Alexander Palace Forum

Discussions about Russian History => The Russian Revolution => Topic started by: Elisabeth on May 03, 2009, 06:35:27 PM

Title: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Elisabeth on May 03, 2009, 06:35:27 PM
The historian Alan Bullock has argued that there was much in common between Nazism and Stalinism:

The Hitler of the table talk in the 1940s is recognizably the same man who wrote 'Mein Kampf' in the 1920s.... The struggle for existence is a law of nature; hardness is the supreme virtue; the key to history lies in race; power is the prerogative of a racial elite; the masses are capable only of carrying out orders; the individual exists only for the 'Volk'; force is the only means by which anything lasting is accomplished; 'world-historical figures' acting as the agents of Providence cannot be bound or judged by the standards of ordinary morality. Hitler not only believed what he said; he acted on it. Substitute 'class' for 'race,' the Communist party exercising dictatorship in the name of the proletariat for a racial elite; 'the individual exists only for the state' instead of 'only for the Volk'; 'agents of history' for 'agents of Providence' - and Stalin would have found little to disagree with. Together they represent the twentieth century's most formidable examples of those 'simplificateurs terribles' whom the nineteenth-century historian Jakob Burckhardt foresaw as characteristic of the century to follow.

(Alan Bullock, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992, p. 726)

Do you agree or disagree with Bullock's argument that there were inherent commonalities between Nazism and Stalinism? Do you think there were any significant differences? Another question for discussion is, to what degree did Lenin differ in his political views from Stalin, and with this question in mind, was Stalinism inevitable in the Soviet Union after Lenin's death? More importantly, why this seemingly strange convergence of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler in Europe from the first decades of the 20th century to its midpoint? To expand on the question first posed by the historian Theodore Von Laue: why Lenin, why Stalin, why Hitler? What particular forces or circumstances brought these men to power, what particular forces or circumstances influenced the way they viewed and exercised political power? What do you think?

Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Zvezda on May 04, 2009, 01:00:20 PM
Fascism and its variations in Germany, Italy, Spain, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, etc share more in common with with liberal capitalist regimes than with socialist ones. For example, the "Federal Republic of Germany" to a large extent been a revived form of the Third Reich in which many "former" Nazi elites have played a prominent role (Spiedel, Gehlen, Globke, etc). But this attempt by apologists for liberal capitalist regimes to falsify history and demonize Russia by likening it to the Nazis is a desperate attempt to rehabilitate their failed and discredited system.

It's especially puzzling how Lenin can be equated to Hitler. Looking at the Civil War in Russia, for example, the ones that perpetrated thousands of Nazi-like pogroms in which over 100,000 Jews were slaughtered were the White Guard hordes of Denikin and the Ukrainian nationalist gangs of Petliura. Many of the counterrevolutionary Russian leaders such as Krasnov, Shkuro, and Gajda went on to become Nazi collaborators during the Fatherland War.

Concerning Bullock, his work on Germany is valuable because he is an expert on the subject. But the same cannot be said about Russia because Bullock is not an authority on the country's politics.
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Elisabeth on May 05, 2009, 12:07:52 PM
Fascism and its variations in Germany, Italy, Spain, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, etc share more in common with with liberal capitalist regimes than with socialist ones. For example, the "Federal Republic of Germany" to a large extent been a revived form of the Third Reich in which many "former" Nazi elites have played a prominent role (Spiedel, Gehlen, Globke, etc). But this attempt by apologists for liberal capitalist regimes to falsify history and demonize Russia by likening it to the Nazis is a desperate attempt to rehabilitate their failed and discredited system.

It's especially puzzling how Lenin can be equated to Hitler. Looking at the Civil War in Russia, for example, the ones that perpetrated thousands of Nazi-like pogroms in which over 100,000 Jews were slaughtered were the White Guard hordes of Denikin and the Ukrainian nationalist gangs of Petliura. Many of the counterrevolutionary Russian leaders such as Krasnov, Shkuro, and Gajda went on to become Nazi collaborators during the Fatherland War.

Concerning Bullock, his work on Germany is valuable because he is an expert on the subject. But the same cannot be said about Russia because Bullock is not an authority on the country's politics.

Well, Zvezda, your logic would certainly NOT explain why a die-hard communist like Benito Mussolini would later became a fascist, one of the most famous fascists in the world in fact.  I think you're one of the least informed and most politically biased posters here, Zvezda, and to be honest, I would like to hear from other people on this subject much more.
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Zvezda on May 05, 2009, 12:48:12 PM
Quote
die-hard communist like Benito Mussolini would later became a fascist, one of the most famous fascists in the world in fact.

Mussolini was never a communist. In fact, there were no communists in Italy when Mussolini was a member of the Socialist Party. Mussolini would be expelled from the Party shortly after the war broke out because of his chauvinism. It was only in the period 1918-20 when communist parties were formed outside of Russia.

In any case, I totally reject any attempt to liken fascists to communists.
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: RichC on May 05, 2009, 04:55:04 PM
The historian Alan Bullock has argued that there was much in common between Nazism and Stalinism:

The Hitler of the table talk in the 1940s is recognizably the same man who wrote 'Mein Kampf' in the 1920s.... The struggle for existence is a law of nature; hardness is the supreme virtue; the key to history lies in race; power is the prerogative of a racial elite; the masses are capable only of carrying out orders; the individual exists only for the 'Volk'; force is the only means by which anything lasting is accomplished; 'world-historical figures' acting as the agents of Providence cannot be bound or judged by the standards of ordinary morality. Hitler not only believed what he said; he acted on it. Substitute 'class' for 'race,' the Communist party exercising dictatorship in the name of the proletariat for a racial elite; 'the individual exists only for the state' instead of 'only for the Volk'; 'agents of history' for 'agents of Providence' - and Stalin would have found little to disagree with. Together they represent the twentieth century's most formidable examples of those 'simplificateurs terribles' whom the nineteenth-century historian Jakob Burckhardt foresaw as characteristic of the century to follow.

