October 14, 2003


Asked whom he would most like to play, fur-covered commie bowling ball Ed Asner replied:

"I think Joe Stalin was a guy that was hugely misunderstood. And to this day, I don't think I have ever seen an adequate job done of telling the story of Joe Stalin, so I guess my answer would have to be Joe Stalin."

He calls him “Joe”. Cute. Sir Frank Packer, father of Kerry Packer (proprietor of The Bulletin, which pays my bills, full disclosure, etc etc) once told the story of Joe Stalin perfectly in just three words. Having been handed the planned poster for a 1953 edition of Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph, then owned by Packer, he objected to the announcement: “STALIN DEAD”. Packer wanted the poster to read: “STALIN DEAD. HOORAY!”

Sadly, Packer’s masterwork was blocked by tyrant-lovin’ lefties. Not much has changed, has it?

Posted by Tim Blair at October 14, 2003 01:44 AM

There was a comment at the "Eye of the Beholder" you linked to, which read in part:

At 03:26 AM, March 10 2003, mark said
I've always considered Stalin the Left's Hitler: an example of what can happen when evil behaviour is excused by ideology.

It's hard to improve on that.

Posted by: Ernie G at October 14, 2003 at 02:28 AM

If this blows up in Asner's face he's just going to say that no one is denying...blah, blah, blah...but that the true Stalin has not been understood...blah, blah...that he misheard the precise phrasing of the question...etc.

But his use of the words "Joe" and "guy" say it all. Try these hypotheticals: "Adie Hitler was a guy that was hugely misunderstood" -- "Ben Mussolini was a guy that was hugely misunderstood" -- try it with: "the Potmeister (Pol Pot)" -- "Idi Baby" or "The I Man" -- "Mr. Ghengi Pants was a guy that was hugely misunderstood" Hey, I think I like that one and I think Asner could do a pretty convincing Ghengis Khan: "You know, you've got spunk. I hate spunk! I burn your village!"

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at October 14, 2003 at 03:00 AM

From Molotov Cocktail Frank:

"If this guy isn't on drugs, then maybe he should be. And he's playing Santa? Or maybe a Stalinist Santa Claus is an idea whose time has come. Let's see: "You'll take this 'Junior Stakhanovite Smelter' and you'll like it, or I'll send the kid who's getting the 'L'il Chekhist Interrogation and Extreme Reprisal Kit' over to your house!"


Posted by: Eddie Grant (no relation) at October 14, 2003 at 03:18 AM

I'm no historian, but wasn't Stalin responsible for even more deaths than Bush? I mean Schwarzenegger? I mean Hitler?

Posted by: JFT at October 14, 2003 at 04:26 AM

Ed, what is there to misunderstand? Old Joe killed 20-40 million of his fellow citizens on his way to building a worker’s paradise including a vibrant entertainment industry with big parades, show trials and giant posters.

Posted by: perfectsense at October 14, 2003 at 04:51 AM

Big parades with missiles. Don't forget the missiles.

Posted by: Tongue Boy at October 14, 2003 at 05:02 AM

Stalin was a nasty tyrant, shot a million politicals, starved several million Ukraninians and put another twenty million in the Gulag where he worked them, if not to death, then to ruin.
But as Generalissimo of the Red Army, he did save Western civilisation from Nazi totalitarian genocide.
He therefore deserves some understanding, and one cheer.
My father, an anti-fascist partisan, credits Stalin with saving his life, since Soviet pressure on the Eastern Front prevented the Wermacht from applying the screws onto Northern Italy, which was Giacomao's Area of Operation. Schwarz goes as far as saying that WWII, the most bloody and politically consequential conflict in human history, was Stalin's War

Without question, the main scene of the Nazis' defeat was the Eastern Front,...The conflict there was the most terrible in history, claiming, according to the best and most-recent estimates, as many as 35 million Soviet civilians and 14.7 million Soviet soldiers...the struggle with the USSR accounted for 88 percent of all German casualties...Until the Normandy invasion—from June of 1941 to June of 1944—nearly the whole Nazi war machine was concentrated in the East; even two months after D-Day 2.1 million Germans were fighting the Red Army while one million opposed Allied operations in France...In fact the turning point of the war in Europe was...two years before D-Day, where the Red Army eradicated some fifty divisions from the Axis order of battle, or at Kursk, nearly a year before, where the Soviets smashed the Wehrmacht's strategic tank force, breaking the Nazis' capacity for large-scale attack... simple honesty demands that we acknowledge the Red Army's awesome achievement. And as much as it may make us squirm, we must admit that the struggle against Nazi Germany...was primarily, as the great military historian John Erickson called it, "Stalin's war."

This academic judgement was confirmed by the best professional soldier of WWII. Field Marshall AlanBrooke was Chief of Staff of the Imperial Forces, for three years he was the senior officer in the Atlantic-allies war against the Nazis. In Alanbrooke's memoirs he acknowldges the that Stalin was the senior partner and driving force behind the Allied victory:
During this meeting and all the subsequent ones which we had with Stalin, I rapidly grew to appreciate the fact that he had a military brain of the very highest calibre. Never once in any of his statements did he make any strategic error, nor did he ever fail to appreciate all the implications of a situation with a quick and unerring eye. In this respect he stood out compared with his two colleagues.

The "two colleagues" he is referring to were Churchill and Roosevelt, not exactly do-dos.
The Brits were so grateful to Stalin, they practically knighted him. Here is a photo of Churchill giving Uncle Joe the Sword of Stalingrad.
But the greatest military accolade for Stalin was given by his deadliest enemies. Irving reports the Prussian brass's alarm at Stalin's logistic abilities, particularly the monumental shifting of the unscorched Soviet economy to East of the Urals, out of reach of Nazi panzers, and the relocation of the Siberian Army to West of the Urals, into the Stalingrad front:
German army Intelligence had consistently reported that the Red Army was on its last legs, yet Stalin continued producing unsuspected masses of tanks and infantry out of thin air. Jodl was seen, white-faced, exclaiming, “The Russians are stronger than in 1941!”

Hitler was so impressed with Stalin's politico-military ability that he discussed making Stalin a Gauleiter of Russia, once the Nazis had conquered it.
Stalin's positive achievements were not just military. He also destroyed the orginal cadres of both major 20th C totalitarian parties through violent purges:

  • Communist party 1936-8

  • Nazi party 1945-48

After Stalin was through with them, these dynamic organisations were never the same.
Finally, Stalin was the Godfather of the state of Israel. His Bolshevist apparat armed, manned and diplomaticly supported Israel in it's birth agony. It is doubtful whether Israeli's would have prevailed against five Arab armies without Soviet material & moral assistance. A marxist journal grudgingly gives Stalin some credit for being nice to the Jewish state:
On February 11, 1945 in Yalta president Roosevelt asked Stalin, what he thought of Zionism. The answer he got shocked the translator Charles Bolen who had read Stalin's work on "Marxism and national question": "In principle I support Zionism,"...At the beginning of 1947...the USA, the USSR and the Zionists...all supported the partition of Palestine...the Soviet authorities gave a "green light" for supplying Israel with weapons. Through their puppet regime in Czechoslovakia arms were indeed sent to Israel, and at the same time "communists" were encouraged to serve in the Israeli armed forces.

