Historian as astrologer

The ancient Greeks supposed that human beings moved backwards into the future, taking their sightings on the past. The Classicist Bernard Knox explained:

the word, opiso, which means literally ‘behind’ or ‘back’, refers not to the past but to the future. The early Greek imagination envisaged the past and the present as in front of us – we can see them. The future, invisible, is behind us.[1] 

Those who could see the future were ignored, like Cassandra, or were blind, like Tiresias. The growth of our controls over the natural world has dislodged the notion that the future is to our rear. Nowadays, the conventional wisdom is that we realize the plans that we project ahead of us. Machiavelli’s The Prince (1532) marked this drift in attitudes.

That mastery of fortune has altered interpretation as well as expectation, leading away from Philosophical Idealism towards Philosophical Materialism. The older view was that the real world was a poor copy of an Ideal Form. To a materialist, history appears as something we make as we proceed. An historical materialist view of the world is one that treats people remaking ourselves as we remake our social and natural environments.

In addition, to “make” means to adjust and amend before shifting circumstance. Because making is non-teleological, those who retell its story should also adopt an anti-telic stance. Goethe had The Lord remark to Mephistopheles: “For man must strive, and striving he must err”.[2] Our errors are found not only in our moral failings. Even the most powerful cannot know the day or hour. Historians do us a disservice by pretending otherwise.

For an historian to drag what was still the future for his subject into that person’s calculations is to rupture the compact that E. M. Forster identified between novelists and their audiences, an approach which should apply to written history as much as to fiction. All authors rely on our readers to remember what we have told them. Readers, in turn, should be able to trust that information that seems stray is provided for a reason, without needing to have that relevance spelt out in advance.[3] For example, the opening sentence in Henry Handel Richardson’s The Fortunes of Richard Mahony gives the theme for the trilogy.

Novelists are criticized for playing god by manipulating their characters as if they were puppets. Historians misuse our hindsight if we endow our subjects with knowledge. The repetition of this device reduces the historical actor to a marionette but inflates the historian to the equal of a Napoleon. Forster appreciated how “pleasant” it was “to be transferred from an office where one is afraid of a sergeant-major into an office where one can intimidate generals, and perhaps this is why History is so attractive to the more timid amongst us”.[4]

The historians who impose their rear vision as foresight on their subjects would never stake their tenure on predicting how contemporary events will turn out. Indeed, they prefer to confine themselves to the distant past, for reasons teased out by Thomas Mann:

history professors do not love history because it is something that comes to pass, but only because it is something that has come to pass; … they hate a revolution … because they feel it is lawless, incoherent, irrelevant – in a word, unhistoric … For the temper of timelessness, the temper of eternity … is … much better suited to the nervous system of a history professor than are the excesses of the present. The past is immortalized; that is to say, it is dead; and death is the root of all godliness and all abiding significance.[5]

As Georg Lukacs observed, the bankruptcy of bourgeois historiography is never more apparent than when faced with “the present as history”.[6] Bereft of the dialectic to cope with the dynamics of their topic, the scholars clutch at hem of the world-shaping individual who will command the torrent and the tides to behave like placid ponds. At the nadir are historians who have nothing to say and so, as M. I. Finley put it, pad out their incomprehension “as if in answer to the familiar question in children’s examinations, ‘Tell us all you know about X’.”[7]

A regular instance of fortune-telling as historical writing is the assertion that after 1939, Hitler put into effect aims that he had spelt out in Mein Kampf as early as the mid-1920s. The Fuehrer’s own belief in astrology seems to have conquered his biographers.[8] Mussolini might have got some Italian trains to run on time, but Hitler could control the staging of neither domestic nor European politics. Hitler’s architect, Albert Speer, admired his Fuehrer’s ability “to think in three dimensions”. That talent did not extend to reading the fourth dimension of time.

No less typical of the astrological approach to historical explanation is a resort to qui bono? According this interrogatory, the beneficiary of any action can be judged responsible for its planning, if not its execution. If so, Augustus put Brutus up to stabbing Julius Caesar in order to have an excuse for murdering Mark Anthony and taking power. Shakespeare could devise his plot for the theatre in that fashion. Actors in history cannot.

