Stalin's means of rule: methods to maintain power and deal with opposition

This theme asks you to look at how power is maintained by Stalin once he has established himself as undisputed single-party ruler of the USSR. You need to look at how power is maintained, and evaluate the various methods by which a leader of an SPS can control its population - i.e. Persuasion (i.e. propaganda), Consent (i.e. popular policies to win support) and Coercion (i.e. use of terror and the police state): PCC To be able to write a high level answer on this question you need to be able to evaluate the relative successes and failures of these methods for Stalin, and to argue which of these was most important for Stalin's dictatorship. You also need to show an awareness of who Stalin faced opposition from, and how effectively he dealt with this.

Past Questions:

Paper 3
  • Compare and contrast the repressive policies of Hitler and Stalin. (May 2009)
  • Compare and contrast the domestic policies of Hitler and Stalin up to the outbreak of the Second World War. (Nov 2006)

Paper 2
  • Analyse the methods used to maintain power by either Perón or Stalin. (Nov 2010)
  • Evaluate the successes and failures of one ruler of a single-party state (May 2007, 2005)
  • In what ways, and with what results, was propaganda used by one ruler of a single-party state? (May 2006)

General SPS questions
  • Account for the ineffectiveness of internal opposition to two rulers of single-party states.
  • Analyse the methods used to eliminate opposition by two single-party rulers, each chosen from a different region.
  • Analyse the nature and extent of internal opposition and the methods used to deal with this opposition by Stalin.
  • Analyse the methods used to maintain power in two single-party states, each chosen from a different region.
  • Charismatic appeal rather than successful domestic policies enabled single-party leaders to maintain power.” With reference to x, to what extent do you agree with this statement?


Key dates:
Cult of personality 1929 and onwards
1935 Stakhanovite movement initiated
Purges 1937-8

How did Stalin maintain power? (p. 122 - 126)

The Purges and The Great Terror - co-ercion

Stalin’s use of terror both continued on from Lenin’s policies, and made a radical change in terms of the extent and intensification of state persecution (the act of persecuting). While both Lenin and Stalin used terror and class warfare to deal with opponents outside the party, it was only Stalin that employed terror within the Party to remove internal opponents.

Background to purges:

In 1934 the prominent party leader Kirov Sergei was murdered by an assassin. The assassin was a nervous man with poor health. The murder triggered the great purges as Kirov’s murder was seen as evidence of a conspiracy against the Soviet State, and that there were widespread enemies that needed to be removed. Thousands of Party members were arrested in Leningrad, accused of being involved in a plot against the state.

-1936 saw the ‘trial of the 16’ – a show trial of senior Bolsheviks such as Zinoviev and Kamenev, who were accused of counterrevolutionary plotting. Having confessed to ridiculous charges against them, presumably after torture, they were executed. This was the first execution of members of the central committee. This trial had eliminated the left opposition.

-1938, after the removal of figures of the old Left-opposition, this saw the removal of the Right as Bukharin was also shot.

What are the causes of the purges?
-Stalin wanted to maintain his dominanat position in the party
-Stalin wanted to enforce his control over the country + party
-Stalin was paranoid, and thought party memebers + ordinary people plotted to overthrow him

However, historians have
The Great Terror (1937 -8):
As head of the NKVD from 1937, Yezhov, unleashed a brutal reign of terror:
1. Purging the Party – Stalin encouraged lower ranking members to denounce those in higher positions, and a flood of accusations and arrests followed.

2. Purging the People – over 250,000 ‘Anti-Soviet elements’ (scientists, artists, writers and managers osv.) were arrested for wrecking. Random expansion of terror, and encouraging of people to denounce ‘oppositionists’ led to a huge number of arrests across society. Torture was legalised and regional arrest quotas were given to NKVD.

3. Purging the army (1937), threatened by Civil War heroes (marshal Tukhachevsky), and fearing a coup, Stalin brutally executed his best commanders.

Stalin ended the terror in 1938, as it was destabilising Russian society. To finish off the purging of the Old Bolsheviks, Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico ub 1940.

How many people had been killed in the Great Terror?
Notoriously difficult to give an accurate figure, due to the problems of trusting official Soviet sources and the exponential spiralling of the terror.
Party: 70% of Central Committee shot.
Army: all senior chiefs shot, 35,000 officers either shot or imprisoned.

Robert Conquest estimates that for 1937-8:
1 – 1.5 million executed, 1937-8
7 – 8 million arrested and put in camps
2 million died in camps
Popular successful policies - consent

Urban workers and young people were generally positive towards the five plans. There existed a notion of that the five plans would make Russia a better and more developed country, and that the plans would bring great benefits for their children. This enthusiasm was expressed in the actions of thousands of young people, who volunteered to go and work with distant projects, and live in the most primitive of conditions such as in magnitotorsk.

In some ways, life became generally better for the ordinary Russian.
-In some areas, the factories set up shops, which provided workers with milk, eggs, vegetables and meat which had been rare commodities in the cities before the plans. It is difficult to generalize about this period, but workers in some areas became better of during the plans.
- One of the most important sources of labour was women. Ten million women entered the industrial workforce during the first three plans. By entering the factories women were emancipated from their traditional role in the home, as well as they got increased educational opportunities. However, women were discriminated as they received less paid as well as it was more difficult for them to gain advancement.

