THEME ONE: HOW DID STALIN EXERCISE POWER OVER THE COMMUNIST PARTY AND THE SOVIET STATE? Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in THEME ONE: HOW DID STALIN EXERCISE POWER OVER THE COMMUNIST PARTY AND THE SOVIET STATE? Deck (26):
1

How did Stalin establish a power base between the years 1922 and 1926?

Stalin was quick to see how the position as General Secretary of the Party, which he aquired in 1922, had a lot of opportunity to gather information and influence. he General Secretary co-ordinated work across all Party departments and had access to a vast range of information. He gained access to over 26,000 personal files on Party members - to use against rivals. In this post he had Dzerzhinsky report to him regularly to survey the Politburo members. He was also responsible for deciding the agenda of Party meetings - useful for restricting the issues that could be debated. Stalin was responsible for supervising the Lenin Enrolment - between 1923-25 over 500,000 industrial workers were recruited, doubling the Party's membership. This allowed Stalin to have significant influence over this largely poorly educated and politically naiive proportion of the Party. Furthermore, he had the right to appoint people to Party positions, providing him with a tool to bring his own supporters into key positions. When it came to votes on Party issues, Stalin could always outvote and outmanoeuve his opponents.

2

Who were Stalin’s opponents in the Politburo?

Leon Trotsky - considered to be the obvious successor, often arrogant and not really a team player.
Gregory Zinoviev - worked closely with Lenin and had a strong power base as Party Secretary in Leningrad. A skilled orator, but was vain and ineffective in practical matters.
Lev Kamanev - also accused of lack of principle. Party Secretary in Moscow.
Nikolai Bukharin - described by Lenin as 'the golden boy' of the Party. Relatively young and highly intelligent, but he lacked political experience.
Mikhail Tomsky - leading figure in the trade union movement, but his influence declined with that of the trade unions. Lenin had reduced the political power of the unions, restricting their role to helping workers within the workplace.
Alexei Rykov - succeeded Lenin as Chair of the Sovnarkom but his outspoken approach upset fellow Bolsheviks. His effectiveness was hampered by a severe drinking problem.

3

How did Stalin ‘deal with the left’ in 1926?

In 1926, their views were criticised at the Fifteenth Party Conference. They were accused of forming factions and expelled from the Politburo and demoted. They were then expelled from the Party. In 1928, Zinoviev and Kamanev were readmitted to the Party after renouncing their previous views, but Trotsky preffered to stick to his principles and was exiled to Alma-Ata in Central Asia. One year later, he was expelled from the Soviet Union.

4

How did Stalin exploit the divisions of industrialisation and NEP?

Those on the right of the Party were concerned that the removal of the NEP could actually cause food production to decline because of opposition from the peasantry. In early 1928, the proposals for the Five-Year Plan led to the emergence of the Right Opposition group that began to argue the case for a continuation of the NEP. In this debate, Stalin saw the views of the Right as standing in the way of his policy of 'Socialism in one country', thretening to slow down any progress that could be made in strengthening the economic base of the Soviet Union and socialism. Stalin issued an official directive to Party members, The foundations of Leninism, that presented the case of removing the NEP. It was brief and easy-to-read, ideal for those new politically naive Party members who had been allowed into the Party under the Lenin Enrolment.

5

How did Stalin deal with Bukharin?

Undermined Bukharin's position by stressing his disagreements with Lenin during the early 1920s. Bukharin was accused of Trotskyism because he had criticised the growth of the bureaucracy, an argument previously put forward by Trotsky. Bukharin had arranged a secret meeting with Zinoviev and Kamanev in 1928. This enabled Stalin to accuse Bukharin of forming factions within the Party, a serious accusation that, if proven, carried the death penalty. Supporters of the Right in the Moscow Party branch and the trade unions were removed on Stalin's orders. He then undermined Bukharin's support for retaining the NEP by highlighting its failure to prevent food shortages in the cities. He also approved emergency grain requsitioning, a move that drew attention to the problems of the NEP. When it came to votes over policy decisions, such as during the Central Committee meeting of April 1929, Stalin could rely on the support of those who owed their positions to him. In April 1929, B was forced to admit to errors of political judgement. The Right Opposition were removed from their posts, except Rykov, who remained Head of government until 1930.

