View Full Version : Alternate history of The USSR


Hamlet
Jan 11, 2002, 12:24 PM
I was thinking about this for some time, and I wanted to know your views on something.

Essentially, I was pondering what would happen if Stalin had never emerged as leader of The USSR; actually more specifially, what would have happened if:

- Stalin dies in exile in Siberia in Spetember 1916, due to hypothermia. (Okay, so it was the only thing I could think of :D)

-Things run their course normally like in our timeline; The February revolution takes place, and the Tsar is Overthrown. The Bolsheviks succesfully perform a coup in October, overthrowing the Providinal Government. As Stalin argued against the revolution taking place until Lenin arrived from exile, his absence doesn't affect the timeline.

So, what's happens now, with Stalin out of the picture? (I don't need a history lesson on what happens next in reality, I know thanks, :D I just want your views on what would happen with Stalin out of the picture.)

You don't have to provide anything extensive or complete, just some ideas. Any contributions are welcome.

Thanks in advance.

knowltok3
Jan 11, 2002, 02:33 PM
Interesting idea. I think the first thing is to figure out who is going to follow Lenin. I think the most logical choice was Trotsky, but I can't defend that. Then you get into the question of the Russian relations with Germany and the Red Army without the purges. Also the concept of a more benevolent Russia (I assume this considering that Stalin was downright evil).

Russian revolution to WWII is not my area, so correct me where I am wrong. (There I go again asking people to do what they would have anyway.):)

I'd personally say you have the basis for one hell of an alternative history novel. Russia could be allied to Germany, could be conquered, could resist, but not impose itself on conquered territories, could even need liberating...the possibilities are endless. Good topic!:) :)

Hamlet
Jan 11, 2002, 03:25 PM
Originally posted by knowltok3
Interesting idea. I think the first thing is to figure out who is going to follow Lenin. I think the most logical choice was Trotsky, but I can't defend that.

Well, I was thinking this also.

I think we can assume that with Stalin out of the picture:

-Trotsky's chances of succeeding Lenin are vastly increased. Trotsky and Stalin were seen as the main two conteders for the succesion. Therefore, we can assume that Trotsky is the most likely to succeed Lenin in this timeline. The politics of the party would not flare up to such an extent as Stalin made them, hence it is likely that the party 'drifts' towards Trotksy as it's next leader, although with some wrangling between him, Kamenev, Bukharin and Zinoviev.

-Whoever gains the position of General Secretary in place of Stalin will either not realise the full potential of the post or will not utilise it in the way that Stalin did. As Trotsky opposed the gowing bureacracy of the party, we can assume that it doesn't grow to such an extent as it did under Stalin, rpovided he succeeds

My guess is that Trotsky eventually 'emerges' as the next leader, although if anyone wants to disagree then do so.

I'm unsure as what would happen next, I'll have to think on it. certainly we would have a radically different world today without Stalin. Whether it would be better or worse is highly debatable.

MrGeneric
Jan 11, 2002, 06:04 PM
Here's the thing though, Stalin was primarily responsible for bringing the Russian industry and army into the 20th century. Odds are if Trotsky took over he wouldn't have implemented the harsh, but necessary, five-year plans and the USSR would've fallen to Germany.

Hamlet
Jan 11, 2002, 06:51 PM
Originally posted by MrGeneric
Here's the thing though, Stalin was primarily responsible for bringing the Russian industry and army into the 20th century. Odds are if Trotsky took over he wouldn't have implemented the harsh, but necessary, five-year plans and the USSR would've fallen to Germany.

I was going to come to that in my next post but you pre-empted me. :D

I have to say, it's not a view I entirely agree upon, though.

Alcibiaties of Athenae
Jan 11, 2002, 08:13 PM
Originally posted by MrGeneric
Here's the thing though, Stalin was primarily responsible for bringing the Russian industry and army into the 20th century. Odds are if Trotsky took over he wouldn't have implemented the harsh, but necessary, five-year plans and the USSR would've fallen to Germany. I would have to disagree most strongly.

Trotsky showed considerable talent and ruthlessness during the Russian civil war, was ten times the military man Stalin was, without the intense paranoia that plagued Stalin.

His concepts of socialism would have revitalized Russia, and made it much more dangerous.
He certainly understood economics to a much greater extent then Stalin, and would have moved Russian industry foward without Stalin's mistakes about collectivization and food production loss.

The odds are that when Germany came, they would face a well led, professional army, not raveged by purges and loaded with party hacks, and that our Nazi friends would have had their heads handed to them.

