HARPER: THE LESSONS OF STALINGRAD BY STEVE DOUGLAS

Harp

After hearing a lecture by my friend Steve Douglas on the lessons of the battle of Stalingrad, I urged him to write this essay on the topic.  Given the current toxic relationship between the United States and Russia–the two predominant thermonuclear-armed states–it is a useful reminder of a crisis moment in world history when the U.S. and Russia were allies against a great common threat.  it primarily serves as an invaluable lesson in the role of the subjective factors and leadership in warfare. 

 

STALINGRAD: A LESSON IN THE PRIMACY OF THE SUBJECTIVE IN WAR

November 19, 2020 marked the 78th anniversary of the strategic counteroffensive that the Soviet Red Army launched against the German Wehrmacht at Stalingrad in World War II. The vast, surprise double-pincered armored envelopment that the Soviets launched that day—from apparently out of nowhere—sealed the fate of the German Army in Russia. It was arguably the turning point of the entire war.

Stalingrad was the biggest battle in the most destructive war in the history of mankind. Soviet casualties in the battle that raged between August 23, 1942 and the surrender of Field Marshal Paulus’s 6th Army on February 2, 1943 numbered 1,129,619, including 478,741 personnel killed or missing. That is, the Soviets suffered more dead and wounded in the Battle of Stalingrad, than the U.S. Armed Forces suffered on all fields of battle combined during the entirety of World War II! (982,800 total casualties, including 416,800 killed or missing).

By the time that the Soviets unleashed their November 19th counteroffensive, the badly battered 62nd Army of General Chuikov, which was the principal Soviet military formation in the meager thousands of square meters that remained of Soviet-controlled Stalingrad, numbered only about 6000 men. What had once been a full-sized army of over 100,000 soldiers, had been reduced in size to less than half of an undersized division! And it was facing round-the-clock assaults from the elite formations of Paulus’s 6th Army and the German Luftwaffe that were more than 30 times its size, with seemingly infinitely greater firepower.

What sustained the Soviet soldiers in the face of these indescribable, almost unimaginable horrors? What enabled them to triumph against such overwhelming odds? Insofar as the imperial arrogance of the members of today’s anti-Russia lobby ominously echoes the anti-Soviet arrogance of German political and military strategists in Hitler’s time, they would be well-advised to consider the answers to these questions, before proceeding any further with their dangerous, ill-considered provocations.

The Leadership Question

The Show Trial purge process which Stalin conducted against the Soviet military from 1937-1939 had virtually decapitated the Red Army. Approximately 50% of the officer corps, including 3 out of 5 marshals, 13 out of 15 army group commanders, 57 out of 85 corps commanders, and 110 out of 195 division commanders were executed, imprisoned, or “discharged” in the purge. Only the ascendancy of General Zhukov and the arrival of Arctic-like temperatures and snowfall in November 1941 stopped the German Army from taking Moscow.

While the limited success which the Soviets experienced in some winter engagements against the Germans prompted some expressions of misguided optimism in high level Soviet government circles, those naïve hopes were shattered by the disaster that the Soviets suffered at the 2nd Battle of Kharkov. The sixteen-day battle which ended on May 28, 1942 resulted in 171,00 dead, missing, or captured Red Army troops, and opened the door for the German advance deep into southwest Russia. Soviet losses were compounded by the loss of another 118,00 soldiers when the garrison at Sevastopol in Crimea surrendered to the German 11th Army of Field Marshal Erich von Manstein on July 4, 1942.

So, when the city of Rostov on the Don River fell to the Germans with hardly a fight on July 23rd, Stalin acted decisively to alter the dynamic of defeat and despair. On July 28,1942 Stalin issued his famous Order 227—the “Ni Shagu Nazad!” Order—the “Not a Step Back!” Order. In it, he declared: “Every commander, soldier, and political worker must understand that our resources are not unlimited…To retreat further would mean the ruin of the country and ourselves. Every new scrap of territory we lose will significantly strengthen the enemy and severely weaken our defense of our Motherland…’Not a Step Back!’ this must now be our chief slogan. We must defend to the last drop of blood every position, every meter of Soviet territory, to cling on to every shred of Soviet earth and defend it to the utmost.” (pp. 41-42. Stalingrad—How the Red Army Triumphed, by Michael K. Jones–2007, Pen & Sword Books LTD, Great Britain).