6

What were the ‘instruments of terror’ that Stalin used?

The Party Secretariat, collected info on Party members that could be used to condemn them as enemies of the people.
The secret police, carried out surveillance, arrests and executions. They also ran the labour camps (the Gulag), where many victims of the urges were imprisoned. The Cheka had evolved into the NKVD by 1934. The NKVD were increasingly bureaucratic and its role dominated the whole police force.

7

What happened during the Chistka of 1932-35?

It was the response of the Party to difficulties experienced during the launching of the First Five-Year Plan and collectivisation of agriculture. The Chitska was designed to remove the officals who didn't agree with the speed at which these policies were implemented. By 1935, 22% of the Party had been removed from their posts. It was essentially a non-violent process, but it did show that opposition to Stalin's policies were mounting.

8

What evidence is there of criticisms of Stalin by 1932?

In 1932, Ryutin, a former Party secretary, issued a document to members of the Central Committee that was highly critical of Stalin. Accused Stalin of building a personal dictatorship and called up members of the CC to remove him from power.
Brutality that was used to enforce the policy of collectivisation in agriculture was a major cause of criticism. Peasant resistance had resulted in serious unrest, especially in Ukraine and the Caucasus region. Concerns had been raised by Stalin's wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, before she committed suicide in 1932.
Party officials critical about unrealistic targets of the Five-Year Plans and drew attention to the fact that they were unachieveable.
These criticisms gained strength at the Seventeenth Party Congress of 1934. It was supposed to be a 'Congress of Victors', celebrating the successes ofthe First Plan. However, instead moderates within the Party put pressure on Kirov, the up-and-coming Leningrad Party Secretary, to slow the pace of change. Kirov recieved standing ovations and a wave of support that matched those recieved by Stalin.

9

What happened to Kirov in 1934 and why was this significant?

The event that was to precipitate the Great Ourge of the 1930s was the murder of Kirov on 1 Decemebr 1934. Assassinated by Leonid Nikolayev, a Party member with a personal grudge against the Party and Kirov. There was also rumours of an affair between Nikolayev's wife and Kirov. However, suspicious circumstances surrounded the murder - Where was Kirov's bodyguard?, Why had the NKVD taught Nikolayev to fire a pistol?. These reasons suggest it was carried out on Stalin's orders. The official explanation was that Nikolayev was the member of an opposition group led by Zinoviev and Kamanev. They were both arrested, brought to trial in Jan 1935 and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Thus, the murder of Kirov was the catalyst for the purging of large sections of the Communist Party.

10

What happened during the show trials?

During 1935 and 1936, there was a wave of denunciations and arrests of memebers of the Left Opposition who were still at large. The show trials were created whereby former leading figures in the Party were accused of anti-Soviet activities.

11

What happened during the Trial of the Sixteen?

The leaders of the left, including Zinoviev and Kamanev, in August 1936 were dragged from prison and accused of working as agents of Trotsky to undermine the state. Under severe pressure from the NKVD, they confessed to crimes they couldn't possibly have carried out, including the murder of Kirov. They also implicated others in the conspiracy, including the former leaders of the Right.

12

What happened during the Trial of the Seventeen?

A purge of Party officials such as Karly Radek and Georgy Pyatakov in 1937. Accused of working for Trotsky and foreign governments to undermine the Soviet economy through wrecking havoc and sabotage. Their real crime was probably criticising the Five-Year Plans.

13

What happened during the Trial of the Twenty-One?

A purge of the right in 1938. Tomsky had committed suicide beofre he could be brought to trial, but Bukharin and Rykov were accused of forming a 'Trotskyit-Rightist Bloc', a crime to which they both confessed. There was nno hard evidence of these links with Trotsky, but Bukharin's article 'Notes of an Economist' made clear some of his criticisms of Stalin's economic policies.

14

Why were show trials used between 1928 and 1938?

