Why Does Joseph Stalin Matter?

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Joseph Stalin's Soviet dictator creator of a great power and the destroyer of tens of millions of lives with us today someone who knows more about the life of Joseph Stalin than Joseph Stalin knew about the life of Joseph Stalin historian Stephen Kotkin on uncommon knowledge now welcome to uncommon knowledge I'm Peter Robinson we're filming today in the auditorium in the trade tel building a new building of the Hoover Institution here at Stanford University the son of a factory worker Stephen Kotkin grew up in Washington Heights New York he graduated from the University of Rochester and then attended graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley where he learned Russian became fascinated with Soviet history and earned a doctorate dr. Kotkin is now a professor of history at Princeton and a fellow at the Hoover Institution here at Stanford in 2014 dr. Kotkin published Stalin paradoxes of power 1878 to 1928 the first volume of his projected three-volume biography of Stalin his life and times now he has published the second volume Stalin waiting for Hitler 1929 to 1941 in the words of the Wall Street Journal Stalin waiting for Hitler this book represents quote history on a grand scale a book equal to the enormity of the events it describes close quote Stephen cotton welcome so great to be back there we'll come to the substance of this book in just a moment but first the basic question students who will graduate from college this coming spring your students at Princeton students here at Stanford they will have gret they will have been born a full 5 years after the Soviet Union went out of existence the country that Stalin built why does Joseph Stalin matter so Joseph is what we would call the gold standard of dictatorship obviously we're not talking about morality here we're talking about accumulating and exercising power if you're interested in power where it comes from how it works and what are the consequences when people exercise such power then Stalin is your guy there are very few people in his category Hitler Wow and that's about it Hitler was in power for just 12 years Stalin was in power for three decades Mao was also in power for an extended period of time but didn't have the military-industrial complex superpower that Stalin built so Stalin really stands out even in his peer group collectivization the book the book is divided into well it deals with three large categories of IVA three large events one of the first of which is collectivization collectivization you're gonna correct me on this ties the peasants to collective farms forces them to work on collective farms in effect reintroducing serfdom have I got that right yes that's basically the story all right yeah and you right here that Stalin in imposing collectivization enslaved a hundred million people again I got that right all right why why was that necessary why was collectivization of such importance to Stalin in the old days people argued that it was necessary because this is how you modernized a peasant country right you modernized the peasant country through coercion you use the state to force everybody to do what the state needed them to do and that's how you built an industrial power out of a peasant country the kind of Stalin was necessary argument which was quite prevalent for a long time there's nothing necessary about killing and enslaving this many people it's never necessary to do that you can modernize a peasant country in all sorts of ways including through markets property rights a banking system that gives loans to people who succeed or have ideas that they think might succeed however in Marxism Leninism collectivization was necessary that's what the book argues all right let's take that a little bit farther I'm going over the basics here Stephen because I'm conscious that actually I'm conscious of two things one is that we've got an audience of Millennials here the college kids who went oh or yeah exactly maybe you and I can just go door-to-door doing this in dorms around here ah but I'm also conscious you just said so it used to be taught that collectivization was an essence that actually is what I learned when I went through college myself so you are reteaching the man seated across from you Marxism Leninism and collectivization is necessary how come Oh more in those terms how come Marxism is about the transcendence of capitalism capitalism is evil alienation exploitation war on a mass unemployment and depressions so the Hat in order to get to a better place in history Marx argued capitalism had to be transcended the Hegelian word alfe fable so marx had a stages of history notion there was something called feudalism it was supplanted by capitalism socialism would overcome capitalism and eventually you'd get the final stage of history which was communism so first you built socialism and then you got to communism that's why it was called the Communist Party and that's why they first built socialism building socialism as I said meant eradicating capitalist so if capitalism had markets socialism would have planning if capitalism had private property socialism would have collective property or state property capitalism had booze wah Parliament's socialism would have people's power so this is the idea in Marx and Marx also spoke about freedom and he thought that not only would abundance follow from the transcendence of capitalism but freedom will follow however of course that's not exactly what happened and so many people