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Stalin: Monster Or Savior Of The Soviet Union? (Debate)


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#1 Genghis Khan

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 09:47 PM

Hi everyone.

I am starting an 2500 word essay with the above title over the summer break and would like to get the ball rolling by ingesting some opinions of the various historians on this site, (regardless of age!).

Please feel free to tell me your opinion on Stalin or link me to any usefull essays.

Also if anyone (particulary talking to teachers) has any good books on this or essays that I can use then please list them below.

I will post some of my opinions later...

Muchas Gracias!

Edited by Genghis Khan, 02 September 2012 - 07:11 PM.


#2 MrJohnDClare

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 12:38 AM

Good question!
Have you listened to this?
Or seen this?

Personally, if you want a glib off-the-cuff quote, I would think that the issue of whether Stalin was a monster is fairly academic - he was unquestionably so; what I would suggest is the interesting question os to what extent Stalin-the-monster was so CREATED by the West.

#3 Genghis Khan

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 08:51 PM

Good question!
Have you listened to this?
Or seen this?

Personally, if you want a glib off-the-cuff quote, I would think that the issue of whether Stalin was a monster is fairly academic - he was unquestionably so; what I would suggest is the interesting question os to what extent Stalin-the-monster was so CREATED by the West.


Ok thanks for the response.

Can I just emphasise the essay's focus on whether stalin was a monster/savior of the SOVIET UNION. Please may you expand on how his terrible nature/etc may of been created by the west, as I want to try and aviod a complete pyschoanlysis of Stalin and dont really understand where you're coming from. (will add more when i have more time)

Response would be great.

#4 Genghis Khan

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 11:09 PM

Good question!
Have you listened to this?
Or seen this?

Personally, if you want a glib off-the-cuff quote, I would think that the issue of whether Stalin was a monster is fairly academic - he was unquestionably so; what I would suggest is the interesting question os to what extent Stalin-the-monster was so CREATED by the West.


Also, how would you define the "soviet union" - and do you think the best soviet union required idealogical purity and a socialist fiscal policy to be perfect or do you think Stalin was the monster of the soviet union for many social issues

#5 MrJohnDClare

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 12:16 AM

Sorry it's taken so long to reply to this, Genghis - I've been fully occupied meeting a deadline for a job.
We don't approve a post until we reply to it - we never simply delete and forget them ... but sometimes it can take a while, especially if it is a difficult issue that we really don't know the answer to.


Anyway:

1. I think my rather over-glib comment at the beginning was because I myself don't fully know how much Stalin was a 'monster'. If he did all those purges etc. simply because he was a paranoid psychopath, then perhaps he deserves the name 'monster', ion the sense that he lacked normal human attributes. What lay behind my throw-away phrase, however, was a suspicion that Stalin was correct - that the west WAS 'out to get the USSR', that Chamberlain and the USA DID see Hitler as a convenient 'bolshevik-basher' and give him his opportunity, and that the USSR really DID have only ten years to prepare for the murder-attempt ... in which case Stalin;s actions, though ruthless and merciless, seem much less 'monster-ish'.

2. the question about the USSR is a really good one because - of course - the USSR as we think of it really did not exist in at all before 1923, and that first 'USSR', of course, was a VERY different thing to the USSR we think of ... and that, of course, is because the fully-fledged,superpower, unified, party-dominated USSR we remember from the 1950s-1970s was the CREATION OF STALIN (think 1936 Constitution, but also purged and controlled by Stalin). It would be very possible to argue that Stalin was NEITHER the monster nor the Saviour ... but that he was the Creator and that sine ipso nihil factum est.

#6 Genghis Khan

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 06:58 PM

Sorry it's taken so long to reply to this, Genghis - I've been fully occupied meeting a deadline for a job.
We don't approve a post until we reply to it - we never simply delete and forget them ... but sometimes it can take a while, especially if it is a difficult issue that we really don't know the answer to.


