The Continuing Stalinist Delusions of Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick: A Final Assessment

Indeed, rather than try to challenge my account of this meeting, their own words indicate their awareness that what I wrote was accurate. But rather than comprehend how out of line such a meeting was -- asking Stalin’s secret police chief in the U.S. for help fighting the administration -- and how it was much more than simply indiscreet, they only argue that in essence Wallace was doing the right thing. Then they have the most laughable line of all: their claim that Stalin would have implemented “Soviet liberalization in Eastern Europe,” thereby taking away “the Soviet-bashers’ main issue,” had only the U.S. cooperated with Stalin.

That claim reveals more than anything else their abysmal failure to understand Stalin’s policy even before the Second World War had come to an end. Here, I refer them, and you, to the lengthy and essential review of Anne Applebaum’s book Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe1944-1956  by historian Robert Service. It appears in the latest issue of The National Interest. Service notes:

The idea has gained ground that he might well have been open to a less repressive settlement for Eastern Europe if only the Western Allies had handled him with greater respect and understanding. Poor old Joe! Misunderstood and unappreciated, so the argument goes, he allowed the balance of governance to swing in the direction of outright communization. The chances for the USSR to dominate Eastern Europe without entirely suppressing its limited democracy and market economy evaporated in the heat of the Marshall Plan.

IRON CURTAIN will have none of this. The author contends that the communizing process began as soon as the Communist leaders who had lived as political refugees in Moscow since the 1930s returned to the lands of their birth with the Red Army… Applebaum starts her book with an exposition of the preparatory groundwork for later communization, a process that was well under way in the last year of the Second World War. The core of her argument is that Communist returners did not confine themselves to assuming power in ministries of internal affairs but immediately sought to impose their influence on the minutiae of everyday life. Communization was dreamed up not in 1947 or 1948 but in 1945 or still earlier.

His point is also reinforced in the forthcoming book by historian Robert Gellately, Stalin’s Curse:Battling for Communism in War and Cold War. Referring to the type of Cold War revisionism that Stone and Kuznick represent, Gellately writes: “The documentation show, quite to the contrary, that Moscow made all the first moves and that if anything the West was woefully complacent until 1947 or 1948, when the die was already cast.” As to granting Stalin the would-be “security zones” he wanted -- which Wallace believed he should get -- Gellately writes:

Given the dozens of states along the borders of the USSR, granting his demand for such a zone would have meant forcing many millions of people to submit to domination from Moscow. And as Stalin demonstrated time and time  again, he did not care what the Americans theorized about his motives, so long as they did nothing to stop him from getting what he wanted.

Gellately points out that had the West not opposed Stalin, the Soviet dictator “might well have advanced the Red Empire to the shores of the English Channel.” The only reason Stalin failed to accomplish that was that the U.S. and Britain stood together and helped to rebuild Europe, with programs like the Marshall Plan, which Henry A. Wallace opposed. The truth is, Gellately writes, that “well before the shooting stopped in 1944-45, he set out to shore up his dictatorship and to straighten out the ideological wanderings that had crept into Communist theory.”

Indeed, the very reason that the American Communists persuaded Wallace to run for president was because Stalin’s Cominform had ordered the party to break with its social-democratic allies who favored programs like Marshall aid, and ready themselves for the coming war between the Soviet Union and the capitalist West, which he assumed would end with a world Communist revolution. Thus the elements of the CIO unions still under party control were told to break their alliance with the Democrats in the White House and back the new third party they had put together with Wallace as their willing dupe.

Stone and Kuznick quote an old statement about Wallace made by Franklin D. Roosevelt, for which they give no date. They do not quote the remark made by the late president’s wife, Eleanor, about Wallace’s Progressive Party campaign. Often called the “conscience of the New Deal” and the titular head of the left-wing of the president’s staff and supporters, Mrs. Roosevelt rebuked Wallace during his presidential campaign, correctly saying that “the American Communists will be the nucleus of Mr. Wallace’s third party.” Others of her associates, all bona fide liberals, joined her and issued a statement that Wallace had “lined up with the forces of Soviet totalitarianism.”

None of Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s gyrations change this fundamental truth.

(Thumbnail image on PJM homepage included a modified element.)