The Hi-Tech Traditionalist…Putin: Stalin or Lincoln?
How Old Joseph Djugashvili Is Shaping Today’s Russia
WARNING: In this column, the Hi-Tech Traditionalist compares (not necessarily unfavorably) Joseph Stalin to Abraham Lincoln. This comparison is in no way designed to whitewash Stalin’s record of inflicting atrocities on his own people; neither is it our wish to tarnish Lincoln’s reputation as one of America’s most transformational presidents. Rather, we aim to place these vastly different leaders in the proper historical context and in the process encourage readers to consider viewing them through somewhat different historical perspectives.
When I first started traveling first class and having business lunches in fancy steakhouses, I had a mentor of sorts. The most memorable thing he had ever taught me was how to eat a medium-rare steak in a place like Morton’s or Ruth Chris. Upon receiving the charcoal looking object sitting in the middle of a vast white plate weighing no less than twenty pounds, do not be intimidated, he said. Pick up that saber they call a steak knife and cut that sucker right through the middle. Slay it! Now proceed to eat it from the middle out, dipping each morsel into the delicious jus with which your plate is now abundantly filled. Do it timidly, eat the steak from the outside in, and you will inevitably end up with a chunk of cold raw beef sitting in the midst of congealed bloody grease. This actually reminds me of the admonition, by late 15th century master swordsman Miyamoto Musashi to (once your sword has been unsheathed) always think of stabbing your enemy through the heart.
So with that in mind, let me say this: both Lincoln and Stalin saved their respective empires from annihilation by sacrificing roughly two percent of their total populations.
In the 1930’s nationalist socialists (fascists) made major inroads into every Western country, not excluding Great Britain and the United States of America. In Mussolini’s Italy it was the governing ideology. In Britain, King Edward VIII was forced to abdicate, ostensibly due to a dalliance with an American woman of no consequence, but in reality due to him being an unrepentant Nazi. He wasn’t alone. The upper echelons of the Red Army’s officer corps in the 1930’s consisted of many commanders whose military ways were forged in the Russian Imperial Army two and a half decades earlier. A fact that is perhaps less known in the West is that the Russian military ever since the early 18th century was fashioned after the German (Prussian) one and that as a result its core was Germanophylic, even though Germany was Russia’s arch-enemy in WWI and in many previous engagements. Many of these officers, while Russian patriots, were appalled by the extreme transformations undertaken by Stalin, such as the disruption of the Russian and Ukrainian agrarian heartlands that they loved so well. Disillusionment with the Bolshevik Revolution was rampant.
It is important to remember that each and every one of the Allies that successfully fought and won WWII against Germany underwent an internal de-Nazification process prior to joining the war effort. In the US, Roosevelt progressively clamped down on the US Nazi organizations, realizing that war with Nazi Germany would be inevitable. In England, as so brilliantly depicted in Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel The Remains of the Day and in the eponymous film starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, members of the nobility who followed in the ideological footsteps of Edward VIII, were also quite forcefully shoved aside. France, which did not go through such a process, offered only token resistance to the invading Germans and was consequently conquered by them after only two weeks. The same goes for the Middle and Eastern European countries of Hungary, Romania, Poland, and Czechoslovakia, which combined had access to very significant military resources and could have given the Wehrmacht quite a fight, given the will. Will, however, was absent, as these countries were riddled with homegrown Nazis.
Stalin’s de-Nazification campaign in the late 1930’s, was certainly a part of a bigger de-Westernization campaign, and in fact was the final act of the Russian Civil War of 1918 – 1920, in which the so called “White” forces comprising of pro-Western and Monarchist elements were defeated by the newly constituted Red Army, organized and led, amazingly, by a Jewish lawyer by the name of Leo Bronstein, AKA Leo Trotsky.
There can be little doubt that the late 1920’s Soviet Union was in ruins. Lenin, being substantially an ideological globalist anarchist started by giving away many strategic assets of the Russian Empire, notably the Baltic States, Finland, and Poland, and followed through with extreme economic experimentation that left the country on the brink of ruin, utterly unable to defend itself against any foreign aggression. Stalin’s methods can, and should be questioned, but the results cannot be.
When the Germans attacked on June 22nd, 1941, the USSR was able to withstand a full frontal assault by the greatest military known to mankind at that time and eventually win with almost no assistance by the US or any other ally. The tide of war was turned in Stalingrad (now, again, Volgograd) in late 1942, two and a half years before D-day. Had Stalingrad fallen, Germany would have gained access to the vast oilfields of Central Asia, making it nearly impossible to beat. But the Battle of Stalingrad was not won in 1942; it was won in the de-Nazification/de-Westernization campaign of 1937-1938, when roughly three to four million people (according to latest estimates that do not incorporate anti-Stalinist hysteria) were executed from the ranks of both the military and the civilian populations.
The cost of this campaign was unquestionably enormous in every possible sense. The best tactical commanders of the Red Army were executed. Many of the civilian casualties were professionals such as doctors, engineers, and scientists. Much was lost that can never be regained. But the Red Army never wavered in its commitment to the total defeat and annihilation of Nazi Germany, a task that it saw through to the end. In the vast territories in western USSR that were conquered by the Nazis in 1941-1942, only a small minority of the civilian population (notably in the Ukraine) switched sides to the Nazis. Most held firm and offered both passive and active resistance to the occupiers. By brutally sacrificing roughly two percent of the total population of the USSR in the 1930’s, Stalin was able to save the Russian Empire of his day from certain defeat, in turn saving not only my own family and all of the Soviet Jewry, but all of Europe as well.
Abraham Lincoln, like Joseph Stalin (real name Djugashvili) was born poor and rose to power, albeit in very different circumstances, through sheer force of will and political talent. What caused Lincoln to disallow the secession of the slaveholding South? There can be little doubt that preventing this secession through the force of arms was unconstitutional. This is evidenced by the fact that no Southern leader was ever tried for treason, though it was treason that they were accused of by the North. No such charge could have withstood legal scrutiny; hence the name that many in the South still give to the Civil War: The War of the Northern Aggression. This name is in fact much more accurate; the South wanted to be left alone. The North wouldn’t let it.
Surely, Lincoln knew that the price that regular Americans would pay for his gambit to stop the South from seceding would be enormous. In fact, it ended up being quite similar to the one paid by Stalin: about two percent of the total population (roughly six hundred thousand killed in a population of thirty million). He also knew that what he was about to do was unconstitutional, hence the suspension of habeas corpus. Why did he do it? He did it for the same reason that Stalin engaged in his purges and his campaigns of forced labor. He saw in the idea of America, a united America that was destined to become the greatest country that ever existed, an ideal in the name of which everything was permitted. An objective the achievement of which justified all means. And just like Stalin, who believed in the same greatness for the Russian Empire, he acted. He acted with Stalin-like ruthlessness, without which the America we know today would have surely never come to pass.
So what about Mr. Putin? Is he a Stalin? A Lincoln? Both? Perhaps neither? Time of course will tell. My advice to people dealing with Mr. Putin is to see in him, first and foremost, a fierce Russian patriot. Like both Lincoln and Stalin, he believes in his native land as more than a political entity or a unit of geography, he believes in a powerful, glorious, independent Russia as a Grand Principle of human history, a God-given gift to the Russian people. As such, he cannot and will not succumb to any pressure or take any action that in his view would diminish Russia’s destiny. It is in this unshakeable belief in the divinely ordained destiny of his people and his willingness to ruthlessly act on it that Mr. Putin is similar to both Lincoln and Stalin. Though the circumstances be vastly different, it is men like these that shape our world. History’s graveyards are full of people who tried to stand in their way.