Could this industrial and military success have been accomplished any other way than the use of brutal, violent, and death-dealing Stalinist methods?
Analysts are divided on this topic, which is most often phrased by scholars as "Was Stalin 'Necessary'"? (see Alec Nove, Was Stalin Really Necessary?, Routledge, 1964).
To examine this thorny issue, one must question the question. "Necessary for what?" could be asked. Most scholars deal first with the economic aspects. Here, we can draw up a list of economic accomplishments of Stalin and Stalinism, which include for example the fact that he:
When the world-renowned playwright (and Fabian socialist) George Bernard Shaw visited the Soviet Union in the mid-thirties, he observed "splendidly illustrated magazines, crowds of brightly dressed people, well-fed happy looking workers...; no one seeing these people will ever believe tales of a half-starved population dwelling under the lash of a ruthless tyrant in labor camps."
On the other hand, what was the "price" for all this? Here we get into the socio-political and cultural areas of the discussion. One is also reminded that Stalin:
When confronted with some of these negative features, Soviets and many non-Soviet sympathizers (scholars, too, even after Stalin's death), reminded the world that the USSR was going through an "industrial revolution." They pointed out that England, America, and all industrial nations had themselves gone through very painful times during the early and middle parts of their industrial revolutions, in which thousands died of machine injuries, brutal capitalist exploitation, and harsh living conditions; only the West's travails lasted many decades. Factually speaking, this cannot be denied.
So, how does one judge all this? Clearly, it is a very complex and thorny issue, requiring soul-searching as well as fact-finding.
- Dr. Howard Holter