Friday, 24 July 2009
Reply to Laurence Rees- BBC Historian of Behind Closed Doors
Reply from Laurence Rees on Stalin behind Closed Doors-BBC
Thanks very much for your note. I’m afraid I simply didn't have space to include a discussion of these issues- fascinating as they are - in the Behind Closed Doors book. I made the decision to begin the story in 1939 and so felt it wouldn't be helpful to refer back to this history. I'm sure others would have written the book differently, but for better or worse, that's what I thought was the right way forward. Equally, I'm afraid I can't go into my views on Trotsky here as I would need several thousand words to adequately represent my opinion on that interesting time. I believe my friend Professor Robert Service is writing a big biography of Trotsky at the minute, so it will be absorbing to see his thoughts. Thanks again for your note.
Best wishes, Laurence
Dear Laurence Rees,
Please forgive me the delay in answering your reply. It is certainly true that had you taken on board a study of the inner party struggle between Trotsky and Stalin your book and film would have taken on a different tone. Before you mentioned the fact that you have left the matter Trotsky to Robert Service I had somewhat generously given you the right as a historian to choose your subject matter. But as your recent lecture at Coventry Cathedral outlined the deliberate airbrushing things out of history poisons the well that people have to drink out when they try to understand our future from the past.
Your choice of Robert Service as a friend tends to confirm Shakespeare's adage by your friends you shall be known. Do you share the same view of Service on the Trotsky- Stalin struggle? I would be grateful to you if you would briefly outline your attitude to Trotsky. I am not asking you to agree with him on his struggle against Stalin, but unlike Mr. Service who has a tendency to play down the need for historical truth, I think this crucial for future generations to understand what happened in the former USSR. I am inclined to believe there was a left alternative to Stalin and that an honest understanding of Trotsky’s role in that struggle is crucial. I have added for your information a two-part review by Fred Williams of Robert Service biography of Stalin.