In this article Stalin's behaviour is argued to be the result of a calculated and fanatical strategy. Stephen Kotkin's book 'Stalin' is referenced, and the suggestion is that criticism of Stalin as insufficiently Communist stems from his political rivals. That in public and private he consistently used Marxist-Leninist language to justify policy, and that ultimately his policies were genuine in principle.

But why would that in itself explain the sheer brutality of his decisions? I would like to know whether there's any evidence to suggest a specific reason for his political violence.

I suspect that being an Old Bolshevik, Stalin never stopped thinking about his country in the paranoid and violent context of the Civil War. Consequently he always considered the existence of the USSR to be perilous, and thought brutal violence was necessary to defend the revolution.

This might also align with his decision to end Lenin's New Economic Plan; and thus return to something more like War Communism. It may also explain why his successors like Krushchev became considerably less brutal, as in their minds the existence of the USSR was a given.

However, I have no evidence to support this idea, and would like to know if any evidence exists to explain the logic behind Stalin's brutality? Why he considered violence on such a scale to be so necessary? Judging by what he actually said on the subject?

All Soviet leaders were Marxist-Leninist Communists, but each one had a different tolerance for violence as a political tool. The question is why Stalin's behaviour was so extreme compared to his successors, and importantly what evidence is there to describe how he justified this?

  • Absolutely this is not an answer, but I will post it. Perhaps Stalin had paranoid mind and at the same time he also wished best destiny for its country and its people. When he became the head of USSR he definitely realized only country that is able to defends its own borders can has a right to exists. That's why he performed some strange actions (f.e. prior to a few months of WWII lots of officers in Red Army had been arrested and shot down) the main goal of which are to destroy political opponents and to show the whole world that new country USSR is under authority of the strong leader. – Josef Švejk Sep 21 '18 at 13:40
  • And one note else: there are no any document that could exactly describe why Stalin has been so brutal in his actions. Anyone of us is able to find documents which are written by historian which had tried to explain motivation of Stalin's actions. But such documents will contain information that is based on verdicts and conclusions of historians. But in these documents will no one word by Stalin itself. Sometimes, history science can make wrong verdicts and conclusions. All we can get about Stalin's brutality - are only our supposing. – Josef Švejk Sep 21 '18 at 13:43
  • Lacks basic research, Milovan Djilas on Stalin forex. – Samuel Russell Sep 21 '18 at 14:25
  • Perhaps it would be reasonable to ask whether Stalin's policies differed in any significant degree from those of the average Communist leader, – jamesqf Sep 21 '18 at 17:28
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    @jamesqf That would just tell us what is typical of leaders like Stalin and Mao, it would tell us nothing about why they did what they did. Stalin was especially brutal compared to his successors, so it seems a worthwhile thing to try and understand how his thinking differed so much. – inappropriateCode Sep 21 '18 at 20:26


Don't confuse cause and effect - Stalin succeeded because he was the most brutal and ruthless Politburo member. Only someone even more brutal and ruthless could have succeeded in his place.

The certainty of dogmatic fanaticism requires no further justification; as it justifies itself.

.... Stalin, as Kotkin reveals him, was neither a dull bureaucrat nor an outlaw but a man shaped by rigid adherence to a puritanical doctrine. His violence was not the product of his subconscious but of the Bolshevik engagement with Marxist-Leninist ideology.

This ideology offered stalin a deep sense of certainty in the face of political and economic setbacks.

Stalin saw obstacles in his way, and removed them with whatever degree of force appeared necessary at the time. When the only possible direction is forward, no opposition can be tolerated.

Whatever went wrong, the counterrevolution, the forces of conservatism, the secret influence of the bourgeoisie could always be held responsible. .... Over and over again, Stalin learned that violence was the key to success. ....

But if he was sufficiently ruthless, all opposition ultimately melted away. ....

Stalin wasn't a dreamer like Lenin or Trotsky, which is precisely why he accepted the position of General Secretary of the Party; why the others were content to let him have the position; and why he ultimately proved to be master of them all. Stalin was the diligent, conscientious bureaucrat who plumbed the depths of the party organization for supporters; and always turned up with far more supporters than anticipated at every crisis of leadership.

All quotes from the article quoted in the original question.

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    If this is true, can you provide some evidence of things he said to that effect, rather than inferred? I haven't read the book mentioned in the article (I read the article), so I don't know if it provided direct quotations to that effect. And whether there was anything else published elsewhere in support or conflict. – inappropriateCode Sep 21 '18 at 15:38
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    @ubadub: "McCarthyist fear-mongering"? If you see flaws in my work, that's great - I might learn something. But please make the comments sensible and clear. As written above your comment is just a borderline insult. – Pieter Geerkens Sep 22 '18 at 14:56
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    @ubadub: If you know the subject so well, write up a better answer than mine. Who knows - you might actually earn some rep on this site beyond the association bonus. That is how this StackExchange works. And by the way, try reading who the author of each comment is, as I am not the author of all comments you seem to be think are mine. – Pieter Geerkens Sep 22 '18 at 17:54
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    That's what I assumed, but it's not going to be obvious to a) anyone who clicks on a direct answer link b) anyone if OP decides to add more links. – Laurel Sep 23 '18 at 21:17
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    @inappropriateCode: Lenin & Trotsky both disdained the paperwork and logistics of building a network of party supporters across the breadth of the Soviet Union. Stalin loved it. That is what I meant by dreamer. – Pieter Geerkens Sep 25 '18 at 22:58

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