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Stalin's military merits

How should one evaluate the military merits of the man who led the army and the peoples of the Soviet Union during the greatest and most terrible war that history has ever seen?

Here is Khrushchev's  summary:

`Stalin very energetically popularized himself as a great leader .... let us take, for instance, our historical and military films ...; they make us feel sick. Their true objective is the propagation of the theme of praising Stalin as a military genius ....

`Not Stalin, but the party as a whole, the Soviet Government, our heroic Army, its talented leaders and brave soldiers, the whole Soviet nation --- these are the ones who assured the victory in the Great Patriotic War. (Tempestuous and prolonged applause.)


Khrushchev,  Secret Report, pp. S42--S43.

It was not Stalin! Not Stalin, but the entire Party. And the entire Party probably took orders and instructions from the Holy Spirit.

Khrushchev  pretended to glorify the Party, that collective entity of struggle, to diminish the rôle played by Stalin. Organizing the cult of the personality, Stalin usurped the victory that was won by the `entire' Party. As if Stalin was not the most important leader of the Party, the one who, throughout the war, displayed great working capacity, great stamina and foresightedness. As if the strategic decisions had not been confirmed by Stalin, but, in opposition, by his subordinates.

If Stalin was not a military genius, one can only conclude that the greatest war in history, the war that humanity led against fascism, was won with no military geniuses. Because in this terrifying war, no one played a comparable rôle to Stalin. Even Averell Harriman,  U.S. imperialism's representative, after repeating the necessary clichés about `the tyrant in Stalin', clearly stated `his high intelligence, that fantastic grasp of detail, his shrewdness and the surprising human sensitivity that he was capable of showing, at least in the war years. I found him better informed than Roosevelt, more realistic than Churchill,  in some ways the most effective of the war leaders.'


W. Averell Harriman  and Elie Abel,  Special Envoy to Churchill  and Stalin: 1941--1946 (New York: Random House, 1975), p. 536.

`When Stalin was present, there was no room for anyone else. Where were our military chiefs?', cried out Khrushchev  the demagogue. He flattered the marshals: wasn't it you who were the real military geniuses of the Second World War? Finally, Zhukov  and Vasilevsky,  the two most important military leaders, gave their opinion fifteen and twenty years, respectively, after Khrushchev's  infamous report. We present Vasilevsky's  opinion first.

`The process of Stalin's growth as a general came to maturity .... After the Stalingrad and especially the Kursk battles he rose to the heights of strategic leadership. From then on Stalin would think in terms of modern warfare, had a good grasp of all questions relating to the preparation for and execution of operations. He would now demand that military action be carried out in a creative way, with full account of military science, so that all actions were decisive and flexible, designed to split up and encircle the enemy. In his military thinking he markedly displayed a tendency to concentrate men and materiel, to diversified employment of all possible ways of commencing operations and their conduct. Stalin began to show an excellent grasp of military strategy, which came fairly easily to him since he was a past master at the art of political strategy, and of operational art as well.'


Vasilevsky,  op. cit. , pp. 449--450.

`Joseph Stalin has certainly gone down in military history. His undoubted service is that it was under his direct guidance as Supreme High Commander that the Soviet Armed Forces withstood the defensive campaigns and carried out all the offensive operations so splendidly. Yet he, to the best of my judgment, never spoke of his own contribution. The title of Hero of the Soviet Union and rank of Generalissimus were awarded to him by written representation to the Party Central Committee Politburo from front commanders .... He told people plainly and honestly about the miscalculations made during the war.'


Ibid. , p. 452.

`It is my profound conviction that Stalin, especially in the latter part of the war, was the strongest and most remarkable figure of the strategic command. He successfully supervised the fronts and all the war efforts of the country on the basis of the Party line .... He has remained in my memory as a stern and resolute war leader, but not without a certain personal charm.'


Ibid. , p. 447--448.

Zhukov  begins by giving us a perfect example of leadership methods, as presented by Mao Zedong:  concentrate the correct ideas of the masses and transform them into directives for the masses.

`To Stalin is usually ascribed a number of fundamental innovations such as elaborating the methods of artillery offensive action, the winning of air supremacy, methods of encircling the enemy, the splitting of surrounded groups and their demolition by parts, etc.

`All these paramount problems of the art of war are the fruits of battles with the enemy, the fruits of profound thinking, the fruits of the experience of a big team of leading military leaders and the troops themselves.

`Here Stalin's merit lies in the fact that he correctly appraised the advice offered by the military experts and then in summarized form --- in instructions, directives and regulations --- immediately circulated them among the troops for practical guidance.'


Zhukov,  op. cit. , p. 285.

`Before and especially after the war an outstanding role was attributed to Stalin in creating the Armed Forces, elaborating the fundamentals of Soviet military science and major doctrines of strategy, and even operational art ....

`Stalin mastered the technique of the organization of front operations and operations by groups of fronts and guided them with skill, thoroughly understanding complicated strategic questions. He displayed his ability as Commander-in-Chief beginning with Stalingrad.

`In guiding the armed struggle as a whole, Stalin was assisted by his natural intelligence and profound intuition. He had a knack of grasping the main link in the strategic situation so as to organize opposition to the enemy and conduct a major offensive operation. He was certainly a worthy Supreme Commander.'


Ibid. , pp. 284--285.


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Next: From Stalin to Up: Stalinhis personality Previous: Stalinof `mediocre

Fri Aug 25 09:03:42 PDT 1995