(Alan Bullock, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992, p. 726)

Do you agree or disagree with Bullock's argument that there were inherent commonalities between Nazism and Stalinism? Do you think there were any significant differences? Another question for discussion is, to what degree did Lenin differ in his political views from Stalin, and with this question in mind, was Stalinism inevitable in the Soviet Union after Lenin's death? More importantly, why this seemingly strange convergence of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler in Europe from the first decades of the 20th century to its midpoint? To expand on the question first posed by the historian Theodore Von Laue: why Lenin, why Stalin, why Hitler? What particular forces or circumstances brought these men to power, what particular forces or circumstances influenced the way they viewed and exercised political power? What do you think?



I got half-way through a post yesterday, Elisabeth, but decided not to proceed because this is such a tough question.  I agree it would be great if some of the other "brains of the board" could weigh in too.

I guess what I was thinking was could we compare Lenin, Stalin and Hitler to European world leaders (and American leaders too) who preceded them and figure out what changed.  Did the people change?  Or did they stay the same and times changed, or the rules changed?  Or is it just that the scale of the killing increased dramatically?

In the 19th century we saw hundreds of thousands of Muslims deported from Russia to the Ottoman Empire in what was called the Muhajir.  We also saw the Trail of Tears under the leadership of Andrew Jackson. 

And then, of course, there's Leopold II of Belgium who easily gives both Hitler and Stalin a run for their money in the death department.  By most reliable figures, Leopold II was responsible for the deaths of over 10 million Africans in the late 1800's. 

For me, I want to see if we can really separate Hitler, Stalin and Lenin (and Mao), from everybody who came before them.  Or were they really just more of the same albeit more efficient?
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Alixz on May 05, 2009, 09:47:10 PM
Elizabeth - WOW - What a complex and convoluted question!

Do we need to take into consideration Marx and Engels and Das Kapital and the Communist Manifesto before we take on Lenin, Stalin and Hitler?

All three men existed in the same time frame.

Lenin- born 22 April 1970
Stalin - born 12 December 1879
Hitler - born 20 April 1889  (He was five years old on the day that Nicholas and Alix became engaged.)

Alexander II was assassinated on 13 March 1881, so the only Lenin and Stalin were alive at that time being 11 and 2.

Did these three men see more mass murder and/or forced emigration during their lifetimes than others prior to them had?  Was Europe a more discontented place because of the Industrial Revolution?

The forces of what was considered a total "world war" influenced all three.  The unimaginable loss of life during the age of "death before dishonor" and the inability of their respective leaders to actually lead the countries that they were born into.

Hitler is the only one to have served in his country's armed forces.  I believe that his "15 minutes of fame" when he received his Iron Cross left him wanting more and feeling lost when the war was over and he was again just a face in the crowd.

For a Romanov researcher, I actually know less about Lenin and Stalin than I do Hitler.
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: RichC on May 05, 2009, 10:32:37 PM

In any case, I totally reject any attempt to liken fascists to communists.

That's why your arguments are so easy to refute.  The fascist regimes of Italy and Germany, and the communist regime of Russia were all totalitarian regimes which is why we can lump them all together for this discussion.

According to some scholars, a totalitarian society is a required precondition for genocide to take place.
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Zvezda on May 06, 2009, 12:18:16 PM
Quote
The fascist regimes of Italy and Germany, and the communist regime of Russia were all totalitarian regimes which is why we can lump them all together for this discussion.
Actually, totalitarianism is an advanced form of monopoly capitalism. The notions you are citing are circulated in revisionist western propaganda seeking to equate Russia to Nazis.
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Elisabeth on May 06, 2009, 05:59:28 PM
Quote
die-hard communist like Benito Mussolini would later became a fascist, one of the most famous fascists in the world in fact.

Mussolini was never a communist. In fact, there were no communists in Italy when Mussolini was a member of the Socialist Party. Mussolini would be expelled from the Party shortly after the war broke out because of his chauvinism. It was only in the period 1918-20 when communist parties were formed outside of Russia.

In any case, I totally reject any attempt to liken fascists to communists.

Your last statement is utterly predictable, Zvezda. Do you ever wonder why other members of this forum can predict your thoughts with unerring accuracy even before you post them? Do you think that perhaps this has something to do with your own ideology, which follows certain set patterns, easily read by outsiders to your world view?

At any rate, it's an established fact that Mussolini was a revolutionary Marxist in the 1910s. He attended Marxist congresses and in 1909 "threatened he would secede if the party did not adopt a more intransigent stance - he feared that the main body of reformists was drawing closer to the parliamentary system and to the liberal coalition.... In April 1911 he decided to act on this threat and go it alone. His was a coolly calculated step based on the hope of creating a new and more revolutionary party (in something of the same way as the bolsheviks subsequently broke away from the socialists in Russia" (Denis Mack Smith, Mussolini, London: Panther Books, 1985, p. 21).

So it's pretty obvious that Mussolini was a communist at this stage in his life. (To borrow rather freely from Gertrude Stein, a communist is a communist is a communist.) Mussolini believed in the armed revolution of the proletariat against the corrupt, privileged middle and upper classes. He was not exactly what we would describe as a follower of Plekhanov or the Mensheviks or the Social Democrats. He was a radical socialist with a big agenda. Even before the first world war!
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Elisabeth on May 06, 2009, 06:18:47 PM
Dear RichC and AlixZ, thank your for your very thoughtful posts in this thread. I think both of you have much to offer intellectually, and the majority of those whom Rich terms "big brains" in the forum are already present and accounted for, right? So let's proceed with the discussion.

Alix, I think it's highly interesting in light of your remarks that Hitler apparently experienced hysterical blindness after the defeat of Germany in World War I. He couldn't accept defeat on any level. It literally made him crazy for a rather extended period of time. (This reminds me of stories about the child Napoleon, who could not bear to be punished, and out of pride would actually resist such punishments to the point of fainting in order to avoid them. I think Hitler was very much like this - but mainly where his German nationalism and chauvinism were concerned.) By the way, Hitler was very brave during the first world war, he had one of the worst assignments as a soldier imaginable, running back and forth between enemy lines as a courier - the vast majority of these poor men suffered death in the fulfillment of their duties. The young Hitler was repeatedly commended for his bravery. In other words, unlike other tyrants, he was not a physical coward. He knew what death was like, up close and personal. Whereas someone like Stalin only dealt with death second and even third-hand, throughout his life, as far as I can tell. I think this is an interesting difference between the two dictators.

