The Spectre of Stalin in the Latter Work of EH Carr & A Werth


I have written elsewhere more or less eulogising the merits of EH Carr and Alexander Werth as noble academics of the Cold War-era, who whilst not being officially ‘Communist’ (although Werth was a member of the British Labour Party), both retained the integrity traditionally associated with bourgeois academia and fought a robust and stout rear-guard action after 1945, confronting the advance of US anti-intellectualism in the UK and Europe. Both these men were ‘fair’ when assessing Soviet history, culture, economic development and political direction. Their books took-off as a genre mostly after Soviet Russia fought and defeated German Nazism in the USSR and Eastern Europe (at terrible cost), and the US stepped-up its rhetorical attacks. As a consequence, their work is a joy to behold as it generally takes on and exposes the sheer idiocy of the US Cold War disinformation – a task that was officially resisted and discouraged as the US version of events became orthodoxy throughout Western academia. Alexander Werth wrote about the Soviet experience of WWII from the Red Army frontline – arriving in the USSR in 1941 and not leaving until 1948 – with this body of knowledge recorded in his superb (1964) book entitled ‘Russia at War 1941-45’. This book was premised on events that happened over 20 years previously, and throughout it is a tour de force of first-hand experiences and inconvenient data that render virtually all US anti-intellectualism redundant and obsolete. However, after re-reading key extracts of this book recently I was taken with the apparent angst that an elderly Werth (he would passed away in 1969) displays in the ‘Foreword’ dated to 1964 – toward various aspects of Soviet history. This creates the peculiar situation whereby the book (and his personal memories) defend key elements of Soviet history whilst his Foreword appears (in-part) to be retreating from this defence – and yet the two contradictory texts are allowed to stand. A similar situation exists in EH Carr’s 1982 book entitled ‘The Twilight of Comintern 1930-1935’ – another excellent read. The Preface is dated to March 1982, with the 90-year-old EH Carr passing away in November of 1982. In his earlier works as a professional academic, EH Carr was merciless in checking any and all attempted advancements by the far-reaching tentacles of US anti-intellectualism into British academia and the UK national psyche. He relentlessly countered all the superstition, religiosity, paranoia and pseudo-history of the American anti-Soviet onslaught, and he did this with the pin-point accuracy using verifiable and well established fact. He was particularly active in showing-up the ahistorical anti-Stalin slurs that regularly emanated from the USA and exposing the many lies and misdemeanours of all those anti-Communists the CIA employed. The work of EH Carr is a superb counter to US Cold War disinformation and is highly recommended. It is surprising, therefore, to see the cover of this book describing Joseph Stalin as a ‘dictator’, and EH Carr occasionally mentioning (as if ‘fact’) certain key Cold War points of US disinformation as if they were true! On the other hand, it is clear in the bulk of the narrative that EH Carr does not accept the over-all demonisation of Stalin – despite referring to his regime as ‘barbarous’ at one point (a very different view to that he expressed in his ‘Soviet Impact’ where Stalin is the only genuine defender of democracy). It has been suggested to me that these two otherwise excellent thinkers could have lost their objectivity due to old age or were made to say these things through pressure from the Establishment – with editors linking publication (or re-runs) of their work with required (included) criticism of the USSR. Whatever the case, Joseph Stalin died in 1953 – a decade or more before these books were published and it is a tribute to the effectiveness of his tenure of the USSR that the US felt the need to continuously attack and distort his memory for years after!

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