Stalin coupled his Order 227 with a number of initiatives that were designed to awaken and unleash the powerful spiritual, patriotic impulses which had resided deep in the souls of Russian subjects for centuries, long before the birth of Karl Marx or the Bolshevik Revolution. He had come to recognize that Communist sloganeering was simply not sufficient to mobilize the people or the soldiers of the Soviet Union for victory.

  • On July 29, 1942, Stalin established the Order of Kutuzov Award, to be presented to those officers who conducted effective counterattacks and performed heroically against overwhelming odds on the battlefield. Mikhail Kutuzov had been appointed by Tsar Alexander I on August 29, 1812 to replace Barclay de Tolly as head of the Russian Army and was charged with the mission of defeating Napoleon’s invading French forces. While Kutuzov did not defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Borodino on Sept. 7, 1812, he inflicted sufficient damage on the French, that he helped to create the preconditions for Napoleon’s disastrous retreat from Moscow that winter.
  • Also, on July 29, 1942, Stalin established the Order of Suvorov Award, named after a Russian Field Marshal, who had famously served Empress Catherine the Great before his death in 1800. 48 Soviet generals were ultimately awarded the Order of Kutuzov or Suvorov medal during World War II. It should be noted that the masterminds of the Stalingrad counteroffensive, Generals Zhukov and Vasilevsky, were the first and second recipients of the Order of Suvorov First Class medal. As Stalin declared in an appeal to the troops on Sept. 6, 1942, “The Russians have always defeated the Prussians. The military tradition of the Russian people lives on in the heroic deeds of Soviet fighting men.” (pg. 433. Moscow to Stalingrad: Decision in the East. Earl F. Ziemke and Magna E. Bauer)
  • In late August 1942, with great pomp and fanfare, Stalin convened meetings in Moscow with the leaders of the partisan movement, which was estimated to have at least 100,000 irregular warfare combatants at that time. By naming Marshal Voroshilov commander in chief of the partisan movement, Stalin, in effect, accorded it the status of a distinct branch of the Soviet Armed Forces.
  • Stalin elevated the status of the officer corps of the armed forces in Soviet society with several noteworthy initiatives. The designation of “officer”, which had been banned from all military vocabulary since the Bolshevik Revolution and replaced by the socialistically politically correct term “commander,” was reincorporated into Soviet military life in August. And, more spectacularly, on Oct. 9, 1942, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet abolished the political commissar system, which, since the days of the Bolshevik Revolution, had been invested with absolute veto power over the decision-making processes of any and all military officers. The same Stalin who had decimated the Soviet military leadership with his murderous purges in the 1930’s, was professing his full trust in the independent, professional judgment of the military leadership in 1942.
  • In August, Stalin promoted General Zhukov to the rank of Deputy Supreme Commander of the Soviet Armed Forces, making Zhukov second only to himself in leadership responsibility for the Soviet military. In October, Stalin promoted the Chief of the General Staff General Alexander Vasilevsky to Deputy Minister of Defense. Together, Zhukov and Vasilevsky acted as a team, overseeing all aspects of the battlefield conflict with the Germans. They reported directly to Stalin, as his two primary plenipotentiaries.

Birth of a Plan and Advent of General Chuikov

On September 12 Zhukov and Vasilevsky spoke with Stalin about the prospects for a strategic encirclement of Paulus’s 6th Army, to change the complexion of the war altogether. Stalin was intrigued with the idea and dispatched them to Stalingrad to investigate the feasibility of it. He expressly admonished them, that they were to discuss this idea with absolutely no one but himself. They returned to Moscow on September 27th and presented him with a detailed report on their plan, affirming its viability. After some minor alterations, he signed off on it the next day.