To illustrate the poverty of the intellect in historical astrology, this essay takes its examples from some books about Stalin. The essay will then point towards how an historical materialist should deal with the limits on the capacity of individuals or our species to execute plans.  

The point of this present exercise is to demonstrate Stalin’s uncertainties, not to re-interpret the course of events. Hence, the reliance on a single source, his letters to Molotov, is sufficient, providing those documents are reliable. Molotov was close to Stalin and there is no reason to suspect that he needed to dissemble in order to persuade. The editors of the correspondence, who put the worst construction on almost every line, accept that the two were good friends.

An alterative objection would be that Stalin composed these letters with an eye to posterity and was making himself appear a victim of circumstance. That degree of deceitfulness suits the view of his traducers, but it too requires a god-like foresight. That possibility carries us back into the casuistry practiced by Fundamentalist Christians who refute evolution by claiming that their god had planted the fossil record at the same time as he breathed life into the creatures of Genesis.

Because of Stalin’s crimes, he is credited with an omniscience to match his supposed omnipotence, forever plotting to consolidate his power. Perhaps only an academic could believe that conniving was all there was to running the Soviet Union. Not everything that happened under his dictatorship was as he wished. In mid-1931, Stalin had to ask his close comrade Molotov whether the Soviet Union was issuing nickel coins or importing shoes from the United Kingdom. If it had, he was against doing both.[9] Other actors were involved and his powers were limited even within his own dictatorship. So much seems obvious, yet its import has eluded many a professor.

In the final pages of A Peoples’ Tragedy, Orlando Figes fell for a post hoc-ery pocus. Late in October 1923, the Communist Party Plenum considered a call to expel Leon Trotsky. In Figes’ drama of fate, Stalin is cast as Trotsky’s nemesis. On this occasion, however, Stalin forgets the lines that Figes has written for him by voting to spare Trotsky. Like the writer of any cliffhanging serial – “The Perils of Leon” - Figes rides to the rescue of the future with this explanation:

Stalin, always eager to appear as the voice of moderation, thought this was unwise and the motion was rejected. Stalin, in any case, had no need to hurry. Trotsky was finished as a major force and his expulsion from the party – which finally came in 1927 – could await its time.[10]

Are we to believe that Stalin knew that he would be expelling Trotsky four years later, and so did not bother to do it in 1923?

It is the mark of a metaphysician, not an historian, to paste over a subject’s ignorance by asserting “He must have known” something that would not happen for several more years.

Had Figes been writing the history of the Bradford city council and come upon a comparable case of a mayor voting one way in 1923 and the reverse in 1927, he would have looked for reasons why his worship had changed his mind. In short, the historian would have sought evidence. As a monster, Stalin is not an historical problem, but a moral one. That he could mistake his own best long-term interests by voting for Trotsky is inadmissible. The Gulag proves that Stalin’s every move was malignant. The historian is left with nothing to do but catalogue the crimes that conveyed the people to their tragedy. 

In the years just after Figes’ book ends, Stalin again opposed Kamenev and Zinoviev when they tried to remove Trotsky from the Central Committee in August 1925. In the following June, Stalin held out hope for Trotsky’s rehabilitation. When moving to dump Zinoviev from the Politburo, he wrote to Molotov:

2) Before the appearance of the Zinoviev group, those with oppositional tendencies (Trotsky, the workers’ opposition, and others) behaved more or less loyally and were more or less tolerable.…

7) Either we strike this blow [expel Zinoviev from the Politburo] now with the calculation that Trotsky and the others will once again become loyal, or we risk turning the Central Committee and its bodies into nonviable institutions incapable of work …[11]

Yet, it was Trotsky who was expelled from the Party in 1927, when his removal from the Politburo had not been “on the agenda” a year earlier.[12] The story of the Soviet Union in the 1920s is distorted by making events reflect the prominence that Trotsky retains to this day. There has never been a Zinoviev Fifth International to make him loom larger than Trotsky. The notion that Stalin had more to fear from Zinoviev than from Trotsky in 1926 does not fit the line propagated by Trotsky’s devotees.