I do believe that the vast trauma of World War I, inflicted on millions of very young Western and Eastern European men, on both the physical and psychological levels, contributed to the brutalization we see so evident in subsequent European and Russian history. I honestly don't think that the Holocaust could have happened without World War I - it's even possible that Stalin's collectivization campaign couldn't have been implemented as horribly or effectively as it was without World War I. Then there's the added element of "improved" technology (e.g., trains, the better to deport you with)... As RichC points out in his latest post here, genocide had already occurred in the "civilized" world in the nineteenth century. Indeed, as I'm discovering, the reality of genocide seems to be as old as humanity itself.

 
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Elisabeth on May 06, 2009, 07:13:32 PM
I've just finished reading an unusually excellent and engrossing novel, The Exception by the Danish author Christian Jungerson. The book concerns four women who work at the Danish Center for Information on Genocide (DCIG), which in reality is the Danish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The plot of this truly exceptional novel revolves around anonymous emails threatening death to two of the employees, who, instead of fixing their suspicions on the most likely candidate for making such death threats, an escaped Serbian war criminal, concentrate their fear and hatred on an older coworker and, in the not-so-subtle campaign of psychological persecution they conduct against her on a daily basis, nearly drive her to madness.

Interspersed with the fictional events at the Center are up-to-date accounts of actual, recent research into genocide studies. One of the alarming studies done by the real-life Danish researcher Torben Jorgensen found as follows:

"10-20 percent of perpetrators try to obtain transfer to other duties;
50-80 percent do as they are told;
10-30 percent develop into eager killers and run riot, intoxicated by torture, rape, and murder"

(Jorgensen's statistics, cited in Christian Jungersen, The Exception, New York: Doubleday, 2004, translation by Anna Paterson.)

Apparently the number of would-be perpetrators who actually have the nerve to stand up and say "no, this is evil, stop it now," to their immediate superiors, is so infinitesimal that it cannot even be scientifically measured.
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Tsarfan on May 07, 2009, 07:18:50 AM
I honestly don't think that the Holocaust could have happened without World War I . . . .

I have often wondered about this myself, Elisabeth.  One means of testing the premise is to examine the treatment of Jews by modern general populations in Europe prior to World War I, and the best place to go for that is to Russia in the last 50 or so years of the imperial era.  (This assumes, of course, that Russians can be viewed as a European population roughly equivalent to the German population on this score, and there is plenty of room to debate that one.)

In examining the recurrent waves of pogroms in that period, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that nascent anti-semitism ran deep and strong and could be brought to the surface at slight provocation, even without government encouragement, and certainly very quickly and violently with government orchestration.

Consider the 1903 Kishinev pogrom, in which about 50 Jews were killed, almost 600 wounded, and around 700 Jewish homes and businesses were looted and destroyed . . . in one  town.  While there is some debate around whether the government was directly involved, it is clear that local Orthodox authorities helped work the crowd into a violent frenzy, building on a weeks-long press campaign (with some evidence to indicate indirect funding by the government) meant to lay the blame for the murder of a local Christian boy at the doorstep of the Jewish community and its supposed secret blood rituals.  This pogrom went on for three days before the government finally sent in forces to quell it.

This -- and many other serious pogroms of the era -- occured with certainly no overt government sponsorship.  At most, the government either worked subtly behind the scenes to instigate them and/or proved impassive in trying to forestall and then suppress them.

Had there been sustained, overt government actions taken to whip up anti-semitic fury and unleash it violently on a large scale -- as there was in Germany in the 1930's -- I see no reason to think those actions would not have succeeded prior to World War I.

Had the tsarist government wanted to eradicate its Jewish population instead of merely harass it as a means of generating pro-government sympathy, I do not doubt it could have had the success prior to World War I that Germany had afterward.  Put another way, I think the difference in the outcome does not have to do with World War I, but with the fact that Hitler had a personal taste for genocide and Alexander III and Nicholas II did not.

The only remaining question to me is whether the anti-semitic tendencies of the German population prior to World War I were less intense than those of the Russian population.  Personally, I do not think they were.  I simply think other elements of German society kept it more repressed than in Russia.
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Tsarfan on May 07, 2009, 07:35:36 AM
Apparently the number of would-be perpetrators who actually have the nerve to stand up and say "no, this is evil, stop it now," to their immediate superiors, is so infinitesimal that it cannot even be scientifically measured.

There might be a phenomenon of adverse selection generating this horribly depressing number.  Remember that most of these tasks were assigned to organizations that were expressly chartered to carry out the more nefarious government policies -- for instance, the Gestapo instead of the regular police, and the SS instead of regular military units.  The people who elected to join these organizations were therefore more likely to be disposed to participating in such missions.

I don't think it surprising that almost no one in these organizations objected to his assigned tasks.  When one moves into the general population, the picture is still depressing.  But the number of people who did seek to mitigate the worst horrors (such as hiding fugitives, covering where they could, joining resistance movements, resisting passively where they could) was not quite infinitesmally small.

Hitler and Stalin were obsessed with domestic spying for a reason.

Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Alixz on May 07, 2009, 09:19:58 AM
Quote Tsarfan

Consider the 1903 Kishinev pogrom, in which about 50 Jews were killed, almost 600 wounded, and around 700 Jewish homes and businesses were looted and destroyed . . . in one  town.  While there is some debate around whether the government was directly involved, it is clear that local Orthodox authorities helped work the crowd into a violent frenzy, building on a weeks-long press campaign (with some evidence to indicate indirect funding by the government) meant to lay the blame for the murder of a local Christian boy at the doorstep of the Jewish community and its supposed secret blood rituals.  This pogrom went on for three days before the government finally sent in forces to quell it.

The Russian triumvirate of political autocracy, nationalism and religious orthodoxy worked to every one's advantage in staging and carrying out pogroms.  In this case it worked from the bottom up.  The church incited it, the people who were deeply nationalistic carried it out and the government sat back and let it continue until Nicholas had do to do something about it. 

