Thursday, March 16, 2017
THE CHIEF CULPRIT: STALIN’S GRAND DESIGN
TO START WORLD WAR II (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008, paperback.2013)
By VIKTOR SUVOROV
Rev by Hugh Murray
Many works may be labeled “revisionist history,” and though many revise minor details about minor characters and incidents, Suvorov’s does not fall into that category. When you read his book, it challenges your view of what you have been told about the history of the 20th century. It is like reading Mark Lane’s critique of the Warren Commission’s conclusions that Lee Oswald was the lone gunman who assassinated Pres. John Kennedy in 1963. Until Lane’s and a few other books, most Americans accepted the official version of events. After Lane, most Americans have been skeptical, and not only about the murders in Dallas, but about many official government explanations of events.
Much of 20th century history revolves around the events of the two world wars. WWI strained all the combatant nations, but the Czarist Empire was the first to falter. A moderate revolution occurred, but Russia remained in the war. With Germany’s help, Lenin and other Bolsheviks were allowed to travel from neutral Switzerland through Germany to Russia. The Bolsheviks demanded “Peace” and “Land” for the peasants, and in November the Reds successfully staged a coup. Kerensky’s liberal democratic regime lacked defenders. Somehow Lenin was able to stall peace talks while trying to solidify power, creating institutions which would consolidate the Bolshevik dictatorship – the Cheka (the secret, political police), and the Red Army, whose first chief was the intellectual Leon Trotsky.
On 30 August 1918 a young woman shot Lenin, but he remained the dominant figure of the regime. Not the only figure, however. In the civil wars against the “whites,” there were conflicts among Communists on how best to fight and where to do so. The attempt of the Red Army to reconquer Imperial Warsaw and Poland for the new Communist state failed (some state Stalin withheld reserves at a crucial point from Tukhachevski, who was then leading the Red assault on the West. Poland, with French aid, remained free (until 1939).
In the battle for Tsaritsyn, the industrial city on the Volga, 1919-20, Trotsky thought it best to receive help against the whites from Czarist officers who were willing to serve the Red Army. Stalin disagreed. When Stalin discovered these officers were all on a boat in the river, he had the boat sunk, eliminating the Czarist officers. Trotsky, founder of the Red Army, saw how his orders were already being flouted by Stalin in 1920, but as the Reds won the battle, Stalin became the hero. In 1925 the city would be named for its hero – Stalingrad. Later, Stalin would plan the assault that would bring his homeland, Georgia, from independence back into the Russian fold, by then, the Soviet fold.
Lenin suffered a stroke on 25 May 1922, and Suvorov notes that Stalin already held sufficient power that he could isolate the invalided Lenin. Stalin may not have yet grasped total power, but he was already the strongest among equals, and his position grew even stronger with the death of Lenin in January 1924.
Suvorov contends that Stalin, like many other Bolsheviks, believed that the Communists needed Germany and the West to join the Communist cause. Of course, he was not alone in this belief, and in 1918-19 there were Communist uprisings in Germany and Hungary. While the Spartacist revolt of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg in Berlin was quickly crushed shortly after New Year’s 1919, Communists staged more successful revolts in Hungary and Bavaria. Bela Kun led the Red revolt in Hungary, and he aimed for his army to defeat enemies in the countryside and link up with the new Russian Bolshevik state. Similarly, in winter-spring 1919 a Bavarian Soviet Republic was proclaimed in Munich, and its leaders hoped to link with Hungary and Russia. But not all Bavarians were sympathetic to the new soviet republic. Its leader, Kurt Eisner, was quickly assassinated on 21 February 1919. A History Channel program showed a film of those marching in the funeral procession on behalf of Eisner, the Jewish Marxist who had led the new government. One, a representative of his army soviet, was Adolf Hitler. (Suvorov does not mention this, but it lends plausibility to Suvorov’s thesis concerning the November 1923 attempted coup in Bavaria.) By spring’s end, the Bavarian Soviet Republic was overturned, and Bavaria became one of the centers of reaction in Weimar Germany.
The Bolshevik regime was fighting not only the “whites” of Russia, but the anti-Communist intervention by nations like Japan and the US in eastern Siberia, and by France in Poland, and the British around Archangel, and in the Baltic, and by both in the Black Sea. Because the leading capitalist nations were literally at war against the Communists, the Reds took steps to counter and dispel the threat. So the Russian Communist government established the Communist International, aiming to set up Communist parties in all nations (both above ground, and secret underground parties all over the world). The Comintern would coordinate policy so all were in step. The Comintern was meant to fulfill the admonition of Marx in the Manifesto – “Workers, you have nothing to lose but your chains. Workers of all nations, unite!”