Trostsky was by far, the more dangerous man then uncle Joe.

Vrylakas
Jan 11, 2002, 08:21 PM
Pardon me for a moment as I relish the thought of Stalin dying a slow, painful death by frostbite and exposure in Sibir in 1916....:D

*Sigh* Back to reality. Although one wonders how many Stalins did die before they could come to power and wreak havoc in other lands at different times. Eh, well, one of them did make it and millions are dead because of it.

I think there's a mistaken belief among some that Stalin was a maniac who perverted an otherwise pure or humane communism as established by Lenin. Not true. Stalin was indeed a maniac but his crimes against Lenin are merely his hogging the limelight and re-writing history to insert himself into important decisions from the Revolution that he had nothing to do with. (I asked a professor of mine in Hungary once about some conspiracy theories I'd read of Stalin having Lenin murdered by his doctors so he could take over; my professor's reply was: "Who cares? As long as the bastard ended up dead, who cares how it happened?") Lenin believed in mass-murder and terror as much as Stalin, and proved himself willing to use it. He was a more cultured man than Stalin, but he invented the mass purges and terror that Stalin would use later. I think Stalin was an apt pupil of Lenin's, albeit more eccentric.

I'm not so sure Trotsky would have succeeded Lenin. Trotsky had a basic problem that cannot be overlooked; he was visibly Jewish, a major liability in early 20th century Russia. Despite Soviet rhetoric, I don't think Trotsky would have been able to build up enough of a powerbase to effectively take over after Lenin's death. If he did succeed to take over the reins, I think the Soviet might have dissolved into civil war as many Russians refused to be led by (what they would see as) a Jewish faction. The early Bolsheviks didn't have anyone (aside from Stalin) who was charismatic enough and politically experienced enough otherwise to hold the country together. With the Russo-Polish War and the end of the Civil War, Lenin didn't know quite what to do with the world that hadn't collapsed into Proletarian Revolution; it was Stalin who improvised enough to develop "socialism in one country". Thug though he was, only Stalin had both the authority and the wits to maintain the Bolshevik's grip on the country - though, rather like the Americans did at My Lai, he "had to destroy the [country] in order to save it."

Hamlet
Jan 12, 2002, 05:41 AM
Originally posted by Vrylakas
Lenin believed in mass-murder and terror as much as Stalin, and proved himself willing to use it. He was a more cultured man than Stalin, but he invented the mass purges and terror that Stalin would use later. I think Stalin was an apt pupil of Lenin's, albeit more eccentric.

I agree, for the most part. Lenin, and indeed Trotsky created, and made use of terror throughout the period. The 'Red terror' during the civil war disposed of 50,000 'internal enemies'. Also, purging of the party of underirables was indeed started by Lenin.

However.

The scale and natures of the terror and purges under Stalin were radically different than those under Lenin, and were not the nation-encompassing, illogicality fueled affairs they would later become. The purges under Lenin were internal Bolshevik party affairs, which did not result in deaths - they were used mainly to weed out those not commited to the cause. However, we can see the obvious legitimising of a system of terror and killing.

Originally posted by Vrylakas
I'm not so sure Trotsky would have succeeded Lenin. Trotsky had a basic problem that cannot be overlooked; he was visibly Jewish, a major liability in early 20th century Russia. Despite Soviet rhetoric, I don't think Trotsky would have been able to build up enough of a powerbase to effectively take over after Lenin's death.

I would disagree. Although there was indeed rampant anti-semetism in early 20th century Russia, which would in part influence Nazi thinking later, I do believe that Trotsky could have held on.

Firstly, we see by Lenin that charisma was not high upon the requirements to be leader. Lenin was leader purely by virtue of intellect alone; in the same vein I'm sure Trortsky could be that also, but with the backing of his military genius and his status of 'hero' of the civil war.

You hav to ask yourself would it indeed be possible for any civil war to erupt? With Whitist support decimated through one civil war already, and with Trotsky as head of the army, and with the loyalty of his troops, would it be possible for a challenge, or at least a succesful one?

Thorgalaeg
Jan 12, 2002, 05:47 AM
Here's the thing though, Stalin was primarily responsible for bringing the Russian industry and army into the 20th century. Odds are if Trotsky took over he wouldn't have implemented the harsh, but necessary, five-year plans and the USSR would've fallen to Germany.