If Nicholas II was a true autocrat there truly was no 'local government" and any government involvement would have been his.  But I agree with Tsarfan that the harassment was essentially a way of generating pro government sympathy.

I was watching a program on the History Channel recently that explained that the anti Semite beliefs of Christian sects were brought about, not by the belief that Jews were "Christ Killers", but because those of the Jewish faith did not believe in the resurrection.

But back to topic and back to Lenin after I look some things up.
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Elisabeth on May 07, 2009, 04:17:07 PM
Apparently the number of would-be perpetrators who actually have the nerve to stand up and say "no, this is evil, stop it now," to their immediate superiors, is so infinitesimal that it cannot even be scientifically measured.

There might be a phenomenon of adverse selection generating this horribly depressing number.  Remember that most of these tasks were assigned to organizations that were expressly chartered to carry out the more nefarious government policies -- for instance, the Gestapo instead of the regular police, and the SS instead of regular military units.  The people who elected to join these organizations were therefore more likely to be disposed to participating in such missions.

I don't think it surprising that almost no one in these organizations objected to his assigned tasks.  When one moves into the general population, the picture is still depressing.  But the number of people who did seek to mitigate the worst horrors (such as hiding fugitives, covering where they could, joining resistance movements, resisting passively where they could) was not quite infinitesmally small.

Hitler and Stalin were obsessed with domestic spying for a reason.

You are probably right, Tsarfan, at least in part, about skewed statistics, except that certain studies of human behavior show that obedience to authority is engrained in the human personality. For example, look at the famous 1963 experiment by Professor Stanley Milgram (where student volunteers were asked, under the supervision of a leader, to give others electrical shocks in response to wrong answers to certain questions). As Jungersen summarizes, "two thirds of the subjects in the original experiement continued [delivering what they believed were electrical shocks to another human being], obeying the leader to the end. In other words, they increased the shock voltages up to the highest setting [450 volts, i.e., death], at which point the leader would call a halt" - The Exception, pp. 262-263.

Professor Christopher Browning's 1992 book about Holocaust perpetrators, Ordinary Men, has also been extremely influential in Holocaust/genocide studies. It concerns a battalion of five hundred reserve policemen serving in the German army in Poland who were asked in 1942 to help in the mass killing of Jews. It's a horrific story. Despite the fact that the majority of these soldiers were middle-aged men from Hamburg, not Nazi party members by any stretch of the imagination but on the contrary, for the most part probably Socialist Democrats or even Communists, only ten to thirteen (out of five hundred) men asked their commanding officer if they could be transferred to other duties (they were indeed transferred, with no penalties). After the first massacre in the town of Jozefow, "between 10 and 20 percent of the men had asked to be allowed off-duty for either physical or psychological reasons. The rest had obeyed orders. But this was only the beginning. Following their initiation in Jozefow, the men adapted and obeyed orders more willingly as, during the months to come, they surrounded one small Polish town after another to round up Jews. Their job was either to send the captives off to extermination camps or to execute them on the spot. In the course of the next ten months the battalion caused the deaths of at least 83,000 Jews. The men had learned to live with their consciences" (p.265).

I don't think we can relegate the genocidal impulse to eastern Europe or Russia. There is a distinct difference between anti-Semitism, racism, and other popular hatreds, which often spontaneously erupt in violence, and government-sponsored mass murder of the popularly hated Other. What perhaps distinguishes the twentieth century from preceding centuries (although only in part, if one considers the religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth century in Europe), is that the government (whether in Nazi Germany, the USSR, Cambodia or Rwanda) has deliberately roused popular hatred with the precise intention of initiating and directing mass murder on an unprecedented scale. So could genocide have happened in imperial Russia? Perhaps. But it would have taken a very fanatically anti-Semitic tsar with intact autocratic powers (which doesn't exactly fit the description of Nicholas II after 1905).
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: RichC on May 07, 2009, 05:50:52 PM
It's interesting though that in Russia, Stalin insisted that upper level apparatchicks personally do the slaughtering rather than people drawn from the populace at large. 

So, are we in agreement at least that World War I had little to do with the genocides of the 20th century?

The Milgram studies are world famous.  In some cases, the mere fact that the "leader" was wearing a lab coat was enough to establish his authority.  I wonder what that says about the "dress down" society we live in today, where a person's status in a given hierarchy is much harder to glean from looking at them.  For example, I think Milgram was also involved in other studies on how people react to others based on how they are dressed. 
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Elisabeth on May 07, 2009, 06:09:36 PM
It's interesting though that in Russia, Stalin insisted that upper level apparatchicks personally do the slaughtering rather than people drawn from the populace at large. 

So, are we in agreement at least that World War I had little to do with the genocides of the 20th century?

The Milgram studies are world famous.  In some cases, the mere fact that the "leader" was wearing a lab coat was enough to establish his authority.  I wonder what that says about the "dress down" society we live in today, where a person's status in a given hierarchy is much harder to glean from looking at them.  For example, I think Milgram was also involved in other studies on how people react to others based on how they are dressed. 

I disagree with your two first points, Rich. I saw one of Stalin's mass executioners on Soviet television back in 1991, just before the collapse of the entire system, and he was not by any definition an "upper level apparatchik." No, Stalin got people at every level of the system to do his dirty (or shall we even say, "wet") work for him. That's precisely why Russia today is such a mess. Virtually everyone is linked not only to a victim of Stalin, but to one of his collaborators or perpetrators as well.

And I still believe that World War I helped along the genocides of the 20th century, as did the brutal Soviet subjugation of Ukraine and the Baltic states. For example, I don't think there would have been nearly so many "willing" executioners under the Nazis as there were in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, if it had not been for the Red Terror inflicted on these conquered peoples in the aftermath of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. And let us recall for a moment the case of Ukraine, which had already been subjugated to the USSR and endured the worst of the terror famine a decade before, at the cost of millions of lives. Try to imagine the level of bitterness and hatred - and overall brutalization - engendered by the forced starvation and the needless suffering and deaths of one's loved ones.