Suvorov is right in showing how much the Communists spent in trying to promote revolution in Germany. This was not simply a decision of Stalin, but of many leaders at that time, including Trotsky. What is interesting – though not necessarily convincing – is Suvorov’s interpretation of the Communist backed coup in Germany in 1923. The Comintern sent many leaders to Germany to promote this revolutionary putsch, including Bela Kun (in Red Russia after the failure of the Hungarian revolution.) The Comintern had decided that the German revolution must appear to be indigenous, not simply following Moscow’s orders. The Communists had even chosen November 9, the anniversary of the Russian “October” Revolution (according to the new calendar). But on the day selected, there was no Communist uprising in Germany. However, there was an attempted putsch, and even a military headquarters was seized by rebels under Ernst Roehm, but the government’s military suppressed the rebellion and arrested the leader of the putsch, Adolf Hitler. Suvorov maintains the putsch was a joint operation between Nazis and Communists. With its failure and his arrest, Hitler changed tactics. He decided he would henceforth seek power, not by coup, but through the democratic process, using his skills as orator and politician. In prison Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, and Suvorov thinks it was read by Stalin, who approved the German’s determination to scrap the Versailles Treaty and seek revenge against the French. Was there collaboration between Communists and Nazis in the 1923 putsch? The German orator who had marched in support of the fallen Bavarian Soviet Jewish leader in 1919? Surely there was such collaboration later during the Weimar era, but Suvorov’s theory of 1923 is interesting speculation.
The 1920s continued with continuing failures to overthrow the Weimar Republic, and general failure to expand world revolution. Inside the USSR, Stalin strengthened his grip. To isolate some of his internal enemies, two slogans competed, “International Revolution,” and “Socialism in One Country.” While Trotsky was identified with the former, Stalin , with the latter. To survive as a socialist state in a hostile, capitalist world, Stalin pushed for massive industrialization. The compromises of the New Economic Plan were scrapped, and the Ukraine, breadbasket of Europe, would now provision the foods for the 5-Year Plans – or else. When most successful farmers were reluctant to provide their crops to the government for low or no prices, they were portrayed as greedy, rich, enemies of the people, enemies of industrialization, etc. They were deemed kulaks, and all their crops, their seeds, their farm animals confiscated. They were left to starve or freeze; many were rounded up on freight trains and transported to Siberia with few belongings. There they could starve or freeze or both. There was even some cannibalism. Farms were collectivized under appropriate party-member leadership. Up to 5 million Ukrainians died due to these murderous policies. This would evince an appropriate response by the committed – “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” Up to 5 million non-eggs. On the bright side, Walter Duranty of the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for his reporting on events in the USSR – there was some hunger, but no starvation.
Meanwhile, through the 1920s and early 30s, Germany, crippled by the Versailles Treaty had a small professional army, smaller than that of most of its neighbors. To evade provisions of that treaty, German pilots (Germany was not permitted to have an airforce) were allowed to train in the USSR. Similarly, German military leaders were permitted to hold maneuvers with tanks in the Soviet Union (again Versailles denied Germans the right to have tanks.) Many general works of history explain this simply as the mutual interest of the two leading rogue nations of that era. Suvorov places a different spin on the issue: Stalin, harking back to Lenin: the way to expand Communism in the West was through another major war. The best way to promote a new war was to encourage Germany by stressing the injustice of Versailles. Suvorov thinks Stalin read Mein Kampf and believed that the German orator might start the war that the Communists judged necessary to spark world revolution. Thus, Stalin permitted German pilots and tankers and military maneuvers on Soviet soil. It was more than the common interest of 2 rogue nations; one sought to destroy the Versailles Treaty; the other sought WWII. It was 2 nations with partial common interests.
Strangely, Suvorov paints a successful portrait of Stalin’s Soviet Union. Oh, perhaps 5 million starved (but they were just kulaks), and ever more were engulfed in slavery (or death) in gulags, but the Soviet Union advanced. Thanks to their faith in the international communist movement, throughout the world, Suvorov concludes: “In the 1920s Soviet intelligence became the most powerful intelligence network in the world.”(p. 7) I suspect that the British organizations, representing the Empire that controlled a quarter of the globe, was still number one, but the idealism that the new communist movement inspired, surely made the Soviet’s spy net one of the most far reaching.