think Marx is not responsible for what came next when you say that capitalism has to be eliminated when you say you're going to get rid of markets and private property and checks and balances and all the rest on power you're going to end up with the kind of regime that the Soviet Union got now about collectivization so with the Revolution in 1917 and remember there are two dimensions to it first this is the overthrow of the Tsar in February 1917 which is known as the February Revolution and then there's this October coup which is what Lenin called it you called it a coup whereby a small group known as the Bolsheviks came to power they would eventually the next year change their name to communists so their notion was that the state should own and manage the economy this was the case in the cities they could take over industry they could quote nationalize industry and then manage the nationalized industry moreover the regime was based in the cities so there was a socialism in the cities almost from the beginning but the peasants revolted and the country starved there was a tremendous famine 1921 - 23 so they made a concession this Bolshevik regime which was self-consciously building socialism named Communist Party now made a concession to the peasants they would allow the peasants de facto ownership of the land and they would allow them kind of quasi market relations they could trade what they grew as long as they paid a tax so there was a twofold system of socialism in the city and capitalism in the countryside the regime felt strained to grant this as a result the country recovered from the revolution and civil war destruction of 1917 to 21 and by the end of the 1920s it had reached more or less the level it was at before World War one the 1913-14 level the rest of the world had grown and expanded and was richer and the Soviet Union was back to the level it was at ten years before but now you have this problem you have a self-styled communist regime building socialism with capitalism in the countryside everyone in the regime believed that capitalism in the countryside also had to be eradicated but how are you gonna do that the regime was small Communist Party membership was small and the peasants were 120 million people across a sixth of the earth that should just stop you there everyone in the regime believed that they had to eradicate capitalism in the countryside even though it was working it was eating the people that is to say you see right away that they are putting this construct in their minds Marxism Leninism they're giving that priority over the reality on the ground well is that fair yes it's very fair they believe that capitalism was evil all right the point is I really really believed they were true believing communists and so they had to get rid of capitalism somehow moreover as Marxist Leninist they had the notion that the underlying social relations which the marxist sometimes called the base the relations of production the mode of production the underlying social relations eventually determine the political system so even if the country was recuperating the capitalism in the countryside was a permanent threat to the existence of the regime because the underlying social relations threatened regime at the top so they don't agreed on this what they argued about was whether this could actually be done for example who was gonna implant social in the countryside who was gonna take all that land away from the peasants how was that gonna work wouldn't that be destabilizing wouldn't that ruin the economic recovery and maybe destabilize the regime so they had an argument about the timing of this and the methods of this but not the principle that they were committed to communism and therefore needed to eradicate capitalism in the countryside to Stalin was the one did it yes this is really remarkable one issue is what motivated him that's what we've been discussing right another issue is how in the world he was able to do this because 100 million peasants across a landmass that SAP represents a sixth of the yes of a land on the planet yes and so could you won before the Internet could you imagine doing that let's remember that in 1928 which is where Volume one ended in 1928 one percent of the arable land had been collectivized voluntarily one percent so there was no voluntary collectivization it was either coercion or live with capitalism in the countryside and from their point of view the eventual undermining of the political regime and the loss of the revolution so was do or die and it had to be course but the others resisted because they were fearful that it wouldn't be successful that it couldn't be successful and Staller challenged them and said you don't have the courage of your convictions do you believe that capitalism is evil yes do you believe we need to build socialism yes well then what's your problem either we do this or we perish there was a geopolitical dimension to this as well because it was the idea that they needed to finance their industrialization now they had repudiated the debts incurred by Imperial Russia and by the provisional government which was briefly in power between February 1917 in October 1970 the Soviet regime repudiated the international debts and so getting loans from the foreigners without repaying those debts was really not in the cards and so they thought that maybe they could internally generate the financing by getting a bigger harvest and gaining greater control over the disposition of the harvest and then selling a lot of that grain exporting it for