Stalin: Man and Ruler

Robert H. McNeal, Author
Robert H. McNeal, Author New York University Press $45 (389p) ISBN 978-0-8147-5443-6
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
The author argues that he does not wish to rehabilitate Stalin, only to demythologize him. Power-hungry schemer, sadistic monster, secretive tyrantthese are the familiar images. But in this controversial biography, McNeal, professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, paints the Soviet ruler as an ``immensely gifted politician'' who rose to the top through unrelenting hard work and flexibility. According to McNeal, whose books include The Bolshevik Tradition and Bride of the Revolution , the collectivizing drive in the 1920s and the annihilation of the kulaks were ripples in a vast agrarian upheaval that had wide grass-roots support before Stalin became involved. Dismissing the notion that Stalin went crazy, he presents a ruthless leader whose commitment to class war made terror acceptable and brought tragedy to his nation. In attempting to set the record straight, McNeal poses the chilling paradox of a hyperrational ruler whose politics bordered on insanity. This full-scale biography is filled with juicy human/inhuman details such as the probable suicide of the dictator's wife, his psychological war with his daughter, his snubbing of Mao. History Book Club selection. (September)
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