With the Great Depression beginning in 1929, the great nations of the West suffered ever higher unemployment and economic collapse. Although some Western corporations negotiated deals with the Soviets, and the Fabian Socialists Beatrice and Sidney Webb wrote their glowing paean to Soviet Civilization, and though Stalin had starved millions to industrialize and build socialism in one country, what was being produced in that new civilization? Soviet newspapers and media continually printed congratulatory reports of increased production of this and that. But consumer items seemed as scarce as ever.
Suvorov provides an answer in many chapters to Stalin’s industrialization – they were producing everything for the military. With the help of spies in the West in some cases; and in others by using plans and blueprints of corporations doing business with the USSR, Soviet scientists and engineers were told to use these as a basis and improve upon them. In some cases, the Soviet scientists and engineers had been arrested; they were given an ultimatum – improve on these by a given date or else. Back to the gulag? Worse? Or, if mission accomplished, “freedom” in the Soviet society. Suvorov writes that by the early 1930s the Soviets were already producing the best tanks in the world; by the mid-30s, the best strategic bombers; the best howitzers, the best this and that military hardware.
Suvorov relates how Stalin vacillated on whether he should develop and mass produce the heavy strategic bombers. A few models were produced, and they could fly higher, with more bombs than any other bomber of the era. Mass produced, it would surely provide the USSR with a major advantage in case of war, destroying enemy cities, bridges, infrastructure, and industrial targets. But did Stalin really want to destroy the cities and facilities of the enemy? Would it not be better to capture than to destroy them? And for this task a different kind of plane was better suited – a plane to be used in a surprise attack, a lighter plane with less weight for defense, one that would be stationed near the border with the aim to destroy the enemy’s aircraft (preferably on the ground during the surprise attack), and then aid the oncoming surprise attack of tanks and infantry where possible, flying low shooting and bombing enemy military targets. Suvorov compares the Soviet planes developed for such a surprise attack with those developed independently by the Japanese for their surprises of December 1941.
Suvorov contends that the 1939 negotiations between the USSR and the West regarding Poland were NOT inconsequential. In those talks, in August the Soviets got one crucial piece of information from the West – that Britain and France would go to war if Hitler invaded Poland. With this assurance, Stalin then seemingly reversed policy. He broke off talks with the West, and quickly signed the non-aggression pact with Hitler. On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland, and both Britain and France declared war. But 2 weeks later, on 17 September when the Soviets invaded Poland from the east as part of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, the West did not declare war on the Soviet Union. Only Hitler was condemned as the aggressor.
Why did the West declare war only on Germany? Wasn’t the USSR equally at fault? Equally an aggressor? Though Suvorov does not state this, I suspect one reason the West treated Germany differently was that Germany was viewed as a greater threat. The USSR was seen as weak, even unworthy of a war declaration.
In October 1939 after the division of Poland, the Soviets issued a demand on Finland for an “exchange” of territory. The Soviets would give the Finns a large area of wasteland, and in return, the Finns would give the USSR the smaller, but essential area that included most of the nation’s defenses, the Karelian Isthmus. The Finns rejected the swap. On 26 November 1939 the Soviets alleged that 7 artillery shells were shot into their territory from Finland, and the “Winter War” began.
“The whole world was shocked by the unbelievable weakness of the Red Army. The giant Soviet Union could not take care of Finland whose population was… slightly more than 3.5 million. All around the world newspapers were filled with… reports of the Soviet Union’s utter lack of readiness for any war, no matter how small.”(140) Suvorov notes that some of the media so shocked by the Soviet’s weakness, were Stalin’s organs.(144)
“On March 13, 1940 the war… ended. The war lasted 105 days… The Soviet Union received the Karelian Isthmus… but Finland kept its independence.”(140) In April 1940 Stalin made demands on 3 Baltic nations, and each surrendered without firing a shot. In June 1940 the Soviets marched into parts of Romania, again without opposition. After Finland, the West paid little attention to these aggressions by the Soviets because at the same time – in the spring and summer of 1940 – Hitler’s forces rolled through Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, and finally, France. Romania’s Northern Bukovina province seemed far less important in the news of the West. But Stalin’s move in Romania was a shock to Hitler, for suddenly Soviet forces were posing a mortal threat to Germany’s chief source of oil.