I also don't buy the notion that a person in jeans and a T-shirt is necessarily less "authoritative" or for that matter, threatening to your job, as a person in a three-piece suit. Power is power is power. Academics like to think they're less threatening to their staff because they "dress down" but it's all the same underneath the new costumes. Everything still revolves around who has the power to fire and who doesn't.


Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Alixz on May 07, 2009, 09:17:54 PM
Dress down may not make the person less authoritative, but it can make them harder to recognize in the environment in which we find them.  Therefore we may not make the connection before we make mistakes.

Perhaps in another generation which has not been conditioned to see those in authority in a three piece suit, you may be right, but while we are still pretty much conditioned by our past association with those in authority who dress the part "the clothes make the man" we will still identify the "leader" by the way he/she is dressed.

I find myself uncomfortable with the dressing down of the banking employees.  I don't like to be sold life insurance by a woman in khakis and a polo shirt even if it does have the bank logo on the pocket.  To me she looks like she is ready for a bank picnic not a session over which is better whole life or term.

But I worked in banking for almost 25 years and I was always told to "dress for success".  Even while I was working in income tax for the last 15 years, we had a dress code.

I still like to see those who dress like a professional not like they just stopped into the office on the way to a soft ball game.
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Tsarfan on May 07, 2009, 10:33:10 PM
So could genocide have happened in imperial Russia? Perhaps. But it would have taken a very fanatically anti-Semitic tsar with intact autocratic powers (which doesn't exactly fit the description of Nicholas II after 1905).

I agree.  But wasn't Germany led by a fanatically anti-Semitic leader with intact autocratic powers at the time of the Holocaust?

I believe the raw material for genocide was present in both Germany and Russia before World War I.  What was lacking in both prior to World War I and present in both afterward was the match of psychopathic leadership to ignite it.

You could argue that World War I was what gave both countries psychopathic leadership in the 1930's.  I think that is certainly the case in Germany.  But I'm not so sure about Russia.  Bolshevism was the creation of western European economic theory and political philosophy combined with Russian political conditions and was a small but discernible phenomenon prior to World War I.  Naziism distorted and then borrowed from certain philosophies, but it had no real grounding of its own in political philosophy or economic theory.  It was more purely the creature of Post World War I conditions.  Hitler was an art student before World War I.  Stalin was a bank robber raising money for the Party.
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Elisabeth on May 08, 2009, 06:35:40 AM
So could genocide have happened in imperial Russia? Perhaps. But it would have taken a very fanatically anti-Semitic tsar with intact autocratic powers (which doesn't exactly fit the description of Nicholas II after 1905).

I agree.  But wasn't Germany led by a fanatically anti-Semitic leader with intact autocratic powers at the time of the Holocaust?

I believe the raw material for genocide was present in both Germany and Russia before World War I.  What was lacking in both prior to World War I and present in both afterward was the match of psychopathic leadership to ignite it.

You could argue that World War I was what gave both countries psychopathic leadership in the 1930's.  I think that is certainly the case in Germany.  But I'm not so sure about Russia.  Bolshevism was the creation of western European economic theory and political philosophy combined with Russian political conditions and was a small but discernible phenomenon prior to World War I.  Naziism distorted and then borrowed from certain philosophies, but it had no real grounding of its own in political philosophy or economic theory.  It was more purely the creature of Post World War I conditions.  Hitler was an art student before World War I.  Stalin was a bank robber raising money for the Party.

I'm not sure I'm talking about "psychopathic leadership," Tsarfan, as being the only necessary component for creating conditions in which genocide can be carried out. I had more in mind entire populations utterly brutalized by the unprecedented violence of World War I, not only ordinary soldiers who had been in battle and witnessed the mass death of their comrades, men who had suffered unimaginable wounds to the both the body and the psyche, but also their relatives, entire peoples who were forced to evacuate their homes before the Germans even arrived. The refugee problem was horrendous in the Russian empire during World War I. And when you have this amount of social dislocation, chaos, and suffering, I don't think you're establishing much socio-political stability for the future. Add to that the mass trauma of the revolution, the civil war, and forced collectivization, not to mention the violence of the Soviet invasion of the Baltic states at the beginning of World War II, and what you get in my opinion is, if not a virtual guarantee of genocide, all the necessary preconditions for it to be carried out.

If very brutalized local populations were already seething with hatred against what they perceived to be internal "enemies" (identified as Jews, Communists, Gypsies, etc.) and the government gave them carte blanche to massacre these people, then it's not surprising that many of them would do so, to the very best of their ability. I'm just reminding everybody here that we shouldn't limit the scope of our inquiry into genocide to political leadership (not that you, Tsarfan, are doing this). Ordinary people participated in these murders, or encouraged them, or stood by and let them occur. By comparison the stories of rescue are few and far between. Why was that so? But it was so even under collectivization. Few Soviet peasants who wrote their memoirs recall anyone coming to their aid when they were evicted from their homes, deported from their villages, and watched other so-called kulaks get shot for protesting. On the contrary, their fellow villagers were often the first to denounce them. Is this human nature, or the result of decades of unparalleled hardship, or a combination of both? I think both. 

My point is, - I'll finally get to it - in my opinion, neither Germany nor Russia before World War I were probably hotbeds of genocidal tendencies amongst their peoples. Of course evils and murders and ethnic conflict were more or less common, but the necessary degree of psychological and social brutalization had not yet occurred. I suspect that before the horrors of World War I, a political party espousing genocide, whether this program was openly stated or only implied, would not have got very far in either tsarist Russia or imperial Germany. Because these were at the time relatively pluralistic societies with growing civil societies and a general common interest in remaining civil, even towards neighbors who might be regarded as somewhat suspect in the religious, ethnic, or even class sense.
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: RichC on May 08, 2009, 09:32:10 AM


I disagree with your two first points, Rich. I saw one of Stalin's mass executioners on Soviet television back in 1991, just before the collapse of the entire system, and he was not by any definition an "upper level apparatchik." No, Stalin got people at every level of the system to do his dirty (or shall we even say, "wet") work for him. That's precisely why Russia today is such a mess. Virtually everyone is linked not only to a victim of Stalin, but to one of his collaborators or perpetrators as well.

