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Unfair to Stalin

Robert Service

17 March 1988
Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World 
by Mikhail Gorbachev.
Collins, 254 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 0 00 215660 1
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The Birth of Stalinism: The USSR on the Eve of the ‘Second Revolution’ 
by Michal Reiman, translated by George Saunders.
Tauris, 188 pp., £24.50, November 1987, 1 85043 066 7
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Stalin in October: The Man who Missed the Revolution 
by Robert Slusser.
Johns Hopkins, 281 pp., £20.25, December 1987, 0 8018 3457 0
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... of conservative, liberal and Trotskyite historians who followed Trotsky made the same mistake. Robert Slusser’s book supplies chapter and verse on the way Trotsky misconstrued Stalin’s role in the months before October 1917. Stalin was one of a handful of members of the Bolshevik Central Committee who formed its inner core. He seldom did as he was ...

Leader-Bashing

Robert Service

24 January 1991
The Russian Revolution 1899-1919 
by Richard Pipes.
Harvill, 946 pp., £20, December 1990, 0 00 272086 8
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... attacked his writings on the Romanov autocracy, and their dispute was carried by Western external services radio stations to the USSR. Pipes was not unknown there. In 1966 his book on Russian Marxism so incensed the authorities that two official historians were deputed to write a denunciation: Mister Paips fal’ tsifitsiruyet istoriyu. If the variety and ...

Better to bend the stick too far

Sheila Fitzpatrick: The history of Russia

4 February 1999
A History of 20th-Century Russia 
by Robert Service.
Allen Lane, 654 pp., £25, July 1998, 0 7139 9148 8
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... ruled by the Romanovs. ‘What was Russia? And what was Russia’s part in the Soviet Union?’ Robert Service asks in his introduction. But there are no answers to these questions, only – as is frequently the case in this rich but sometimes inconclusive work – a series of options. ‘For some witnesses the Soviet era was an assault on everything ...

The Old Man

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Trotsky

22 April 2010
Trotsky: A Biography 
by Robert Service.
Macmillan, 600 pp., £9.99, April 2010, 978 0 330 43969 5
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Stalin’s Nemesis: The Exile and Murder of Leon Trotsky 
by Bertrand Patenaude.
Faber, 472 pp., £9.99, March 2010, 978 0 571 22876 8
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... driving counter-revolution throughout the world, a traitor in league with foreign intelligence services, and ultimately with Fascism; and in the Moscow show trials of the late 1930s an array of Old Bolshevik defendants – some of them his former supporters, others not – were convicted of being agents of his conspiracy against the Soviet Union and ...
5 October 1995
Lenin: His Life and Legacy 
by Dmitri Volkogonov, translated and edited by Harold Shukman.
HarperCollins, 529 pp., £25, October 1994, 0 00 255270 1
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Lenin: A Political Life. Vol. III: The Iron Ring 
by Robert Service.
Macmillan, 393 pp., £45, January 1995, 0 333 29392 4
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... there is new information from the records of the Provisional Government’s counter-intelligence service about German aid to the Bolsheviks between 1915 and 1917. The substantial scale and remarkably casual distribution of Soviet subsidies to foreign Communist Parties, at a time of dire conditions for much of the Russian population, is described with ...
7 July 1988
... time trying to become a feature film mogul and not enough being in close touch with the Television Service’. Milne does not seem to see that this would strike a normal reader as a reflection on himself. The tragedy is that Milne’s broadcasting reputation came from programmes like Highlight, Tonight and That Was the Week That Was whose very point was that ...
24 April 1997
The Bicycle 
by Pryor Dodge.
Flammarion, 224 pp., £35, May 1996, 2 08 013551 1
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... supposed that bicycles played such a part in the gold rushes in Australia and the Yukon? Why did Robert Service and his fellow poets not tell us about the rigours of the 400-mile cycle trail from Dawson City to Whitehorse? Or of the thousand-mile ride from Dawson City to Nome in Alaska undertaken by Edward Jesson, who narrowly avoided cycling on to a ...
27 October 1988
... There seem to have been several Oliver Norths. There was Oliver North the Patriot, whom Robert McFarlane would describe as ‘an imaginative, aggressive, committed young officer’, Ronald Reagan’s personally approved ‘hero’. There was Oliver North the Man of God, the born-again Christian from the charismatic Episcopal Church of the Apostles who believed that the Lord had healed his wounds and who – in the words of one former associate at the National Security Council – ‘thought he was doing God’s work at the NSC ...