The traditional view is that Stalin mismanaged his Red Empire – starving its citizens, and purging real or imagined dissidents. His efforts failed the Republic of Spain against the Franco Falange. His troops invaded Poland, but only after Hitler’s Wehrmacht had blitzed and conquered Warsaw and the larger cities. The Red Army merely mopped up in eastern Poland after the Germans had pulverized the Poles. Stalin’s attack on Finland was a fiasco, a staggering giant against a tiny David.
Meanwhile, Hitler conquered in a few months what had eluded the Kaiser for 4 years in WWI – the Germans occupied Paris, and the new leader of France promised to collaborate with Germany in making a Neuropa. To Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, Hitler was the chief threat. Despite peace feelers from the Reich, Churchill continued the war, even shelling the ships of his former ally, France, killing over 1,000 French sailors in an unprovoked attack. Many in defeated France were so outraged by the British attack, they wanted France to declare war on Britain.
Stalin’s “peaceful” march into parts of Romania wakened Hitler to the threat to his oil. When the Soviets took Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, Hitler realized he had a deadly threat at his back. Suvorov argues that the threat was even greater than the oil, for the Reich was also dependent for high-grade iron ore from northern Sweden, shipped from the port of Lulea, which had to sail along the long Finish coast of the Gulf of Bothnia to the Baltic and then Germany. The Winter War had left that naval traffic vulnerable to possible Soviet naval and submarine attack.
Suvorov asks why did not Stalin shove all the way to the Romanian oil fields in summer 1940. Or, after achieving the hard part of defeating the Finns and breaching the Mannerheim Line, then shove into the Baltic and halt the ore shipments from Sweden to Germany? Such actions would have deprived Germany of essential military supplies. Had Stalin seized those areas, which in the case of Romania would have been quite easy for him to do, Hitler would have had to sue for peace with Britain. Without oil and good ore, Hitler’s war machine would come to a halt. Suvorov’s point is that Stalin did not want peace in Europe at that time. Keep Hitler supplied, keep the war fueled, until Stalin was ready to make his play. The summer of 1940 was too soon. Let the European fascists and the Western imperialists continue to war against and weaken each other.
Suvorov’s thesis is that Stalin had built the Soviet Union into a major military power and it was nearing the point of conquering – no “liberating” – all of Europe, and perhaps the entire world. Yes, Stalin had purged his military leadership in 1937, but Marshall Tukhachevski was too ignorant to lead the Red Army into world dominance. He may have been excellent at terrorizing dissidents, but more was now required. True, the Soviets failed to save Republican Spain, but Germany and Italy were much closer to the war, and the best the Soviets could do was impose Communist discipline (and terror) on the anti-fascist forces.
In 1939 Japan and its “ally” Manchukuo had border skirmishes with the USSR and its “ally” Mongolia. On 19 August 1939 (a few days before the signing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact), Zhukov called Stalin telling him everything was in place for a sneak attack on the Japanese. Suvorov writes, Zhukov reported “the main goal had been reached,…, that the Japanese did not suspect an impending attack. Stalin gave his final approval, and Zhukov crushed the Japanese 6th Army. Zhukov conducted a brilliantly sudden, quick and audacious operation. The lightening speed defeat of the Japanese 6th Army was a prelude to WWII.’(109)
The far eastern operation was not completed until 31 August 1939 with perhaps 75% of Japanese ground forces killed in Zhukov’s surprise attack. In this undeclared war, 30, to 50,000 were killed or wounded. This Asian operation provided an excuse for the delay in the Soviet invasion of Poland until 17 September 1939 – sharing the spoils with Germany, which had already seized western Poland. Most Westerners knew little of the Mongolian operation and viewed the invasion of eastern Poland as either cowardly, or preferable to full German conquest of Poland.
The Winter War in Finland was the first opportunity for many Westerners to assess Stalin’s Red Army. A nation of 170 million had trouble defeating a country of 3.5 million! Clearly, Stalin’s Empire was weak. Clearly, Hitler was correct when he predicted, “All we have to do is kick the door open and the whole house will collapse.”