I was going by what I read in Lenin's Brain, which provides details on how the executions during the Great Terror had to be carried out by NKVD career officers in each of the 65 regions of the USSR.  Apparently the archives detail complaints from heads of the various Troikas who said they could not possibly kill so many people in so little time without help.  One officer complained that he could not kill more than three people a day, because of all the paperwork involved.  Further investigation showed he finally managed to kill up to 25 per day.  From what I can gather, the reason for this was Stalin's insistence on secrecy -- he wanted to minimize the chances of word getting out about the scale of the killing.  But he also wanted very broad "buy-in" from those who had a stake in the system.

Didn't Peter the Great also insist that his ministers personally participate in executions?  I thought he forced them to chop the heads off of convicts at the imperial estate outside Moscow.  He basically held classes on the best methods...

Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Elisabeth on May 10, 2009, 05:52:47 AM


I disagree with your two first points, Rich. I saw one of Stalin's mass executioners on Soviet television back in 1991, just before the collapse of the entire system, and he was not by any definition an "upper level apparatchik." No, Stalin got people at every level of the system to do his dirty (or shall we even say, "wet") work for him. That's precisely why Russia today is such a mess. Virtually everyone is linked not only to a victim of Stalin, but to one of his collaborators or perpetrators as well.

I was going by what I read in Lenin's Brain, which provides details on how the executions during the Great Terror had to be carried out by NKVD career officers in each of the 65 regions of the USSR.  Apparently the archives detail complaints from heads of the various Troikas who said they could not possibly kill so many people in so little time without help.  One officer complained that he could not kill more than three people a day, because of all the paperwork involved.  Further investigation showed he finally managed to kill up to 25 per day.  From what I can gather, the reason for this was Stalin's insistence on secrecy -- he wanted to minimize the chances of word getting out about the scale of the killing.  But he also wanted very broad "buy-in" from those who had a stake in the system.

Didn't Peter the Great also insist that his ministers personally participate in executions?  I thought he forced them to chop the heads off of convicts at the imperial estate outside Moscow.  He basically held classes on the best methods...

As far as I know you are correct, RichC, about Peter the Great. He delegated many of the executions of the Streltsy to others and also participated in these executions himself. He was a bloody tyrant, by any definition of the term.

I am sure you are also correct about Stalin's Great Terror, and that apparatchiks at various levels of the system were instructed by their "Great Leader" to participate in mass executions of civilians. However, I'm also of the belief that rank and file career criminals and psychopaths were probably recruited as well (as they were in the Nazi death camps). Of course, it's possible that the man I saw on television who admitted to shooting personally hundreds if not thousands of innocent Soviet civilians was originally a "normal" career officer in the NKVD. But in the interview, taken in the early 1990s, he looked completely insane - I have never seen such mad, empty, dead eyes on anyone except in shows about psychopathic killers. Quite possibly, however, this was the result of the "jobs" he was required to perform under the rule of Stalin.

All this does make you wonder about the mental health of Soviet citizens, not to mention their leadership, during the Stalin period and in its immediate aftermath... As far as I know, someone as high-ranking as Nikita Khrushchev was never actually required to participate on a personal level in the murders of Ukrainian civilians... and yet he was, according to the historical record, instrumental, indeed decisive, in carrying out the incredibly vicious and sweeping Stalinist purges in the Soviet Ukraine. Hard to believe that this was the very same man who, decades later, criticized Stalin's personality cult at a party congress, freed tens of thousands of political prisoners from concentration camps, and enabled "The Thaw" in Soviet culture to come about... Hence the famous monument over Khrushchev's tomb - a bust of the Soviet leader that shows one half of the face white and the other half black, relegated to utter darkness. If you ask me, the sculptor got it right.
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Forum Admin on May 23, 2009, 09:33:18 AM
Found this in "Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar" by Simon Montefiore 2004, Ch. 20 "Blood Bath By Numbers"
"The aim (in July 1937) was 'to finish off once and for all' all Enemies and those impossible to educate in socialism, so as to accelerate the erasing of class barriers and therefore bringing of paradise for the masses.  This final solution was a slaughter that made sense in terms of the faith and idealism of Bolshevism which was a religion based on the systematic destruction of classes.  The principle of ordering murder like industrial quotas in the Five Year Plan was therefore natural.  The details did not matter: if Hitler's destruction of the Jews was genocide, then this was democide, the class struggle spinning into cannibalism.  On July 30, Yezhov and his deputy Mikhail Frinovsky proposed Order No. 00447 to the Politburo; that between 5 and 15 August, the regions where to receive quotas for two categories: Category One - to be shot.  Category Two - to be deported.  They suggested that 72,950 should be shot and 259,450 arrested, though they missed some regions.  The regions could submit further such lists.  The families of these people should be deported too.  The Politburo confirmed this order the next day.

Soon this 'meat grinder' achieved such a momentum, as the witch hunt, approached its peak and the local jealousies and ambitions spurred it on,t that more and more were fed into the machine.  The quotas were soon filled by the regions who therefore asked for bigger numbers, so between 28 August and 15 December the Politburo agreed to the shooting of another 22,500 and then another 48,000.  In this the Terror differed most from Hilter's crimes which systematically destroyed a limited target: Jews and Gypsies.  Here, on the contrary, death was sometimes random; the long forgotten comment, the flirtation with an opposition, envy of another man's job, wife or house, vengeance or just plain coincidence brought the death and torture of entire families.  This did not matter: "Better too far than not far enough" Yezhov told his men as the original arrest quota ballooned to 767,397 arrests and 386,798 executions, families destroyed, children orphaned, under Order No. 00447.

Simultaneously, Yezhov attacked "national contingents" - this was murder by nationality against Poles and ethnic Germans among others.  On 11 August, Yezhov signed Order No. 00485 to liquidate "Polish diversionists and espionage groups" which was to consume most of the Polish Communist Party, most Poles within Bolshevik leadership, anyone with social or "consular contacts" - and of course their wives and children.  Atotal of 350,000 (144,000 of them Poles) were arrested in the operation, with 247,157 shot (110,000 Poles) - a mini Genocide.   Altogether, the latest estimates, combining the quotas and national contingents, are that 1.5 million were arrested in these operations and about 700,000 shot. 