Us and Them

Robert Taubman

4 September 1980
The Secret Servant 
by Gavin Lyall.
Hodder, 224 pp., £5.50, June 1980, 0 340 25385 1
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The Flowers of the Forest 
by Joseph Hone.
Secker, 365 pp., £5.95, July 1980, 0 436 20087 2
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A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie 
by Robert Barnard.
Collins, 203 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 00 216190 7
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Enter the Lion: A Posthumus Memoir of Mycroft Holmes 
by Michael Hodel and Sean Wright.
Dent, 237 pp., £4.95, May 1980, 0 460 04483 4
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Dorothy I. Sayers: Nine Literary Studies 
by Trevor Hall.
Duckworth, 132 pp., £12.50, April 1980, 9780715614556
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Milk Dime 
by Barry Fantoni.
Hodder, 192 pp., £5.50, May 1980, 0 340 25350 9
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... days when the Empire was built of solid dark mahogany and pictures of dead animals.’ A Secret Service chief disappears in Joseph Hone’s The Flowers of the Forest and ambiguous allegiances are disentangled in a quest across Europe, as well as back in time to the Cambridge of Philby – actually, to a stop on the Oxford to Cambridge line, on the ...
23 June 1988
When the fighting is over: A Personal Story of the Battle for Tumbledown Mountain and its Aftermath 
by John Lawrence and Robert Lawrence.
Bloomsbury, 196 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 7475 0174 2
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Tumbledown 
by Charles Wood.
Penguin, 80 pp., £3.95, April 1988, 0 14 011198 0
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... that Tumbledown was the name of one of the few serious battles in the Falklands campaign and that Robert Lawrence was the platoon commander in the 2nd Battalion, the Scots Guards, who had 40 per cent of his brain removed by a sniper’s bullet after he had earned himself a Military Cross by his bravery. Even before the film was shown on BBC television on 31 ...

Keeping mum

Stephen Sedley

2 March 1989
The Spycatcher Trial 
by Malcolm Turnbull.
Heinemann, 228 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 434 79156 3
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Reform of the Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911: Government White Paper 
HMSO, 16 pp., £2.60, June 1988, 0 10 104082 2Show More
Official Secrets Bill 
HMSO, 14 pp., £3, December 1988, 0 10 300989 2Show More
Security Service Bill 
HMSO, 8 pp., £2.60, November 1988, 9780103007892Show More
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... England as he imagined it would be in 1953, accurately linked the mandarin élitism of the Civil Service with its determination to control the supply of public information. What is new in the present decade is the assumption of power by a government which shares this determination but which also has definite and disturbing ends in view. Nevertheless the ...

Gangs

D.A.N. Jones

8 January 1987
The Old School: A Study 
by Simon Raven.
Hamish Hamilton, 139 pp., £12, September 1986, 0 241 11929 4
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The Best Years of their Lives: The National Service Experience 1945-63 
by Trevor Royle.
Joseph, 288 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 7181 2459 6
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Murder without Conviction: Inside the World of the Krays 
by John Dickson.
Sidgwick, 164 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 9780283994074
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Inside ‘Private Eye’ 
by Peter McKay.
Fourth Estate, 192 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 947795 80 4
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Malice in Wonderland: Robert Maxwell v. ‘Private Eye’ 
by Robert Maxwell, John Jackson, Peter Donnelly and Joe Haines.
Macdonald, 191 pp., £10.95, December 1986, 0 356 14616 2
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... Then, in our teens or twenties, we entered the mob, post-war conscripts in the years of National Service: here the public schoolboys came into their own, hogging the Queen’s Commission and acquiring conscript valets. Trevor Royle, a serious young Scot, describes ‘the National Service Experience, 1945-63’ in his ...

Terkinesque

Sheila Fitzpatrick: A Leninist version of Soviet history

1 September 2005
The Soviet Century 
by Moshe Lewin, edited by Gregory Elliott.
Verso, 416 pp., £25, February 2005, 1 84467 016 3
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... Lewin’s account of Lenin’s and Stalin’s interactions is very different from the one given by Robert Service in his biographies, and to my mind less persuasive. As before, Lewin does not address the apparent contradiction between his moderate Lenin and the revolutionary Lenin who seized power half a decade earlier, nor does he address the new ...
10 June 1999
The Allure of Empire: Art in the Service of French Imperialism 1798-1836 
by Todd Porterfield.
Princeton, 245 pp., £32.50, March 1999, 0 691 05959 4
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... of Empire, French artists and writers in the early 19th century threw themselves eagerly into the service of imperialism. Painters worked hard to prepare the way for the conquest of Algeria (which took place from 1830 onwards) and high art glorified the exploitation of the Third World. Paintings by Gros, Delacroix and others served to teach the public about ...

Capitalism’s Capital

Jackson Lears: The Man Who Built New York

17 March 2016
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York 
by Robert Caro.
Bodley Head, 1246 pp., £35, July 2015, 978 1 84792 364 6
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... Robert Moses​ was a modernist pharaoh. Over the forty years from the early 1930s to the late 1960s, he became a virtual dictator of public works in all five boroughs of New York and much of its suburban surroundings. Almost singlehandedly, through chicanery, fraud and bullying, he created the modern infrastructure of the New York City area: expressways, tunnels and bridges, but also parks, beaches, swimming pools and high-rise housing projects ...

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