April 10, 2021


The wrong war?: a review of Stalin's War: A New History of the Second World War By Sean McMeekin  (Jeremy Black, April 2021, The Critic)

This, however, does not arise from some attempt to praise the Soviet Union as an ally against Germany but, instead, from a determination to present an equivalence between the two in aggression, expansionism, brutality and cynicism. McMeekin does not do this in order to extenuate Germany but rather to throw light on both by means of comparison. In some respects, for example the treatment of their own soldiers, this is very much to the detriment of the Soviets.

Roosevelt is held up as the arch-appeaser of the Soviet Union, while Churchill emerges with considerably more credit. Truman is praised for thwarting the Soviet wish to occupy Hokkaido and it is suggested that Roosevelt would have permitted this.

There is an emphasis on the value of Anglo-American military aid to the Soviet Union and a harsh view of a postwar settlement that left so many slaves in postwar communist regimes. Thus, the Americans are presented as fighting a war "to make much of Europe and Asia safe for communism".

"Stalinophilia" in Washington and London in 1941-45 is in part attributed to Soviet agents of influence, not least in drafting the Morgenthau Plan and weakening Chiang Kai-shek. The former is seen as serving Stalin's purposes by stiffening the German resistance to Britain and the US.

The book is pertinent because of the extent to which modern cultural wars draw on historicised identities and historical controversies. Indeed, the Cold War is in a sense still with us in these culture wars, a conflict that began in 1917 and puts, for example, Vladimir Putin and Jeremy Corbyn on the same side. McMeekin's account provides tough reading for anybody endorsing the Guardian's view of history, including the major historian I heard argue that Stalin was better than Hitler because he wished to kill social categories not ethnic ones.

Better not to have intervened until they'd attrited each other, but, having done so, we ought to have demonstrated the efficacy of nukes on Moscow.

Posted by at April 10, 2021 12:00 AM