To ensure that other party members were intimidated by the power of the state. The proceedings were relayed to the Soviet population via radio and film footage. The state prosecutor, Andrei Vyshinsky, used his position to abuse the accused. Show trials had been used before, most notably during the Shakhty Trial of 1928, where managers and technical experts had been put on trial for holding back the process of industrialisation. Then it had been used to send a message to workers throughout the Soviet Union: lack of committment to the policy of the Party would not be tolerated.

15

How did Stalin use purges against the Red Army?

1937-38 saw an extensive purge of personnel.. Three out of five marshals were purged, 14 out of 16 army commanders, 35,000 officers were either shot or imprisoned ad the navy lost every single admiral. Armed forces had been critical of the demoralising impact of collectivisation on the peasantry who made up the bulk of the soldiers. For Stalin, their criticisms were of concern due to growth in the army's importance alongside the increase in defence resources in th 1930s. Therefore, the power of the army leaders had to be cut down and their loyalty enforced.

16

How did Stalin use purges of the Secret Police?

In 1936, Yagoda, head of the NKVD, was replaced by Nikolai Yezhov, known as the 'bloody dwarf'. He saw the most extensive phase of the purges, purging over 3,000 of his own personnel in his first 6 months as head. Yet the 'Yezhovschina', as it became known, was to come to an end when he himself was dismissed in 1938. His arrest in 1939 was partly due to Stalin's need for a scapegoat for the excesses of the purges, which were coming to an end.

17

How did Stalin purge the local level of the Party?

A quota system was introduced, whereby each Part branch had its own target to meet.

18

What was the justification for using terror in the 1930s?

Stalin argued that the use of terror actually prevented a conservative reaction and kept the revolutionary spirit alive. The purges safeguarded not only the power of Stalin but also the position of the Communist Party. The Communists had always been a minority party and, as such, needed to employ terror to retain power when undertaking unpopular policies.

19

Who used the most terror: Lenin or Stalin?

Stalin used the most terror, particularly due to the fact that he used it for reasons that far exceed Lenin's attitude to violence. What is most striking is that the Great Terror was launched at a time when the Party's position appeared relatively secure. This would sem to indicate that Stalin was working to his own agenda, trying to secure his own personal postion rather than that of the Party. In this sense, Stalin's use of terror differed quite considerably to that of Lenin's. What Stalin did owe to the work of Lenin was the attitude of many Party members that had developed during the civil war - that terror was an acceptble method of dealing with opponents both within and outside the Party.

20

What evidence is there that Stalin tightened his personal control over the State and the
Party after 1924?

By the end of 1930 Stalin was the only surviving member of Lenin's Politburo. In their place were cronies of Stalin, such as Molotov, Voroshilov, Kalinin and Lazar Kaganovich. Thus, Stalin was able to ensure the Politburo was in agreement with his own policies. As the 1930s went on, the political institutions within the Soviet Union, including the Politburo, met less frequently as Stalin increased his control over them. In the 1920s, the Politburo met weekly, but by the mid-1930s meetings were held only about nine times a year. Power became focused in sub-groups set up outside the Politburo, over which Stalin could exercise firmer control.

21

Was the Soviet Constitution of 1936 a ‘democratic document’?

At face value, the Constitution seemed to e highly democratic. Stalin stated: 'the constitution of the USSR is the only thoroughly democratic constitution in the world'. Every citizen in the USSR was to be given the vote. An important change from when 'bourgeois classes' such as the kulaks and priests were denied the vote. Civil rights, including freedom of the pree, religion and organisation, were given under the Constitution. There was also a guarantee of employment that contrasted with the economic situation in many capitalist countries at the time, suffering as they were from the effects of the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In practice, the Constitution was a fraud. It listed restrictions on the rights of citizens, democracy was imposed from above and limited by the leadership, only Communist Party candidates were allowed to stand in elections and the governemnt announced that political parties in the democratic sense were a product of conflicts between classes, which were generated by capitalism. The wording of the Constitution was directed at foreign governments to convince countries, such as Britain and France, that the USSR had democratic credentials. This would make them good allies against Nazi Germany. The reality of the Great Purge convinced few observers of the Constitutions claims.