A similar reading backwards appears in the study of Stalin penned by Colonel-General Volkogonov who had charge of the KGB archives. Writing of the October 1924 Plenum on “work in the countryside”, Volkogonov reports that Stalin:

listed a number of political and theoretical recommendations in which one can detect the embryos of the great mistakes of the future. The first thing we have to do, he said, “is to conquer the peasants again”. Secondly, we have to see that “the field of battle has changed”. Thirdly, we have to form cadres in the villages”. The year was 1924, but Stalin was speaking as if it was already 1929.

Volkogonov’s access to mountains of paper gave him little comprehension that history happens forwards.[13] The task of Vokogonov’s KGB had been to assemble evidence to secure convictions.  Under their aegis, the materialist conception of history was turned into the police conception of history where nothing happens by accident. Every failure to hit a nail straight became intentional saboutage. As Stalin would have said, it is no accident that Colonel-General Vokogonov explains Stalin by the criterion that the KGB deployed against his enemies of the people.[14]

Stalin’s letters to Molotov between 1925 and 1935 offer a different path to analysis through their glimpses of the dictator’s doubts and difficulties. Their tone is summed up by this reflection by Stalin from June 1926:

I have long pondered the matter of the Lashevich affair, going back and forth, linking it with the question of the opposition groups in general: several times I came to various opinions and have finally settled on the following …

Uncertainty is inevitable, the more so as leaders are making their way to the top. Leaders prosper by repressing their doubts. They are no conceived free of them.

Stalin also complained that he could not obtain reliable information about what was happening in China, that he had failed to install the right people to edit Pravda, and had not got the correct decisions made about the Leningrad leadership. Over and over, Stalin wrote about his aims in terms that revealed the limits on his power. For instance in 1932, he thought

… we should be prepared to do anything to get that 30-32 per cent growth. I’m afraid it’s late to be speaking about this now – no major changes can be introduced before October in any event. But perhaps we should try? Let’s give it a shot – we really ought to try.[15]

This letter pictures someone with inadequate information exercising partial authority.

The letters to Molotov report other occasions on which Stalin lost. In 1925, he could not get any support from the other six members of the “underground Politburo” to oppose their mutual enemy Trotsky on the building of the Dnepr Dam. Nor could Stalin get their agreement to publish his letter replying to an American book reporting divisions in the Party. In July 1927, he opposed the Soviet Government’s official recognition of Chiang Kai-shek in China, which he heard about only after the event. In September 1929, three weeks after the Politburo had chastised Rykov, Stalin wrote to Molotov:

I learned that Rykov is still chairing your meetings on Mondays and Thursdays [Politburo sessions] Is that true? If it’s true, why are you allowing this comedy to go on? Who is it for and for what reason? Can’t you put a stop to this comedy? Isn’t it time?[16]

Stalin wanted to sack the head of construction at the Ministry of Transport, whom he called a “nutcase”, and who had prevented the laying of tracks to Siberia moving “an inch forward”. The offender was shuffled between jobs. A year later, he turned up as director of a regional rail network.[17]

High on Stalin’s priority in 1929 was the gathering of grain for export to earn the hard currency to fund industrialization and defence, but he was battling to put his views into practice:

The Politburo has adopted my proposals concerning grain procurement. This is good, but in my opinion, it is inadequate. Now the problem is fulfilling the Politburo’s decision. … I’m afraid that the local GPU [the state police] will not learn about the Politburo’s decision, and it [the decision] will get bogged down in the “bowels” of the OGPU.[18]

The next year, similar problems of fulfillment arose as he railed “against the bureaucratism that is consuming us”.[19] Here, Stalin portrays OGPU as an obstacle to his power, a barrier which might be circumvented by working through its regional offices.[20] When that happened later in the 1930s, the purges ran riot.