Did Stalin do very bad things? Yes.
Would the Allies have defeated the Nazi's without his ruthless and intelligent leadership? No.
Was the bargain with the Devil worth the cost? That depends on whether you think that Soviet control of half Europe was better than Nazi control of all Europe.
In the judgement of the Allied leadership, it was.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at October 14, 2003 at 05:24 AM

What is it with Hollywood celebrities that they insist on letting us know they are idiots? Asner loves old Uncle Joe Stalin? Why didn’t he move to Stalin’s Soviet Union when he could? Frankly it’s been three years and I’m still waiting for Alex Baldwin, Robert Altman and Eddie Vedder to make good on their promises to get out of Dodge.

Posted by: Bruce Rheinstein at October 14, 2003 at 05:26 AM

He's never seen an adequate job done of telling the story of Stalin? Perhaps the fat fuck should, I dunno, read a freaking book for example.

The stupidity and blindness of the idiot Hollywood Left never fails to horrify me, although it has long since ceased to surprise me.

Posted by: David Gillies at October 14, 2003 at 05:27 AM


The problem with crediting Stalin with saving Western Civ is that he was Hitler's biggest enabler. He provided Germany with a secure eastern border, so Germany could invade the West. He sold Germany raw materials, including oil that Germany desperately needed. Finally, Stalin ignored 200 separate warnings, beginning in the Winter of 1940 that German was preparing to invade. This included the German Ambassador to the Soviet Union and Stalin's own British spys who were reading Germany's signal traffic.

Posted by: Pete at October 14, 2003 at 06:20 AM


Sometimes you have no choice but to back the guy who at the time is the lesser of two evils. The ability to establish a western front was very difficult (DDay will go down forever as the greatest amphibious assault in military history)- Russia had the fortune - or perhaps the misfortune - of being right next to them - well Poland doesn't really count since they (Hitler and Stalin) just partitioned the country as WWII began.

Of note was the early recognition, not just by Churchill but among the US generals on what Stalin was about to embark upon the end of the war. I believe Patton very vigorously wanted to keep moving east. He was very observant, but the Allies were tired of fighting -their populations weary of the sacrifice and tired of their husbands and sons dying. Short of an atomic attack on USSR, which was no way going to happen, it would have added years of fighting - eventually defeating USSR at great cost. It probably was less painful to choose the cold war route.

(oh - and Pete was dead on)

Posted by: JEM at October 14, 2003 at 07:09 AM


You make some good points, and I agree with your summation. And I agree that the Russians did the heaviest lifting, and were indispensible, in defeating Hitler.

However, I would question whether Stalin's leadership really deserves that much credit. Suppose he hadn't been as vicious and cruel to his own people as he was: Would the Russians have fought less hard, in fighting off an invader as cruel as the Nazis? Seems to me I'd have to believe that, before I'd be willing to give him even one cheer.

Posted by: JPS at October 14, 2003 at 07:20 AM

Poor Ed, and he was such a nice guy on Mary Tyler Moore.

Posted by: Wallace at October 14, 2003 at 07:25 AM

But as Generalissimo of the Red Army, he did save Western civilisation from Nazi totalitarian genocide.

Stalin allied with, and supported, Hitler, pretty much right up to the point where Germany invaded the USSR. Given that Stalin would have been killed in the event of a German conquest of the Soviet Union (or killed by rivals in his party in the event of a permanent loss of territory), it's hard to give old Uncle Joe much credit for fighting back. Stalin got backstabbed by a former ally and spent the next few years fighting to retain his own power. There's really no way to put a positive spin on that.

Especially since Stalin was, arguably, worse than Hitler was.

Posted by: Dan at October 14, 2003 at 08:17 AM

You really are an idiot Tim.

Stalin shot anyone he didn't like - be they left, right, Christian, Jew or just a housewife.

If he didn't like you - you got shot.

I guess in your wildest dreams you'd love to have that power, but instead all you have is the Internet and the unrelenting ability to abuse anyone who does not think like you.

In another time Tim, you would have made the perfect enforcer for someone like Stalin or Hitler. I can see you right now, running some little committee collecting the dirt on your enemies and sending them out the back for a single bullet of true persuasion, and all because they did not think like you.

And ain't that The Truth!

Posted by: crock of tim at October 14, 2003 at 11:33 AM

Did someone mention LUNCH?

Posted by: tim at October 14, 2003 at 11:39 AM

I had a cheese sandwich for lunch!

Posted by: Andrea Harris at October 14, 2003 at 11:56 AM

Pete writes: "Finally, Stalin ignored 200 separate warnings, beginning in the Winter of 1940 that German was preparing to invade. This included the German Ambassador to the Soviet Union and Stalin's own British spys who were reading Germany's signal traffic."


Seriously, Jack does a pretty good summation of the Russian contribution to defeating Hitler and it certainly was the lion's share but I would give more credit to the Russians themselves. Maybe it's just Cold War propaganda but I've usually read where many of Stalin's decisions, coupled with Hitler's decisions, cost both armies dearly.

A perfect example is Stalingrad which, though there are great stories of heroism and terrible stories of carnage, had no real strategic value. It was named for Stalin so Hitler wanted it so Stalin had to defend it at ANY cost. Stupid. Hitler shoulda, woulda, coulda gone around it to get the oil he needed but nope...and without the oil, he was hosed when the Western nations came through France as well as up through Italy.

In fact, Stalin's propagandists actually played down the New Soviet Man rhetoric in favor of evoking models of earlier Russian nationalism. In a very real sense, the soldiers of the Red Army weren't fighting for International Socialism; they were fighting for Russian survival. Stalin repaid many of them with a train ride to the gulag after the war.


Posted by: JDB at October 14, 2003 at 12:00 PM

I just noticed it's lunchtime in Oz.

I think I'll have a beer with mine!

(9 pm New York time; baseball on.)

Bon appetit, tout le monde!

Posted by: JDB at October 14, 2003 at 12:04 PM

I had lunch. Unfortunately, I spilled some expensive wine on my brown shirt.

Posted by: scott h. at October 14, 2003 at 12:06 PM

Ilk!!! It's lunch in a crock pot!!

Posted by: slatts at October 14, 2003 at 01:02 PM

Lunch? Ye gods so it is. I was going to make an intelligent point, but it's lunchtime. Toodles.

Posted by: Scott Wickstein at October 14, 2003 at 01:45 PM

I warmed up a red Thai curry for elevenses. Wasn't bad. Brown rice, of course.

Posted by: Bruce at October 14, 2003 at 01:56 PM

Packer: Stalin dead. Hooray.

Left: Stalin dead. Highly misunderstood flawed leader brought Russia through world war, helped defeat Nazism, known to many fondly as Uncle Joe. State funeral planned; details in later edition. Get your FREE red armband in tomorrow's paper. Adams: My Memories of Stalin, Page 7. Mackay: Reforms Necessary to Soviet Advancement, Page 8.

Posted by: ilibcc at October 14, 2003 at 02:39 PM

"I think Joe Stalin was a guy that was hugely misunderstood."

Yes. He is hugely misunderstood by the rabid lefties who view him as some sort of hero. He killed 10's of millions of people. He is nobody's hero.

As for being an ally in WWII .. there are times you ally with a devil to help fight another devil, especially if it means your survival. When the war is over and you've survived, then you no longer ally yourself with a devil. You try to defeat him. I don't have a problem with that.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at October 14, 2003 at 03:05 PM

Chris Josephson more or less concedes my point:

As for [Stalin] being an ally in WWII .. there are times you ally with a devil to help fight another devil, especially if it means your survival. When the war is over and you've survived, then you no longer ally yourself with a devil. You try to defeat him. I don't have a problem with that.