But you must consider that Germany was closely together of to win to the USSR through the fault of Stalin:
Due to the purges of 1937 he eliminated all the trained officials of the army, leaving it without brain.
For his politics mistaken with regard to Germany, Stalin come to give prime matters to Hitler by virtue of the no-aggression agreement of , an antinatural and monstrously agreement.

Returning to the topic, I think that, today, the USSR would exist if Stalin had not existed.

Hamlet
Jan 12, 2002, 06:03 AM
Recent studies on the effects of the purges now suggest that as little as 5% of officers were removed permanently, with most being re-instated before the war.

Thorgalaeg
Jan 12, 2002, 06:22 AM
Not to recent studies you refer, Hamlet. But according to the information that I have, after the purges they had eliminated (or killed, and I could not return a dead man):

3 marshalls of 5 including Mikail N. Tukachevsky, One of the best strategists of those times.
14 chiefs of army of 16,
8 admiral of 8,
60 chiefs of body of army of 67,
136 chiefs of division of 199,
221 chiefs of brigade of 397,
75 members of the supreme military soviet of 80,
and all the vicecomissioners of defense.

Remaining the chiefs of the type of Voroshilov, who only were serving to praise to Stalin.

Juize
Jan 12, 2002, 10:48 AM
Originally posted by Alcibiaties of Athenae
I would have to disagree most strongly.

Trotsky showed considerable talent and ruthlessness during the Russian civil war, was ten times the military man Stalin was, without the intense paranoia that plagued Stalin.

His concepts of socialism would have revitalized Russia, and made it much more dangerous.
He certainly understood economics to a much greater extent then Stalin, and would have moved Russian industry foward without Stalin's mistakes about collectivization and food production loss.

The odds are that when Germany came, they would face a well led, professional army, not raveged by purges and loaded with party hacks, and that our Nazi friends would have had their heads handed to them.

Trostsky was by far, the more dangerous man then uncle Joe.

Altough I'm having a feeling that AofA has 3000 % better knowledge about this issue,
I still disagree. VERY strongly.

Hamlet
Jan 12, 2002, 12:48 PM
Originally posted by Alcibiaties of Athenae
I would have to disagree most strongly.

Trotsky showed considerable talent and ruthlessness during the Russian civil war, was ten times the military man Stalin was, without the intense paranoia that plagued Stalin.

His concepts of socialism would have revitalized Russia, and made it much more dangerous.
He certainly understood economics to a much greater extent then Stalin, and would have moved Russian industry foward without Stalin's mistakes about collectivization and food production loss.

The odds are that when Germany came, they would face a well led, professional army, not raveged by purges and loaded with party hacks, and that our Nazi friends would have had their heads handed to them.

Trostsky was by far, the more dangerous man then uncle Joe.

We can obviously outline many bad things about Stalin's leadership:

-He had come to his position by simple oppurtunism. He was not a good speaker, organsier, theorist, intellectual or automatically charismatic. He was rather good at organising matters, possibly one of the reasons for his appointment as general secretary, but that's as far as his good qualities extended. He was a disastrorous miliary leader, although he attempted, succesfully, to claim succes in WW2 was down to himself. In reality, Stalin was an exceptionally poor leader, once going into complete isolation for days on end without issuing orders. Zhukov and others were probably the best leaders of The war for the Russians, certainly not Stalin.

-He comes across, even under the most sympatetic inspection, to be psychologically flawed. Once confessing to Kruschev "I trust no-one, not even myself", he became progressively more paranoid, and dictatorial liquidising of opponents eventually leads to simple victimisation of obviously innocent sectors of the party and the country.

-Stalin's ideas on the economy were mainly stolen from his opponents. Stalin assumed a position in the right of the party to defeat the left, then defeated the right using hijacked leftist ecnomic theory, which was essentially subsequently implemented, and his own populist brand of international communist outlook 'socialism in one country'. Evidence to suggest that The USSR would not be able to withstand any WW2 scenario under Trotsky is poor. It assumes that:

A: Trotsky would have taken a radically different economic course, which, as far as we can tell would not have been the case. Trotsky understood economics much better than Stalin, and therefore ecnmomic progress would likely have been better ordered. However, Trotsky would have realised the need to industrialise in the same way that Stalin did.

B: Trotsky was not ruthless enough to implement what he felt was necessary. This is partially true, in that Trotsky didn't have the same total disregard for human life that Stalin had, but he was prepared to rid anyone he considered a 'class traitor', etc, which would have essentially meant the same fate for the Kulaks.