hard currency and then using the hard currency revenues to purchase the imported state-of-the-art technology and machinery that would be part of their industrialization and then they could build a military - and they could withstand the quote imperialist antagonism visa vie the socialism how did he do briefly how did you do it what was the coercive method that took you from 1% collectivization in 1928 to substantial substantially complete collectivization within what five years six years yeah so let's remember that one person decided this it's pretty astonishing he didn't for example have to get a majority vote sure he eventually got majority vote on X or Y but that was after he created the fate of complete after he just ordered the regime the minions under him to do the stuff and then he would go and get approval in if he didn't get approval he would go back and do it anyway and create these fait accompli and used the secret police and use all his levers of power so he imposed collectivization on Eurasia and also on his own regime he was able to do that in part because his argument was compelling on the merits to them ideologically they were in agreement with him additionally he had a lot of urban activists people who were young in many cases part of the regime were wanted to be part of the regime and wanted to build a new world and more impatient that that new world should happen as soon as possible so we sent a lot of these urban activists out to the countryside to become the kind of tip of the spear as it were to force these issues the other thing he did was to instigate class warfare something called a Kulak which is a derogatory term that they used for better-off peasants Stalin introduced quotas for kulaks rich peasants in each village and those kulaks would be subject either to execution on the spot summary execution or deportation internally to frozen wastes now if there was a village of a hundred people and Stalin would say we want 25 kulaks well what was a Kulak on the ground and the answer was Oh what if you have two cows what if you have three cows do you need to have four cows and they debated this but the answer was you had 25 kulaks or you yourself could be subject to deportation so they had to find 25 no matter how many cows they had and this was very divisive and people tried to defend and protect their own families they didn't want to fall under the knife under the deportation or the execution so they began to finger their neighbors and others as the kulaks if you criticize the policy but had no cows you were Apes Oh facto a Kulak henchmen or objectively in the pocket of the kulaks so with the quotas and the instigated class warfare in the village he was able to create this chaos and then benefit from the chaos by using that as the instrument to force the collectivization of Agriculture what is collectivization what does that actually mean in Russia not in all of Imperial Russia because the Baltic states which were in the rush Empire Ukraine for example the Western Borderlands didn't have the commune but in Russia proper the majority of the peasantry they had something called the calm you and the commune was this instrument to redistribute the land collective decision to redistribute the land so they would assign you strips of land to work based upon your family size how many miles you had to feed but at the end of the year if you had a birth or a death they could readjust how much land you were assigned and maybe give some of your land to somebody else or take someone else's land to give it to you but in the meantime you worked it as a private individual and the commune is like a collection of the village elders they get together to adjust land holdings each year that's right but but the land is not collectively worked right they work it as individuals and as households so there's a kind of private economy with an occasional redistribution of the strips of land right so that's what they've got beforehand so there's de facto peasant ownership of the land collectivization is collective ownership of the land and collective working of the land so you're no longer a household farm that could grow if you're more efficient you're part of a labor Brigade and the tools are not yours and at the beginning the animals weren't theirs everything was collectivized eventually the regime would make concessions and allow some things for the peasants to own and they would allow for household plots they began to concede aspects of the market that they had taken away coercively but that was after all the people died so this collectivization process forced imposed on the country through instigated class warfare the secret police and the urban activists this is the method Stalin had those who thought it couldn't happen even though they wanted it to happen predicted disaster they said to Stalin you know this is gonna be it's gonna hurt the economy and maybe even destabilize the regime it actually turned out much worse than the naysayers predicted the figures that you provide in the book between there's a good harvest in nineteen twenty nineteen twenty nine thirty it gets lucky yes mean is good the the conditions are good there's a first year collectivization there's a there's a lucky harvest but then you get to three bad harvests is in in a row famine yes five to seven million people starve to death yes another fifty to seventy million are malnourished they starve but somehow survived yes in the Kazakh region where the form of life had been nomadic yes now under collectivization they're tied to the land