Neither do I. I generally supported a hard line against Communism during the Cold War.
What I have a problem with is partisan ideologues who refuse to give credit where credit is due.
Since I exist on an intellectual plane beyond ideology, I am not psychologically crippled by the need to ignore Truth in the service of various Right & Left wing Poster Boys.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at October 14, 2003 at 03:20 PM

Dan tries to mute my one cheer for Stalin by pointing out that Stalin provided assistance to Hitler before the War, was fighting for his own survival and was worse than Hitler:

Stalin allied with, and supported, Hitler, pretty much right up to the point where Germany invaded the USSR...it's hard to give old Uncle Joe much credit for fighting back...There's really no way to put a positive spin on that. Especially since Stalin was, arguably, worse than Hitler was.

Hey Dan, ever heard of a thing called "Appeasement"? It was this thing whereby non-Stalin Western leaders handed over whole countries to Hitler in order to satify him, rather than fighting him. You know, Munich 1938, that sort of thing.
As for Stalin fighting for survival - well, what's wrong with will-to-live? Ever heard of Darwin?
As for Stalin being worse than Hitler, that is rubbish.
In military terms, Hitler's soldiers killed about 10 mill. Russian soldiers, and millions of non-Russian soldiers. Stalin killed only about 2 million German soldiers.
In civilian terms, Hitler's Stalags killed about 10 mill civilians over a five year period.
Stalin's Gulags, and state-enforced famines, killed about 10 mill.-20 mill. civlinans tops, but over a 20 year period.
So Stalin's per-capita civilian "burn-rate" was about half as bad as Hitlers.
The Western Allies recognised tthat Stalin was more reasonable and less malovelent than Hitler, which is why they did the deal with him, and gave him some credit.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at October 14, 2003 at 03:35 PM


You don't have to give any credit at all to a guy who killed 20-40 million.

You just fuck him off into the dustbin of history.

For God's sake. 'He may have killed all those people, but let's ignore that and explore his good points.'


Posted by: ilibcc at October 14, 2003 at 03:48 PM

Pete thinks that Hitler would not have been a major military threat to Western Civ had Stalin not acted as his "enabler", moreover Stalin was allegedly a relatively poor military commander:

[Stalin] provided Germany with a secure eastern border, so Germany could invade the West. He sold Germany raw materials, including oil that Germany desperately needed. Finally, Stalin ignored 200 separate warnings, beginning in the Winter of 1940 that German was preparing to invade.

Stalin certainly assisted Hitler before the war, as did US companies (GM, IBM). Everyone did, since no-one except Churchill, wanted to fight the Germans again.
But Stalin was the first major leader to recognise Hitler as a real threat. In 1934 he tried to get the British to form an anti-German alliance, but they knocked him back.
This led Stalin to become the first major western leader to begin real armament production for the coming war, where else do you think that T-34's (note the date) Kalashnikovs and Katyusha's (Stalin Organs!) came from? So Stalin's pre-war appeasement was more than compensated by his pre-war arms build up, which put the Soviet economy on a war-footing sooner than the West.
Sure Stalin made many military blunders, pre-war officer purge, ignored warnings of German invasion, mishandled defences, squandered men and munitions in futile frontal assaults etc
But these errors were all committed by Western leaders (eg Pearl Harbour, Churchill's general purges, Battle of France etc)
When the Wermacht instigates a million-man armoured assault on your forces, you tend to make mistakes.
You just have to deal with it.
Stalin did.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at October 14, 2003 at 03:48 PM

Jack writes "I am not psychologically crippled by the need to ignore Truth..."

Had Stalin not signed a pact with Hitler and carved up Poland then perhaps Hitler couldn't have turned his attention to Western Europe.

Stalin's initial alliance with the devil killed millions before a single shot was fired in the direction of Mother Russia.

Once the Panzers rolled East, the Russian people were so afraid of what a Russian genocide at the hands of Germans would look like, they fought like their existence depended upon it.

The Truth - Stalin was just plain evil. And lucky. What if Britain had capitulated like the French? Now the US, with no European base with which to oppose Hitler, stayed neutral. Then suppose Japan went West instead of East. Russia and Russians may not even exist today. Many, many things went right for Stalin when they could have gone awry.

Posted by: kennycan at October 14, 2003 at 04:05 PM

LUNCH update: roast lamb w/potatoes, peas, pumpkin, gravy. Apple pie dessert.

Posted by: tim at October 14, 2003 at 04:08 PM

Hot roast beef on fresh white bread. A little mustard, plenty of salt and pepper.

A cold beer.

A seat in the sunshine watching the pretty girls on a warm afternoon in early spring.

Posted by: pooh at October 14, 2003 at 04:40 PM

ilibcc seems to have comprehension difficulties:

You don't have to give any credit at all to a guy who killed 20-40 [sic] million. For God's sake...let's ignore that and explore his good points.'

If ilibcc cares to read what I wrote he can see that I do not "ignore" the fact that Stalin "killed...20...million people", in fact, I acknowledged it up front.
Stalin was a nasty tyrant, shot a million politicals, starved several million Ukraninians and put another twenty million in the Gulag where he worked them, if not to death, then to ruin.

In regard to ilibc's semi-rhetorical question - why "explore [Stalin's] good points"? - eg such as his supreme executive role in winning the war against Fascism?
Because those good points existed, and it is good to know the Truth.
Moreover, ideologes have a habit of exploiting historical falsehoods, or truth-ommissions, to advance their current narrow partisan agenda. (I do not include TB in this category)

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at October 14, 2003 at 04:41 PM

Being a bloodthirsty megalomaniac Hitler probably understood Stalin far more than most people in the west at the time. Hitler made a strategic judgment to attack Stalin before Stalin attacked him. Remember the price for the non-agression treaty between Hitler and Stalin was half of Poland. Stalin had not one redeeming human quality. And at the end of the war instead of Germany controlling western Europe, it was the USSR controlling eastern Europe. The west had just traded one evil for another, but hey, at least france was free. So the only reason Stalin did not get the bad press Hitler recieved, and the same goes for Saddam Hussein, was that Stalin was killing his own people. Hitler, on the other hand, was invading and killing Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Danes, frenchmen, and the Dutch. And Saddam Hussein was a much worse person when he was killing Kuwaitis and not just his own people. Some lives, it would seem, are more important than others.

I wouldn't be surprised when ol' Ed Asner visits Moscow he that he doesn't make a point to go by the mauseleum and kiss the mummified testicles of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.

Posted by: Harry at October 14, 2003 at 04:42 PM

My reading of both "Stalingrad" and "Berlin" by Antony Beevor is that Russia succeeded in WW2 in spite of Stalin. What Jack has written about the efforts of the Red Army are true but any assistance to the Western Allies was purely incidental. But Stalin had no interest in assisting the west, only in ensuring his own survival; the treatment of Russian combatants and POW's as they returned home is proof enough of that. Any claim that the West could not have defeated the Nazis without Russian assistance is just speculation and Kennycan has suggested other scenarios. However, there is no doubt that the Russians were vital in the war effort and there lies something of a dilemma for us in the West: that our freedom was won at least in part by Communist/Stalinist brutality.

Posted by: John Elliot at October 14, 2003 at 04:43 PM

Clarifing my point somewhat, Saddam Hussein has received some negative press it's more that he has gotten a pass for his behavior which is even worse.

John Elliot,

People have to remember that the defeat of Germany just did not happen in the east. The USSR did not participate in the fronts in North Africa, Italy, the North Atlantic, or the Pacific. Stalin invaded and attacked the Japanese in northern China at the close of the Pacific war to guarantee that the USSR would have a say in how the post war East would shape up. That and to be there when the spoils were there for the taking. To this day Russia still occupies some former Japanese territory. I dunno, if the soviets had been forced to fight wars on several fronts as the Americans and British, without western military aid, I don't know if they would have fared as well militarily or historically as they have.

