Kotkin vs. Orwell?

May 2008
Dr. Steven Kotkin is in the midst of publishing 3 volumes considered the most exhaustive of Stalin's life. Boasts he can tell you what Stalin ate and did at any time of any given day you care to name. His Youtube vids are fantastic. Kotkin is very insightful and objective, even sympathetic, insofar as it allows him to ply his craft even better.

Dr. Kotkin claims that, contrary to conventional wisdom/popular belief, Stalin never stopped believing in the communist revolution. To the end. Coming from a non-Russian (and non-politically-aligned in his native US) scholar, this is quite a statement, if for no other reason than it leaves no reason to doubt it. Even at the most rapacious point of his dictatorship which Kotkin says Stalin took to the level of "masterpiece", Stalin was a true believer rather than powermonger simply for power's sake. No denying that he was a powermonger, but it was a means to an end.

I'd like to contrast this with a quote from 1984. O'Brien explains to Winston: "Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish a dictatorship." (part 3, chapter 3)

I'm posting to start a discussion:

Is one of them wrong, ie, are they mutually exclusive sentiments?

If so, who do you tend to believe more, and why?

As a thought exercise, I can't get around this mud puddle: they're not mutually exclusive given the possibility that there was a steadfast belief in world communism between Stalin's ears, and that he also saw the belief as the string to his bow of achieving the absolute peak of power, and that BOTH operated at different times at the level of conscious and subconscious. There might've been an ongoing interplay of those two.
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M.S. Islam

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
Being an artificial construct, belief in communism would reside only in the conscious. Whereas, craving for power being a natural instinct may reside in the subconscious. In that case, both can coexist.


Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
Hearing accounts of Stalin's last years I think it's fairly clear that he was a monstruous megalomanic acting for his benefit, no one else's (at all)

You'll be aware that Orwell wrote Animal Farm (and later 1984) based on his experiences - limited though they were - under the Stalinist-influenced Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War. He will have been aware that after his departure all non-Stalinist/Communist forces - including Maoists, Anarchists and various factions - including some International Brigade remainers - were eliminate in due course. And that Battles like Teruel and the Ebro - which made zero tactical or strategic sense - were just staged by the Commissars to put up a show at huge cost of life. Incidentally for some reason not quite clear, Stalins' commissars who had run the Republican forces toward the end of the war, were all shot when they returned home

Bottom line is:

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others

I've no idea who Korkin is but I find his view quite odd, to be honest. Maybe he wants to sell books?
Feb 2019
Planet Earth
Having read a lot about this man, I'm sure Stalin was a fanatic communist to the end. In fact unlike other communist leaders, like Mao, he did not take advantage of his position in terms of mistresses or material wealth. Lenin and Trotsky also lived much more comfortable lives than Stalin's.

And there is no evidence he changed his beliefs during the last years of his life:
Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR
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Mar 2013
Stafford, VA
I just finished the first volume and have started on the second. Dr. Kotkin is a good writer & is able to explain the machinations of the revolution & party struggles in a clear, understandable way. I'm sorry, I can't answer the original question though.


Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
Welsh Marches
I haven't read Kotkin's books, but have heard him talking about Stalin in several youtube videos and was most impressed. I don't see any conflict between Stalin being a true believer and him interpreting his beliefs in his own way as a paranoid power-maniac.
Aug 2014
New York, USA
Orwell's statement is philosophical, Kotkin's statement is a matter of fact, or what actually historically happened to a particular individual.

I have no doubt that Stalin was a fanatical believer in communism. After all, he abandoned a fairly 'comfortable' living to live a life of outcast, permanent poverty, and a wanted person on the run and exile. You have to remember, Stalin got to power late in his life, in his late 30s and 40s, and when he started it there is definitely no way in hell he thought he was going to end up where he did.
The most uncomfortable truth to socialists is that Stalin truly and wholeheartedly believed in the project. He was a true believer.
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