During the plans, the literacy rate increased from 51 percent to 81 percent, as the party recognized the need fore a more educated workforce.

Cult of personality and propaganda - persuasion
Cult of personality:
Stalin's personality cult was an extension of an already existing cult of Lenin and the members of the Politburo, aimed at maintaining the loyalty of the people. The first signs of Stalin’s personality cult, which emerge in 1929, coincide with the year in which Stalin becomes acknowledged as Lenin’s successor. As the conditions changed in the politburo, and increasingly more power was transferred to Stalin, his role as a leader was emphasized. The cult was created to suppress criticism generated by the conditions in the USSR and to cover up the miscalculations, the mistakes and the crimes that Stalin had committed.Stalin also established his cult by using party history; Stalin was given credit for all of the country’s great achievements. In 1932, party historians began rewriting history and discrediting Stalin’s enemies, whilst emphasizing Stalin’s role in the party history. Stalin was portrayed as “Lenin’s closest comrade in arms and the veritable genius of the revolution”.[Allan Wood] He also emerged as an important figure in the civil war. Stalin was assigned the role as the key planner in Denikin’s defeat, whereas in reality his role was quite humble.
The 1930s as a whole were a difficult time for the USSR, Russia suffered from difficulties from the process of rapid industrialization as well as decreasing agricultural production. An objective analysis would have led to the conclusion that Stalin’s leadership was unsatisfactory. The cult functioned as a propaganda campaign, holding the Soviet together during the difficult times caused by Stalin’s radical political policies. Censorship controls were reinforced to ensure that writers wrote only in such a way as to enhance and glorify the victory of socialism. The cult penetrated all levels of society and played a crucial role in stabilizing the country in confusing, different and difficult times.

The Stakhanov record:
As the party wanted to increase productivity they made use of clever propaganda. Alexei Stakhanov was a worker whose job was to cut coal. He usually produced more than other workers, and always produced more than the daily quota. In 1935 party organizers set up ideal conditions for Stakhanov, he was provided with an uninterrupted supply of compressed air, a good pick, and an assistant. After this ideal shift he had succeeded to produce 16 times more than the daily quota. He was rewarded with several bonuses, and a month’s wage. After this a special meeting of coal hewers (gruvarbetare) was called and they encourage the coal hewers to beat Stakhanov’s record. Record mania swept over Russia and workers increased their productivity as they sought to beat various records, as the party encouraged Stakhanovism. This was a smart way of raising the efficiency of the factories through propaganda.
However, the Stakhanov movements also had downsides, as workers put a lot of pressure on managers to give them the best tools, so they also could achieve the status of being a “Stakhanovite”, but there were not enough good tools for everybody. The shortages frustrated the workers and lead to that many workers switched jobs as the old managers hindered them from working in a “Stakhanovite fashion”. This led to inconsistency in the workforce, which led to chaos, since many workers were not educated for their type of work, as they frequently switched jobs. Besides that Stakhanovism also led to resentment among many workers, as when the Stakhanov movement spread over Russia the daily quotas one had to fulfil as a worker rose to as much as 30 percent
Evaluate the relative significance of these methods - which do you think was most important in maintaining his rule?
This was clearly the most effective method of maintaining rule. The purges got rid off all Stalin's opponents + future opponents. No one dared to oppose Stalin after the purges, Russian society was in constant fear.

Stalin's domestic policies did more bad than good. The five year plans + collectivization had disastrous effects on the Russian population, which created discontent with the government (Check Hanna's topic for more info)

This was also successful, even though Stakhanovite movement backfired, Stalin's cult of personality established his complete dominance in the party as well as in Russian society.

What was the extent of the internal opposition that Stalin faced during his reign? (Red textbook, pp. 206 - 207, 290)

Opposition from within the party (pp. 206 -7)
1)-Collectivization + industrialization had alienated large sections of the people from the party.

2)-People in the party did not think Stalin’s policies were the right way to build socialism

3) Party members were horrified by the cruelty in Stalin’s policies.

There was also opposition to Stalin in the higher levels of the party. Top officials wanted to slow down the pace of collectivization and industrialization.

Opposition from the peasants (pp. 164 - 165, 172, 206 - 7)
Peasants resisted the collectivisation bitterly. There were frequent riots, and peasants burned their crops and killed their animals instead of handing over everything to the Bolsheviks. Peasants did not like the new collectives, in which the government seized much of their grain and exercised much control over their daily lives.

Opposition from the workers (pp. 206 -7)
Industrialization had created tensions in the society. Workers were angry because of the low wages+ poor working conditions in the factories.

Opposition from the Church (p. 290)
Former people classified as “bourgeois” (such as priests) were extremely dissatisfied as their lives had completely been destroyed. The anti-church campiangs initiated by Stalin + Lenin give rise to much resentment from the church.

external image 519cpSeVuxL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU02_.jpg
pp. 122 - 126

pp. 164 - 165, 172, 206-7, 290
pp. 164 - 165, 172, 206-7, 290