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Lecture 6

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University of Toronto St. George
Political Science
Donald Schwartz

POL354 Lecture 6 – Understand Stalin’s Accession to Power Thursday, October 20, 2011 Last week  New Economic Policy The tensions produced by state and society during the period of war communism led into a major undertaking of Lenin’s modernization project – scrapped war communism: NEP  major concessions to what were deemed to be class enemies (a class on peasantry, recognized some degree of control over land, re-establishment of a private sector producing consumer goods, and opening up commerce thus introducing a market). The introduction of the NEP was preceded by a set of resolutions by Lenin that made certain there would be strong punishments for party enemies, and reinforced the idea that the party was the dominant medium through which the rights of the workers were expressed. This formed a political framework of unity within which the party is ready to make concessions to what it deemed to be class enemies. Lenin wanted to avoid a power struggle within the party and wanted to avoid debate and criticism to the new economic system. Stalin’s Rise to Power: Need to understand the distribution of power/power structure throughout the Stalin years. Power struggle is triggered in May of 1922 when Lenin suffers the first of a series of strokes (dies in January of 1924). The power struggle emerges because Lenin had been the central point of the party – acknowledged by everyone as the leader. Lenin exercised this power through his personality/ability to persuade/ruthlessness in excluding individuals/groups from the party. There was no designated position for Lenin, who would replace him? Lenin only held one major state position – head of the executive bodies of the government, which in itself was important but not a designation of leadership. There was no regularized position and therefore no method of choosing a successor. Lenin had failed to designate a successor. There is one individual who is positioning himself to take over as Lenin’s successor – Stalin. Until he has consolidated power, most competitors of Stalin do not even realize what is taking place. Many of the leaders established their reputation by heading out to different economic/territorial groups within the government. Stalin is described as a manager, individual who takes on all of the jobs that nobody else wants. In this context a number of developments are occurring – the party is undergoing a fundamental change from a revolutionary organization to a ruling organization. There are 1.5 million party members by 1929 – development of a huge administrative apparatus. Secondly, the party congress grows in size – in 1919 the congress totalled 403, by 1927 it’s up to 1600+ and in 1930 it has 2000+ representatives. The congress therefore loses any potential as a body for legislative debate. The central committee of the congress party has up to 106 members by 1925. The secretariat also grows enormously. The party drastically increases in size, and this proves to be a very crucial component of understanding Stalin’s rise to power. Stalin is put in charge of party benefits/affairs. In 1922, When Lenin becomes ill, Lenin appoints Stalin as General Secretary of the Party (theoretically an administrative position) it becomes the most powerful position and is identified as the leadership position. In addition he is temporarily head of the organizational bureau - gives him total control of the assignment and election of officials of the members of the party. Also gives him virtually total control over the appointment of key officials in the state structure. This is because the General Secretary is responsible for the Nomenklatura – the list of individuals deemed sufficiently loyal to the party to warrant appointment to key positions. Even earlier Stalin had been appointed as chairman of Narkomnats – gave him direct control over all the territories where the majority of inhabitants were not Russian. In a sense the General Secretary who has control over personal is supervising himself as the chairman. Stalin is also given the dull but important role as Komisar of Rabkrin. This position allows him and his apparatus to go into any unit of state activity and demand to see its books, review the work of its members, and undertake responses with regard to shifting personnel/firing people. Stalin accumulated a number of important positions that give him effective control over virtually every official within the party. He has virtually total control over decisions made with regard to promotions/lateral transfers. Stalin also a member of the Politburo (one of seven individuals) therefore was in a position where all of the information within the Politburo came through his office – giving him a huge amount of power over Politburo. In addition the Politburo had to go through the office of the General Secretary when making decisions – Stalin has total control. There was one individual who recognized that Stalin’s accumulation of power and his personality combined was toxic – Lenin. Stalin had a number of run-ins with Lenin in which he became increasingly aggressive towards Lenin. Lenin’s last testament is read to the Politburo in the aftermath of his death – states that Stalin is too rude/savage and this fault is unbearable in the office of the General Secretary, notes that Stalin had concentrated enormous power and Lenin his fearful that Stalin will not use caution. Members of the Politburo choose to ignore Lenin – believe that Lenin misjudged Stalin and that the testament should be kept secret (kept secret until after Stalin’s death). Secretariat of the Party and its Nomenklatura powers:  Has the power to appoint individuals within the party – this is arbitrary and cannot be challenged. Theoretically members of the party are elected by the party, but the elections are based on the nomination of a single individual by the secretariat (nominate key party/state officials). As the congress expands in size individuals who are appointed by the secretariat become the dominant component of the Congress. Stalin’s clients/supporters (people who know how Stalin will act if they go against him) become members of the Congress.  The congress elects its central committee – a much smaller group of individuals who meet every 3-4 months to listen to the decisions made by the Politburo. Increasingly a select group of Stalin’s supports make up the central committee.  The central committee elects the Politburo and the General Secretariat. Technically the central committee elects the General Secretary.  Stalin as the general secretariat of the party has the ability to ensure his control over the membership of the congress, central community and Politburo through his ability to make nomenklatura appointments.  Stalin also head of Party Control Commission  This power retains control of the state – circular flow of power. Two Aspects of the power structure  (1) circular flow of power and (2) In 1922 we have (1) Lenin (2) Stalin (3) Trotsky (4) Zinoviev (5) Kamenev (6) Rykov and (7) Tomsky  There are the seven members of the Politburo. Each of them holds positions outside of the Politburo. At one point Trotsky launches an attack on Zinoviev and Kamenev on their ability to lead. Both Zinoviev and Kamenev broke party ranks – went public with party information about the coup. Lenin forgave them for this. Stalin aligns himself with Zinoviev and Kamenev, mobilized Rykov and Tomsky and Trotsk
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