thirdly, and perhaps most controversially, I see the foundations of the relatively mild authoritarianism and dictatorship of the post-Stalin Soviet regime as being laid in Stalin’s time (i.e. the postwar Stalinist Soviet system was a system in transition away from the mass violence and terrorism that peaked in the mid-late 1930s).


      1. The more you think about it the more remarkable the criticism of Stalin’s military record becomes.

        The people who do it most are not military historians. Some of them, (notably lefties) are normally not interested in military matters at all. Yet at the drop of a hat they will reel off a long string of Stalin’s alleged military blunders.

        Normally political and military history don’t mix. Military buffs are typically politically naïve and quite conservative. They can have an encyclopaedic knowledge of such things as the ballistics of small arms and completely miss the political dimension of military decisions.

        So what is going on?

        The defeat of German fascism was an amazing achievement. Obviously, Stalin’s role was crucial (he was the Soviet commander-in-chief).
        Politically, the defeat of German fascism give defenders of Stalin a killer argument: whatever mistakes he might have made, Stalin won the War. Remove Stalin and that victory is thrown in doubt.

        Any critic of Stalin and his policies must face this point. That applies to the FO/MI6 propaganda wallahs of the IRD as it does to greasy-haired trotskyists. It certainly applied to Khrushchev. They all have (and still have) a common interest in rubbishing Stain’s military reputation.

  2. James Petras on why anti-Stalinism has proved a disaster: http://petras.lahaine.org/?p=1902
    My own psychoanalytic take: Stalin was symbolically the left’s bastard father, the model of what for lack of more refined terms I’d call rude communist virility. Unlike most of the liberally acceptable martyr heroes of the left (Rosa Luxemburg, Trotsky, Che, etc.) he had the priapic indecency to consolidate and enormously strengthen the world’s first proletarian dictatorship. In abjuring Stalin, the left unmanned itself, in the same way that men who disown their fathers condemn themselves to ineffectual immaturity.
    Needless to say, all this is heretical from the perspective of the contemporary, antipatriarchal left. But the contemporary antipatriarchal left is a joke.

  3. Top tip on Geoff Roberts

    I’ve heard that, in his youth, Roberts was very anti-Stalin. Hardly a surprise really, this was (and remains) the conventional wisdom, but it does raise the question of how he came to change his mind. As a professional academic he was taking an enormous risk.

    I think it may have started with his work on Der Pakt von August 1939.

    As someone with a commission you are in a position to ask Roberts how his assessment of Stalin developed. I think you should take the opportunity.

    1. Good suggestion. I will approach him and ask more about this transformation in his approach. Paradoxically, he became more sympathetic to Stalin as he identified more clearly as a liberal democrat.

      1. That would the quote of the week: I’ve always thought that Stalin was a bit of a liberal.

    1. I hope so. I will retain the ‘rights’, so the English version should also be able to appear. The old left in Australia at least is dominated by Trots, so I will enjoy their reaction.

  4. Come on Roland – let us have an English translation asap. My personal view has always been…Stalin: right man at the right time – and nothing, so far, has persuaded me to change my opinion. He appealed for the trust and assistance of ‘the allies’ to defeat the Nazis, Italian fascists and Japanese imperialists and received nothing but deception and betrayal. He tried to deliver support to the Spanish republicans but was prevented from doing so by the ‘non-intervention’ pact of the so-called western democracies, that preferred the capitalism of the Nazis and the Italian fascists to the socialism of the Soviet Union. So, yes, Roland – let’s have that English translation as it may assist the dumb English working class understand the real situation rather than that served up by Walt Disney Productions that even the Morning Star and the Communist Party of Britain is reluctant to challenge at this time.

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