The date for the surprise attack was set for November 9th. The commanders of the three Soviet Fronts (army groups) in the Stalingrad region were not to be informed of the plan until mid-October at the earliest. And they, in turn, were not to inform their own command staffs of the plans until November1st! These strictures would give the Front commanders and their staffs little time to prepare for the counteroffensive… But secrecy was of the highest priority.

Zhukov’s and Vasilevsky’s plan was premised on the assumption that the beleaguered troops of the Soviet 62nd Army could continue to conduct such a deadly and effective defense against the Germans, that the 6th Army of Paulus and the 4th Panzer Army of Herman Hoth would become narrowly focused on rooting them out of the city to such an extent, that they would leave their long flanks relatively under-protected, and therefore vulnerable to Soviet attack.

That is exactly what happened, thanks to the extraordinary leadership of the 62nd Army’s Commanding General—Vasily Chuikov. Chuikov was appointed commander of the 62nd Army on Sept. 12, 1942, 6 days after its former commander, General Lopatin, had been arrested for “disobeying Order 227 and lying to the Soviet High Command.” Lopatin had been installed as commander of the 62nd Army after its original leader, General Kolpakchi, had been removed from his post on July 27th because of his poor performance. Chuikov placed the highest priority on the restoration of the morale in the ranks of his men. “If you rely on an order, without preparing the morale of the men who will carry it out, then those men will not swim towards the battle, but back to the bank they set out from. In this situation, posters and slogans won’t help you. “(pg. 89—Jones).

Chuikov made it a point to visit his soldiers in their forward positions any and everywhere on the battlefield, soliciting their insights on how better the 62nd Army could combat the Wehrmacht. Word rapidly spread throughout the ranks that Chuikov was a “soldier’s general” who listened to his troops and spared no effort to get them the backup and supplies that they needed. Chuikov said, “The soldier is often his own general in street fighting. You can’t be a commander if you don’t trust your own soldiers’ skills.” (pp. 88-89, Jones)

Chuikov knew that he had to “de-awesomize” the combined arms warfare capabilities of the German Wehrmacht in the minds of his men, if he were going to prevent the Germans from taking Stalingrad. Respect for the Wehrmacht was healthy; but to harbor awe of it was paralytic and deadly. Chuikov told his men to think of Stalingrad as a breakwater against the Fascist wave of Germans. Lt. Anatoly Mereshko, a 20-year-old member of the 62nd Army staff summarized his thinking:

“Imagine a strong wave from the sea. It hits the coast with tremendous force. But when you have breakwaters in the sea, the wave gets broken. The same was true in the steppe. There the Germans had the power of the whole wave. In the city, they were broken into smaller streams. Houses, especially stone houses, became obstacles. And the further the Germans went into the city, the more resistance they received from the flanks. The Germans did not change their tactics at all…But a town gives a completely different war arena—especially ruin. We could split into small groups and occupy strongholds—to split their river into tributaries. We were very successful in achieving this.” (pp 9-10 Jones)

Consulting closely with his troops, Chuikov devised new forms of deployment and battle, that were calculated to maximize the impact of small ad-hoc groups of soldiers, and individual soldiers, such as snipers, in deployment against the Germans in the shattered, congested cityscape of Stalingrad. For example:

  • The “storm group” unit for assaults on buildings originated in this process;
  • Night assaults were developed as a new form of offensive action;
  • The “hug the enemy” mode of deployment was developed in this context, as a way to neutralize the effect of the Germans’ overwhelming air superiority. Chiukov noticed in one after-action report, that the Germans neglected to call in an air strike against a Russian gun position, because the gun position was so close to the German lines, that the bomber pilots would have risked hitting their own troops. The “hug the enemy” positioning radically reduced the number of air strikes that the Soviet troops in forward positions subsequently received.
  • The Red Army soldiers discovered that their German opponents did not have much of a stomach for room-to-room, building-to-building, hand-to-hand individualized combat situations. Whereas the Germans had seemed almost invincible in motorized combat on the vast reaches of the Russian steppes, they were revealed to be decidedly mortal and unhappy in conditions of close, personal combat. This realization gave the Soviet infantry a tremendous psychological edge in their struggles with the Germans in the ruins of the city.