if the of the population dies and in the Ukraine again its village after village after village that simply starves to death yes and within the Poli Bureau what's happening people are saying Comrade Stalin I told that we have a catastrophe here yes and Stalin does what how does he manage to hold it together and work through this charnel-house that he's looking into which he's turned to go this is also astonishing the famine is very substantial it's in more mosque in the polar north it's in Georgia in the semi-tropical south it's in parts of Siberia the ethnic Kazakh population about a third of the ethnic Kazakh population perishes I mean that's just an astonishing number the whole wheat belt which is the richest soil the best part of the country's economy before this the whole wheat belt suffers mass starvation and mass death we think of that as southern Russia Ukraine the coupon for example the Don River it's really horrific and Stalin is getting reports about this now he's making some concessions for example he reduces the quotas the delivery quarters of how much grain each region is supposed to give to the state their grudging concessions too little too late but he does concede he allows some food aid to be reduced to be taken from the warehouses and spread to the famine areas once again grudgingly too little too late but he knows the catastrophe is happening he's got quite a lot of information about it he doesn't know the exact size of the harvest because the officials are overestimating it so he actually thinks there's more grain in the country than there is this is something that most of the historiography has missed but anyway a bunch of officials begin to whisper that this guy Stalin is ruining the revolution they weren't anti-communist they were communists but they feared for communism fate and they whispered and they gathered and some of them actually wrote a treatise about the horrors of Stalin's dictatorship the regime being what it was people informed behind the backs of those who were whispering the whisperers were arrested and sentenced for essentially political crimes for speaking the truth and Stalin survived he survived because his inner circle closed ranks around him how big roughly are we talking about a dozen people on this yes 100 dozen we're talking about a little bit around a dozen a little bit fewer and they saw that despite the catastrophe that was unfolding that none of them could lead the country they saw a Stalin was able to carry this regime on his back deal with international relations yield with the culture deal with secret police Stalin had tremendous aptitude in dictatorship and they themselves were lesser figures moreover they were uncertain what might happen if they retreated it was one of those things where you're in really deep and you're looking at and by now they're all complicit everybody comes in yes everybody has blood on his hand and so they his inner circle if they had abandoned him it would have been the end of his dictatorship but they stood by him the whisper is as I said were outed and arrested but nonetheless this episode of criticism got deep under Stalin's skin he became infuriated with people who had the temerity to criticise him here he is doing what's historically necessary eliminating capitalism in the countryside come what may whatever the cost might be paying the highest price he had the nerve and the ability to do that and they had the nerve to criticize him for it and it wrangled him for the rest of his life that's the collectivization Elizabeth we have I just have to express my frustration we have a book of 900 pages over a thousand if you include the notes and the richness of the book is in the detail every page there's a detail that just illuminates we can't do that on television Steven I just apologized and I I urged the readers to pick up this book the terror I'm quoting Stalin waiting for Hitler by the mid-1930s so we're through the collectivization yes he's pulled it off you lucky harvest in 1934 the peasants don't want to starve they want to survive those who haven't been deported those who've been enslaved in the collective farms they plant the grain they harvest the grain there's no drought there's no torrential rain for after the drought so they get lucky with the weather again and the Stalin gets lucky the peasants that he's enslaved saves his they save his regime and they save the contradicts the resistance they essentially begin to live for he's broken the resistance you're absolutely right and those officials who had criticized him are now acclaiming him because they're on the other side of the horror the famine is over and they've eradicated capitalism in the countryside so he's a hero now in 1934 again by the mid-1930s the revolution and Stalin's leadership were seen as having enabled a great country a great country to take its rightful place among the powers Russia is off its back yes and a great country able to take his place with Germany China Britain the United States and now here comes your writing of the Year 1936 yeah there was no immediate threat social economic political to the country or to the regime's legitimacy or stability no crisis yes but then suddenly there was total crisis yes tell us about the terror so this this isn't the most difficult thing to explain it's the more you know about it the less sense it makes it's an episode that seems to defy rational explanation we've had many people take a crack at this in fact thanks to Robert conquest who was a fellow here at the Hoover we know the scale of it and