STALINISM: Essays in Historical Interpretation by Robert C.--Ed. Tucker
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STALINISM: Essays in Historical Interpretation

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KIRKUS REVIEW

With one exception, the thirteen essays assembled in this volume originated in a 1975 conference on ""Stalinism and Communist Political Culture."" The distinguished contributors included historians, economists, philosophers, political scientists, and a literary historian from Australian, North American, and British universities, as well as Yugoslavia and the USSR. Their papers fall into four groups: interpretive approaches; the Russian context of Stalinism; Eastern Europe; and the Marxist origins of Stalinism. Stephen F. Cohen (Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution, 1973) provides an overview of Soviet studies since the 1940s which demonstrates the unlikelihood of a volume such as this in the past, when the field was dominated by a view of Stalinism as the logical continuation of the Bolshevik Revolution, not as a specific phenomenon. That this consensus has collapsed is largely due to the work of the scholars represented here. The contributions of Robert Tucker (Stalin as Revolutionary, 1973), Moshe Lewin (Russian Peasants and Soviet Power, 1968), and Roy Medvedev (Let History Judge, 1971) constitute extensions of their previous work, and serve as accessible introductions while offering much of interest to scholars. Lewin's ""Social Background of Stalinism""--one of two standouts on the Soviet context--stresses the uprootedness of Soviet society following the Revolution, Civil War, and collectivization which created a vacuum allowing the state to become the agent of radical change. Its complement is Robert Sharlet's piece on the ambiguous, unstable relationship between legality and terror in the Stalinist system. Wlodzemierz Brus and H. Gordon Skilling add timely studies of Stalinism in Poland and Czechoslovakia, respectively, which point out the mix of traditional and imposed institutions underlying political instability in the ""People's Democracies."" Taken together, the contributions do not produce a new single concept of Stalinism to replace the earlier interpretation; rather, the diversity of approaches and conceptualizations attests to the field's current vitality. A unique and impressive collection.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1977
Publisher: Norton