Anyway:

1. I think my rather over-glib comment at the beginning was because I myself don't fully know how much Stalin was a 'monster'. If he did all those purges etc. simply because he was a paranoid psychopath, then perhaps he deserves the name 'monster', ion the sense that he lacked normal human attributes. What lay behind my throw-away phrase, however, was a suspicion that Stalin was correct - that the west WAS 'out to get the USSR', that Chamberlain and the USA DID see Hitler as a convenient 'bolshevik-basher' and give him his opportunity, and that the USSR really DID have only ten years to prepare for the murder-attempt ... in which case Stalin;s actions, though ruthless and merciless, seem much less 'monster-ish'.

2. the question about the USSR is a really good one because - of course - the USSR as we think of it really did not exist in at all before 1923, and that first 'USSR', of course, was a VERY different thing to the USSR we think of ... and that, of course, is because the fully-fledged,superpower, unified, party-dominated USSR we remember from the 1950s-1970s was the CREATION OF STALIN (think 1936 Constitution, but also purged and controlled by Stalin). It would be very possible to argue that Stalin was NEITHER the monster nor the Saviour ... but that he was the Creator and that sine ipso nihil factum est.


Thanks very much your reply, one can not help draw comparison between Lenin/Stalin and Sun/Chiang (the chinses warlord)

I would also like to hear your opinion on the idealistic side of the USSR/Stalin: was stalin really a marxist-leninist? and how far and was the ussr created to repel the west eg. (quote from essay)

""ussr proletarian" governments took orders from Moscow, not the people. To Stalin these countries were just there to soak up some nuclear bomb hits in case of a war, provide him with more troops and political capital, and nothing else. Otherwise he would've given democratic control to the people and allowed them to decide for themselves what to do."

Also the fact that many people criticise stalins idealogical purity for abandoning the greek socialist revolution after ww2 and made peace with the west at the greatest opportunity to establish a international revolution.

Additionally the allegation of stalins building of the usssr that "any leader could of done it" is interesting. Looking around like a historian would for other examples in history one comes to Mao. Mao was in charge of the PRC for roughly the same amount of time and while his policies did succeed in improving standards of living and build a basic infrastructure for the country, he didn't have nearly as much success in turning an agrarian country into a major industrial world power. ...

Do you think this is a feasible comparison?/ relevant (I really want to avoid a psychoanalysis of Stalin ^_^ )



or did stalin deviate from marx's communist manifesto because he could see that it was not practical to establish socialism-i.o.c.

#7 littlemissy

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 09:11 PM

I don't think mine will be a popular post!

I actually studied Soviet Economic History, but unfortunately that was about 25 years ago and my memory is more than a wee bit hazy ... Like Mr Clare I would define the Soviet union as shorthand for the USSR which came into being after the civil war. I don't think there is a 'best' Soviet Union' - just see it in pure terms, not ideological ones.

Personally, I don't like the use of the word 'monster' as an official history essay title. I consider a 'monster' to be is a fictional creature whose connotations of evil are applied to humans and thus difficult to define in human terms. Also, assuming monster to mean inhumane, heartless and so on (rather than a huge furry / scaly creature) to be quite blunt this doesn't mean that he could also be a 'saviour' of the Soviet Union in economic terms. My argument would be that he was both. Yes, he was brutal, horrific, callous - but it could still be argued that his abandonment of the NEP and rapid industrialisation through collectivisation and the five-year plans dragged the Soviet Union into the 20th century much, much quicker. Some may argue that it needed utter ruthlessness to enforce the unpopular and horrible but economically effective policies, particularly considering that the outside world was not willing to help them. I vaguely remember that this helped them cope with WW2. Don't go down the 'someone else could have ...' because we just don't know. Interpret the facts as we kinda know them. USSR facts are notoriously difficult and contentious.

Good luck with your essay. I'm afraid I don't have any book suggestions but I know a man who might - let me know if you want them but be warned USSR books are not known for being quick, light reads.

#8 Genghis Khan

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 09:36 PM

I don't think mine will be a popular post!

I actually studied Soviet Economic History, but unfortunately that was about 25 years ago and my memory is more than a wee bit hazy ... Like Mr Clare I would define the Soviet union as shorthand for the USSR which came into being after the civil war. I don't think there is a 'best' Soviet Union' - just see it in pure terms, not ideological ones.