But Suvorov contends they were all mistaken. The Finish War, far from displaying Soviet weakness, demonstrated its strength. Beginning in the 1920s the Finns had been building defensive position in that isthmus, with traps, hidden stores of foods and areas where Finns could get warm and rest. Using natural ponds, swamps, gullies, anything to halt or slow an invader, Finns planned to pepper the area with snipers who would sky to safety and warmth. Suvorov argues that the Soviets attacked the area in late November, and the Winter War was fought in the bitterest cold. No one starts an offensive in such weather. But the Soviets, suffering many casualties, pushed forward and in 3 months, had breached the Mannerheim Line. Despite heavy losses, the Soviets won the war, and forced the Finns to yield the isthmus. Stalin did abandon his original idea of incorporating all of Finland into the USSR, however. Suvorov’s point is that the Winter War did not show the weakness of the Red Army, but its strength. It could fulfill its mission even under the most trying conditions.
Suvorov contends that the Red Army had shown great strength in Mongolia and in Finland, but Stalin did not want to reveal the true strength of his army. Neither he nor Japan, for different reasons, was interested in publicizing the event in Mongolia-Manchukuo. And Communists sources belittled the Soviet military efforts against Finland. Suvorov maintains that this was disinformation to fool the West and Hitler about the very powerful Red Army. And the disinformation effort generally succeeded.
While Hitler and the West interpreted the Finish war as proof of Soviet weakness, Suvorov argues that at the time some closer to the war took a different view and recognized the Red Army strength. Soon after its conclusion, Stalin made demands on Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and all allowed the Red Army to enter their countries without firing a shot. They were soon officially absorbed into the USSR. Stalin then made demands for territories in Romania. Again, without firing a shot, Romania let the Red Army into those areas.
Suvorov argues that Stalin could by then have easily had his armies continue to the oil fields of Romania or, having defeated the Finns in the isthmus, could have taken more of Finland and threatened Germany’s ore supply. Stalin halted his armies not because he sought peace, but because he wanted Hitler to remain supplied, to remain in war against Britain, and thus weaken the forces of both London and Berlin.
When Stalin’s troops rolled into Romania in summer 1940, Hitler became acutely aware of the threat at his back, and at that time began planning of what in December would be called Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the USSR. Hitler assumed that this would be another blitzkrieg, but “blitzkrieg is a tank war.”(240) “By June 1941, Hitler had in his invading army 3,332 tanks, all of them light and all of the obsolete – not a single heavy tank… Stalin, on the other hand, had 23,925 tanks, including the best models in the world… “(240) And the Soviet tanks were better, heavier, better armed, better armored, and yet more maneuverable! Their engines were far more powerful. Indeed, in many areas of military hardware, the Soviet weapons outclassed those of the Germans and their allies.
Well, how then does one explain the swift and overwhelming victories by the Axis over the Soviets beginning on 22 June 1941? Normally, the defense has a natural advantage, and if its weapons were superior, then the invader should make little or no headway. But that is not what happened. The Axis offensive was soon on the roads to Leningrad, to Moscow, and through the Ukraine. The reality of the sneak attack by the Germans seems to prove Suvorov’s thesis wrong. Put another way, if Suvorov is correct, how is the overwhelming Axis success in the summer of 1941 explicable?
Suvorov’s explanation is twofold: 1) Stalin was certain that Hitler would not attack during the summer of 1941, and 2) Stalin was in the process of positioning his troops for a sneak attack of his own against the Axis powers that very summer. In a review, I cannot repeat all of Suvorov’s arguments, which are well made, but I will discuss a few.
Stalin invested in paratroops and planes to transport them, and also in gliders for the same reason. These were to be stationed at the front, and to be used in aggressive war. They would not be flown in heavy bombers but from light planes or gliders in a sneak attack. Their objective was not to destroy targets but to capture them, and hold them until the advancing infantry and tanks arrived. All of this was for a sneak attack on the Axis. The light planes, after delivering paratroops and bombing enemy aircraft on the ground, could return, and fly again in support of the infantry’s invasion, flying low and hitting enemy targets. Stalin had invested in large quantities of parachutes and gliders, and many were delivered to the fronts in the spring of 1941. In reality, there is an expiration date on gliders. Gliders, made of wood, would not be able to withstand the Russian winter. They were meant to be used in the summer of 1941 – when Stalin planned to open his sneak attack on the Axis.
Along with the famous Mannerheim Line, and the Maginot Line, the Soviets developed a defensive line too, the Stalin Line. But following the signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, Stalin began dismantling those defensive barriers. Furthermore, for defensive operations near a border, the defending nation would normally have protocols to blow up bridges, destroy roads and rail tracks, destroy anything that would delay the advancing aggressor. But Stalin was undoing his defenses. Worse, Stalin, in absorbing Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, part of Finland, part of Romania, had eliminated buffer states and buffer zones between his nation and the Axis. Were there buffers states, in case of a German attack, the Soviets would have some time to prepare to defend their territory. With an absence of buffer states, an Axis sneak attack might give the Soviets no time to prepare. Of course, if Stalin were preparing his own sneak attack on the Axis, a lack of buffer states would mean the Axis would have no time to prepare a defense against the invading Red Army.