22

What evidence is there to suggest Stalin did not have
absolute power over the leadership of the Party?

Personal limits - Stalin could not possibly have decided and controlled every issue, especially in a country as large as the Soviet Union.This situation required Stalin to prioritise and focus on those issues he was most concerned about.
Limits imposed from ithin the leadership - Despite the fact that the Politburo was made up of cronies of Stalin, there is some evidence of the Politburo opposing his actions. When Stalin wanted to execute Ryutin, who had denounced Stalin in 1932, the Politburo refused to agree and Ryutin was sentenced to 10 years in a labour camp. Stalin's ambitious targets for the Second Five-Year Plan were considered too high by many both inside and outside the Party. Members of the Politburo felt the Plan, as it stood, would result in chaos and opposition and a huried redrafting of the Plan with lower targets was caried out. In addition, some members of the Politburo expressed concern over the brutality used. Kuibyshev, head of Gospla, may have expressed these concerns but died of a heart attack in 1935. Ordzhonikidze, Commissar for Heavy Industy, raised objections to the use of terror. He was widely beleived to have committed suicide in 1937 after Stalin arrested and shot his deputy to unnerve him. Other doubters included Voroshilov and Kalinin, both of whom became isolated in the Politburo.

23

What evidence is there to suggest that Stalin did not have unlimited power on those below the leadership?

There is evidence of the purges at local level resulting from conflict between local Party members and regional authorities. Stalin may have directed the purges at the top, but their scale at local level was determined by local pressures over which Stalin found it difficult to exercise control. In 1930, STalin issued a statement that castigated those Party members who were 'dizzy with success' in implementing the policy of collectivisation overzealously. Overenthusiastic Party members were in danger of pushing events further than Stalin wished.

24

Was Stalinism a consequence of Leninism?

There were trends evident under Lenin that contributed to the growth of Stalin's power: the growth of the bureaucracy, the failure of political institutions to develop and the use of terror. Despite the view that Stalin's dictatorship was a direct product of the structures laid down after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, it would be misleading to see Stalinism as the inevitable consequence of Leninism. There were important differences, the most significant being the move away from a dictatorship of the proletariat towards a personal dictatorship that served Stalin's own purposes. Stalin was both a product of the situation inherited from Lenin and a force for using the opportunities presented in order to strengthen the system for his own advantage.

25

How did Stalin’s power change during the Second World War?

The German Invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 required effective organisation of both military and civilian resources to meet the German threat. The co-ordination of of the country's administration during the war was undertaken by the State Defence Committee (GKO). The military were co-ordinated through the Supreme Command (Stavka). The use of terror reduced and some generals, such as Zhukov, and ex-Party officials were released from the labour camps so that their expertise could be used for the war effort. The Party used propoganda to mobilise the masses. This increased Stalin's power as he was presented as a symbol of unity. When the Germans invaded at dawn on June 22, Stalin was so shocked he seemed to have suffered a breakdown. Nonetheless, Stalin was to emerge from the Second World War as a hero to the Soviet people. Soviet victory was often attributed to his firm action in the face of the Nazi threat.

26

What evidence is there to show Stalin tightened control after 1945?

The Party leadership moved quickly to reassert its authority after the slight relaxation of control. Terror was used to reinforce control as concessions, such as those given to the Orthodoz Church, were withdrawn. As his health was in decline, Stalin increasingly relied on political scheming to divide potential rivals to his power and minimise their threat to his position. Immediately after the war, the old guard of Stalin's associates such as Molotov and Kaganovich, found themselves eclipsed by the rise of a younger generation within the Party leadership. Among this, the chief rivals were Andrei Zhdanov, Georgy Malenkov and Lavrenti Beria. The Mingrelian Affair of 1951 involved a purge of the Party in Georgia that removed some of Beria's allies. There is evidence that Stalin was planning another major purge in 1953, in the months before he died. In January, a group of Ddoctors were arrested, accused of trying to assassinate the leadership. The 'Doctors' Plot' may have been the prelude to a campaign of terror against Soviet Jews, but it was more likely to be the first step towards the elimination of Beria, and possibly other leading figures.