7 comments on “On counterfactuals

  1. An interesting question. Could anybody else have risen up to fulfil their roles in our history? If we assume that there wasn’t (To avoid this counterfactual history simply being the same as the real one but with different names) then maybe the the Bolshevik coupe wouldn’t have happened. If so Russia would probably have gotten some kind of a multi-party democratic government in the western mould, because that was what was starting to form under the Russian Provisional Government. The civil war would probably have still happened (there were still plenty of Communists and Anarchists around) but maybe with a White victory this time as it would have been they that started with the upper hand as the people in control of all the state resources and industiral centres as it started.

    If the Whites had won then the purges, transportations and mass murders of Lenin and stalin certainly wouldn’t have happened, or been reduced, but industrialisation probably would have occoured. It might even have happened in broader and maybe slower way than the 5 year plans, but if anything all the evidence is that economic growth is faster under economically freer regimes (the Koreas being the perfect historical experiment). The number of deaths during the second world war would have been fewer because no democratic government could ever authorise the meat-grinder strategy that Stalin went for.

    This of course brings into question whether the Second World War could have been won without Stalin’s meat-grinder, but it should also bring into question whether the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact would ever have been signed and so whether the Second World War would ever have happened. Unlike Stalin in this counter-factual the Russian government would have decended from the Whites and so might have an existing alliance with the Western powers and less need for a ‘buffer zone’ around Russia itself to protect itself from them.

  2. The Second World war wouldprobably stillhave happened but it would have been clearly an assault by Hitler on the Slavic nations for lebensraum.

  3. Of course, Russia would still be (broadly) between Poland and China, but they might all be a bit further east.

    P.S. No Lenin, no Hitler.

  4. Interesting point Mr Newman. Would the Japs have chosen the southern, naval route to resources and empire in 1941, if there had been a White government in Moscow at the time? Or might they have gone for the Northern Resources Area instead?

    If they had, what would have been the implications for the various european empires in the orient?

    Sadly I can’t provide any answers to these questions, but I can say that I am now going to spend the entire day pondering likely alternative legs to the trousers of time rather than crunching some very boring numbers like I am supposed to do.

  5. If anything, a more liberal Russian Govt (and I’m not at all convinced Kerensky and the White Russians would have led to that, more likely soft authoritaranism like you see today) would have made WW2 more likely. Hitler didn’t break neutrality with the USSR because he didn’t like them, rather because he knew they would do it eventually (at a time that suited them, i.e. when Germany was exhausted – that was Stalin’s plan, wait for Western Europe to be devastated by war then march in and take over everything – Hitler knew this and didn’t fall for it) and he wanted to overwhelm them first. And it wasn’t so much the meat grinder that defeated Germany, although that helped (and Zhukov will go down as the ultimate cold-blooded pragmatist of all time), but the forced relocation of whole populations and factories east of the Urals that set the stage for the resurgence of the Red Army – people carrying machine tools 30kms a day, etc. No liberal government could have made that happen I suspect, the UK was pretty accepting of wartime rules and rationing but this was way beyond that – virtual slave labour. I’m not defending their political system, although it’s worth noting that WW2 was the only time the Russian system actually worked, Hitler came closer than anyone else to collapsing the Russian empire, but ultimately their relocated and effectively invulnerable production facilities and manpower survived long enough to drive a high technology but supply short and depleted German Army out.

    But to answer you directly Chris Strange, a liberal Russia would have had a greater need for buffer zones than the real life one did – they would have needed more time to organise, and would have been a much softer target.

    Hate to be defending Stalin – but in the words of Henry Kissinger, “It’s a shame they can’t both lose” – applies very well to this situation.

    The really interesting counterfactual is what would have happened if Japan had followed up on their (implied but never explicitly stated) promises to Germany to attack Russia from the east via Manchuria? I think The Remittance Man has this one right, they would have been far more likely to go for the Northern Resource Area if a White goverment had been in power. Russia would have been fucked big time, and the island hopping strategy in the Pacific would have been null and void – maybe their strategy of crippling the US long enough to consolidate their hold would have worked after all.

  6. ‘I’d be sitting in a Japanese ski resort’.

    I know, late to the party but is it not beautiful to listen to the Lefties arguing about what may have been?

    If we had sucked up to/fomented an uprising/taught them a lesson then it would have all turned out so different? Unfortunately we did not have thinkers we now have…..

    Maybe, might, possibly, perhaps.

    As and when you grow up the world will become a better place.

    In the interim I look forward to more of your insights.

    STB.

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