Personally, I don't like the use of the word 'monster' as an official history essay title. I consider a 'monster' to be is a fictional creature whose connotations of evil are applied to humans and thus difficult to define in human terms. Also, assuming monster to mean inhumane, heartless and so on (rather than a huge furry / scaly creature) to be quite blunt this doesn't mean that he could also be a 'saviour' of the Soviet Union in economic terms. My argument would be that he was both. Yes, he was brutal, horrific, callous - but it could still be argued that his abandonment of the NEP and rapid industrialisation through collectivisation and the five-year plans dragged the Soviet Union into the 20th century much, much quicker. Some may argue that it needed utter ruthlessness to enforce the unpopular and horrible but economically effective policies, particularly considering that the outside world was not willing to help them. I vaguely remember that this helped them cope with WW2. Don't go down the 'someone else could have ...' because we just don't know. Interpret the facts as we kinda know them. USSR facts are notoriously difficult and contentious.

Good luck with your essay. I'm afraid I don't have any book suggestions but I know a man who might - let me know if you want them but be warned USSR books are not known for being quick, light reads.


Thanks for your reply,

Regarding your highlighted suggestion above, we can compare Stalin to other socialist leaders in similair situations. Of course, we can say that Soviet development under Stalin could have been done by socialist states anywhere and by someone else, but in a system where state involvement in the planned economy is so central, economic advancement very much does depend on the policies of the Party and state leadership. There are the examples of Mao’s PRC and Hoxha’s Albania for less successful examples of socialist states.

We can also look at the supposed socialist movement in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge for its “accomplishments,” of which there are probably not that many. Would the USSR have looked different had Trotsky or someone else come to power, and how radically would history have been changed? Probably, but I honestly don’t know how or if it would have been for the better (your right here about not being able to make accurate predictions). Since a lot of communists say things that sound great on paper but ended up doing a bad job at carrying out, I’m not particularly that interested in speculations like these. In the end, Stalin was the leader of the CPSU and the USSR, and the industrialization of the Soviet Union, victory in the Great Patriotic War, and post-war reconstruction could be seen as “generic things” that “any socialist could have done,” but these are enormous, difficult tasks, so anyone who can lead a country through this sort of environment is not someone that I would so easily dismiss

#9 MrJohnDClare

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Posted 03 September 2012 - 05:18 PM

I fear you are rather over-stretching my knowledge of Stalin!

I would also like to hear your opinion on the idealistic side of the USSR/Stalin: was stalin really a marxist-leninist?

the answer is don't know. The standard answer would be no - his base belief seems to have been socialism in one country ... but, looking at the 1920s, I would rather say that he believed whatever gave him more power at the time.

... and how far and was the ussr created to repel the west

Absolutely agree - I suspect the especially bitter hatreds caused by and during the Russian Civil War were critical in founding this, and then reinforced by the slaughter of the Second World War. It would be fairly easy ui think to prove that fear of the west was at least a base a principle as love of communism.

""ussr proletarian" governments took orders from Moscow, not the people. To Stalin these countries were just there to soak up some nuclear bomb hits in case of a war, provide him with more troops and political capital, and nothing else. Otherwise he would've given democratic control to the people and allowed them to decide for themselves what to do."

I find this a little over-stated but, basically, it's arguable.

Also the fact that many people criticise stalins idealogical purity for abandoning the greek socialist revolution after ww2 and made peace with the west at the greatest opportunity to establish a international revolution.

Stalin left Greece to keep his part of the percentages agreement with Churchill. Funnily enough, with the West, Stalin usually talked straight.

Additionally the allegation of stalins building of the usssr that "any leader could of done it" is interesting. Looking around like a historian would for other examples in history one comes to Mao. Mao was in charge of the PRC for roughly the same amount of time and while his policies did succeed in improving standards of living and build a basic infrastructure for the country, he didn't have nearly as much success in turning an agrarian country into a major industrial world power. ...

Like LittleMissy above, I would avoid conjectural history - just stick to the facts and draw your conclusions.




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