Stalin the Editor

From the the Chronicle of Higher Education, via Micah Mattix’s Prufrock mailing: Joseph Stalin “was a ruthless person and a serious editor.”

The Soviet historian Mikhail Gefter has written about coming across a manuscript on the German statesman Otto von Bismarck edited by Stalin’s own hand. The marked-up copy dated from 1940, when the Soviet Union was allied with Nazi Germany. Knowing that Stalin had been responsible for so much death and suffering, Gefter searched ‘for traces of those horrible things in the book.’ He found none. What he saw instead was ‘reasonable editing, pointing to quite a good taste and an understanding of history.”

Stalin edited out references to himself, which may be taken to indicate humility but doesn’t:

[W]e should not confuse Stalin’s self-effacement with modesty. Though we tend to associate invisibility with the meek, there is a flip side that the graffiti artist Banksy understands better than most: “invisibility is a superpower. . . .

Being an author is well and good, and Stalin wrote several books — the word “author” does after all share a root with the word “authority” — but he knew that editing was a higher power. 

We should all work to suppress this story. People might make comparisons.

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