Stalin had a fair idea of where he wanted the Soviet Union to go but was less clear on how to get there. He had firm views about lifting production but was aware of some of the obstacles. He was also committed to strengthening the Party. Historians need to see the barriers he encountered, to acknowledge the inadequacies in the administrative apparatus and his lack of information. Stalin’s inability to get things done was as potent a spur to personal dictatorship as was any paranoia.

Historians could draw a lesson about Stalin’s future from his failure to make the bureaucracy in both the party and the state do his bidding. That line of explanation would tract how the terror became his way forward. We now know that terror produced a different kind of paralysis, but Stalin could not know that outcome as he rebelled against his inability to have Party directives carried out even by the political police.

Strategy was one thing. Tactics were another. For instance, how was labour productivity to be increased in conformity with the principle of reward for effort, not need? He moaned that the few workers who laboured honestly were rewarded by being promoted to office jobs “where they die of boredom”. “What should we do?”, he asked Molotov. After detailing ways to encourage the best workers, Stalin acknowledged that his proposals could not “be applied immediately in all branches of industry”.[21]

When it came to moving against “wreckers in the meat industry”, Stalin was in no doubt that “the whole group … must definitely be shot and their names published in the press”.[22] Eight swindlers were executed.

A different set of impediments to power appeared at the close of Stalin’s life, when physical ailments intensified.[23] In the late 1940s, he was in semi-retirement, emerging to “decide” between factions in the politburo. The 1949 attack on Vosnesensky seems to have been fabricated by rivals for succession, not by Stalin himself.[24]

Until the late 1980s, scholarship about Soviet leaders was starved of archival files, but gorged on émigré anecdotes. Since then, some of the archives have been opened, often to the highest bidder, so that revelations about espionage have taken precedence. In the absence of primary sources, historians were tempted to explain Stalin by arranging such evidence as they had to “prove” what they knew, irrespective of the sources. The chronicler of Stalin’s terror, Robert Conquest, had a pyramid of corpses as evidence but lacked the footnoted data that a historian needs in order to detail how it really was. Instead, Conquest constructed an arch of motivation to make the scraps fit into Stalin’s quest for absolute power. The 1934 assassination of Kirov became the lynchpin of this argument-by-coherence. Unable to put Stalin’s fingerprint on a smoking gun, Conquest had to rely on the line of prosecution that had been popular at the Moscow Show Trials:

Apart from evidence, the first obvious question to be put in all murder cases is, of course, cui bono – who benefits? That someone benefits from a murder does not necessarily proved that he did it; but in the absence of any other beneficiaries it is always strong grounds for suspicion.[25]

Let’s accept that Stalin made himself into the prime beneficiary of Kirov’s murder which he used to eliminate physically all his rivals – Bukharin, Kamenev and Zinoviev, to name but three. Yet, another scholar who surveyed the evidence available from KGB and other Soviet archives was unable to trace the smoking gun. On the contrary, the evidence points to a lone assassin whose action gave Stalin grounds to move against the Opposition – just as the Nazis had taken advantage of the Dutch Communist who set fire to the Reichstag.[26] We also need to consider whether the assassination of Kirov could have panicked Stalin’s in the year after the Nazis came to power.

The crux to this discussion is is reached by asking: when did Stalin cease to be a good Bolshevik? Trotskyites will say that he was never one. Robert Conquest would assert that he never stopped being one because his crimes were the quintessence of Leninism. Perhaps Stalin died seeing himself as the only good Bolshevik. A related question, posed by Adam Ulam in 1973, goes to heart of this essay: when did Stalin first suspect that one man could rule the U.S.S.R.? Throughout the 1920s, neither he nor his opponents operated on the assumption that they could replace the Tsar. Stalin had to teach himself that autocracy was again possible.[27]

Historians need to move forward in history with Stalin and not make him its master. That way, we can begin to see his crimes originating in an attempt to achieve omnipotence and omniscience rather than as their enactment.[28] We await a biographer who is not anxious for Stalin’s supremacy to emerge, but who tracks how he drew closer to such a position.

