To what extent was Stalin anything more than a brutal dictator?

Essay by Fazz April 2006

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Yes Stalin was brutal few would deny that. Many might think that was an understatement. Whether he was anything more than brutal asks the question did Stalin cause anything of worth or success that was valuable to Russia or beyond. If you take that further the word 'more' suggests this theoretical value or worth of Stalin would have to be above or excel beyond his brutality. Where the successes of Stalin separate/more than a by-product of his brutality? How far were the so-called successes of Stalin his own success? Are there in fact any successes that can be credited to Stalinism let alone Stalin in the first place?

The most obvious 'success' of Stalin would be the five-year plans responsible for the explosive growth in industry during the 1930s. But how responsible was Stalin for these plans? Was there a better way of implementing industrialization via Bukarin's ideas? Revisionist historians argue the extent to which Stalin was in control.

In the case of the five-year plans a Revisionist would probably argue Stalin's policy was largely formed by pressure from bellow in the rank and file of the party. A determinist historian would take this idea further and say Stalin was a product of social and economic circumstance he was merely the unlikely conduit through which unique, impressive and brutal progress happened such as industrial explosion. Although there is much truth in these arguments are we all not the products of circumstance and pressure from outside? Perhaps Stalin did only take the decisions he did not in a progressive but a reactionary way? Did he act out of paranoia and misguided ideas? Were his policies merely stolen from other intellectuals (both left and right when it suited him) or forced upon him by an overly enthusiastic party? You will...