C: Trotsky didn't believe there was any need for Russia to build it's economic and industrial strength up. This was, in fact, almost universally agreed upon within the party, although ideas on how it was to be achieved differed. Trotsky was certainly in the camp that advocated scraping NEP and returning to central planning, builing up Industry whilst forcibly taking food from the pesants - essentially what Stalin did later.

We can, therefore suppose that in any theoretical scenario where Trotsky assumes power:

-There is certainly some industrial growth comparable, if not exceeding that of Stalin. With no terror, iniative is not stiffled, The labour force is much bigger, and beureacratic inneficency does not reach Stalinist levels.

-The Terror and The purges never take place. Although we can assume Trotsky makes his position politically stable, he does not institute wide-scale butchery of party members and the general popualtion. Being an intellectual and having to work with constrasting Marxist viewpoints throughout his life, Trotsky feels comfortable with minor disagreements over policies and debate, such as was the trend in the original politburo.

-The army feels more confident, is better led, and has a leader who fully understands military tactics, theory, concerns and thinking.

-There is more of a focus on spreading worldwide revolution than under Stalin. what the consequences of this are for long term Soviet foreign policy is anyone's guess. Your's is as good as mine.

-The USSR does not become the undynamic, stagnant heap that it does under, and post-Stalinism. Internal disagreement and deabte is increased, but internal friction is also increased as a result.


One thing is for certain, and that is Hitler certainly wouldn't have been able to make a NAP with The USSR under Trotsky - The one with Stalin was inplausible, a one with The absolute epitomy of Nazi hatred - A jewish communist - would have been toally untenable. We could even have a complete rethink of Hitler's war strategy. Who knows.

Vrylakas
Jan 12, 2002, 02:35 PM
Hamlet wrote:

quote:
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Originally posted by Vrylakas
Lenin believed in mass-murder and terror as much as Stalin, and proved himself willing to use it. He was a more cultured man than Stalin, but he invented the mass purges and terror that Stalin would use later. I think Stalin was an apt pupil of Lenin's, albeit more eccentric.
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I agree, for the most part. Lenin, and indeed Trotsky created, and made use of terror throughout the period. The 'Red terror' during the civil war disposed of 50,000 'internal enemies'. Also, purging of the party of underirables was indeed started by Lenin.

However.

The scale and natures of the terror and purges under Stalin were radically different than those under Lenin, and were not the nation-encompassing, illogicality fueled affairs they would later become. The purges under Lenin were internal Bolshevik party affairs, which did not result in deaths - they were used mainly to weed out those not commited to the cause. However, we can see the obvious legitimising of a system of terror and killing.

Lenin and Stalin were using terror and purges for completely different ends though. Lenin was simply trying to consolidate the Bolshevik's grip on power in the midst of a civil war. Stalin was using terror and purges to rapidly industrialize the Soviet Union, to radically change the economic and social fabric of a huge society. Previous Russian rulers who attempted to reform their country's society met heavy social resistance (Aleksandr I) or got blown to bits for their trouble (Aleksandr II). Stalin had by far the bigger job of the two. This isn't to say that his every action in the purges was rational, but his goals (and the job before him) were indeed necessary.

Much in the West is made of the Soviet weaknesses revealed in the Finno-Soviet "Winter War" of 1940, and of course Stalin's purge of more than 50% of the Army's officer corps in 1937-40 are cited as the reason. However, it is often forgotten that while the Soviet military performed badly in the Baltic in 1940, it performed superbly against a far more dangerous enemy in the summer of 1939. Soviet forces along Lake Abutara and the River Halha (Khalkhin Gol) in Mongolia were attacked by the Japanese Kwantung Army in August 1939, and very quickly defeated the Japanese forces in pitched ground and air battles (including the largest tank engagement since WW I at that time). This defeat convinced the Japanese to sign the non-aggression pact with Stalin on 13. April 1941; this pact spared the Soviets a two-front war like that which the Germans and Americans had to fight, and probably saved the USSR from certain doom. Stalin's purges did indeed have an negative impact on the USSR's war efforts, but not nearly as universally or as critically as some believe.

quote:
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Originally posted by Vrylakas
I'm not so sure Trotsky would have succeeded Lenin. Trotsky had a basic problem that cannot be overlooked; he was visibly Jewish, a major liability in early 20th century Russia. Despite Soviet rhetoric, I don't think Trotsky would have been able to build up enough of a powerbase to effectively take over after Lenin's death.
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I would disagree. Although there was indeed rampant anti-semetism in early 20th century Russia, which would in part influence Nazi thinking later, I do believe that Trotsky could have held on.