Never were the limits on Stalin’s power more terrifying to him than when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in July 1941. He had failed to predict the collapse of the Molotov-Rippenthrop Pact of 1939, and had spurned warnings of the assault as another plot by Churchill’s to pit the Nazis and the Soviets against each other. His ability to predict his fate was no better than his judgement of Hitler. Stalin waited in his dacha, expecting that his comrades would have him shot. He could not know that when they arrived it would be to beg him to return to Moscow to take command of the defence of the Soviet Union.

It is no accident
If Stalin could not always impose his will on the flood of events, he did acquire the power to dictate which version of historical materialism would be promoted as orthodox Marxism. The selections for the Handbook of Marxism (1935), served in building a socialist economy, that is, was a manager’s guide to controlling millions of workers, a blueprint for social engineering. For good reason, the editor emphasised the benefits to be reaped from planning human activity. The economic needs of the Soviet Union underpinned this doctrine of “inexorable laws of nature and historical development”, to employ the language of Karl Popper’s The Poverty of Historicism.[29]

Any fortune-telling treatment of the past, like prophesying the future, is inimical to a materialist account of history. Those writing strategies are the residue of Philosophical Idealism, from Plato to Hegel.

Plato set down the essentials of Philosophical Idealism in an exchange concerning a carpenter. Socrates displayed his usual totalitarian method of cross-examination of Glaucon about representation (mimesis).

Socrates: 'The quickest way is to take a mirror and turn it round in all directions; before long you will crate sun and stars and earth, yourself and all other animals and plants, and furniture.'

Glaucon: 'Yes, but they would only be reflections, not real things.'

Socrates: 'Quite right, and very much to the point. For an artist is a craftsman of just this kind, I think. Do you agree?'

Glaucon: 'Yes.'

Socrates: 'You may perhaps object that the things he creates are not real; and yet there is a sense in which the painter creates a bed, isn’t there?'

Glaucon: 'Yes, he produces an appearance of one.'

Socrates: 'And what about the carpenter? Didn’t you agree that what he produces is not the form of bed which according to us is what a bed really is, but a particular bed?'

Glaucon: 'I did.'

Socrates: 'If, then, what he makes is not ‘what a bed really is’, his product is not ‘what is’, but something which resembles ‘what is’ without being it. And anyone who says that the products of the carpenter or any other craftsman are ultimately real can hardly be telling the truth, can he?'

Glaucon: 'No one familiar with the sort of arguments we’re using could suppose so.'

Socrates: 'So we shan’t be surprised if the bed the carpenter makes is a shadowy thing compared to reality'.[30]

The incredulity that many of us now experience on encountering Plato’s idea of what is “real” and what is “shadowy” makes it difficult to discuss Philosophical Idealism. Yet, a version of Plato’s account has been the commonsense throughout most of the human past.

Plato’s bed is the “ideal form” for the misinterpretation of Stalin’s scheming and strategies can be put under the rubric of god-structured thought. That mode of argument includes any way of understanding the world that posits a mind which can know in advance all that will be necessary to achieve some purpose. It creates a neat and tidy universe, where the good, the true and the beautiful make a perfect fit.

God-structured explanations continue to mislead scientists and historians, non-believers as much as the Fundamentalists. People who deny the existence of angels or miracles nonetheless offer accounts of the world which depend on the ordering of events in ways that reproduce theological presumptions. Philosophical Idealism and atheism would seem to be antithetical, and in some ways they have been. Militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins, however, have revived god-structured thought in their propagation of Darwinism as a doctrine of perfect adaptation.[31]

The Philosophical Materialist position is that we must always learn by doing. Work changes us as we alter our circumstances, social and natural. The claim that “we are what we eat” was mechanical. To say that “We become what we do” is as close to the truth in materialist dialectics as aphorism can manage. Human planning is provisional. The telic tends to the theological while materialism bends with the makeshift.

Marx bears some responsibility for the confusion about whether historical materialism is another metaphysic. In a discussion in Capital (1867) of the labour-process he drew a metaphor

A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality.

That contrast is acceptable as historical materialism. Our minds establish plans towards which we move, with greater or lesser degrees of success. That we are able to imagine goals at all is another of the consequences of millennia of previous activities (work), both physical and mental.