It is no doubt one of the great ironies of the Battle of Stalingrad, that the 62nd Red Army won in no small measure due to the fact that its soldiers, beginning with its commander Vasily Chuikov, operated on the (Prussian) principle of Auftragstaktik. Auftragstaktik, or “mission orders”, had always been the hallmark of Prussian military excellence, since the early nineteenth century when Prussia worked with Czar Alexander I to defeat Napoleon. According to that principle, officers were encouraged to use their own judgment to determine how best to fulfil their “mission orders”. Creative, innovative thinking, not blind obedience to rigid orders, was encouraged at all levels of the Prussian Army. This is exactly what Chuikov meant, when he said, “the soldier is often his own general in street fighting.” Later he said, “the most important thing I learned on the banks of the Volga, was to be impatient of blueprints. We constantly looked for new methods of organizing and conducting battle, starting from the precise conditions in which we were fighting.” (pg. 85 Jones).

The Spiritual Substance of Victory

Notwithstanding the effectiveness of the innovations that Chuikov and his staff made in battle in 1942, those innovations do not explain how the Soviets were able to triumph at Stalingrad. Chuikov, himself, said, “The defense of Stalingrad is a paradox of military science. The encirclement and our final offensive at Stalingrad can be understood in terms of military science—but our defense is impossible to comprehend through any system of rational analysis.” (pg. 10 Jones) ….” It was beyond the understanding of any of us.” (pg. 7 Jones)

Lieutenant Vladimir Turov, an infantry officer in the 62nd Army echoed those sentiments when he said, “In terms of our military understanding, how we held out at Stalingrad is still a complete mystery to us.” (pg. 10—Jones)

Chuikov created an environment that was defined by an unrelenting, spiritually animated, all-encompassing commitment to the fulfilment of an historically-grounded mission whose realization would determine not only the future of Russian society, but that of the world as a whole. The spirit of Chuikov’s 62nd Army was encapsulated in the Oath that all its veterans, and all new troops that joined after Oct. 17, 1942 recited.

The Oath Not to Surrender Stalingrad stated:  “The Germans have destroyed the avenues and brought down the factories of Stalingrad; but Stalingrad has remained invincible. Its burned-out houses, its very stones are sacred to us. We swear to our last drop of blood, to our last breath, to our last heartbeat that we shall defend Stalingrad, and hold the enemy back from the Volga. We swear that we shall not disgrace the glory of Russian arms, and we shall fight to the end. “(pg. 233– Jones)

Acting as the true leader that he was, Chuikov, the Russian patriot, led what amounted to a religious crusade of his communist and atheist soldiers against the invading fascists. Anatoly Kozlov, a veteran of the battle, recalled that the swearing of the Oath “involved swallowing a piece of Stalingrad’s soil. By doing so, men swore to fulfil their mission under any circumstances—including giving up their lives.” (pg. 234 Jones) It was as if, in swearing the Oath and swallowing the soil, soldiers were taking Communion in a Christian Church, and the bread/body of Christ was the soil of Stalingrad.

And their pathway to immortality was paved with the sacrifices that they and their fellow members of the Red Army were making in Stalingrad. Kozlov reported that, “Our soldiers created their own rituals during the battle.” (pg. 234 Jones) Often men would swear over the dead body of a fellow soldier, that they would take revenge on the German Army. The war correspondent Vasily Grossman witnessed this ritual and its effect, reporting that “It was as if the dead had passed on their strength to the survivors, and there were moments when ten resolute bayonets successfully held an area which had (previously) been held by an (entire) battalion.” (pg. 234 Jones)

Lieutenant Mereshko said of this battlefield ritual: “It seemed unbelievable that anyone could continue to hold out, but when a division of thousands was reduced to a couple of hundred soldiers, they would hold the ground for their dead friends.” (pg. 234 Jones)