***
Stalin was surprisingly open with his circle about the aim to "finish off" all their Enemies.  He would tell his cronies this quite openly at Voroshilov's May Day party, as reported to Budyonny.  He seems to have constantly compared his Terror to Ivan the Terrible's massacre of the boyars. "Who's going to remember all this riffraff in ten or twenty years time? No one.  Who remembers the names now of the boyars Ivan the Terrible got rid of? No one..."
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Elisabeth on May 24, 2009, 04:05:14 PM
Simon Sebag Montefiore's Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar is in fact one of my favorite history books about Stalin's regime. It has come under heavy criticism from some academics, for its supposed lack of full citations, but if you ask me, most of this criticism is the result of professional envy. The same sort of criticism - for so-called (un)scholarly sloppiness and sensationalism - was levelled against the American historian Barbara Tuchman, whose books like The Proud Tower became New York Times bestsellers. (Much as Montefiore's works have been bestsellers if not in the US - I frankly don't know - but in the UK). That said, The Proud Tower is now regarded as standard introductory material for undergraduate study of the history of World War I. I suspect a similar fate awaits Montefiore's Court of the Red Tsar in history courses about Stalinism because it is not only an exciting historical narrative but it is also chock-full of historical detail, detail which could only have been gleaned from the close study of Soviet archives now closed to public perusal.

Stalin did indeed emulate the example of Ivan IV, the Terrible: as I have noted repeatedly in this forum, Stalin wrote "uchitel'" (Russian for "teacher") all over Eisenstein's screenplay for the famous film about the murderous 16th-century Russian tsar. His only complaint about Ivan the Terrible was that "God interfered with him" - that is, Ivan retained a moral conscience and from time to time prayed for his victims and sought divine forgiveness for killing them. Obviously Stalin himself had no such scruples.

I don't think Lenin had any scruples, either. Which is why I regard Stalin's reign as the natural, if, granted, extreme continuation of Lenin's own policies of divide and destroy purely on the basis of social class. For this reason I consider the term "democide," as problematic as it is, far more appropriate than the term "genocide." The Soviet government's actions (or in some cases inaction, outright negligence) were far more politically (and as a result, paradoxically, arbitrarily) motivated than is usually the case with genocide (which generally presupposes a specific, predetermined goal - the complete physical annihilation or at the very least cultural extirpation of the hated and dreaded racial or ethnic Other). Since the fall of the Soviet Union, mass graves have been discovered in the former western European territories, which fully attest to the fact that a large number of the Soviet state's murders were carried out on a purely arbitrary basis - solely for the sake of filling some government quota for annihilation of counterrevolutionaries, spies, and other enemies against the state. In many cases, the victims were men, women, and children who were clearly dragged off the streets of major cities at random and shot in the back of the neck. As they were discovered after the fall of Communism, these corpses of Stalin's victims were dressed in ordinary, everyday clothing (not prison clothing), and they had many of their private possessions still with them (such as tickets to the theater). In other words, they never went through any prison processing - they were seized as they were only in order to be shot out of hand and buried in mass graves, all for the sake of Stalin's regional "quotas."



 
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Zvezda on May 28, 2009, 06:30:55 PM
Montefiore's account on Stalin is characterized by factual errors, unsubstantiated gossip, and reams of invented dialogue. It is not serious scholarship, but is aimed at a pop audience.

Quote
And let us recall for a moment the case of Ukraine, which had already been subjugated to the USSR and endured the worst of the terror famine a decade before, at the cost of millions of lives. Try to imagine the level of bitterness and hatred - and overall brutalization - engendered by the forced starvation and the needless suffering and deaths of one's loved ones.
Leaving aside the fact that the famine in Ukraine and in parts of Russia was no "terror-famine", your theory does not provide an explanation for why no less than 5 million Ukrainians honorably served in the Red Army and operated in partisan units in the German rear. Concerning the Lithuanian and the Baltic provinces, there is not an explanation as to why tens of thousands of people from these areas fought in the Red Army and partisan units. With such generalizations about these nationalities' collaboration with the enemy, you are stopping short of slandering these nations.

Quote
I don't think Lenin had any scruples, either. Which is why I regard Stalin's reign as the natural, if, granted, extreme continuation of Lenin's own policies of divide and destroy purely on the basis of social class.

The fact that the Communist Party represented workers, farmers, intellectuals exposes this claim of "class genocide" to be groundless. There were also large numbers of petit-bourgeois in Soviet Russia such as independent farmers. My own grandfather was a cobbler with his own shop. Talk of "class genocide" is groundless and in fact pertains to capitalism. For example, it was capitalism that destroyed the aristocracy and is currently in the process of eliminating the industrial proletariat by outsourcing and other methods.


Quote
Bolshevism was the creation of western European economic theory and political philosophy combined with Russian political conditions and was a small but discernible phenomenon prior to World War I. 
The western influence is rather overstated. Predecessors to the Bolsheviks include Chernyshevsky, Herzen, Narodniki, People's Will, and other revolutionary and progressive forces.
Quote
At any rate, it's an established fact that Mussolini was a revolutionary Marxist in the 1910s.
Mussolini was a member of the Socialist Party. He was expelled from the Party because of his chauvinist stance toward the war. His previous membership in the Socialist Party really does not have any relevance to the characteristics of his Fascist regime.
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Alixz on May 30, 2009, 09:42:57 AM
For example, it was capitalism that destroyed the aristocracy and is currently in the process of eliminating the industrial proletariat by outsourcing and other methods.

----------------------------------------

I don't know if capitalism destroyed the aristocracy, but I do believe that even in the US today, "it is destroying the industrial proletariat by outsourcing and other methods".

We are currently losing our "working middle class" as our companies outsource everything to make a bigger profit.  Just yesterday, I heard that GM was going to have its new car, the Spark, made in China, but under pressure from the unions is now going to have it made here in the US.
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Forum Admin on May 30, 2009, 10:03:57 AM
Montefiore's account on Stalin is characterized by factual errors, unsubstantiated gossip, and reams of invented dialogue. It is not serious scholarship, but is aimed at a pop audience.