Firstly, we see by Lenin that charisma was not high upon the requirements to be leader. Lenin was leader purely by virtue of intellect alone; in the same vein I'm sure Trortsky could be that also, but with the backing of his military genius and his status of 'hero' of the civil war.

Lenin was very charismatic, and had wide popular appeal personally above the Bolsheviks' political programs and slogans. The famous painting of his giving a dramatic speech at Finland Station upon his arrival back in Russia in 1917 captures this charisma well. Peasant masses do not follow intellectuals, they follow slogans that promise them what they want - and Lenin did that. He certainly was an intellectual, but that's not what his mass appeal to average Russians was. He was a good showman too.

Trotsky was also a first-rate intellectual - probably even moreso than Lenin - but he was politically naive. Consider that Trotsky was out-maneuvered by Stalin over the 3 year power-struggle period after Lenin died, despite having greater advantages. Trotsky had been a part of Lenin's inner circle much earlier, was far more involved in critical decisions from the Revolution and onward, had enjoyed military successes when he re-organized the Red Army in the Civil War (while Stalin's brief dabblings in military matters both ended in disaster in the Civil War and the Russo-Polish War), and Trotsky was also far more cosmopolitan and well-connected to "comrades" the world over. (When the Revolution broke out, Trotsky was in Brooklyn working as a tailor but secretly organizing communist groups.) Also, Stalin was widely distrusted and seen as a common street thug by many in the Bolshevik leadership ranks - and yet by 1927, Trotsky had clearly lost the power struggle and by 1929 he was high-tailing it out of the USSR. Put simply, Trotsky believed all the party dogma crap while both Lenin and Stalin were willing to toss it out the window when circumstances warranted it. Put that political naivite with Trotsky's very Jewish appearance (and an irritating personality that was scholarly but anti-charismatic) and you have a losing horse that I would not bet on. During his years in exile, Trotsky wrote brilliant analyses of the Revolution and Stalin's policies but he lacked the practicality, the pragmatism to convert ideology into reality. He didn't deserve the pickaxe in his head, but one shouldn't be surprised either that it ended up there and his inability to anticipate it is a further sign of short-sightedness.

You hav to ask yourself would it indeed be possible for any civil war to erupt? With Whitist support decimated through one civil war already, and with Trotsky as head of the army, and with the loyalty of his troops, would it be possible for a challenge, or at least a succesful one?

Again, why then did such support not help him in his political struggles with Stalin after Lenin's death?

PinkyGen
Jan 12, 2002, 04:19 PM
I will assume Trotsky takes over. This is because I don't see any other figure in the Bolshevik leadership able to take over. Certainly not Buckharin, leader of the rightists, which is the main group that was opposing Trotsky's leftists.

As for Trotsky in power, I mainly agree with AoA. Trotsky was advocating for the scrapping of NEP and going to the next level of building socialism through collectivization and industrialization. (This is mostly where Stalin got his program from. After defeating the leftists, he then took their own program and used it when he was beating the right). I still forsee forced collectivization and dekulikization.

I disagree with AoA on the matter of purges. While Stalin aggravated the pattern, I still think the us vs. them mentality of bolshevism would have led to severe purges as necessary.

With respect to WWII, Trotsky, once head of the Red Army, would have had it in better shape, though I still think they would have taken a beating for a while. However, what is interesting is what possible strategy Hitler would have used in relation to the Soviet Union and his grand plan.

If Trotsky or another leftist had not won, and if NEP continued, then I do not see the USSR survivng WWII just because they wouldn't have the industrial capability to fight. (A fun strategy is to look at the Red Army of 1928, especially it's number of tanks and aircraft, and imagining that continuing.)

Hamlet
Jan 13, 2002, 07:03 AM
Originally posted by Vrylakas
Lenin and Stalin were using terror and purges for completely different ends though. Lenin was simply trying to consolidate the Bolshevik's grip on power in the midst of a civil war.

You could argue that part of the terror was for Stalin to personally consolidate his position, though. Different regime and size of butchery, same principle.

Originally posted by Vrylakas
Stalin was using terror and purges to rapidly industrialize the Soviet Union, to radically change the economic and social fabric of a huge society.

Hmmmmm. I mostly view the Yezhovchina as being something which grew completely out of all proportions, as it went completely out of central government control, as local officials and the public in general used it to their advantage, rather like in 1984. This probably eventually rather surprised Stalin in it's scope, and thusly Yezhov went the same way as his creation which he set in motion. I certainly don't believe that the terror or the purges in their entirerty were in any way necessary measures for mass industrialisation.

