Understanding Stalin - Anne Applebaum - The Atlantic
The Bolshevik coup d’état of 1917 brought him and his comrades their first, glorious taste of success. Their unlikely revolution—the result of Lenin’s high-risk gambles—validated their obscure and fanatical ideology. More to the point, it brought them personal security, fame, and power they had never before known.
As a result, most Bolshevik leaders continued to seek guidance in this ideology, and Stalin was no exception. In later years, outsiders would listen incredulously to the wooden pronouncements of the Soviet leadership and ask whether they could possibly be sincere. Kotkin’s answer is yes. Unlike the uneducated cynic of Trotsky’s imagination, the real Stalin justified each and every decision using ideological language, both in public and in private. It is a mistake not to take this language seriously, for it proves an excellent guide to his thinking. More often than not, he did exactly what he said he would do.
Certainly this was true in the realm of economics. The Bolsheviks, Kotkin rightly notes, were driven by “a combination of ideas or habits of thought, especially profound antipathy to markets and all things bourgeois, as well as no-holds-barred revolutionary methods.” […]
This ideology offered Stalin a deep sense of certainty in the face of political and economic setbacks. If policies designed to produce prosperity created poverty instead, an explanation could always be found: the theory had been incorrectly interpreted, the forces were not correctly aligned, the officials had blundered. If Soviet policies were unpopular, even among workers, that too could be explained: antagonism was rising because the class struggle was intensifying. Whatever went wrong, the counterrevolution, the forces of conservatism, the secret influence of the bourgeoisie could always be held responsible.
October 17, 2014, 9:54am