The infernal patron of HR chiefs and corporate strategists

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May 1, 2016 by AK

Donald Rayfield, the British historian and the author of Stalin and His Hangmen, reviews On Stalin’s Team by Sheila Fitzpatrick:

Two myths lie behind Stalin’s rehabilitation in Russia. One is that he won the second world (or “great patriotic”) war — though many historians conclude that the Russian people, helped by generous US supplies, won despite Stalin’s vacillation between inaction and wasteful enterprise. The other myth is that of Stalin as a great personnel manager… Stalin’s “team” members certainly worked long hours, mostly at night, and trembled with fear lest their leader find them underachieving — but a more counterproductive way of governing a state would be hard to imagine.

All of which seems pretty much self-evident to me. As I’ve tried to say in this comment and this post, Stalin gradually learned from his entry-level blunders during WWII, but the human cost of his learning curve was enormous. The myth of Stalin as an HR divinity requires, at least, some explanation for the great purge of the armed forces in the late 1930s, which left them without a functional officer corps. Fighting the best land army in Europe when half your own junior officers could barely, if at all, read a map was an avoidable challenge, to put it mildly.

Victor Suvorov has suggested that Stalin attempted to rid the army of the officers beholden to Civil War thinking or just too conservative… because a large-scale invasion into Europe was on his plans. It is supremely odd, then, that the great strategist did not think of the preemptive attack his aggressive plans were bound to provoke and his debilitating decimations were certain to invite.


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