Originally posted by Vrylakas
Previous Russian rulers who attempted to reform their country's society met heavy social resistance (Aleksandr I) or got blown to bits for their trouble (Aleksandr II). Stalin had by far the bigger job of the two. This isn't to say that his every action in the purges was rational, but his goals (and the job before him) were indeed necessary.

Agreed.

Originally posted by Vrylakas
purge of more than 50% of the Army's officer corps in 1937-40

Even this is in doubt. I hear conflicting estimates on this all the time, from 5% permanently removed, to, as you say up to 50%

I certainly don't believe it was a high as 50%. Granted, many officers were probably removed, but many were also re-instated.

Originally posted by Vrylakas
However, it is often forgotten that while the Soviet military performed badly in the Baltic in 1940, it performed superbly against a far more dangerous enemy in the summer of 1939.

Stalin's purges did indeed have an negative impact on the USSR's war efforts, but not nearly as universally or as critically as some believe.

Agreed. However, Stalin's poor leadership and basic elimination of such high rankers as Tucakhevsky certainly contributed.

Originally posted by Vrylakas
Lenin was very charismatic, and had wide popular appeal personally above the Bolsheviks' political programs and slogans. The famous painting of his giving a dramatic speech at Finland Station upon his arrival back in Russia in 1917 captures this charisma well. Peasant masses do not follow intellectuals, they follow slogans that promise them what they want - and Lenin did that. He certainly was an intellectual, but that's not what his mass appeal to average Russians was. He was a good showman too.

Lenin was persuasive, respected, and could relate to the masses in a way that others could not. However, I think calling him charismatic is going to far, as he was not naturally so. It was the way Lenin presented himself which made people follow him.

I mean how naturally charismatic are bald, middle aged, suited revolutionaries to you?

Originally posted by Vrylakas
Trotsky believed all the party dogma crap while both Lenin and Stalin were willing to toss it out the window when circumstances warranted it. Put that political naivite with Trotsky's very Jewish appearance (and an irritating personality that was scholarly but anti-charismatic) and you have a losing horse that I would not bet on. During his years in exile, Trotsky wrote brilliant analyses of the Revolution and Stalin's policies but he lacked the practicality, the pragmatism to convert ideology into reality. He didn't deserve the pickaxe in his head, but one shouldn't be surprised either that it ended up there and his inability to anticipate it is a further sign of short-sightedness.

Agreed on all of that, but with Stalin out of the way, would the same thing happen? I'd wager not. None of the of the other leaders were as dynamic as Stalin was.

Originally posted by Vrylakas
Again, why then did such support not help him in his political struggles with Stalin after Lenin's death?

Political naivety, as you said. However, if there had been any armed attempt at takeover, it wouldn't have been succeful.

dannyevilcat
Jan 14, 2002, 12:07 AM
I'll offer an entirely different opinion on this matter. Although Trotsky was the apparent successor to Lenin, the fact is that he was a relative newcomer to the Bolsheviks and for that reason, couples with his arrogance, he was particularily not liked or trusted despite what he accomplished for the party. Stalin readily found friends in preventing his takeover. Take Stalin out of the picture, and you still have a lot of commissars who agree Trotsky must never take over. Stalin was a master schemer, but, c'mon, so were his associates... Stalin was just better and better placed.

Here is where my point loses steam, because it has been some time since I've studied this particular period, and forget many of the names, though some are certainly more realistic than others. But just because Zinoviev and Kamenev met bad ends in this world doesn't mean so in a Stalin-free one. Also Bukanin (is that right?) and Bukharin?

These are people who covered up Lenin's testament. Why would they give any regard to his opinion of someone they hated?

catullus
Jan 14, 2002, 06:52 AM
I'd say Trotsky wouldn't have had a chance. His brilliance was too clear, his arrogance too stingy. Being jewish has nothing to do with that. He just wasn't popular among the other leaders. After Lenin's death, he would have been handed yet another Hero of S.U. award and a datcha. Squeezed out somewhat more subtly than Stalin did.