Lieutenant Alexander Fortov, the commander of an artillery unit in the 112th Division reported that, “After the battle ended, guys in my company turned to the Bible. We began to read sections of the Old Testament to each other. We were all atheists and communists, but those passages really spoke to us. It was as if someone really understood what we had gone through.” (pg. 248 Jones)

In an illuminating discussion that the son of Vasily Chuikov, Alexander, had with the author Michael K. Jones, after his father died, Alexander reported,

“I remember sorting through my father’s papers after his death…I came across a small, hand-written prayer and immediately recognized his writing. The paper was old and creased, the ink faded. The scrap of paper would have been folded and kept as a talisman. My father—a committed communist—never spoke about it. But I know from other members of the family, that he carried it with him during the war.”

The prayer read as follows: “O Powerful One! The one who can turn night into day, and rough soil into a garden of flowers. Make light everything that is hard for me—and help me.” (pg. 249 Jones). “That is how we were defending Stalingrad,” Alexander Chuikov said to Michael K. Jones. (pg. 249)

Under Vasily Chuikov’s leadership, this spiritual mission orientation came to dominate and animate every important aspect of life and death in the 62nd Army. As Chuikov told Vasily Grossman in an interview, “On other parts of the front they are worried that cowardice will spread amongst the men; here at Stalingrad it is courage which is infectious.” (pg. 135 Jones)

Ivan Burlakov, a defender of Stalingrad’s Barrikady Factory spoke of the extraordinary quality of the spiritual bond that came to predominate among the soldiers: “We spoke of the saying of (Generalissimo) Suvorov—‘Though you may perish in the attempt, come to the aid of your comrade-in-arms.” (pg. 11 Jones)

Led and inspired by the indomitable spirit of Vasily Chuikov, the 62nd Army held its vital ground in Stalingrad until the Red Army finally, after a ten-day logistical delay, launched its great encirclement of the German 6th Army on November 19th. As Zhukov and Vasilevsky had anticipated, the Germans left their long flanks outside of Stalingrad undermanned and vulnerable to attack, as they poured all their effort into the fight against the remnants of the 62nd Army in the smoldering ruins of Stalingrad.

It is noteworthy that, given the secrecy strictures that Stalin had imposed on the operation from the outset, the first that anyone in the 62nd Army knew of the counteroffensive was at midnight on November 18th. The heroic resistance that the 62nd Army conducted at Stalingrad was done without the benefit of any direct knowledge of the impending strategic counteroffensive. It was done for its own sake!

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32 Responses to HARPER: THE LESSONS OF STALINGRAD BY STEVE DOUGLAS

  1. Avatar Rick Merlotti says:

    Fantastic. Thanks for posting. Required reading for ignorant Russophobes.

  2. You can start a war with Russia, but Russia will probably be the one to finish it.
    I often thank that the cannon-founders of France and the banner-makers of Nazi Germany certainly did not expect their products to end up where they did.

  3. Avatar Barbara Ann says:

    Absolutely fascinating post, many thanks Harper.
    The Oath Not to Surrender Stalingrad with its dirt eating ritual sounds like it could have been written by Tyrtaeus himself – from his wiki:

    He [Tyrtaeus] wrote at a time of two crises affecting the city: a civic unrest threatening the authority of kings and elders, later recalled in a poem named Eunomia (‘Law and Order’) where he reminded citizens to respect the divine and constitutional roles of kings, council, and demos; and the Second Messenian War, during which he served as a sort of ‘state poet’, exhorting Spartans to fight to the death for their city.

    Your final paragraph is particularly interesting – extraordinarily good OPSEC from the Soviets. As a consequence the encirclement of an enemy bent on world domination who viewed them as deplorable untermenschen came as an almost total surprise – even to allied forces.

  4. Avatar Walrus says:

    Thank you Harper and to your friend Steve Douglas for this wonderful Christmas present!

  5. Avatar Steve Ogle says:

    Thank You. No words just feelings.

