Stalin, Mr Gellately argues, saw in the roll-back of the Third Reich to the Elbe an opportunity to introduce Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism into countries that might otherwise not be receptive to the blandishments of Scientific Socialism. Stalin, however, was a seminarian before he began to fancy himself a theoretician of revolution, and the intriguing among Stalin's allies in what became the Warsaw Pact are about what you'd expect in an ideological movement that fancies itself a substitute for religion, with a claim to understand the dynamics of history (hint, dear reader: complex adaptive systems tend to do what they d**n well please) that continues to fascinate self-styled intellectuals to this day.
The leaders that managed to avoid the purges (sometimes, as in the case of Władysław Gomułka, survive them) had to, somehow, toe the party line, and in so doing, enjoy the privileges necessary to be able to Make The Correct Decisions on Behalf of the Toiling Masses.
It was all a sham, though. Toward the end of his rule, Stalin sought to write a book describing the transformation of the Soviet economy along socialist lines. Let this passage at page 368 be its epitaph.
The only way they could produce a "rational," as opposed to a political account of Stalinist economics was to ignore a host of monumental facts. For starters, they all knew that to the extent that the Soviet Union had attained economic success at all, it was because of its resort to the overwhelming use of violence and force.Yes, and at the end, Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to deny that his country was Upper Volta with rockets. Even during the era of High Stalinism, Enver Hoxha and Josip Broz Tito had broken with Moscow, and, shortly after Stalin's death, the workers of East Germany, Poland, and Hungary sought to throw off their communist fetters.
Stalin's Curse supplements Mr Gellately's earlier Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler as well as Anne Applebaum's Iron Curtain in understanding the imposition of the experiment against reality called "fraternal socialist cooperation" on the captive nations east of the Elbe. His work relies on Soviet era records, only now becoming available to researchers. One of the privileges of being an Orwell pig is the privilege of hiding the consequences of your decisions from the Toiling Masses.
(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)