Posted by: Harry at October 14, 2003 at 04:58 PM

kennycan, in an attempt to deny Stalin credit for critical role in winning the war, and satisfy his need to blow rasberries at a purely diabolical figures in the black and white morality play that he calls History, indulges in the favourite indoor sport of amateur historians: what if?

...Britain had capitulated like the French? Now the US, with no European base with which to oppose Hitler, stayed neutral. Then suppose Japan went West instead of East. Russia and Russians may not even exist today. Many, many things went right for Stalin when they could have gone awry.

This kind of fantasy-thinking demonstrates the extent of ideological resistance to Truth.
"What if" questions can easily be turned around to support any ideological agenda. What if Stalin and Hitler had ganged up on W Europe & then turned on E Asia, what if Hitler and Churchill had ganged up on Russia, what if...fill in the blanks.
Counter-factual fairy tales are the mulligans of world-historical inquiry.
These should be forbidden from rational inquiry, as Disney land-history, when you wish upon a star...
Facts are what we deal with here.
Here is a factual argument.
The Red Army won WW II, before the Western Allies had made the Normandy invasion. Stalin was the generalissimo of the Red Army. Therefore Stalin won the war.
After the colossal military massacres of Stalingrad and Kursk the Wermacht was an army facing defeat, which is why the German Generals attempted to assasinate Hitler, and sue for peace with the Allies, in July 1944.
Here is another factual argument.
Around the same time as the Normandy invasion, Operation Overlord, which involved initial landings of 250,000 men, the Red Army was launching another offensive, Operation Bagration, which used about 2,000,000 men. This was an order of magnitude greater force than the Western Alllies. I wonder how many contributors to this thread are aware that this Operation saw the destruction of an entire Army Group (Centre) and was "Hitler's Greatest Defeat"?
Operation Bagration has been correctly described as the German Cannae...despite all Hollywood propaganda highlighting US role in WW Two in defeating Nazi Germany it remains an irrefutable fact of history that...the major battles of the war were won with Russian blood. What the Hollywood films don’t show is a bit unheroic and was described somewhat accurately by a British historian as following, “Soviet Russia did most of the fighting against Germany, sustained nine tenth of the casualties and suffered catastrophic economic losses”

It is true that, had the UK collapsed, it is most likely that the USSR could not have held out against the Wermacht. Thus the UK's "finest hour" was to a hold-out to prevented Allied defeat.
But preventing defeat is not the same as enabling victory. Churchill acknowledged that a series of Dunkirks was not going to defeat the Nazis.
To ensure victory, the Wermacht had to be defeated, all 500 divisions of them. Only the Red Army could do this. And only Stalin had the will, and the skill, to wield the Red Army to the maximum effect necessary. See AlanBrooke's memoir.
As for the US army, it did not prevent Allied defeat by Nazis in the dark days of 1941-2, it was not sufficiently in the game at the time.
Nor did it enable Allied victory in the glory days of 1944-5, the game was almost over by then.
The US army prevented the Red Army from taking over W Europe and adding those nations to the Warsaw Pact. In short, the US military contribution to WW II was the containment of Soviet Russia. The UK was not up to that task.
Normandy was essentially phase I of the Marshall Plan.
This point was understood well by AJP Taylor, the greatest historian of the 20 th C:
“the Americans made great economic gains and had a trifling number of casualties fighting against Germany” and that "Roosevelt was the only one who knew what he was doing: he made the United States the greatest power in the world at virtually no cost

Two cheers for Roosevelt.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at October 14, 2003 at 05:31 PM

Could Stalin have won the war if England continued to play defense and the US put all its forces in the Pacific against Japan?

For that what-if scenario to take place, Germany would have had to either not sign or not honor a certain pact with Japan that called for either signatory to declare war on anyone who declares war on the other signatory. (I read about the agreement in the WWII classic The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.)

Posted by: Alan K. Henderson at October 14, 2003 at 05:54 PM

Jack Strocchi seeks the Truth, is why he searches for good points about Stalin.

Sheer evil is not ameliorated by an evil monster possessing some less-than-evil attributes.

The truth is that Stalin killed millions. His own. Others. His motivations behind any of his other, less-than-evil acts are irrelevant. He holds a door opens for the ladies, he fights a good war. Irrelevant. He killed millions. Relevant.

He was an evil human and should be consigned to the dustbin of history without redemption.

Why? For the reason this story started. Some dumb fuck calls good old Uncle Joe 'hugely misunderstood'.

Hugely misunderstood. And millions upon millions of people are dead and future generations unborn, entire family lines wiped out.

And Jack Strocchi says: 'As for Stalin being worse than Hitler, that is rubbish. In military terms, Hitler's soldiers killed about 10 mill. Russian soldiers, and millions of non-Russian soldiers. Stalin killed only about 2 million German soldiers.'


And Jack Strocchi says: 'You just have to deal with it. Stalin did.'

Posted by: ilibcc at October 14, 2003 at 05:54 PM

ilibcc ties himself up in linguistic knots in attempting to defend his untenable position:

Sheer evil is not ameliorated by an evil monster possessing some less-than-evil

ilibcc implicitly concedes that Stalin had less-than-evil attributes, ie he won WW II.
But he nevertheless insists that Stalin's "Sheer evil is not ameliorated" by this fact.
According to the dictionary, the word "sheer" means:
Free from admixture or adulterants

Either the dictionary or ilibcc is correct.
My money is on the dictionary.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at October 14, 2003 at 06:30 PM

Jack Strocchi you are now splitting hairs. But surely the thrust of my argument is clear.

Either Stalin was an evil monster or he was not an evil monster.

My money is on him being an evil monster not worth saying one thing good about, because people like Ed Asner turn that into 'hugely misunderstood' which is hugely unacceptable.

OK. I will concede he may have been a good military strategist. Sometimes.

Posted by: ilibcc at October 14, 2003 at 07:02 PM

Ok, time for Dinner- Menu, chicken snitzel and vegetables...

Posted by: Scott Wickstein at October 14, 2003 at 07:27 PM

Jack Strocchi

What part of Stalin's military strategy was new?
If Hitler went east first then Russia would have been finished. Lucky Stalin yes, military genius no.
Most of it was due to Hitler's strategic blunders, sheer distance,Russian winter,force of numbers(Russian), and the will of its soldiers.
Only real credit to Stalin is relinquished most of his control and Hitler didn't.

Posted by: Gary at October 14, 2003 at 08:13 PM


Nobody is denying that a murderous dictator, by feeding an almost endless supply of his own soldiers into a meatgrinder, can defeat a an overstretched invading army. The point is you don't get credit for it if you've created the conditions for that invasion. Stalin,

1) Purged his officer corps of his best leaders. The very men he'd need to counter blitzkrieg.
2) Isolated his country diplomatically by invading Finland.
3) Signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler. This guaranteed an invasion of the West. Hitler would have faced a military coup if he tried it without that pact. It's in every account of the lead up to the invasion of Poland.
4) Stabbed Poland in the back by invading her while she was in her death throes. This gave Germany a common border with the USSR outside of Russia's fortifided border.
5) Supplied Germany with raw materials and oil to help fuel Hitler's war machine.
6) Ignored 100 warnings(I checked.it was 100, not 200) from Jan 1st to June 21st that Germany was planning on invading.
7) Carefully garisioned military units, along with their equipment,in a thin crust, along his common border with Germany in hopes of invading Germany after it bogged down in the West. This ensured that there would be no defense in depth to oppose the Germans during the first 4 weeks of Barbarossa.