he properly named it the Great era her decades before the archives were open what could Stalin have been up to with collectivization this was necessary for the regime survival according to Marxism Lenin's you couldn't have socialism in the city and capitalism in the countryside why they're thinking with the great terror which is 1936 238 about eight hundred and thirty thousand people are executed or died under interrogation there's a very large number of people in just a few years to be killed and then a couple of million are arrested once again largely for political crimes that are imaginary and then imprisoned sent to the labor camps known as the gulag and these people are substantially drawn from the government apparatus the party itself yes the military yes a whole apparatus that he's been using to impose his will in the country yes now he turns on the apparatus the loyal people we understand that authoritarian regimes go after their enemies sometimes they stretch the enemy category it becomes very elastic this is pretty typical for example Hitler went after the leftists he went after the Jews and Gypsies and other categories we get that but let's imagine for a second Hitler could he have murdered his officer corps 90% of his top 300 or 400 officers could he have murdered his leading Nazi officials the gala lighter who ruled the provinces his intelligence services his diplomatic corps his industrial managers could he have murdered all of those people and in the process accused them and gotten many of them to confess publicly that they were working as enemy agents the whole time they were Nazis meaning that they were working for Judeo Bolshevik communism not working as committed Nazi Party officials or officers it's just beyond belief that Hitler could have done that and if he had tried that his regime would have survived so this is what Stalin does he murders his officer corps his diplomatic corps his intelligence officials his party officials his state officials a good swath of the intelligentsia those aren't the only people caught up in the terror many ordinary people are caught up in the terror what's astonishing is as you suggested that it's the elites and more their loyal people they're committed to the cause they were the ones who helped the collectivization happen these are the ones who stuck with him yes and so this is a deep conundrum how to explain this ultimately what I decided to do was to let Stalin speak just listen to him talk during the terror to give as many quotes sometimes long passages what did he say he was up to What did he say he was doing it may not be a full explanation because this is an episode that as I said that defies explanation but we begin to see some of how his mind was working during this episode we know the explanations that don't work that he was targeting the communist officials those who were joined pre 1917 in the underground days because they knew more about him and he wanted to suppress that or they knew he wasn't very bright and he wanted to get rid of them or whatever it might be well they did Communist Party officials joined before 1917 died in the same proportion as others in the term so there are many explanations like that that don't work that we know don't work based upon the research of other scholars so the explanation or let's say the story that I recreate goes as follows one he clearly wanted to break the will psychologically of the rest of his inner circle his inner circle his most loyal officials didn't think that they were his replacements they didn't aspire to replace him but they acted as if they had minds of their own and they could maybe even debate with him and propose things and take initiatives he broke all of them a few of them committed suicide and the rest of them became psychologically broken that was clearly one of his motivations he was converting his dictatorship into a despotism his officials his minions he enslaved them the way he had enslaved the peasantry with collectivization now many dictators have this aspiration but they don't have the wherewithal to pull it off so there are certain aspects of communism that made this possible book explains the aspects of communism the ideology the class warfare the closed borders the propaganda etc so we shouldn't say that this was easy to do it was possible not necessary the way collectivization was from a regime point of view but it was possible because of the nature of the regime so he breaks the inner circle another thing is the Trotsky obsession this is really deep and remarkable the ways in which Stalin got into Trotsky got into Stalin's brain Leon Trotsky give us two sentences on who he was Trotsky was another great revolutionary a tremendous personality along with Lenin and Stalin and some of the others who played a huge role in the 1917 revolution the consolidation of the regime he was the commissar of war during the Civil War from 1918 to 21 and considered himself Lenin's air considered himself the brightest person in the regime he had some followers but not nearly as many as we think he was in fact deeply unpopular inside the regime but he was a household name as famous as Lenin and more famous than Stalin in the early days of the revolution Trotsky was never in power there was no succession struggle to succeed Lenin as I showed in the first volume because Stalin was already in power from the spring of 1922 when Lenin appointed him general secretary of the party in April 1922 and then Lenin had a stroke in May 1922 and became semi incapacitated from that point on the