Most likely candidates to take power probably Kamenhev and Zinoviev. Young, good-looking, good speakers, popular among the masses. Either those two together, or in a triumvirate, maybe with some local popular party leader from Leningrad or Moscow. Kirov would be a prime candidate. Such a leadership would have set out to transform the S.U. with great enthusiasm, and less than little knowledge, much like the Great Leap Forward of China. While purges might not have erupted, we would have seen the same errors done, the same starvations in the 1930s. And military would have been neglected. A "democratic" leader group has not the same need for massive military show-offs as psycopathic dictators. You would not have seen the cultic worshipping of the Soviet leaders. The country would be less, not more, prepared against German invasion, and lacking the Big Brother father figure rallying the nation to defense.
Germany would have advanced at least to Ural before being stopped by logistics. Eastern parts would have been picked by Japanese or separated into independent nations.

On the other hand. If Trotsky HAD managed to take power, he would have turned the S.U. into an industrial giant without Stalin's giant massacres. But unlike Stalin, Trotsky was always an internationalist. He would have supported any leftist movement around the globe, and probably managed to build a communist East Europe in the 1930s, in addition to converting several Asian countries. We would have seen a Cold War 20 years before the 1950s, and possibly seen it turn into full-scale war, maybe around 1940. Quite likely, Europe today would have been one huge communist democracy.

C.

Vrylakas
Jan 14, 2002, 12:38 PM
Hamlet wrote:

quote:
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Originally posted by Vrylakas
Lenin and Stalin were using terror and purges for completely different ends though. Lenin was simply trying to consolidate the Bolshevik's grip on power in the midst of a civil war.
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You could argue that part of the terror was for Stalin to personally consolidate his position, though. Different regime and size of butchery, same principle.

I agree that this was always a guiding principal for Stalin, but the 1937-40 purges really were a designed to crush any resistance in his efforts to rapidly industrialize the USSR. Changing a huge and extremely socially conservative country like Russia is no small task. Look at the massive social upheavals caused by the industrial revolution in the West, and that took a century (+); Stalin did it in a couple decades in one of the poorest (and largest) countries in Europe. This is certainly not to condone his use of terror, rather to explain why he thought it was necessary.

quote:
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Originally posted by Vrylakas
Stalin was using terror and purges to rapidly industrialize the Soviet Union, to radically change the economic and social fabric of a huge society.
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Hmmmmm. I mostly view the Yezhovchina as being something which grew completely out of all proportions, as it went completely out of central government control, as local officials and the public in general used it to their advantage, rather like in 1984. This probably eventually rather surprised Stalin in it's scope, and thusly Yezhov went the same way as his creation which he set in motion. I certainly don't believe that the terror or the purges in their entirerty were in any way necessary measures for mass industrialisation.

Valid statement. I believe (if memory serves) the Soviet historians Nekrich & Heller make such a point, that the purges took on a life of their own. Stalin was certainly not issuing orders for each individual or even what kinds of individuals to be arrested, etc. However, that the whole process wasn't therefore of his own design would be a mistake to assume. Like most good dictators, Stalin ruled not only through terror but through divid et impera, so you get bizarre things like Molotov meekly acquiescing to the arrest of his wife. The mass arrest and murder of countless millions (15 million by recent calculations?) itself certainly did not serve to aid in the industrialization, but it did serve to get most Soviet citizens to do what they were told unflichingly and accept the extremely hazardous and poor living conditions, dislocation and mass re-settlements that accompanied "instant-industrialization". It had only been the decade or two before that Russia was swept with two revolutions, a couple failed revolutions and a bloody civil war; Stalin had few illusions about stability in Russia. Rather to say, he took no chances lest he end up like the last Tsar. Most convincingly, for as much as it would seem that the purges were rampantly out of control, Stalin was able to put a very rapid break on them in 1940 when he realized he needed to be concentrating on other issues, like potential war in his neighborhood.

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Originally posted by Vrylakas
purge of more than 50% of the Army's officer corps in 1937-40
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Even this is in doubt. I hear conflicting estimates on this all the time, from 5% permanently removed, to, as you say up to 50%

I certainly don't believe it was a high as 50%. Granted, many officers were probably removed, but many were also re-instated.

That's a fairly widely-used figure. I most recently encountered it in John Keegan's WW II history. Be that as it may, all such numbers are calculations as no central authority was keeping stats. I think it'd be fair to say, "substantial".

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Originally posted by Vrylakas
However, it is often forgotten that while the Soviet military performed badly in the Baltic in 1940, it performed superbly against a far more dangerous enemy in the summer of 1939.

Stalin's purges did indeed have an negative impact on the USSR's war efforts, but not nearly as universally or as critically as some believe.
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Agreed. However, Stalin's poor leadership and basic elimination of such high rankers as Tucakhevsky certainly contributed.