One final thing, the Kalashnikov rifle wasn't developed until 1947. It was a copy, a very good copy,of the German STG-44 battle rifle.

Posted by: Pete at October 14, 2003 at 10:49 PM

Okay, let's see if we have Mr. "intellectual plane beyond ideology"'s logic down. Stalin murders tens of millions of people at an average "burn rate" only half that of Hitler's, but for four times as long. Ergo Stalin wasn't such a bad egg after all.

This is what you get from reading too much Nietsche.

I'm also curious about the assertion that "the US military contribution to WW II was the containment of Soviet Russia."

I guess the little scuffle in the Pacific doesn't count.

Posted by: Bruce Rheinstein at October 14, 2003 at 11:57 PM


You seem to enjoy making an arse of yourself so I'll give you reason to carry on with The Jack Strocchi show. (The pedantic dictionary thing was pretty sad but not unexpected.)

Had Stalin had above average military command abilities, much less been a military genius, he would have been able to perceive the developing German threat and taken heed of the intelligence flowing to him from domestic and foreign sources. It hardly took a military genius to better the German army given that Stalin: had access to a much larger manpower poll than did Hitler, many of them "expendable" Asians; was provided in excess of US$110 billion (2002 dollars) in military aid by the United States; had several very capable generals to do the real planning; and was facing an increasingly delusional Hitler. His prowess as a military commander is also subject to question based on his employment of "blocking units" to prevent the retreat of Soviet forces, thus producing unnecessary casualties in an effort to halt the advance of the already logistically over-stretched, tired and replacement-short German forces.

Stalin was evil: any positives, for anyone other than Stalin himself, resulting from the Soviet Union’s involvement in WWII, were purely coincidental. Stalin worked to defeat Germany solely in order to perpetuate his position and not in an effort to assist the Allies. Thus ilibcc was correct in describing Stalin as the face of sheer evil in that he did not intend his actions to have positive results for others, it only happened to work out that way.

It is absurd to claim that Hitler was more evil than Stalin because Hitler killed people at a faster rate than did Stalin. Comparing evils of such great magnitude is pointless. However, if anything, Stalin was more evil than Hitler in that Stalin's rise to power and ruthless survival not only encouraged imitators, it made them inevitable. Had Stalin not perpetuated Stalinist communism, ruthless, power-hungry wanna bes – from Mao to Castro to Pol Pot – would not have been able to produce the estimated almost 100 million deaths that are directly attributable to communism. Hitler’s evil pretty much died with him but Stalin’s evil lives on.

Knock yourself out.

Posted by: S Whiplash at October 15, 2003 at 12:23 AM

The simple argument:


The slightly less simple argument:

Look, arguing over whether Stalin (or Hitler for that matter) had any good points is somewhat silly. For instance, Hitler liked dogs. Does that mean he should be made an honorary member of the ASPCA. Should his obituary note the following:

"Hitler, while an admitted hater of all things non-German and the brutal engineer of the most awful machine of death ever known to the world, was also a great lover of animals, a life-long vegetarian and a teetotaler."

In other words, the so-called good points of Hitler and Stalin are somewhat incidental and non-central to their core personalities. Worth noting--yes; worth crediting--no.

Also, as the other commenters have noted far more ably than I, Stalin was as responsible (if not more responsible) than the appeasing West, for Hitler's early successes. At the end of the day, Russia was able to prevail over Germany and contribute to the allies victory despite Stalin's criminal incompetence, not because of it.

Posted by: nc at October 15, 2003 at 01:57 AM

ilibcc applies the Law of Excluded Middle to the complex tragedy of mid-20 th C Euro History in an (invalidl) attempt to refute my ambivalence towards Stalin:

Jack Strocchi you are now splitting hairs. But surely the thrust of my argument is clear. Either Stalin was an evil monster or he was not an evil monster.

The LoEM applies to numbers and discrete, particular logical constucts, not are are complex & fluid entities such as humans. Thus the same man can be a good father, a crooked at business man, and maybe a war-hero.
The thrust of your argument is perfectly clear, and it is not splitting hairs to say that the preponderance of historical evidence indicates that Stalin did humanity one great favour: he got rid of Hitler. Stalin was both an evil monster before and after WWII, and the stand-out heroic leader of the Russian Motherland during WW II.
In politics, actions count over intentions, and morality is the choice of the lesser evil. Unless you are frivolous in your opposition to the (greater evil of) Nazism, you have to concede that Stalin's War was a Good Thing.
This may not fit the cardboard cut-out morality play that you want to impose on History.
Too Bad.
Ambivalence is the essence of ones attitude to humanity, which is why novels are interesting and plays are tragic. That's just the way things were in our crazy, mixed-up world.
In matters relating to Stalin, ilibcc would do well to follow Churchill's rhetorical example:
If Hitler invaded hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at October 15, 2003 at 03:26 AM

What's the "heroic" part? That he was willing to write the death warrants of as many Russian soldiers as needed to preserve his bloody regime, while sucking down vodka and eating caviar throughout the war? Maybe they had to leave off the extra dining car from his personal train during hostilities. Perhaps his supply of American whiskey was interrupted occasionally by the depradations of the U-boats. How heroic of him to endure the hardships imposed on him.

After Hitler and the Japanese General Staff, Stalin is 3rd most culpable for WWII occuring the way it did. he was a mass murderer before WWII, during WWII, and after WWII.

Posted by: Pete at October 15, 2003 at 05:33 AM

Jack, this reminds me of the joke in which a lady who never said a bad word about anyone was asked what she thought about Satan... she thought for a moment and stated...

"we he sure is a persistent fellow"

gee, sorry dude, this is pure MORAL RELATIVISM...

Posted by: alfredo stroessner at October 15, 2003 at 05:47 AM

Jack -

You started out Ok but you lost it somewhere - listen to Pete, he has been pretty much dead on. And by the way Stalin was not unique in his concern about Germany and had no great relevations on them militarily. The only politician of any note anywhere worrying about Germany from the mid thirty's was Churchill - no one else and certainly not STalin. AS to major US corps who owned German companies - most lost touch and control of their operations not too long after Hitler came to power.

Posted by: JEM at October 15, 2003 at 07:50 AM

Pete snatches a single word out of context and uses it to distort my meaning:

Stalin was...stand-out heroic leader of the Russian Motherland during WW II.

It's true that Stalin had it a lot easier than the average Russian citizen. But I intended the comparative term "stand-out" to be relative to the other Allied leaders, who generally served in less-risky environments. (Must remember to SPELL OUT THE IMPLICATIONS OF EVERY POINT IN EASY-TO-READ BLOCK LETTERS, to forstall the inevitable cheap shot.)
Stalin's higher-risk profile should be obvious as both Churchill and Roosevelt were protected by moats and bomb-proof bunkers. Stalin's headquarters, by contrast, were exposed to Manstein's rapid panzer thrusts. In 1941, as the Wermacht avante-garde approached the outer suburbs of Moscow there were signs of panic in the rear, as sections of the Soviet elite made a "great skedaddle" eastwards. Stalin showed some courage, or at least cool nerves, by staying at his post whilst under air, artillery and, potential, panzer attack.
In Moscow, panic breaks out in the citizenry as they learn that Lenin’s tomb has been moved out of the city to prevent it’s capture by the Germans. Stalin decides to stay in the city and this show of confidence steadies the uneasy citizens.

