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Stalin, the `dictator'

We begin with the first `uncontestable truth': Stalin, alone, the dictator, imposing his personal will, requiring total submission to himself. Here is Khrushchev: 

`The power accumulated in the hands of one person, Stalin, led to serious consequences during the Great Patriotic War.'


Khrushchev,  Secret Report, op. cit. , p. S36.

`Stalin acts for everybody; he does not reckon with anyone; he asks no one for advice.'


Ibid. , p. S43.

`Stalin acted not through persuasion, explanation and patient cooperation with people, but by imposing his concepts and demanding absolute submission to his opinion. Whoever opposed this concept or tried to prove his viewpoint and the correctness of his position was doomed to removal from the leading collective and to subsequent moral and physical annihilation.'


Ibid. , p. S13.

`The sickly suspicion created in him a general distrust .... A situation was created where one could not express one's own will.'


Ibid. , p. S34.

Elleinstein  followed in Khrushchev's  footsteps. He is quite happy to denounce the `Soviet dictatorship', in which Stalin `was suspicious of all his subordinates'. `The errors of Stalin's leadership had tragic consequences in the first months of the war, but these took place primarily as a result of the Soviet dictatorship.'


Elleinstein,  op. cit. , pp. 284, 282.

Vasilevsky  was originally assistant to Zhukov,  the Chief of Staff. In May 1942, he became Chief of Staff. He worked at Stalin's side throughout the war.

`In elaborating a particular operational-strategic decision or in examining other important issues affecting the conduct of the war, the Commander-in-Chief called in responsible people directly in charge of the problem under review .... periodically he would summon certain members of front military councils so as to work out, review or confirm a particular decision concerning control of battle operations ....

`(T)he preliminary draft of a strategic decision of plan for its implementation was drawn up by the Commander-in-Chief in a narrow circle of people. These were usually a few members of the Politburo and the State Defence Committee .... This work would often take several days. In the course of it the Commander-in-Chief would normally confer with commanders and members of military councils of the respective fronts'.

Note that the State Committee for Defence, headed by Stalin, was responsible for the leadership of the country and all authority was concentrated in its hands. Vasilevsky  continued:

`(T)he Central Committee Politburo and army leadership always relied on collective decision-making. That is why the strategic decisions taken collectively and drawn up by the Supreme Command as a rule corresponded to the situation at the fronts, while the requirements made upon people were realistic'.


Vasilevsky,  op. cit. , pp. 91--93.

Vasilevsky  also thought that Stalin's style of work improved during the battle of Stalingrad, then during the great offensives against the Hitlerians. 

`The big turning point for Stalin as Supreme High Commander came in September 1942 when the situation became very grave and there was a special need for flexible and skilled leadership in regard to military operations. (He was) ... obliged constantly to rely on the collective experience of his generals. Thenceforth one would often hear him say: ``Why the devil didn't you say so!''

`From then on, before he took a decision on any important war issue, Stalin would take advice and discuss it together with his deputy, the top General Staff personnel, heads of chief departments of the People's Defence Commissariat and front commanders, as well as people's commissars in charge of the defence industry.'


Ibid. , p. 449.

During the entire war, General Shtemenko  worked for the Chief of Staff, first as Chief of Operations, then as under-Chief of Staff.

`I must say that Stalin did not decide and did not like to decide for himself important questions about the war. He understood perfectly well the necessity of collective work in this complex area, he recognized those who were experts on such and such a military problem, took into account their opinion and gave each their due.'


Chtémenko,  L'État-Major général soviétique en guerre (Moscow: Éditions du Progrès, 1976), vol. 2, p. 319.

Zhukov  described many vivid conversations and underscored the manner in which they were resolved:

`Often sharp arguments arose at the Committee sittings. Views were expressed in definite and sharp terms ....

`If no agreement was reached at the sitting, a commission would be immediately formed of representatives of the two extreme sides which had to reach an agreement and report on the proposals it would work out ....

`In all, the State Committee for Defence adopted some ten thousand resolutions on military and economic matters during the war.'


Zhukov,  op. cit. , pp. 267--268.

Khrushchev's  image of Stalin, the `lone man who leans on no-one', is falsified by an event during the war, in the beginning of August 1941, which implicated Khrushchev  himself and Commander Kirponos.  Vasilevsky  recalled the anecdote, probably thinking of the passage in Khrushchev's  Secret Report that reads `At the beginning of the war we did not even have sufficient numbers of rifles'.


Khrushchev,  Secret Report, op. cit. , p. S38.

Stalin had given his approval to Khrushchev  for an offensive that would start August 5, 1941. But at the same time, Stalin told him to prepare the defence line that he (Stalin) had proposed. Stalin explained that in warfare, `you have to prepare for the bad and even the very bad as well as the good. That is the only way of avoiding blunders'.

But Khrushchev  made all sorts of unreasonable demands that the headquarters could not meet. Stalin said:

` ``It would be silly to think ... that you are going to get everything ready-made from somewhere else. Learn to supply and reinforce yourself. Set up reserve units attached to the armies, turn some factories over to making rifles, machine-guns, get cracking .... Leningrad has been able to start manufacturing Katiusha rockets ....''

` ``Comrade Stalin, all your instructions will be put into effect. Unfortunately, we are unfamiliar with the Katiusha rocket ....''

` ``Your people have the blueprints, and they've had the models for ages. It's your own fault for being so ignorant of this crucial weapon.'' '


Vasilevsky,  op. cit. , p. 99.

That was how Stalin taught his subordinates, here Khrushchev,  to show initiative, creativity and a sense of responsibility.

In July 1942, Rokossovsky,  who had led with much success an army up to then, was named commander of the Briansk Front by Stalin. He was unsure of whether he was competent. He was warmly received by Stalin, who explained the position. Rokossovsky  described the end of the interview.

`When I had finished and was about to leave, Stalin said, ``Don't go yet.''

`He phoned Poskryobyshev and asked him to call in a general just removed from the command at the Front. The following dialogue took place:

` ``You say that we have punished you wrongly?''

` ``Yes, because the GHQ representative kept getting in my way.''

` ``How?''

` ``He interfered with my orders, held conferences when it was necessary to act, gave contradictory instructions... In general he tried to override the commander.''

` ``So he got in your way. But you were in command of the Front?''

` ``Yes.''

` ``The Party and the Government entrusted the Front to you... Did you have a telephone?''

` ``Yes.''

` ``Then why didn't you report that he was getting in your way?''

` ``I didn't dare complain about your representative.''

` ``Well, that is what we have punished you for: not daring to pick up the receiver and phone up, as a result of which you failed to carry out the operation.''

`I walked out of the Supreme Commander's office with the thought that, as a new-fledged Front Commander, I had just been taught an object lesson. Believe me, I made the most of it.'


Rokossovsky,  op. cit. , pp. 118--119.

That was how Stalin sanctioned those generals who did not dare defend their opinion by addressing him directly.

next up previous contents index
Next: Stalinthe `hysteric' Up: Stalinhis personality Previous: Stalinhis personality

Fri Aug 25 09:03:42 PDT 1995