Why did the Axis do so well against the Soviets in June 1941? Stalin was certain Hitler would not attack at that time. (Why Stalin was so certain is described in a fascinating chapter in Suvorov’s thought-provoking book.) Stalin continued to prepare for his own preemptive strike against the Axis. Masses of Red Army men were in transit. If they had arrived at the front, the weapons may have been on the rails, not yet unloaded. Masses of Soviet men and materiel were collecting at the front in June, but they were in the process of moving here and there, getting ready for their forthcoming push westward. When the Germans attacked first, the Soviets were dumbfounded. They were preparing an offensive and had almost nothing for defensive operations. The result was disaster for the Soviets. Millions of Red Army prisoners taken, huge supplies of food, of oil, of ammunition, of everything needed by the military, captured by the enemy. As the year went on, the German army would be using more of the confiscated Soviet supplies to advance into Soviet territory. So the Suvorov answer to the big question is – the Soviets were in the process of preparing for a massive aggressive war against the Axis, and in a short time would have been superbly prepared. But in June 1941, the Soviets were prepared neither for aggressive war, nor especially NOT for defensive war.
Suppose Hitler had delayed his surprise attack on the Soviets. Suppose also that in July 1941 Stalin had finally gotten his men and materiel in position and unleashed his own surprise attack against the Axis. Stalin’s massive numbers of troops, paratroops, gliders, light airplanes, tanks, howitzers, etc. in a sneak attack against the Axis probably would have caught the Axis off guard too. And the Red Army was better equipped and larger than the military of the Axis. Suvorov thinks in such an attack, the Red Army would have taken Warsaw, Koenigsberg, Dresden, Berlin, and since the French had already been defeated, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Bordeaux, Marseilles. The Red Army probably would have quickly conquered all of Axis Europe. Stalin would not just be honored as the conqueror of Europe, he would be hailed as the “liberator” of Europe. In other words, just as the weaker Axis, with a massive sneak attack, while the Soviets were in transition, could make enormous gains for several months in 1941, so a Soviet surprise attack against the Axis in July 1941 would have made even more massive gains, because the Soviets were stronger than the Axis. Stalin would have conquered all of continental Europe, to the Pyrenees.
And how would Churchill have reacted? The Red Army swarming across all Europe? Suvorov writes that among the weapons the Soviets had developed were amphibious tanks. Though these were probably meant for small streams and ponds, might they have also been used to cross the English Channel? Suvorov does write that Stalin had the dream of liberating the working class of the world through the Red Army. How close was he to fulfilling that dream? Did Hitler, with his own surprise attack, save Europe, and the world, from Red tyranny? One can see how the implications of Suvorov’s thesis are deemed unacceptable in establishment academic circles in the West. And Hollywood is unlikely to make a film based on his thesis.
At times Suvorov portrays Stalin as a gangster, at others as a man trying to liberate the world for the working class. Was Stalin simply a 20th century embodiment of Marxism? In Marxist theory mankind begins in primitive communism; progresses to a slave-based society, thence to feudalism, to capitalism, and finally to socialism (communism). But Suvorov described the Soviet Union as a state in which the secret police had power from its brutal birth, and in which Stalin (and the other communist leaders) were willing to sacrifice the breadbasket of Europe and starve millions, burying agriculture under bureaucratic collectivization, to build the factories. And what did those factories produce? Not consumer goods As the USSR consolidated from the 1920s and 30s, it relied ever more on slave power – the Gulags to fulfill the goals of growth in the 5-Year Plans. In time, Hitler’s Reich also would depend upon slavery to keep its economy going during the war.
The 20th century witnessed the return of slavery in the Communist Soviet Union and in the National Socialist Reich. The American Communist historian and spokesman, Herbert Aptheker, once described socialism as like being in the military. “All your basic needs are supplied. You get a little more spending money depending on your rank.” Of course, what he did not say – “Those in the military must follow orders. And if they do not?” Is that not the essential of socialism? If they do not?
