Robert Gellately’s 700 page distillation of the convergence of three horrendous dictators on the world scene in the first half of the 20th century is what you would expect from a well-written book bringing together the different threads that ultimately converge in World War II. Gellately aptly subtitles his book “The Age of Social Catastrophe” which it certainly was.
The book incorporates a lot of new insights gleaned from secret documents released since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but really if you’re already more than passingly familiar with the Soviet and Nazi regimes, this is essentially a single volume retread of the many books out there on both regimes. If you don’t want to obsessively read dozens of books on the Nazis and USSR, however, this is definitely the book to start out with.
The odd thing about the book, however, are the lengths to which Gellately feels he has to go in order to justify including Lenin in that list.Â The claim that Lenin’s pure ideas were corrupted by the evil Stalin has a long history and, of course, was made famous in Kruschev’s secret speech. It is also an idea that has always been patently absurd by anyone willing to look honestly at the Lenin’s writings and actions up until his death.
That the idea persists enough to force Gellately to justify his decision to include Lenin in Stalin and Hitler’s company is a testament to the human capacity for self-deception. Which, of course, was one of the essential ingredients in allowing all three of these regimes to survive and thrive.