Certainly. My point though was that while these eliminations were indeed significant, they are often used to back the theory that this is why the Soviets failed in the Baltic in 1940. If so, then there must be another explanation as to why they succeeded so well against higher odds in Mongolia. Something a little more complex was going on...

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Originally posted by Vrylakas
Lenin was very charismatic, and had wide popular appeal personally above the Bolsheviks' political programs and slogans. The famous painting of his giving a dramatic speech at Finland Station upon his arrival back in Russia in 1917 captures this charisma well. Peasant masses do not follow intellectuals, they follow slogans that promise them what they want - and Lenin did that. He certainly was an intellectual, but that's not what his mass appeal to average Russians was. He was a good showman too.
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Lenin was persuasive, respected, and could relate to the masses in a way that others could not. However, I think calling him charismatic is going to far, as he was not naturally so. It was the way Lenin presented himself which made people follow him.

That's my definition of charismatic. I'm not refering to Rasputin or Geraldo Riviera, I mean charismatic as being able to communicate ideas and emotions well to large crowds, to "the masses". Lenin had that ability. Trotsky did not. I think Dannyevilcat got it right when he wrote:

I'll offer an entirely different opinion on this matter. Although Trotsky was the apparent successor to Lenin, the fact is that he was a relative newcomer to the Bolsheviks and for that reason, couples with his arrogance, he was particularily not liked or trusted despite what he accomplished for the party. Stalin readily found friends in preventing his takeover. Take Stalin out of the picture, and you still have a lot of commissars who agree Trotsky must never take over. Stalin was a master schemer, but, c'mon, so were his associates... Stalin was just better and better placed.

Trotsky had few friends in the leadership, and while he was technically very capable - far moreso than Stalin - he wasn't able to muster the many advantages I listed in his struggles with Stalin after Lenin's death. I don't think it's a fluke or a mistake that things turned out the way they did. In 1924 I would have guessed that Trotsky was going to end up as the embittered exiled intellectual railing against the failures of his rival's regime - and he did.

I mean how naturally charismatic are bald, middle aged, suited revolutionaries to you?

Hey - what do you have against bald people? :mad: (Just kidding.)

And I think if you take a look at the appearance of most of the Bolshevik leadership, you won't find too many Calvin Klein models in there so Lenin in the 1920s probably came across pretty good...

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Originally posted by Vrylakas
Trotsky believed all the party dogma crap while both Lenin and Stalin were willing to toss it out the window when circumstances warranted it. Put that political naivite with Trotsky's very Jewish appearance (and an irritating personality that was scholarly but anti-charismatic) and you have a losing horse that I would not bet on. During his years in exile, Trotsky wrote brilliant analyses of the Revolution and Stalin's policies but he lacked the practicality, the pragmatism to convert ideology into reality. He didn't deserve the pickaxe in his head, but one shouldn't be surprised either that it ended up there and his inability to anticipate it is a further sign of short-sightedness.
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Agreed on all of that, but with Stalin out of the way, would the same thing happen? I'd wager not. None of the of the other leaders were as dynamic as Stalin was.

You're probably right that without Stalin none (or little) of all that would have happened - as I've said, Stalin was quite a thug - but that also implies that The USSR m,ay have turned out quite different. Would it have survived WW II without Stalin's stearn leadership? Could Trotsky or any other Lenin-successor have driven the Soviet people to accept the sacrafices of that war? Would the USSR have been nearly as prepared to face a Western industrial giant in open war?

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Originally posted by Vrylakas
Again, why then did such support not help him in his political struggles with Stalin after Lenin's death?
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Political naivety, as you said. However, if there had been any armed attempt at takeover, it wouldn't have been succeful.

I'm not so sure. Support for the Bolsheviks was strong under Lenin but was noticably waning in the 1920s, especially after Stalin ended the NEP. Industrialization doesn't just mean building factories, it means building infrastructure (roads, train tracks, electrical utilities, water resources, etc.) and moving millions away from centuries-old rural communities into barren living conditions and forcing them to work 12-16 hour days year-round (instead of the simpler sunrise-to-sundown that rural communities are used to), and it also means dispossessing millions from their ancestral lands (where Mom & Dad & Uncle Vlad are buried in the backyard) despite being told under Lenin in 1918 and 1922 that peasants could keep their lands. There were very many very angry people with little or nothing to lose by the end of the 1920s in the USSR; without a ruthless Stalin at the helm to initiate mass purges there may very well have been another revolution.