I'm not going to let you off so easy as to dismiss my quote by claiming the entire BOOK is not "serious". Please stick to topic and address exactly what factual errors or unsubstantiated gossip exist in the specific paragraphs I cited.  Then, when you're done, I'll gladly give you the citation notes for them from the book...
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Mimì on September 11, 2009, 02:11:31 AM
Actually the genocides did not come forth outh of nothing. The political reasons may explain those of Jews and Armenians but not those of ill people or Gypsies. Already at the end of XIX century the Positivism had brought to the theory of evolution: nothing bad if it remained on the field of scientific paleontology, but at a certain point spread also the idea of "social evolutionism", that is, to let only the strongest elements of the society survive to various difficulties (poverty etc...) and let the others disappear. At the beginning of the centuries for this reason also in America some of the poorest or carriers of genetical diseases were sterilized against their will (a document has been found recently in which president Teddy Roosevelt was in favour of abortion only if it was after a rape or if the man and woman were of two different races: just to say that eugenetics was the mentality of the political class at that time, not just of nazis). In Russia this didn't happen because the imperial family was itself hit by a similar pain. And it didn't disappear. Just a few years ago the WHO commanded sterilization massive plains in the Third world.
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Ludwik on September 12, 2009, 09:47:34 PM
For example, it was capitalism that destroyed the aristocracy and is currently in the process of eliminating the industrial proletariat by outsourcing and other methods.

----------------------------------------

I don't know if capitalism destroyed the aristocracy, but I do believe that even in the US today, "it is destroying the industrial proletariat by outsourcing and other methods".

We are currently losing our "working middle class" as our companies outsource everything to make a bigger profit.  Just yesterday, I heard that GM was going to have its new car, the Spark, made in China, but under pressure from the unions is now going to have it made here in the US.
Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: klava1985 on November 22, 2009, 06:21:10 PM
I didn't understand Elisabeth's question to be about genocide but about something larger. So I think democide is a better term. In all of these cases we are talking about a reorganization of the population to support a structure of power, with an ideology that may justify in this in some way but really it's about controlling the means of production or raw materials. For Germany, Hitler wanted absolute power and also control over a larger geography. It was necessary to raise capital, deflect the attention of the populace to a goal that kept them from looking too hard at the organization of power (ie, he had to offer people a deal, just as capitalism offers people walmart to get them to chill), and to remove people from the land he wanted. The Jews were the start. He was after all the slavs as well. He probably really believed his own delusions, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a drive to power and a need for a new economy and arrangement of resources to support it.

Stalin too was a sociopath, less delusional, and less stupid. I personally don't think he bought into the ideology as much, just manipulated it. He was a *mobster*. Think about it that way, if only as an intellectual experiment. A godfather. How would you reorganize a country like Russia, if you were a godfather, if you wanted you and your gang to control everything, from the land to the grain to the factories? And add in, so messed up in terms of attachment that you couldn't even form a healthy relationship with your own gang...? I think Stalin is unique. Probably not the only individual ever to have his psychological profile, but the only one ever to get into this position.

I think Bullock's book is really insightful and valuable in terms of looking at the parallels and the backgrounds of the two men and realizing that they really were psychopaths. But I think that Hitler's aims were expansive--he wanted more land. He wanted the assets of the Jews and the removal of other populations that might stand in his way. Stalin may have gotten there if he'd lived forever, but when you start with Russia you have enough on your hands. So his aims were more about reorganization and restructuring. He wanted *everyone's* assets. The previous system was too inefficient with all those middlemen--the landowners and merchants, etc, each with their cuts. Plus, wankers like Stalin and Lenin could never rise to the top in a system like that. You had to be a *born* wanker.

But why not ask a broader question. Is Europe unique? Is the 20th century unique qualitatively or only quantitatively? Why Mao? Why Pol Pot? Why this or that Inca (they moved populations around exactly as China is now doing with Tibet)? Why Moctezuma? Why [pick your African dictator]? I think you could find a lot of examples of democide performed in the interest of reorganizing power and economic structure so that wealth flows to the top in a different way. 

Re Montefiore, I think the biggest issue with him is not the content but the style. He's so florid... When you have chapter titles like "The Bolshevik Temptress" in a history novel, you just have a hard time taking the guy seriously. You think, go write a novel. Which is exactly what he's done. I highly recommend Sashenka, which follows a young revolutionary from 1917 through to her execution as an Old Bolshevik. It's not the GREATEST writing, but it's full of great detail, from customing to archival trial records. He is much better suited to this type of writing, and you can pretty well trust in the general accuracy of the setting, situation, etc, even if the character herself is fictionalized.

Title: Re: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? Why Hitler?
Post by: Elisabeth on November 23, 2009, 06:48:39 PM
Klava, welcome to the forum! You raise so many interesting points, it's very hard to know where to begin. You're right, I was talking about democide, as opposed to genocide, in posing my initial question. It's true that democide goes back thousands, probably tens of thousands of years, if we are to trust archaeologists, who have in recent decades uncovered evidence that the inhabitants of entire villages were wiped out and buried in mass graves by other peoples, who were apparently seeking to take over their land.

I had an anthropology professor in college, actually, who used to get quite impatient with people who claimed that the Holocaust was a singular, unique historical event. She said, in so many words, that we've been killing off the evil Other for as long as we, Homo sapiens, have been on the planet.

Democide could even be our signature tune as a species (my facetious ad lib, in very bad taste).

Also, Klava, your discussion of Stalin as a gangster reminds me of the memoirs of FDR's butler, I can't recall his name but he served under many presidents well into old age. I can't remember the precise details of his story, only the stellar outstanding point, which was that that Molotov kept a gun under his pillow during his entire stay in the White House. I repeat, in the White House! As if he, the Soviet ambassador to the United States, expected assassination at any moment! But as the butler himself stated about the Soviet diplomat and his entourage, "They were all gangsters!" It's only too true, once again you've hit the nail on the head.