In Animal Farm, Orwell, of all people, pays a form of homage to Napoleon (Stalin) for his courage in standing up to Fredericks (Hitler) in the terrible battle for Manor Farm (Eastern Front).
The animals could not face the terrible explosions and the stinging pellets, and in spite of the efforts of Napoleon and Boxer to rally them, they were soon driven back...The whole of the big pasture, including the windmill, was in the hands of the enemy. For the moment even Napoleon seemed at a loss. He paced up and down without a word, his tail rigid and twitching. Wistful glances were sent in the direction of Foxwood. [UK in 1941?] If Pilkington [Churchill?] and his men would help them, the day might yet be won. But at this moment the four pigeons, who had been sent out on the day before, returned, one of them bearing a scrap of paper from Pilkington. On it was pencilled the words: "Serves you right." [Second Front delayed] Meanwhile Frederick [Hitler] and his men had halted about the windmill...Two of the men had produced a crowbar and a sledge hammer. They were going to knock the windmill down.
"Impossible!" cried Napoleon. "We have built the walls far too thick for that. They could not knock it down in a week. Courage, comrades!"
But Benjamin was watching the movements of the men intently..."I thought so," he said. "Do you not see what they are doing? In another moment they are going to pack blasting powder into that hole."...Then there was a deafening roar. The pigeons swirled into the air, and all the animals, except Napoleon, flung themselves flat on their bellies and hid their faces...At this sight the animals' courage returned to them.

So Hitler praised Stalin's military skill.
And Orwell praised Stalin's political courage.
Not bad accolades for Stalin from his worst enemies.
And none of my disputants have dealt with the (private) pro-Stalin, or Stalin-respecting comments made by Churchill, Alan Brooke, Roosevelt and Zhukov.
But then, what would they know, they only planned, managed and executed the war.
Still not convinced?
Why not listen to Henry Luce, the most strident anti-communist of all time fer Crissake, who made Stalin Man of the Year twice. It's worth quoting at length from Luce's 1942 citation for Stalin:
Only Joseph Stalin fully knew how close Russia stood to defeat in 1942, and only Joseph Stalin fully knew how he brought Russia through.
But the whole world knew what the alternative would have been. The man who knew it best of all was Adolf Hitler, who found his past accomplishments turning into dust.
Had German legions swept past steel-stubborn Stalingrad and liquidated Russia's power of attack, Hitler would have been not only man of the year, but he would have been undisputed master of Europe, looking for other continents to conquer. He could have diverted at least 250 victorious divisions to new conquests in Asia and Africa. But Joseph Stalin stopped him. Stalin had done it before--in 1941--when he started with all of Russia intact. But Stalin's achievement of 1942 was far greater. All that Hitler could give he took--for the second time.

It doesn't get any better than that, does it?
Were all these folks fools, knaves or liars compared to the moral exemplars and towering intellects presenting the contrary view on this thread?
Regarding rational grounds for dispute, does anyone out there have the faintest idea of the facts, or is ideological axe grinding the immediate priority. And do any of my disputants intend to rely on honest argument or is it all going to depend on personal abuse?
Just curious.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at October 15, 2003 at 08:13 AM

Jack can quote whoever he wants; nothing is going to change the fact that Stalin simply did what he had to do to stay in power. (It is worth noting that neither Stalin nor Hitler visited the front, not once.)

Posted by: S Whiplash at October 15, 2003 at 09:52 AM

If you mean a willingness to stand on a bigger pile of bodies(military, civilian) than your opponent makes you a stand-out hero, than I guess in comparision to Hitler, Stalin was.

Since history is written by the victors and the entire Soviet Union was steeped in a cult of personality with Comrade Stalin being it's benefactor, I guess he would be the "stand-out heroic leader of the Russian Motherland during WW II". If I had to pick a stand out Soviet hero it would be Sergei Zhukov. His massive defeat of the Japanese in Manchuria persuaded them not to help the Germans. His defense of Moscow during Operation Typhoon, his encirclement of 6th Army at Stalingrad and his conquering of Berlin in 1945 are all outstanding accomplishments.


Other than claiming others success as his own and blaming others for his mistakes, what exactly did Stalin do during WWII? Read my earlier post containing the bullet points. He lead his country into a war that it was ill equipped to fight. The only reason that the Soviet Union survived was the decision by Hitler to turn Guderian's and Hoth's panzers south to encircle Kiev. At the end of July they were sitting 200 miles from Moscow. There was nothing sitting between them and Moscow. By the end of August Moscow would have fallen. All of the railroads in European Russia ran through Moscow. Without the ability to quickly switch reinforcements, the defense of Leningrad and the Ukraine becomes intenable and both would have soon fallen.

Whether Stalin would have stayed to the bitter end in Moscow if it came to that. There is an airfield 5 minutes from the Kremlin by subway named Klodinka. I'm pretty sure it could have been utilized for it's intended purpose if Stalin needed it.

Finally, Manstein never participated in Operation Typhoon. After his masterful panzer thrust towards Leningrad, he was promoted to the command of 11th Army. His role was to conquer the Crimea and the port/fortress city of Sevastopal(Sp?).

Posted by: Pete at October 15, 2003 at 10:08 AM


Congratulations. You are the first to make an attempt at rational argument on Stalin pro & con.
Still, your conclusion, Stalin was a relatively poor military-political commander, is wrong.
There is no point going back over the series and direction of Stalin's several military decisions, to second-guess each and every "heat of battle" move from the omniscience of hinsight. That is too easy - I can beat Karparov at chess in that case.
Sure, anyone can point to this and that mistake made by Stalin in his conduct of the war, but that is irrelevant. Everyone makes mistakes, and when the main force of the Wermacht hurls itself at your throat, most commanders make lots of mistakes. Ask French, Foch, Brusilov, Gort, Weynaud etc.
So it is a waste of time compiling a shopping list of Stalin's military errors:

  • 1) Purged his officer corps of his best leaders. 

  • 2) Isolated his country diplomatically 

  • 3) Signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler.

  • 4) Stabbed Poland in the back 

  • 5) Supplied Germany with raw materials 

  • 6) Ignored warnings of German invasion

  • 7) Garrisoned defence units in a thin crust

These may or may not have been good moves, perhaps they were inept, or perhaps they were part of the Big Picture that you, who were not there at the time, and who do not have useful expericence to judge, are misssing.
In fact, most of Stalin's devious pre-war political moves were bought on by the failure of Western leaders to take Stalin's advice that Hitler was the greatest threat. Western appeasement predated Soviet appeasement. Only Churchill in Opposition had the sense to agree with Stalin, but the other Western leaders ignored him. This account rather vindicates Stalin's general attitude, (although one may quibble with the execution of Plan B, taking over Finland, Poland etc, to establish a buffer zone b/w Russia and Prussia - the same Plan that the Russians stuck to after the war):
Stalin supported the Popular Front government in Spain...Stalin became increasingly concerned that the Soviet Union would be invaded by Germany. Stalin believed the best way to of dealing with Adolf Hitler was to form an anti-fascist alliance with countries in the west. Stalin argued that even Hitler would not start a war against a united Europe.
Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, was not enthusiastic about forming an alliance with the Soviet Union...Winston Churchill, an outspoken critic of British foreign policy, agreed with Stalin: "There is no means of maintaining an eastern front against Nazi aggression without the active aid of Russia. Russian interests are deeply concerned in preventing Herr Hitler's designs on eastern Europe. It should still be possible to range all the States and peoples from the Baltic to the Black sea in one solid front against a new outrage of invasion. Such a front...may yet confront Hitler, Goering, Himmler, Ribbentrop, Goebbels and co. with forces the German people would be reluctant to challenge.