succession of Lenin was pretty clear unless they were able to remove Stalin from power Trotsky and others attempted to do this but of course they failed Trotsky was articulate he dictated more than he wrote but his published works were often polemically excellent he called Stalin a lot of names that stuck the outstanding mediocrity of the party for example the grave digger of the Revolution for example these were great bamo as we say and he got under Stalin's skin and what a crazy thing happened in 1936 in Spain Trotsky was writing these books that's all he could do he was for the foreign exile Stalin had deported him externally first Turkey Trotsky then to France back to ended up in Norway for a while there was eventually Mexico there's an element also you trust he was unpopular within the regime but he was read in the West yes that's very popular within the communist parties and communist sympathizers France Italy this country yes he ends up in exile in Mexico Mexico he's invited by the Mexicans to come to Mexico City all right you're exactly right and so he's writing these anti Stalin characterizations that are well done and that have an audience and so Stalin of course is infuriated by this and attempts to have Trotsky assassinated but the attempts fail again and again in 1936 crazy thing happens there's a porch in Spain there's a Spanish Republic it's a Popular Front or leftist Republic it's anti-clerical Spain is a Catholic country a lot of people who book hold to traditional values the military doesn't like the leftist coalition and they have an uprising a push one of the principles is General Franco Francisco Franco who will become the ruler the push fails and as a result there's a civil war between the Franco nationalists traditionalists on the one hand and the Popular Front the legitimately elected government on the other hand and part of that Popular Front government which is fighting Franco and to the left Franco is called a fascist even though that's not an accurate description he's more a traditional rightist an authoritarian but nonetheless a traditionalist in any case they call him a fascist and Stalin is blamed by Trotsky for not supporting world revolution so here it is the the revolution in Spain is under attack by these rightists that they're calling fascists and moreover a group of them are enamored of Trotsky in Spain and they invite him to the country so can you imagine what's going through Stalin's head here possibly he's being accused of failing to support world revolution and Trotsky may show up in Spain and for all we know might come to power in a piece of Spain Barcelona Catalonia to get today again in the news Trotsky might even come to power there for all we know moreover Stalin has an agent in trotsky's inside circle who's delivering the rough drafts of trotsky's writings to Stalin before they're even published including this mammoth book called the revolution betrayed which will be published on written by trot scheme will be published soon and it's all about what we're talking about and Stalin receives a draft copy of this and so part of the motivation believe it or not is the deep obsession with Trotsky and the fear of Trotsky's what is really exaggerated power and influence because Trotsky is not gonna come to power in Spain etc so Trotsky's obsession the Stalin's obsession with Trotsky is the second piece after the breaking psychologically of the inner circle Steven one last question for time reasons one last question about the terror and then we'll get to Hitler in part two of our discussion okay but here's the last question for right now eight hundred and thirty thousand people executed here's the piece that III myself have never understood yeah you can see as you mentioned in in the under collectivization you can see the rationale arising from communism for the terror what you begin to feel as the precedents are the Asian despots you can see Tamerlane in his mountain of skulls or Genghis Khan or Ivan the Terrible within the Russian tradition all that I can sort of get but the confessions yeah he insisted on having them confess it was enough for Ivan the Terrible or Genghis or Tamerlane just to kill them yes Stalin wanted them to confess we have who's the general Tukhachevsky is that that is right we have his confession and it's splattered in his own blood yes it is why the confessions why was that important yeah I should say that the the third important piece in the terror indirectly answers this question and that was Stalin's notion that he could replace the elite with new young people more from the soil sons and daughters of the peasantry in the working class promote them to positions of authority train them in Marxism Leninism and they would carry the revolution forward and so wholesale replacement of the elite was also something which factored into his decision-making in the terror and the confessions are first of all people are forced to confess to crimes they don't commit but that justifies their arrests and execution it also names other people to ramp up the number of arrests because everyone is forced to name their accomplices in these crimes that they didn't commit and it's also a way to explain it to the public here it is you doubt that these people are traitors listen to their confession which is signed and many of them had to appear at public trials not just confess behind the scenes but even behind the scenes when there is no public trial they extracted the confessions part of it is the police doing their work the police have arrested as I said they