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The New Breed of Communists

"Gorbachev Factor"

In the struggle for power that ensued after Lenin’s death in January 1924, Stalin showed what it meant to rule over the apparatus. His position in the Secretariat allowed him to expand his base of support in localities and at the center by ousting his opponents and filling all more or less important posts with his own appointees. Stalin selected people who were personally loyal and obedient to him. At the same time, they tended to be leaders inclined to tough administrative methods. Most of them had joined the party during the civil war and had received their primary political schooling in the conditions of war communism. 


The new breed of Communists rejected the more liberal principles of the NEP, condemning them as deviations from a “true revolutionary path” to socialism. They wanted to build the new society quickly, relying on administrative pressure, military-style organization, and directives from above. These were the methods that had stood them in good stead in the postrevolutionary period of war communism and the civil war. What they lacked in education and culture was compensated by “revolutionary impatience”: the desire to achieve the cherished goal of socialism at one stroke, in one great leap, skipping intermediate stages. Their optimism was sustained by the belief in their class superiority, conferred on them by Marxism.

The interests of the rising new party-state bureaucracy came into conflict with those of the old political elite—the Bolshevik old guard. As a result, a power struggle ensued within the ruling Bolshevik oligarchy. Stalin’s elevation was due to his ability to promote the new ruling elite and express its interests. By relying on his cadres, he sought by every available means to undermine the authority of the more important of the Bolshevik leaders, who could be real or potential rivals in the struggle for power. He skillfully manipulated the party debate on the theory and practice of socialist construction, branding the views of his opponents as anti-Leninist.

G. Zinoviev

This allowed him to revile and demote all outstanding party intellectuals, including Lev Trotsky (1879–1940), Grigory Zinoviev (1883–1936), Lev Kamenev (1883–1936), and Nicholas Bukharin (1888–1938). By the end of the 1920s, they would be removed from positions of power and their supporters purged from the party and state bodies and replaced wholesale by Stalin’s followers.

L. Kamenev

Stalinism is usually associated with the period of Soviet history that began in the early 1930s and led to the “great terror” in the second half of that decade. However, in many essentials Stalinism had been in evidence as early as 1926–27. Already at that time Stalin’s personal qualities and his unscrupulous politicking in the bid for absolute power had led to the emergence of a new kind of authoritarianism based on the characteristics of the evolving Soviet political system. The new regime claimed to be the dictatorship of the proletariat but was in effect a dictatorship of the party that was quickly transformed into a dictatorship of its central apparatus. In the late 1920s and early 1930s Stalin put the party and government apparatus under his undivided control and established a personal dictatorship.

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"Great Leap" to Socialism


Soviet Russia

Understanding the Soviet Period
Russian Political Culture
Soviet Ideology
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Soviet Nationalities
The Economic Structure
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"Great Leap" to Socialism
The USSR in World War II
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