Flashcards in THE RETURN TO STABILITY UNDER BREZHNEV, 1964-82 Deck (12):
How did Brezhnev establish his power over the Party?
Brezhnev was aware that K had been removed because he had lost the trust of his colleagues, so he was cautious to avoid making the same mistake. Potential rivals within the Politburo were sidelined: Nikolai Podgorny was given the largely ceremonial post of Head of State; Alexander Shelepin was put to task on foreign affairs.
What were Brezhnev’s qualities?
He was at best mediocre, if not talentless, as his rivals often claimed. However, he was not without charm; his affable personality allowed him to get his way without causing conflict. Ultimately, he was an 'organisation' man and his skills at placating competing Party leaders were good enough to give the Politburo a sense of unity.
What aspects of de-Stalinisation did Brezhnev reverse?
The division of the Party into agricultural and industrial sections was dropped.
Limits on tenure of office were removed.
The guiding principles were to be collective leadership and 'trust in cadres'. The chief result of these principles was that most Party officials, including those at the top, were to enjoy long, unbroken tenures in their jobs. As the Party became the main instrument of upward mobility, its membership grew from 6.9 million (1953) to 17 million (1980). The Party could claim succees in widening mass participation in politics.
No more 'subjectivism', that is, decisions would no longer be made by the leader without consulting the Party. B had emerged as 'first among equals' by 1966, but he constantly consulted his colleagues and used an inner core of the Politburo to discuss important issues.
The Soviet Constitution of 1977 enshrined the right of citizens to criticise incompetent and ineffective Party secretaries, but posts within both Party and government were filled by appointment rather than genuine election. Article 6 of the Constitution asserted the primacy of the Communist Party over the state. This, according to the constitution, was 'mature socialism'.
What happened at the Twenty-Third Party Congress of 1966?
What does this suggest about Brezhnev’s time in power?
It involved so little discussion that it was referred to as the 'congress of silences'. The only change made was to rename the presidium the Politburo and the First Secretary the General Secretary. Rather than reverse de-Stalinisation wholesale, the approach became more cautious and conservative.
What evidence is there that Brezhnev ‘enjoyed the trappings of power’?
He awarded himself numerous medals for rather dubious achievements; The Lenin Peace Prize, the Lenin Prize for Literature and so on. He also enjoyed some of the luxuries life at the top could offer. He developed a taste for hunting and for collecting Western limousines. His mother once commented, after he showed her his collection: 'What will you do if the Bolsheviks return to power?'
By 1980, what had become of the Party leadership?
Under B, the Party leadership had developed into an oligarchy. The General Secreatry was the most powerful oligarch.
Why had this happened?
B had ensured the promotion of his old colleagues from his time as Party boss in Ukraine. This led others in the Party to refer to the development of the 'Dnepropetrovsk mafia', a group of B's old cronies. The other major players of the Politburo all had their own networks in the Party through the ministries they controlled: Kosygin (Chairman of the Council of Ministers), Suslov (Party ideology chief) and Shelepin (former boss of the KGB) were among the most powerful. In the words of historian Figes, 'The Brezhnev system was a coalition of Politburo oligarchs. What united them was the preservation of the status quo'. The system of promoting people within the Party illistrated the development of oligarchies. Before the 1970s, promotions usually involved moving to another part of the Soviet Union to gain experience and spread new ideas. Under B, promotions were usually made within the ranks of the lcoal Party membership after serving time in a junior position. This move severely limited innovation and change within the system.
What impact did this have on corruption?
This system allowed corruption to go unnoticed, particularly in the remoter parts of the USSR. The 'cotton affair', only exposed later under Gorbachev, resulted in millions of roubles being claimed for non-existent cotton as officials fiddled the figures. Nepotism was also rife as Party officials ensured jobs were given to family members.
What evidence is there that, by the early 1980s, the Soviet Union ‘gave the impression of being a vast system grinding to a halt’?
The Soviet leadership was becoming a 'gerentocracy', as rule was placed in the hands of an increasingly aged group of geriatrics. Membership of the Central Committee illustrated this development. At STalin's last Party Congress, only 56% of the CC was retained in office; in 1976, this figure reached 79% and many of those not 'retained' had died from old age. By 1984, 7 of the 11 members of the Politburo were over the age of 70. Practicalities were changed to reflect this: Politburo meetings now lasted less than 40 minutes.
What impact did Andropov have?
He recognised the need for reform, despite rising throught the Party during Stalin's years. His main concern was corruption within the Party, but attempts to deal effectively with this were hampered by his lack of charm. He was also too ill to follow through his ideas. After mid-1983, he was reliant on a kidney dialysis machine and he died in February 1984. Whether A would have been more successful in reforming the system had he lived is difficult to gauge, but one important result of his leadership was the promotion of a younger generation of Party members who saw reform as essential, including Mikhail Gorbachev.
Summarise the conclusion provided.
The death of Stalin saw the Soviet government change from a personal dictatorship based largely on terror to an oligarchy of self-serving interest groups with the Communist Party. As K reduced terror, the Party had to rely on more subtle methods of control. The dominant mechanism for tying people to the Party and state was to ensure that its ever-growing personnel gained rewards in the form of secure jobs, status and privileges. As the system grew, those within wished to preserve a system that worked for their benefit.