need more people to arrest the confessions produce additional names and then those additional names produce additional names kind of like a pyramid scheme in a way but also Stalin is driving the extraction of the confessions he wants them they send them to him and draft he edits them adding information that should be in there or instructions to extract that information and further confessions he takes the confessions sometimes which he has ordered or edited he shows them to other members of the inner circle and says see look I told you so-and-so was a German spy so-and-so is a Japanese spy and you doubted it and so Stalin is driving this great terror this is what Robert conquests argued he was absolutely right about this we now have the documentation that conquest gladly would have read if they had allowed him into the archives but was secret during his lifetime we can see that the great terror is a gratuitous episode from the Marxism Leninism regime's point of view it's not a necessary thing like collectivization it's something driven by Stalin his personality his obsessions his anger over the criticism during collectivization Tukhachevsky you mentioned when they're in a room like this moshevsky is a channel yeah that's right Marg officer cool he's actually he's actually even higher than a general he's a marshal he's one of the five marshals three of whom are arrested in a room like this the how like the hell auditorium there's a meeting of the military men those are not arrested to read the confessions of Tukhachevsky and the seven others who had been arrested and are executed behind the scenes not in a public trial and Stalin wants them to read the confessions and then he makes a speech in front of them to justify the arrests and to explain why Tukhachevsky was really a true they're most talented military man was working for the Nazis the whole time it's a rambling speech we there's a lot of it in the book it's quoted it life it's very incoherent it doesn't seem very persuasive it's kind of like Stalin trying to persuade himself in some ways but in the middle of this rambling speech he all of a sudden shouts out collectivization now what could collectivization have to do with the arrest of the military men it's not about the military man it's about Stalin's own obsessions so once again something about communism and the nature of this regime makes this Great Terror possible but it's Stalin who does it and drives it collectivization is also only possible because of Stalin I don't know any other man in that regime who could have done collectivization but the rest of the people in the regime wanted it to be done the terror is something different it's Stalin's imprint but it's not something that others were asking for that they then congratulated him on doing and there we end part 1 of our discussion of Stalin waiting for Hitler Steven Kotkin thank you for uncommon knowledge and the Hoover Institution I'm Peter Robinson [Music] you
Channel: HooverInstitution
Views: 331,919
Rating: 4.6993041 out of 5
Keywords: Joseph Stalin, Great Terror, USSR, communism, dictator, Russia, Soviet Union, collectivization, socialism, history, world history, political history
Id: jhi2icRXbHo
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Length: 46min 19sec (2779 seconds)
Published: Thu Jun 07 2018
Reddit Comments

I really enjoyed it. Thanks for posting.

👍︎︎ 6 👤︎︎ u/thelazygit 📅︎︎ Jun 08 2018 🗫︎ replies

I always go back and forth on whether I like Kotkin or not. He is undoubtedly extremely knowledge about the topic.

My only major beef on this one was their first topic on collectivization. Everyone paints it as this horrible thing (which it can be) but forget that whether you were talking about communism or capitalism, both historically performed an exercise of collectivizing resources. The difference is in capitalism you had a private landlord come in and take everything by force and now everyone worked for a wage to that private business owner; and in soviet communism you had the same thing but instead of a private landlord you worked under a soviet (a worker council).

So while Kotkin is absolutely right, that the idea of the necessity was prevalent for a long time, including under capitalism, and that it maybe could have been done under a nice market system (which the US and Britian certainly didn't actually do) its disingenuous to paint it as if it only happened in communism and not capitalism. It still appears to be necessary, if you want to be a super power because all the superpowers did it. The US built its superpower status on the bodies of slaves and genocide. British capitalism built its superpower status on enclosure (the western analogous term for collectivization) and imperialism.

All I'm trying to say is I think its disingenuous to act like only their poop stinks, and our poop don't stink. If you take a big picture view there are certain things that everyone did essentially the same, just in different flavors at different times, but then we demonize others while pretending its not in our own history. What Kotkin says is true, but it would be nice to also say, look, in broader context the Marxist-Leninist idea of collectivization is a description of what capitalism needs to do to industrialize a peasant society, on its way to socialism. That doesnt defend it, but it shows insight to the nature of power (the main topic Kotkin wants to drive home about Stalin) and how nation states can abuse it.

👍︎︎ 10 👤︎︎ u/zethien 📅︎︎ Jun 09 2018 🗫︎ replies
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