Hammer & Rifle

David R. Stone, Author
David R. Stone, Author University Press of Kansas $39.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7006-1037-2
Reviewed on: 09/11/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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Based on extensive research in newly opened Russian archives, this careful study is the best analysis to date of the central role of militarization in the development of state, society and economy in the U.S.S.R. between the end of the ""New Economic Plan"" in 1926 and the conclusion of the first ""Five-Year Plan"" in 1933. As Stone (an assistant professor of history at Kansas State University) shows, the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin inherited from Lenin an ideologically based belief that the non-Communist world embodied an irreconcilable hatred for the Soviet system. Stalin, regarding an apocalyptic armed conflict with global capitalism as correspondingly inevitable, focused economic development on military expansion. His Soviet Union became a comprehensively militarized society, with a steady erosion of distinctions and barriers between military and civilian spheres as the country sustained a massive military buildup. Stone challenges the familiar argument that only these earlier diversions of resources enabled the defeat of Hitler's Reich. He suggests instead that the disproportionate efforts devoted to military procurement distorted the Soviet economy as a whole--and that continuous large-scale military production left Russia in 1941 with huge stocks of obsolescent equipment whose replacement required several years even with stepped-up wartime production. Similar inflexible military-industrial policies, Stone argues, fatally undermined the Soviet system in its long-term post-1945 struggle with the West. A slack, more flexible economy would have been better qualified to cope with the actual military challenges the Soviet Union faced, but would have run against the essential nature not only of Stalinism, but of a U.S.S.R. that Stone describes as committing suicide from fear of death at capitalism's hands. History Book Club selection. (Sept.)
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