  6. Avatar Leith says:

    Thanks, well written. i would guess that much of this insight come from the book by Michael K Jones: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005D7FKJG/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb
    Chuikov was amazing and should have gotten much more recognition in the West. Although he was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross by the US.
    BTW that ‘hugging the enemy’ tactic of Chuikov was copied by Giap and Tran Van Tra and used against us in the Nam.

  7. Avatar lux says:

    I often thank that the cannon-founders of France and the banner-makers of Nazi Germany certainly did not expect their products to end up where they did.
    Posted by: Patrick Armstrong | 02 January 2021 at 11:28 AM

    Slightly cryptic. Cannon founders?

  8. Avatar TV says:

    If Hitler had been an American or Canadian, would he have invaded that endless space of Russia?
    I think not.
    Many Europeans have no concept of the vastness of Russia, Canada,
    the US.
    If you are in Brussels, you can go to Luxembourg for lunch.

  9. Avatar Laura Wilson says:

    Fascinating. Thank you!

  10. Avatar Robert G Spenser says:

    That was an incredible read. Thank you for posting it.

  11. Avatar Deap says:

    A sole line from a college history class well almost 60 years ago always haunted me. “Russian troops would not fight for the Soviet Union, but the tide of WWII was turned when they were rallied to fight for, Mother Russia.”
    Other details from that lecture are now missing from memory but after reading this superb article, this must have been the very the battle and the very General the college history professor was talking about.
    That line stayed with me since at the time we were in the height of the Cold War, and it was comforting to learn the bloodless, automoton “Soviets” could still be sentimental human beings devoted most to their own Mother Russia homeland.
    Our college freshman class motto was “Stay Alive til ’65”, having been the first Duck and Cover generation cowering under our school desks in the 1950’s fearing nuclear annihilation was an air raid siren’s call away. Ergo, “covid” is piffle.
    Thank you for this article.

  12. The Show Trial purge process which Stalin conducted against the Soviet military from 1937-1939 had virtually decapitated the Red Army. Approximately 50% of the officer corps, including 3 out of 5 marshals, 13 out of 15 army group commanders, 57 out of 85 corps commanders, and 110 out of 195 division commanders were executed, imprisoned, or “discharged” in the purge. Only the ascendancy of General Zhukov and the arrival of Arctic-like temperatures and snowfall in November 1941 stopped the German Army from taking Moscow.
    It is a grossly overstated issue, not to mention the actual numbers, which Western historiography prefers to see as 42,000 (a number debunked by leading Russian historians e.g. Evgenyi Spitzin)”purged”, while in reality it was around 24,000, with fewer than 6,000 executed. In other words, putting aside political and ideological issue of purges, which did take place, the actual number of “purged” was almost two times smaller, plus out of 18,000 which were not executed, most have been cleared and returned to the Armed Forces either prior or early in Barbarossa, such as Konstantin Rokossovsky. Out of those marshals purged, as an example, after several high level inspections Far Eastern Military District under Uborevich was assessed as militarily dysfunctional while Uborevich, instead of command, was involved into debauchery and process of unbecoming, characteristic of many (not all) Civil War military leaders. RKKA’s issues prior to Barbarossa were systemic and had a lot to do with doctrine and manuals changing. RKKA started transition circa 1940 but didn’t complete it by 22 June, 1941. While problems connected to “purges” did exist, their scale was much smaller than Western historiography likes to emphasize. Wehrmacht was simply better through 1942.

  13. @Deap
    A sole line from a college history class well almost 60 years ago always haunted me. “Russian troops would not fight for the Soviet Union, but the tide of WWII was turned when they were rallied to fight for, Mother Russia.”
    It was more complex than that, much more complex. And that is why Communist Party after the war enjoyed an unprecedented level of trust and legitimacy. Yes, it was about Russia but not only, it was also for the economic and political system by generation which witnessed WW I and saw how it was lost.

  14. Avatar Tiger says:

    Interesting how ideologies easily dissolve when truly pushed to address the higher characteristics of love and the immortality of a people. Nations are built on such things, and yet without real war, or because of the fear to engage in such powerful human ideas, many have forgotten such things and turned to secular misgivings. It is this question, whether we have such devotion today in the political arena.

