In her introduction to On Stalin's Team, Sheila Fitzpatrick refers to Josef Stalin's fear that one day a spy would sneak into his milieu and observe him up close. She writes: 'I am that spy'. She challenges the traditional view (largely sourced to Leon Trotsky) that Stalin was a second-rate dictator overwhelmingly dominating a third-rate gang of collaborators.
In Fitzpatrick's view, no matter how brutally Stalin treated his henchmen, sometimes having them murdered, he depended on them and their competence as much as they depended on him. That is why on his death in March 1953 the Stalinist system basically endured. 'That's the big surprise,' she writes, 'at the end of this book, and I hope scholars will take note and re-examine their assumptions about late Stalinism accordingly.'
On Stalin's Team is a major contribution to Australian Sovietology.