Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thursday Night Cigar

You can never go wrong with an Ashton.

We are still reading Robert Conquest's Stalin: Breaker of Nations.

Pages 193-194. Sound like someone else?

One of his [Stalin's] greatest characteristics was a phenomenal memory, at least in the matters which concerned him most. And he had the ability to master the facts in a variety of fields. He mistook this, as laymen often do, for the ability to understand at least the essentials of any field whatever and make informed judgements. He was to decide not only questions of economics, in which he was barely competent, but also crucial issues of, for example, biology, on which his knowledge was no more than comparable, at best, to that of an all-purpose journalist called upon to write an article, or a lawyer required to 'brief himself' for a week or two on some technical problem.

This attitude, which led to such absurdities, must in part be based on the Communist principle that a dogma transcending other knowledge had been discovered, and that political leadership, and political considerations generally, are on a higher and more comprehensive plane than all other elements of life and society, and are empowered to make final decisions. It allowed Stalin to decimate, and more than decimate, his engineers, his physicists and so on. When the Kharkov Physics Laboratory, one of the best in Europe, was destroyed by the arrest of almost all its leading staff, one of its departmental heads commented: 'You need five years to train an engineer, and even then the government had a very great deal of trouble before it could get suitable engineers for its new factories. But a capable physicist needs from ten to fifteen years' of training.'

The most crucial area in which Stalin failed to appreciate the need for specialists was, however, to be military science. Here, as we have said, he clearly believed that he himself had shown high talent in spite of a total lack of training. His destruction of the military cadres, which nearly resulted in disaster in 1941-43, was a natural result.

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