  15. Although this is a bit dissonant with its inspired tone, this beautiful essay reminds what the caustic blogger Fred Reed said several times, that “military stupidity comes in three grades: ordinarily stupid, really, really, really stupid, and attacking Russia.”

  16. Avatar GEORGE CHAMBERLAIN says:

    First Charles XII
    Then Napoleon
    Then Hitler

  17. Avatar jerseycityjoan says:

    “Insofar as the imperial arrogance of the members of today’s anti-Russia lobby ominously echoes the anti-Soviet arrogance of German political and military strategists in Hitler’s time, they would be well-advised to consider the answers to these questions, before proceeding any further with their dangerous, ill-considered provocations.”
    I agree that the Russians are still formidable. But how much of a danger are they to us? We do not want to take over their country or annialate them.
    It is also interesting that Putin seems unafraid of his own people, as far as I can tell. Why is that? They are getting a rotten deal and if anything it’s getting worse, not better. So why is he so sure they won’t get fed up and get rid of him?

  18. Avatar John Merryman says:

    The whole “land war in Asia” thing.
    I’ve often wondered how much our own strategically inept and vastly expensive prodding at the edges, from Korea to Yemen, has been due to the simple bluster of Washington politics and how much is driven by the fact our financial markets could not function, without massive public debt as the bedrock of investment.
    It doesn’t take much knowledge of military history to know this level of ineffectiveness could not be tolerated for long, by any other nation in history. Yet the secret sauce of capitalism is public debt backing private wealth. The tool of the markets has become the god of capitalism.
    The medium has become the message.
    With all due respect for those here, our ‘military industrial complex” has become a form of autoimmune disorder.

  19. Avatar GEORGE CHAMBERLAIN says:

    John, “WAR IS A RACKET”, Smedly Butler.
    Is also the man that exposed, and therefore stopped, the coup against FDR.
    Also you’re refering to the current “capitalism”.
    We were built on “American System Economics”.
    We need to go back to it.

  20. Avatar Walrus says:

    Jersey city joan,
    What possible evidence do you have for your fantasy post about Russia? Russia can anihalate North America in an afternoon.
    We antagonise them constantly. Their citizens are aware of our behaviour and stand pretty much unanimously with their government., which by the way, is doing a much better job of governing on behalf of the Russian people than many of the rotten American State Governments .

  21. Avatar jerseycityjoan says:

    Walrus,
    Of course they can destroy us with nuclear weapons, just as we can destroy them. But do they want to?
    I am surprised you feel the Russian government is doing right by its people. I would say the Russians deserve far better than they are getting, in terms of freedom and economic status. As for the American states, some of them could do a lot better but I would not say they do a worse job than Russia.
    What do you think of their recent hacking?

  22. Avatar John Merryman says:

    George,
    I think there is a fundamental tension between government, as the executive and regulatory function of society, essentially its central nervous system and the financial system. Which would be analogous to blood and the circulation system.
    Michael Hudson, in his recent book, Forgive Them Their Debts, laid out how this tension played out in the ancient world, as political leaders had to hold social organisms together, while the wealthy would use predatory lending to siphon value out of the social organism, effectively using the medium of exchange they controlled, to siphon value out of the community, creating the habit of debt jubilees, as a way to reset this dynamic. That the title of the book refers to Jesus’ original massage, as promoting their return, later co-opted by the Catholic Church, as Forgive them their sins, to guilt people, rather than relieve them.
    My larger sense is that many aspects of culture and civilization mimic biological functions, because society evolves under similar constraints as individual organisms. It is just our tendency to get wrapped up in the practices that enable progress and turn them into dogma, tools into gods, the medium of money into the message of the bottom line, etc. which creates these hurdles we eventually have to overcome. Expand, consolidate. Repeat.
    What’s a few thousand years, when it comes to evolution?