During the American Civil War a draft was imposed, but in the North one could pay to have someone else take your place. With war’s end, the draft ended. Later in the 19th century, as more and more European nations joined the arms race, with military drafts, one of America’s selling points was that there was no draft in America. There were cartoons in newspapers stressing this nation was free, and free of the draft. One of the appeals to potential European immigrants who might face years in European armies, was precisely that America had no draft. Other nations had the draft; Americans were free. When America entered WWI in 1917, that changed, for the draft was reintroduced. Some pacifists went to court calling the law illegal. It was involuntary servitude, slavery. The US courts rejected that argument and the draft lasted through the war.
To what extent is a society based upon gulags and a huge military a “free” society? Stalin’s USSR had slaves (prison labor) in the gulags, and it also had many of its people in the armed services. What % free? Slave? And if you disobey and order? If a socialist society is like the military, is it a free society?
Suvorov writes that Stalin’s drive for world domination was shattered in June 1941 when Hitler’s first-strike attack came before Stalin’s planned first-strike attack. Hitler’s surprise crushed Stalin’s plans to “liberate” Europe and the world. But did Stalin really abandon his dream? On 10 April 1943 in Oakland, California, the FBI wiretapped a conversation between Steve Nelson and a Soviet embassy official. The Soviet gave money to Nelson, an underground Communist, and told him to place reliable Americans (Soviet agents) as workers in positions in the new Manhattan Project, the American organized effort to design and build atomic bombs. This occurred less than 2 years after the Axis invasion of the USSR. Stalin already knew of the American project to build a nuclear bomb, and is using his spies in the American Communist movement to help deliver the secrets to the USSR. Had Stalin abandoned his dream of world domination? On this, I question Suvorov.
Suvorov writes an interesting chapter on Trotsky. In the 1920s, as Stalin’s star rose, Trotsky’s fell. The History Channel showed a film of Trotsky exiled to Soviet Asia. He and several others are crossing a wooden bridge, and the narrator notes that one man has a pistol in his pocket and is basically directing Trotsky across the bridge. In the Soviet Union many friends, followers, and suspected followers of Trotsky were purged, gulaged, or executed. Trotsky was isolated. Surely, Stalin could have had him executed, but did not. Suvorov has some intriguing speculations. Trotsky was then exiled out of the USSR, Turkey, Scandinavia, France, Mexico. Suvorov makes no mention of one aspect of Trotsky’s history that might have hastened the seal on his fate. After the Hitler-Stalin Pact and the outbreak of war in Europe, the Communist Party in the US lost about 25% of its members and considerable influence. Communists were denouncing attempts to get the US involved in the European “imperialist” war, and like a leader of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, were now vehemently shouting against Franklin Demagogue Roosevelt. Democrat Rep. Martin Dies, headed the House Un-American Activities Committee, and it invited Trotsky to testify before it about Communism. Since Trotsky was in Mexico, he could appear before HUAC in Austin, Texas. There seems to be different versions as to why his appearance was delayed – but had Trotsky testified before HUAC, he would not have said anything good about Stalin. Before he could finalize any trip to the US, Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico by a Stalinist agent.
There are disturbing questions that rise from Suvorov’s excellent book. Could it be argued that Hitler saved Western Europe from the Red Army? More, could it be argued that Hitler’s surprise attack saved the world from Soviet domination? Perhaps it is because of these disturbing implications that many Western academics prefer to ignore or dismiss Suvorov. Suvorov’s book title indicates that Stalin is “The Chief Culprit.” On one level, Suvorov might be right; but both Hitler and Stalin were monsters, murderers on such a mass scale, that neither is the chief monster, or rather both deserve to share that title.
Another disturbing thought after reading this book: not only could Stalin, if his surprise attack of July 1941 have swept through Germany, Hungary, all the way to Marseilles and Bordeaux, Stalin then could have dominated all of Europe, much of Asia, and prepared for world domination? That question is a hypothetical one about the past. Today, could a closed, or semi-closed society, build its military superiority and stage a surprise attack upon its peaceful neighbors and achieve world domination tomorrow?
February 27, 2017
115th Congress, 1st Session
Issue: Vol. 163, No. 34 — Daily Edition
Issue: Vol. 163, No. 34 — Daily Edition
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CBC/SOCIAL JUSTICE MOVEMENTS
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Rutherford). Under the Speaker's
announced policy of January 3, 2017, the gentlewoman from the Virgin
Islands (Ms. Plaskett) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of
the minority leader.
