Poland's Daughter

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Stalin: the emerging monster (continued)

Continuing my notes from Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928 - the first volume of a magnificent new biography of the man who made himself dictator of Russia, rebuilt the lost empire, sent tens of millions to their deaths, and launched a half-war that lasted fifty years. See the book at Amazon.com


Trotsky proved to be less the obstacle to than the instrument of Stalin's aggrandizement. Just as the Bolshevik regime needed the civil war to form a state, so Stalin needed "opposition" to consolidate his personal dictatorship--and he found it. [Loc 11816]

Stalin walked into a golden opportunity to become the orthodox Leninist as well as a household name by battling, and besting, the world-renowned Trotsky. [Loc 11825]

Versailles had imposed severe restrictions on the German military's size, training, weapons production, and even the ability to send military attachés abroad, but the Soviets offered to allow Germany to violate these restrictions. Major German manufacturers (Blohm & Voss, Krupp, Albatrosswerke) were able to build submarines, aircraft, and artillery on Soviet territory, and the Reichswehr obtained secret training facilities. [Loc 12459]

An agreement to open an aviation school was signed April 15, 1925, and ground broken in the Soviet city of Lipetsk (it would go into full operation within two years).215 In August 1925, Reichswehr officers observed Red Army maneuvers for the first time (they arrived disguised as German worker Communists). A group of Red Army officers, disguised as Bulgarians, reciprocated, going to Germany to observe fall maneuvers. [Loc 12489]

delegation to Berlin in spring 1926 seeking a vast expansion of joint German-Soviet production on Soviet territory: tanks, heavy artillery, machine guns, precision optics, field telephones, radios. [Loc 13060]

a compromise emerged: the German-Soviet Neutrality and Non-Aggression Pact of April 24, 1926, also known as the Treaty of Berlin, which affirmed the earlier Rapallo agreement: the two states pledged neutrality in the event one was subject to an unprovoked attack [Loc 13071]

[Felix] Dzierzynski feared that his criticisms might "play into the hands of those who would take the country to the abyss--Trotsky, Zinoviev, Pyatakov.... If we do not find the correct line and pace of development our opposition will grow and the country will get its dictator, the grave digger of the revolution irrespective of the beautiful feathers on his costume. [Loc 13355]

The German military brass, on the very day that the Manchester Guardian had exposed clandestine German-Soviet cooperation, gave final approval to sign an agreement in Moscow to open a secret joint tank school in Kazan. [Loc 13784]

Unszlicht, in a pessimistic overview, outlined for Stalin all dimensions of the cooperation--the aviation school (Lipetsk), the Tomko (a code name) chemical warfare testing facility (Samara), the Dreise machine guns, the Bersol company's chemical devices, the Junkers airplane concession (Fili), and the tank school (Kazan) [Loc 13786]

"Every comrade, without exception, who has come here for maneuvers or to attend the academies has found the display of the technological innovations of the Germany army very useful," Krestinsky from Berlin argued to Litvinov on January 18, 1927. "What we are offering to the Germans does not cost us anything, because they pay for everything, while there is no problem finding in the depths of the USSR secret locations for their schools and other smaller military establishments." [Loc 13790]

Comintern policy compelled the Chinese Communists to become the junior partner in a coalition with the Guomindang, in order to strengthen the latter's role as a bulwark against "imperialism" (British influence). To that end, beyond creating two parallel, deadly rival parties in forced alliance, Soviet advisers also built a real, disciplined army in China. [Loc 13899]

The Soviets sent perhaps $100,000 annually, a substantial subsidy, to the Chinese Communist party, but more than 10,000,000 rubles annually in military aid to the Guomindang. [Loc 13905]

Stalin held that world revolution needed the supposedly "bourgeois" Guomindang to defeat the warlords and their imperialist paymasters, thereby uniting China, and that the Communists were to enter an alliance with the "revolutionary bourgeoisie," but prepare for eventual independent action at some point. For Stalin, therefore, the Chinese Communist alliance with the Guomindang presupposed betrayal: Communists were to win positions at the base of the joint movement, and then apply leverage, as in mechanics, from the bottom up. This would enable the Chinese Communists to capture the "revolution" from within. Soviet policy called the Communist alliance with the Guomindang a "bloc within." [Loc 13919]

for Stalin, the strong Guomindang army still seemed the best bet for the unification and stability in China. [Loc 13999]

After "mass operations" to confiscate some 20,000 rifles in Chechnya, a similar number in Ingushetia and Ossetia, and more than 12,000 in Karachaevo-Cherskesk and Balkaro-Kabarda, Yevdokimov had written to Yagoda that "the people are armed to the teeth and profoundly dark." The North Caucasus trained a generation of GPU operatives, as well as rank-and-file border guards, in hellacious counterinsurgency techniques against civilians. [Loc 15275]

Those forced into the collectives would burn crops, slaughter animals, and assassinate officials. [Loc 16057]

Countrywide, nearly 40 million people would suffer severe hunger or starvation and between 5 and 7 million people would die in the horrific famine, whose existence the regime denied. "All the dogs have been eaten," one eyewitness would be told in a Ukrainian village. [Loc 16061]

Rykov and others in the politburo had come to see not only a prickly, self-centered, often morose, vindictive person in Stalin, but also an indomitable Communist and leader of inner strength, utterly dedicated to Lenin's ideas, able to carry the entire apparatus, the country, and the cause of the world revolution on his back. [Loc 16201]

Stalin made history, rearranging the entire socioeconomic landscape of one sixth of the earth. Right through mass rebellion, mass starvation, cannibalism, the destruction of the country's livestock, and unprecedented political destabilization, Stalin did not flinch. Feints in the form of tactical retreats notwithstanding, he would keep going even when told to his face by officials in the inner regime that a catastrophe was unfolding--full speed ahead to socialism. This required extraordinary maneuvering, browbeating, and violence on his part. It also required deep conviction that it had to be done. Stalin was uncommonly skillful in building an awesome personal dictatorship, but also a bungler, getting fascism wrong, stumbling in foreign policy. But he had will. [Loc 16377]

History, for better and for worse, is made by those who never give up. [Loc 16382]

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