Rerunning the tape of history and then inserting one's preferred edits is not a fair way to judge a leader's ability. The only way to determine whether a commander is effective or not is to see if other, comparable, forces achieved superior results in similar circumstances.
The proof of my Stalin-won-the-war thesis is through social and historical comparison. Against the onslaught of the main force of the Wermacht, all the other comparable forces failed the supreme test:
  • Contemporary Social: In WW II, all other Allied armies, facing Blitzkriegs, collapsed within months

  • National Historical: In WWI, the Russian Armies, facing a force about one third the size of Hitler's, collapsed after three years

Wherein lay Stalin's particular military genius?
An old saying: Intellectuals talk strategy, lietenants talk tactics, but generals talk logistics.
The Eastern Front War was a logistical challenge without precedent. Stalin proved up to the challenge. He made two colossal logistical moves that proved decisive in determining the outcome, shifting the bulk of Russian:

  • heavy industry Eastwards, out of reach of Wermacht attacks

  • Siberian Army Westwards, to repel Wermacht attacks at a crtitical time

To win the War (not just avoid defeat) the German Army (not people) had to be ANIHILATED (they rarely surrender).
Who crushed the Wermacht?
The Red Army inflicted 80% of military casualities suffered by the German military.
Who commanded the Red Army?
Generalissimo Stalin, a totalitarian dictator who ran everyting in Soviet Russia (Big Brother, remember?)
The top historical experts (Ericson, Taylor) agree with the conclusions of the actual principals (Churchill, Roosevelt, Alan Brook) that Stalin's leadership was the key to military victory.
It is time that disputants to these evident facts showed some honesty towards the brute facts of History and some modesty towards the evalutations of it's Key Players.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at October 15, 2003 at 07:46 PM

whiplash thingks he knows a thing or two about how to defeat the main force of the German Army, which was the dymamic behind the Holocaust of 20 th C history:

It hardly took a military genius to better the German army

Who died and made whiplash Chief of Staff?
Excuse me splitting my sides with supressed laughter, but I doubt that he could have done better.
Tell me, why have so many other highly-regarded military professionals, eg French, Gort, failed to "get the better of the German Army"?
And what makes whiplash a military genius to sit in judgement of them. My bet is that he has never:

  • attended a military Staff college

  • commanded a formation of troops in battle

Yet he sits in judgement of them, and belittles them, worse, denigrates the one guy who did he job.
As Stove says, in another context, this is an absurd bluff posture, rather like a frog puffing itself up to intimidate a man.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at October 15, 2003 at 07:57 PM


Your argument seems to boil down to this: Since the Soviet Union prevailed, no matter at what cost to itself, no matter what criminally stupid mistakes Stalin made, and he was Leader of the Soviet Union at that time, Stalin was a responsible for that victory.

Those six points that I brought up were decisions that Stalin made that drew war to his border, made war more likely, and made the Soviet Union's struggle to overcome the German Army more difficult.

As to 80% figure that the Soviets faced, you can make the case that without the 20% of German forces being tied down in Norway, France, North Africa, Greece, Yugoslavia, and the Benelux countries that Russia would have fallen. It was Britain, hanging on by a thread, that accomplished that.

You write of two decisions that you claim to be decisive that Stalin made. The first, that heavy industry was moved east, is mostly propaganda. Vast amounts of Soviet industry were surrendered to the advancing Germans. Their entire power grid, coal production, and mineral wealth were exploited by the Germans. The second, to move the Armies facing the Japanese in Manchuria to the European theater, were only made because Russian spys in the American government reading Japanese signal traffic reported that the Japanese would not invade. The Japanese refused to invade because of the drubbing given them by Zhukov.

Did Stalin sign every order for tank shells? Did he do quality control on every mortar rounds? Did he check every manifest for every piece of military equipment shipped by the Soviets in WWII? NO, NO, NO! You ascribe the desperate struggle for survival by the Soviet people, the valiant work they did to overcome the criminal stupiidty of their own leadership, and blithely hand it over to the blood stained hands of a murderous tyrant. The Soviet Union survived despite Stalin, not because of him.

Posted by: Pete at October 15, 2003 at 10:59 PM


Good try at a hatchet job. Why is it that we are no longer discussing whether or not Stalin was the personification of sheer evil? Also, it’s very impressive that you repeatedly insert quotes from luminaries to try to prove that because you have adopted their views you are their equal.

You are correct in assuming that I am not a military strategist and have not commanded troops in combat. During my six years in the USN I was an officer in the Supply Corps. Oh well, Stalin had neither military training nor combat command experience and you claim him to be a military genius.

The German army command felt that the army was not prepared for war with France much less with Russia. The navy was also ill prepared for prolonged combat – the surface navy was a joke and even the submarine service had nowhere near the number of boats it felt it needed. The airforce was in a similar state. If Hitler had done his homework he would have waited until his military was properly equipped, England would have been taken and he would have been able to concentrate Germany’s military forces against Russia. The easy defeat of France gave Hitler and his generals a rush of blood but when Britain wasn’t defeated – how were German forces meant to get across the Channel? – and didn’t sue for peace, Hitler should have held fast. Rather than lose momentum Hitler then went ahead with his widely known plan to invade Russia. But, the German military wasn’t ready - too many light, small gunned agile but vulnerable tanks that didn't pack much of a punch - and were especially unprepared for a prolonged war with Russia. No strategic bombers and not enough transport planes. The men and equipment weren’t prepared for winter combat. Logistics were a nightmare with incompatible railway gauges proving a particular hindrance to the efficient movement of men and materiel over long distances.

It quickly become evident that Germany v Russia would be a fight to the death. Some Russians, but mostly non-Russian, welcomed the Germans but the vast majority rallied to Stalin rather than to the devil they didn’t know. The Russians were highly motivated to fight for their survival. The German forces were not so highly motivated to fight a war of expansion.

In any event, Hitler ordered a strategic pause in operations. The Russians regrouped and consolidated their positions and winter hit. The German army was now fighting a two-front war, had occupied huge areas to its east and west (with equally huge local populations to keep an eye on), was hindered by cold weather and faced a highly motivated Russian army – augmented by far eastern divisions when it became obvious that Japan would have its hands full with the US.

From the point where the German army became bogged down, it was virtually certain that Russia would not be defeated. Russia had a huge manpower and natural resource advantage over Germany. Once the US began to supply billions of dollars worth of materiel it became a virtual certainty that Russia would win. When it got rolling the Russian military, with its more than adequate supply of men and materiel, could afford to de daring and profligate. However, daring and profligance should not be confused with strategic brilliance: Hitler too had shown daring and profligance but he was no military strategist either.

Sorry that I haven’t thrown in any quotes from notables; I’m doing this off the top of my head.

Posted by: S Whiplash at October 16, 2003 at 01:43 AM

Rheinstein rightly chastises me for failing to acknowledge the US Navy's efforts in defeating Japanese imperialism in WW II

I guess the little scuffle in the Pacific doesn't count.

