World War II-book reviews, articles, comment.

  1. dodger
    This review is from: Plans For Stalin's War Machine: Tukhachevskii and Military-Economic Planning, 1925-1941 (Hardcover) Lennart Samuelson

    In this detailed book, based on newly opened Russian archives, Lennart Samuelson studies Soviet military and economic planning from 1925 to 1941. He shows how the Soviet leadership integrated defence into their general economic planning and decision-making, and how well the defence industries met military requirements.
    With the first five-year plan, the Soviet Union developed an advanced industrialised civilian economy. The vital machine building, automobile, tractor, chemical and aircraft industries could be swiftly mobilised in case of war. Samuelson argues that this did not lead to what could be called a 'militarised economy', because the USA, France, Italy and Germany made similar preparations for the demands of total war.

    He also discusses Soviet strategic thinking. In the 1918-21 War of Intervention, the armies of fourteen capitalist states invaded Russia, trying to overthrow the revolutionary Government. This naturally confirmed the Soviet leadership's belief that these states would inevitably attack the new socialist state again. The debate raged - could the Soviet Union defeat such an attack? In 1927, Marshall Tukhachevskii, then Chief of Staff, said that the Soviet Union would be defeated, "unless the European revolution will come to our rescue." In 1936, when he was Deputy Defence Commissar, he agreed with Trotsky that Nazi Germany would definitely defeat the Soviet Union. This consistent defeatism was hardly appropriate to a leading figure. Further, Tukhachevskii wanted the military, not civilians, to run military-industrial planning, a clear threat to the Party's leadership of the country.

    Samuelson concludes, "With regard to industrial mobilisation, it [the Soviet Union] was certainly ahead of Germany - having adopted the best methods and techniques for preparing the economy in general, and industry in particular, for the test of wartime production conditions." He sums up, "The presently available data give on the whole a more balanced and well-equipped Red Army on the eve of Operation Barbarossa than in the historiography of past decades."
  2. dodger
    Hitler's Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe by Mark Mazower . Reviewer William Podmore.

    In this remarkable study of Nazi rule over Europe, Mark Mazower shows the full horror of Nazism and its lack of any redeeming feature. Its anti-human philosophy could end only in utter destruction.

    Mazower notes that the British-French Munich Agreement with Hitler and Mussolini was `a disaster for the Czechs and a catastrophe for all those hoping to stem the German drive to war'. The British state then gave the Czech reserves of $100 million to the Nazis after they seized Czechoslovakia in March 1939.

    The Nazis set up colonial-style regimes giving Hitler unfettered executive power. Their colonial autocracy, brutality and racism denied equality and national sovereignty.

    The Nazi occupiers consumed a growing part of Europe's shrinking output, through exploitation, dismantling and destruction. Predatory, never self-sufficient, never autarchic, they increasingly depended on imports and on foreign labour. Their rule brought `plunder and genocide'.

    The Nazis carried out mass murders throughout Eastern Europe. Hitler told his senior commanders that he wanted the `physical annihilation' of the Polish population. In their invasion of Poland, the Nazis massacred 50,000 Poles and 7,000 Jews. By contrast, Soviet policy in Poland "did not aim to get rid of any particular national or ethnic group in toto. Its purpose was social revolution, not national purification."

    Mazower notes, "the cult of force and the racial geopolitics that the Nazis took so seriously turned into a programme of extermination on a scale which had no precedent." On 12 December 1941, Hitler told his Gauleiters, "The world war is here, so the annihilation of Jewry must be the necessary consequence."

    Mazower writes, "The rising power in the Agriculture and Food Ministry, Herbert Backe, was a long-time advocate of de-industrializing Russia. His goal was to weaken the urban working class which Stalin had built up and turn the country back into the wheat supplier for western Europe that it had been before the Bolsheviks seized power." The Nazis aimed to cut off Moscow and Leningrad from the grain-producing Ukraine and leave them to starve.

    But the Soviet Union fought back and played the main part in defeating Hitler's armies. Mazower points out that Operation Bagration was "not only the most effective Soviet offensive of the war but perhaps the most overwhelming and devastating single military assault in history."

    After the war, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland expelled Germans. Mazower observes, "the idea that the Powers could turn expulsions on and off at will takes little account of the real driving force behind them - the immense popular hatred towards the Germans that existed in the regions they had occupied as the war came to an end."
  3. dodger
    By William Podmore

    This review is from: Stalin: Revolutionary in an Era of War (European History in Perspective) K. McDermott

    Stalin's single purpose was, as Professor Richard Overy has noted, "to preserve and enlarge the revolution and the state that represented it." His policies were forged in war and revolution. How could World War One's slaughter of Russians be stopped? How could the counter-revolutionary war of 1917-21 be defeated? How could a feudal peasant society be modernised? How could the kulaks be defeated? How could the fifth column linked to Hitler be defeated? How could Hitler's invasion be defeated? How could the Soviet Union be rebuilt after the war's devastation? Capitalism caused all these problems; liberalism compounded them. Stalin's answer was class war - war against the warmongers. How else could Russia have survived these lethal threats?

    So, without a capitalist class, without profits from exploiting people in other countries, without investment by foreign firms, and without foreign aid, the Soviet people built an economy that transformed their country from the backward semi-colonial land of the tsars into the world's second industrial, scientific and military power. They collectivised agriculture and created an iron and steel industry, tractors, machine tools, agricultural machinery and aircraft. They brought electricity to the whole country and built coal and oil industries. There was no unemployment, and people had free housing, free education and free health care: children got free vitamins. The late Lord Bullock, not the friendliest witness, wrote, "the achievement of the Russian people on the economic front, under the Soviet system and Stalin's leadership, was remarkable."

    The supreme test was the Second World War. Soviet forces inflicted 90% of Nazi Germany's military casualties. As Albert Seaton wrote of Stalin, "he must be allowed credit for the amazing successes of 1944", which are "among the most outstanding in the world's military history."

    General Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, judged that Stalin had `a military brain of the very highest order'. The veteran American diplomat Averell Harriman wrote of Stalin's "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." Henri Michel, the French historian of the war, wrote, "The Soviet victory was the Red Army's victory, but it was also the victory of the Soviet economy and of the Bolshevik regime ... finally, this victory was Stalin's victory."

    As they say in Russia, Stalin found the country a wreck and left it a superpower; Gorbachev found it a superpower and left it a wreck. Without Stalin's leadership of the Soviet Union, Hitler could have defeated the Soviet Union, then occupied Britain and won the war, so we owe Stalin and the Soviet people a huge debt.
  4. dodger
    The Year of Stalingrad [Paperback]
    Alexander Werth (Author)

    Sunday Times war-correspondent Werth spent four years in the Soviet Union during WW2. He traveled widely, interviewed Russian officers and enlisted men, civilians and German prisoners. His diary entries and description of why and how the Russians managed to turn back the Nazi invasion make this a fascinating book to read.
  5. dodger

    might be worth a look---see what you make of Glanz..might tempt you to get one of his books from the library.
  6. Comrade_Stalin
    Quote Originally Posted by dodger
    Further, Tukhachevskii wanted the military, not civilians, to run military-industrial planning, a clear threat to the Party's leadership of the country.

    "The presently available data give on the whole a more balanced and well-equipped Red Army on the eve of Operation Barbarossa than in the historiography of past decades."
    Do you have any other fact about Tukhachevskii?
  7. dodger
    Other side of world away from books, -sorry comrade. If I stumble on anything..pop link over to you.
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