THE LIFE AND DEATH OF STALIN by Louis Fischer
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THE LIFE AND DEATH OF STALIN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

After a number of years absorption in the epic story of Gandhi, Louis Fischer turns again to the world's most controversial and powerful figure, Stalin. Fischer's fourteen years of intimate knowledge of the Soviet capital, where he worked as a journalist, his subsequent unremitting concern and research into primary sources wherever he had access to them, now bear fruit in this devastating portrait of Stalin, the machine man, the genius who knows how to harness men, who has created the great machine state -- a fact in Russia, a menace to the world. He traces the steps by which Stalin made himself the peak of Soviet power, reversing the pyramid, putting the workers -- who created revolutionist the bottom. ""Freedom is lost in fractions"" says Fischer -- and Stalin demonstrates this is his personality, his methods: (1) probes and tests enemy strength; (2) makes a trial blow and retreats; (3) makes the kill. He shows how this procedure has been followed in his acquisition of strength and absolute power at home, abroad. How he has destroyed Communism, once a faith and ideal. How he has used lies to further his aims. How the secret police have taken over from the political and military. Talents as a Machiavellian tactician have brought him to supremacy. In retrospect, much that was inexplicable at time comes clear -- the significance of the strange decade from 1930-40; the pros and cons of the Hitler pact; the means by which Stalin tricked Roosevelt -- and to a lesser extent Churchill, the processes by which counter-revolution displaced revolution; the steps by which a new ruling class with no ideals, no politics, came into power; the advantages Stalin held when he dickered for a high price. ""Stalin played closed poker; Churchill played patience, alone; Roosevelt tried to do card tricks"". But after Yalta came quick disintegration too late unless the Western world can sustain a guarded and troubled peace. For Stalin is banking on fear and unrest, on civil wars, economic collapse, from Spain to Indo China, the suicide of the democracies rather than war. The question mark of his successor -- one man or a powerful tric, he still controls. Fischer presents the case; he offers no cure. But his book is provocative, revealing and absorbing reading.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1952
Publisher: Harper