I am sorry. We were focusing on the Euro theatre, who was the better war lord, who was the more evil dictator. The US Navy (subs) that deserve the credit for victory in the Pacific theatre against the Japanese Imperial forces.
But whiel we are on the subject, will Rheinstein give some credit to the Chinese forces, Nationalist and COmmunuist (Mao!) for holding down the bulk of the Japanese army? Like Britain aginst Germany, they prevented Japanese victory.
Again though, it was the Red Army that achieved Victory against main land forces of the Japanese Kwantang Army in Manchuria. The Red Army wiped it out inside a month in a campaign that is still regarded as a classic by (US) military professionals:
In his effort to ensure Soviet supremacy in the Northern Pacific and North Asiancontinent, Stalin agreed to enter the war against Japan soon after Hitler's defeat. The Soviet Army began an impressiveredeployment from Europe to the Far East under strict security measures...Achieving tactical and strategic surprise, the Soviets launched a classic double envelopment along the Manchurian border on 9 August 1945. Advancing under the cover of darkness and pouring rain, the Soviets advanced along three axes covering a frontage of more than 3000 miles. Using armor-heavy forward detachments and displaying flexibility, audacity and initiative at all levels, the Soviets crushed what opposition the Japanese afforded and achieved impressive advances along what the Japanese considered to be untrafficable terrain...The Manchurian campaign was characterized by its gigantic scale, use of large formations and extensive employment of amphibious and airborne troops. As Raymond Garthoff stated, "to mount such a campaignafter being bled for four years in Europe represented a major" achievement.

Regarding the subject of which dictator, Hitler or Stalin, was the lesser evil, Rheinstein has a stab at figuring, but loses himself in a fog of fuzzy math:
Okay, let's see if we have Mr. "intellectual plane beyond ideology"'s logic down. Stalin murders tens of millions of people at an average "burn rate" only half that of Hitler's, but for four times as long. Ergo Stalin wasn't such a bad egg after all.

First off, I want to refutate Rheinstein's calumnies against me. He engages in a blatantly false characterisation of my view of Stalin, and it is easy to catch him red-handed doing this. I did not say that Stalin wasn't such a bad egg after all". I said that Stalin was "nasty tyrant" who "did very bad things"
I explicitly focused on comparing apples with apples, the relativities between Hitler's (mainly death-camp) Stalags (eg Auschwitz) and Stalin's (mainly labour-camp) Gulags (eg Solovki).
In civilian terms, Hitler's Stalags killed about 10 mill civilians over a five year period. Stalin's Gulags, and state-enforced famines, killed about 10 mill.-20 mill. civlinans tops, but over a 20 year period.

(emphasis added to assist comprehension)
But isnt't Rheistein forgetting something else about Hitler's mass-homocidal activities? A little thing like the in-the-field military phase Hitler's World Warring activities appears to have escaped Rheinstein's elevated notice. Given that the decision to wage agressive war against the whole of Europe was a war-crime it is fair to add these casualties to Hitlers bill:
These numbers only include outright murders, but keep in mind that some 18M civilians and 17M soldiers died in the European War. That's 35,000,000 deaths which can probably be blamed on Hitler to one extent or another.

Stalin's gross democidal atrocities, famines, collectivisation, wars, executions and mass-deportations, were significantly lower:
Of the 15 estimates of the total number of victims of Stalin, the median is 30 million.
So to summarise the score:
Stalin: 30 mill/30 yrs = 1 mill pa.
Hitler: 35 mill/12 yrs = 3 mill pa.
Hitler per tempo, was three times worse than Stalin. He was the Greateer Evil.
I am not a fan of Stalin's mode of civil governance. I think that Kerensky would have been better than Lenin and Bukharin better than Stalin.
But it is no use crying over spilt milk.
Neither Kerensky or Bukharin would have stood a chance against the Wermacht. Only a blood thirsty tyrant could have beaten Hitler.
The conclusion is inescapable: Stalin was the lesser evil than Hitler, and only Stalin could have beaten Hitler. If, from 1941-45, you want to minimise global evil, the right thing to do was to conditinally support Stalin. And that was what was done.
I should not have to state this bleeding obvious fact, but I did not realise that your mind was wandering as you were attempted to scale my Olympian heights of detachment.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at October 16, 2003 at 10:36 AM

Pete tries, valiantly, to deny Stalin the credit for being the leader of the winning side in WWII:

The Soviet Union survived despite Stalin, not because of him

He is half-right. The Soviet Union defeated the Wermancht in spite, and because, of Stalin. Pointing to the massive casualties suffered by the Red Army and Russian people does not prove that Stalin was a poor commander. THe bulk of these casualties were caused by Nazi war crimes, which were not Stalin's fault (were the Jews to blame for the Holocaust?)
Stalin's good moves outweighed his mistakes, proved by the:

  • brute stats of Red Army's victory (inflicted 80% of Wermacht casualties)

  • the poor comparative record, and massive casualties suffered, by other commanders against the Wermacht (Tsar in WWI, West in first phase of WWII)

  • positive judgement of all Stalin's peers

I agree with Pete on one point:
Stalin was a responsible for that victory.

That's what leaders are for.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at October 16, 2003 at 10:51 AM


Thank you for conceding. It's very big of you. You've stopped refuting my point that Stalin was not personally responsible for the Soviet Union defeating Nazi Germany and are reduced to quoting me out of context to bolster your unsubstantiated arguments. In the future, you should try starting from a position that is more easily defended. Stalin = Hero is not a winning argument.

Posted by: Pete at October 16, 2003 at 03:24 PM

Pete thinks that I have conceded defeat.
Ummm, he seems to have been taking debating lessons from the the only flesh-wounded Black Knight in Monty Python's Holy-Grail.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at October 16, 2003 at 10:16 PM

The quote by Ed Asner was wrong, and the original writer, Kevin McCullough, has retracted it:
What Ed Asner said was a perfectly reasonable thing for any actor to say: this is an interesting part and I think I could do it.

Posted by: David Blue at October 17, 2003 at 12:53 AM

It's nice to see a short post from Jack when he usually blazes away like a blind mand with a machine gun hoping to hit some target, any target.

Having done some research it's obvious that not even Stalin could have lead Russia to defeat.

Stalin did order vital industries to be moved to the east but that's about all he did that was beneficial. He ignored obvious signs that Germany was about to attack. Some of his best divisions were left within easy reach of the initial German thrust. He refused to allow these divisions to retreat and regroup. When the offensive started the Russians had overwhelming weapons superiority:seven to one in tanks and four or five to one in aircraft. The Germans used 3,580 tanks, 7,184 artillery pieces and 2,740 aircraft in their attack on Russia. In comparison, the Russians employed 6,250 tanks, 7,560 aircraft and 41,600 artillery pieces in their attack on Berlin. Stalin's movement of far-eastern forces to the west was no master stroke, he moved them when it became obvious that Japan no longer posed a threat.

The Germans relied heavily on horse-drawn transport. Goering was incompetent and had no strategic bombers. Hitler assumed that initial victories guaranteed overall victory and switched military production from army to naval and air force needs.Tank production slowed to 1/3 of original targets. When the tide turned in Russia's favour Hitler prohibited withdrawal, thus limiting the ability of commander to manoeuver. Defensive battles over the winter cost the Germans 31.4% of their forces in the east.Had Hitler courted anti-Stalinists he could have greatly improved the German position, instead, locals had no choice but to rally to Stalin. Of the parts of 153 divisions available in the east at the start of the German offensive many were of questionable quality: 12 Romanian,2 Finnish, 3 hungarian and 3 Slovakian; 3 Italian and 1 Spanish divisions were brought in later as reinforcements. The Germans were effectively quaranteened by allied forces and were fighting a two-front war. And lets not forget that the Russians got a great deal of materiel support from the US.

A drover's dog might not have been able to lead the Russians to victory but only an idiot could have lead them to defeat. Give it up Jack, you wouldn't have a clue.

Posted by: S Whiplash at October 17, 2003 at 01:25 AM