In the next sentence Marx went too far: “At the end of every labour process, we get a result that already existed in the imagination of the labourer at its commencement”.[32] This conclusion teeters on Philosophical Idealism. The final product of anyone’s endeavours can never be the same as that conceived at the start. To suppose that it can is to fall for a god-structured account of knowledge. Such a theistic epistemology is in opposition to a materialism in which human beings learn by doing. An unmediated move from imagination to reality jumps over the learning stages. A clear run from plan to product is true for neither how our species has developed, nor how individuals proceed.

In 1876, Frederick Engels etched the limits to success in his notes on The part played by labour in the transition from ape to man:

Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first.

The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor and elsewhere, destroyed the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing along with the forests and collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries.

When the Italians of the Alps used up the pine forests on the southern slopes, so carefully cherished on the northern slopes, they had no inkling that by doing so they were cutting at the roots of the dairy industry in their region; they had still less inkling that they were thereby depriving their mountain springs of water for the greater part of the year, and making it possible for them to pour still more furious torrents on the plains during the rainy seasons. Those who spread the potato in Europe were not aware that with those farinaceous tubers they were at the same time spreading scrofula.

Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature – but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws an apply them correctly.[33]

The optimism in the conclusion is conditional on our willingness to apply what we learn. Our survival is another human invention since the rest of the natural world is indifferent, if not hostile, to our presence.

From the account of inevitable failure that Engels provided in regard to human activity derives the truth that even such a genius among the proponents of historical materialism, as Marx, must sometimes fail to maintain the insights he has gained about how our species acquires knowledge. Whenever Karl Popper was able to convict Marx of “prophecy” or belief in “iron laws of development” he was confirming the lament that Engels set out with such eloquence. Popper’s palpable hits are proof of Marx’s learning as he went along, that is, of historical materialism.

Marx’s concept of history meant that he could have been born an historical materialist. Plato’s version of perfection in the Ideal Form had been abandoned by most philosophers. Marx had to work his way from Hegel who had turned Plato’s Ideal Form on its head. Instead of seeing human actions – the carpenter’s bed-making – as moving away from the Real Bed as Ideal Form, Hegel pictured human action as the bearer of that Form – Reason – moving towards its Ideal condition. For Plato, perfection was prior to human history. For Hegel, it was posterior to it. Marx’s contribution was to deny perfection any place in human affairs. Indeed, to discuss the question in terms of perfection-imperfection carries over an Idealist stamp. The persistence of struggle had to apply to his own articulation of his insight. Its substance meant that he would slip back into Philosophical Idealism. To pretend otherwise is to transfer the doctrine of immaculate conception to ideas. Atavistic errors are also to be found in Darwin and Einstein.

Further appreciation of the thesis being proposed here will not be enriched by playing paper, scissors and rock with quotations from Marx or Popper. The task is to pursue the precepts after which Marx and Engels had to strive in their every sentence. Similarly, between 1935 and 1945, Popper learnt that he had been wrong about the universality of a single set of laws of nature and society.

The anchor of historical materialism is that we remake ourselves as we go along, reshaping our hopes and plans as Jorn Utzon had to do in moving beyond his sketches of sails, through the application of designs for sections of the roof and onto the pouring of the concrete. The Eighth Wonder that his engineers and construction crews brought to fruition could not be a replica of the one he had raised in his imagination in 1953. The architect is even less like a bee than Marx supposed. So were bees.[34]