  23. Avatar Leith says:

    Andrei Martyanov –
    I agree with your comment on the purges of much or the leadership of the Red Army. It may have gotten rid of a lot of deadwood.
    I have to wonder though how many of those purged had been close to Trotsky, Tukhachevskii, and Yegorov? Or had been involved in the decisive defeat of the Red Army by Pilsudski at Warsaw? Or knew of Stalin’s blunders in that war? Or were Jewish? Or Balts? Uborevich was Lithuanian, wasn’t he? And AFAIK Uborevich was NOT commander of the Far East Military District. What source do you have for his “debauchery”?

  24. Avatar Extra says:

    Superb, thought-provoking article. Thank you. In a remarkable coincidence, as I read the article this morning, I was drinking coffee from the ‘Ne Shagy Nazad’ mug I got near Stalin’s birthplace, during a 2019 tour of Georgia.

  25. @Leith
    Thank you for catching it–of course Blukher, not Uborevich. Sources are Russian historians such as Prudnikova and Spitzin. Albeit Uborevich did command East Siberian MD in 1920s. Tuchachevsky’s case was primarily about association with Germans and even that wasn’t the only factor, yes, Trotsky (his figure) was also at the center of those purges. Uborevich, it seems, was not-Jewish, albeit who knows.

  26. Avatar Christian J. Chuba says:

    The Germans got their most impressive victories when they could encircle a city or large area, cut off supplies and force the enemy forces to use up their ammunition.
    Having said that, Stalingrad was a great place for the Red Army to make a stand.
    https://twitter.com/chrischuba/status/1346203963729784832/photo/1
    The Germans were stuck trying to take the buildings on the West Bank while the Russians held the east bank with the Volga in between them. The Russians were able to keep artillery positions, and resupply / reinforce the 62nd at critical times. The Germans did not control the river with gunboats.
    I’m not taking away the accomplishment of the Red Army. I’m just saying, I don’t know what else the Germans could have done. They never were able to encircle Stalingrad and given that terrain, that was a beast of a problem for an army that was stretched to its limit.

  27. Avatar rkka says:

    “I often thank that the cannon-founders of France and the banner-makers of Nazi Germany certainly did not expect their products to end up where they did.”
    The cannons referred to are war trophies from 1812, piled up at one end of Red Square.
    The Banners are the Nazi standards thrown at the base of the Lenin Mausoleum at the conclusion of the 1945 Victory Parade.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eHfC1I0uX0

  28. Avatar Lyttennnburgh says:

    Re: jerseycityjoan | 03 January 2021 at 06:19 PM
    Hi, I’m a Russian from Russia resident of Russia. Please, elaborate:
    – What kind of “freedom” I deserve?
    – What do you mean by “economic status”?
    – How does Putin figure in all of this?
    – What about “hacking”?

  29. Avatar lux says:

    Banners
    https://cdn5.img.sputniknews.com/images/103933/12/1039331281.jpg
    Posted by: Patrick Armstrong | 02 January 2021 at 02:33 PM
    Fascinating image, looks like a painting. I never really imagined the Wehrmacht or the SS Panzer Truppen for that matter to move with banners, admittedly.
    Thanks, Napoleon only surfaced on my mind after I pushed the post button. Thus yes, des fonderies de canons.

  30. Avatar A.I.S. says:

    There is a relatively interesting documentation concerning Stalingrad here:
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNSNgGzaledi9jQeOzCUtBP2pxYdCYiXX
    After a mere 18 episodes, we are now actually in Stalingrad!
    It does dispell some myths. While I am strongly agreeing with the overall tone of the article, a closer look at the battle before it entered Stalingrad proper reveals that Soviet Resistance forced heavy tolls on the Germans prior to even entering the city, that parts of 6th army got themselfs semi encircled North of Stalingrad, and that 64th army (slightly to the south of Chuikovs 62nd, although he was not in command at that time) actually flat out “noped” a massive thrust of 4th Panzer army which went exactly nowhere.
    I am somewhat pro RKKA (I strongly believe that the Red Army is overall underappreciated as a fighting force, and unfairly characterized, as such I frequently take on somewhat overly pro Red Army positions in order to tilt things back to a more neutral pov.) and was completely unaware that this happened.

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