Ms. PLASKETT. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members
have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and to
include any extraneous material in the Record.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the
gentlewoman from the Virgin Islands?
There was no objection.
Ms. PLASKETT. Mr. Speaker, the CBC chair, Mr. Cedric Richmond, and
myself have a great honor that I rise today as one of the anchors of
the CBC, the Congressional Black Caucus' Special Order hour.
For the next 60 minutes I have a chance to speak directly to the
American people on issues of great importance to the Congressional
Black Caucus, Congress, the constituents we represent, and all
During this hour, as Black History Month ends in the next day, we
believe it is important for this Congress and
for the people of America to hear about the great importance of
grassroots movements, which have been the fortifying effect of the
civil rights movements and other movements here in this country, and
have made this country very great.
At this time I would yield to the gentleman from Louisiana (Mr.
Richmond), the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, who will speak
on this subject matter here on the floor.
Mr. RICHMOND. Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, Stacy Plaskett from
the Virgin Islands, for taking this assignment and making sure that the
Congressional Black Caucus continues its conversation with America, and
to inform people on issues that are important to us, and also
reflecting on how important African-American history is, not just to
us, but to this country.
It is African-American history that made this country great in the
first place. How our civil rights groups and people of the same kind,
not necessarily the same color, came together to make this a more
So today what I wanted to do was actually talk about some of the
civil rights organizations that changed this country, made it better,
made it possible for me to be here, and compare and talk about some of
the movements that we see today that are making some of the same
differences for the next generation. It is just a shame that in 2017 we
are still fighting the same fights we fought 50 years ago for voting
rights, for equality, and all of those things.
So when I say I want to talk about some of those organizations, I
want to talk about organizations like SCLC, the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference; or CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality; or
SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. They all played
an important role in launching grassroots movements that succeeded in
ensuring more equality for African Americans.
Sit-ins, bus boycotts, marches, voter registration drives, and other
protests--these grassroots movements spread across the South, including
my home State of Louisiana.
Let's just talk about one specific incident. September 9, 1960, the
Woolworth store lunch counter in New Orleans closed early.
What was the reason?
Seven members of the Congress of Racial Equality, five Black students
and two White students, decided to hold a sit-in demonstration to
protest Jim Crow. This was the first-ever sit-in in the city.
The seven students were like so many other students across the South
at the time who were using nonviolent action to change the country. In
fact, let me read their names because many of them I knew.
In fact, one, Jerome Smith, who was a Southern University student the
year before, is actually still on the battlefield in Louisiana not only
coaching Little League, but fighting for criminal justice reform and
financial and economic equality.
You also had Rudy Lombard from Xavier University, a freedom fighter;
Archie Allen from Dillard University; Bill Harrell from Tulane; William
Harper, who was at LSU; Hugh Murray, who was also at Tulane; and Joyce
Taylor, who intended to enroll at Southern University.
Fortunately, unlike others who held sit-ins, these seven Southern
students didn't have milkshakes thrown on them. They were not beaten or
bloodied. The seven students sat down at 10:30. Six police officers
were on hand to keep the peace and did not try to remove the students.
The students sat there determined for 2 hours.
Because of the demonstration, Woolworth blinked first. They decided
to close early that day and they closed at 12:30, after the students
had sat there for 2 hours.
These seven students and so many other civil rights activists are the
shoulders on which we all stand. Unfortunately, the fight for equality
is not over. We see this most clearly when we look at our criminal
justice system. To date, the organization Black Lives Matter has
launched a grassroots movement that has succeeded in exposing police
brutality and making it front-page news….
The following is a comment from Hugh Murray and not a part of the Congressional Record. I do not agree with the speaker’s last paragraph re BLM and alleged police brutality. The speaker tells some of the story of the first sit-in in New Orleans, which was then the largest city in the South. On the sit-in, true, we were not beaten, but because it was the first, we did not know what would happen. A few years ago the NO Times Picayune ran a story with photos commemorating the 50th anniversary of the event. I noticed I was not wearing my glasses. Then I remembered, I did not wear them because there was a possibility of being beaten, and I did not want to lose an eye. We sat at the counter for hours, and then the NO DA appeared in person with a huge law book. He read us the law. Either we would leave the premises or be arrested. We did not leave, and we were arrested, booked, and jailed. We were bailed out that night. Sometime later, when we sat together in the court, the judge threatened us with contempt for integrating his courtroom. We were convicted of a felony. It took years for the case to get to the US Supreme Court when we were vindicated.