Page 6, 14th January 1972

14th January 1972
Page 6
Page 6, 14th January 1972 — A monstrously bad man on the evidence
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A monstrously bad man on the evidence

Stalin: The History of a Dictator by H. Montgomery Hyde (Rupert Hart-Davis £3.95)

LEONID KRASSIN, the 1-s' Soviet diplomat who was something of a freak among the old Bolsheviks, being a capitalist and competent to treat with the West after the 1917 putsch, was the first man, so far as is known, to describe Stalin as an Asiatic. Trotsky, with sick glee, quoted Krassin with the implication that Stalin was a latterday Genghis Khan. Both are quoted by Mr. Hyde: each in a limited way spoke the truth. But Stalin was more than that and it is the strength of Mr. Hyde's book that he does not indulge himself by accepting cheaply dramatic simplifications.

On the evidence Stalin was a monstrously bad man. He also was an historical phenomenon, a genius who transformed a conglomeration of nations, provinces and tribes into a unified power that presents the civilised world with a moral problem unequalled in history.

Mr. Hyde is an uncommonly well-equipped historian.

in scripture and theology, and yet arc practical and questing. Where so much negative criticism and niggling sneers seem to be in fashion among some critics in the Church, it is refreshing to read this book where workers in different mission fields are quite frank in examining the endless variations of their pastoral problems, but are wise withal in their judgments — especially when these must sometimes be provisional.

They question themselves and their fellow workers intelligently, and they are well aware of their own limitations, but the quiet and humble confidence which emerges from this book is founded on no mere human techniques or basis.

R. C. Gorman, Si.

Among his other skills he is a distinguished lawyer: his book gains from its presentation in something like the form of a brief.

It is a study of a phenomenon very much of our century, the vesting of absolute and unique power, legal, industrial, scientific, political in one man, power of life and death over millions of persons. Each of the two men who commanded such power was embittered in childhood. Hitler was an Austrian gutter waif. Stalin emerged from the shackhome of a drunken cobbler; educated under the protection of a pious mother, he Progressed from a seminary into the mixture of idealism and banditry that was the seed-bed of the U.S.S.R. Among the first Bolsheviks, he was the utterly ruthless one: patient, infinitely guileful, quiet, he was recognised, too late, by Lenin as a potential tyrant. Mr. Hyde has patiently researched the story and brought out much that is new. This is the best book we have upon its subject and is likely to be the best available for many years.




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