[1] Bernard Knox, Backing into the future, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 1994, p. 11.
[2] J. W. Goethe, Faust, I, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1949, p. 41.
[3] E. M. Foster, Aspects of the Novel, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1962, p. 95.
[4] E. M. Forster, Arbinger Harvest, Meridan, New York, 1955, p. 159.
[5] Thomas Mann, Stories of Three Decades, Secker & Warburg, London, 1936, p. 506.
[6] Georg Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness, Merlin, London, 1971, p. 224.
[7] M. I. Finley, Ancient History, Evidence and Models, Pimlico, London, 2000, p. 61.
[8] For some analysis of Ian Kershaw’s two-volume life of Hitler, see my piece in Overland, 172, Spring 2003, pp. 107-8.
[9] Lars T. Lih, et alia (eds), Stalin’s letters to Molotov, 1925-1936, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1995, p. 200.
[10] Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy, Cape, London, 1996, p. 804.
[11] Lih, pp. 94 & 115.
[12] Lih, p. 117.
[13] Dimitri A. Volkogonov, Stalin, triumph and tragedy, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1991, p. 123.
[14] Manes Sperber, The Achilles Heel, Andre Deutsch, London, 1959, coined the phrase “the police conception of history” to mean an outlook where “any solution based on compromise seems to be excluded”, p. 85.
[15] Lih, p. 203.
[16] Lih, p. 181.
[17] Lih, p. 179.
Archival researchers are revealing that the Soviet economy was much less centrally planned than supposed, see Valery Lazarev and Paul R. Gregory, “The wheels of a command economy: allocating Soviet vehicles”, Economic History Review, LV (2), 2002, pp. 324-48.
[18] Lih, p. 168.
[19] Lih, p. 219.
[20] Shiela Fitzpatrick has documented how local and personal conflicts fed into the central campaigns, Everyday Stalinism, Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s, Oxford University Press, 1999.
[21] Lih, pp. 219-220.
[22] Lih, p. 200.
[23] Even the most powerful and vile figures are prey to the ills that weaken their subjects and victims. Stalin reported at least one malady each year: he was taking the waters in 1925; had food poisoning and then a sore arm in 1926; was bed-ridden in July 1927 and recuperating from an unspecified affliction in 1929. (No letters survive from 1928.). He was “getting better bit by bit” in August 1930, but had a relapse with a “strep throat” and was not “completely recovered” until the middle of September. Lih, pp. 91, 113, 127, 130, 138, 175, 202, 205, and 214. The contribution of other elements of everyday life for Stalin’s power to implement his policies are the stuff of Simon Sebag-Montefiore’s Stalin:  the court of the Red Czar, (Wiedenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2002), though Montefiore’s method of referencing makes it difficult to cross-check his sources.
[24] Aleksei Tiktionov and Paul R. Gregory, “Stalin’s Last Plan”, Paul R. Gregory, (ed.), Behind the façade of Stalin’s command economy, Hoover Institution Press, Stanford, 2001, p. 166.
[25] Robert Conquest, Stalin and the Kirov Murder, OUP, New York, 1989, p. 125.

[26] Matt Lenoe, “Did Stalin Kill Kirov and Does It Matter?”, Journal of Modern History, 74 (2), June 2002, pp. 352-380.
[27] Adam B. Ulam, Stalin: the man and his era, Viking Press, New York, 1973, p. 382.
[28] Lih, p. 200
[29] K. R. Popper, The Poverty of Historicism, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1961 edition; Popper’s title played with the title of Marx’s mocking of Proudhon’s The Philosophy of Poverty in The Poverty of Philosophy (1847).

The didactic Handbook of Marxism was one of the references available to Popper when writing The Open Society and its Enemies from exile in New Zealand, see Malachi Haim Hacohen, Karl Popper, The Formative Years, 1902-1945, Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 439-48. Contrary to received ideas, Popper acknowledged his own debt to Marx, promising always to “emphasise such of his views as I believe to be of lasting merit”. Popper also praised Marx because “his main interest was to help suffering human individuals”, and he recognized that “Marx’s faith … was fundamentally a faith in the open society”, Karl R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, 2 Hegel and Marx, Princeton University Press,  Princeton, NJ, 1966 edition, pp. 88, 319n. and 200.
[30] Plato, The Republic, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1987 revised edition, pp. 423-24.
[31] Stephen Jay Gould, The Panda’s Thumb, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1980, pp. 19-25.
[32] Karl Marx, Capital, I, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1958, p. 178.
[33] Frederick Engels, Dialectics of Nature, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964, pp. 182-3.
[34] Juan Antonio Ramirez, The Beehive Metaphor, From Gaudi to Le Corbusier, Reaktion Books, 2000.