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Stalinism Research Papers

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The term Stalinism has been used to describe a wide variety of political ideologies and methods of social organization, and is often associated with dictatorial or totalitarian control of the state by a small leadership cadre. StalinismA more narrow definition that describes the development and implementation of Stalinism in the Soviet Union focuses on the way in which the bureaucracy evolved after the Russian Revolution to form and protect its interests that were often opposed to the interests of the working class. From this perspective, the social origins of Stalinism lie in the underdeveloped nature of the Soviet Union following the revolution and the traditional autocratic nature of Russian society. The perceived need to direct all available resources towards the development of the economy gave rise to a centralized control mechanism administered by a burgeoning bureaucracy. The political origins of Stalinism lie in the perception that the Soviet Union had to develop as an independent state without relying on the Bolshevist premise that the revolution in the Soviet Union was intertwined with expected revolutions in the more industrialized nations of Europe.

During the period of Lenin’s leadership of the Soviet Union following the revolution, the primary focus of the government was on consolidation of power. This process required that the government contend with the internal threats posed by White Russian forces and various ethnic groups while simultaneously containing the Siberian intervention by foreign powers and avoiding the threat of subsequent interventions. After the consolidation of Bolshevik power and the death of Lenin, however, the focus of the government began to shift towards the economic development of the Soviet Union. This shift occurred largely due to the initiatives of Stalin after his acquisition of power and was the result of his perception that the Soviet Union was functionally isolated from the rest of the world and had to develop its economy independently from other nations. To some degree, this perceived need to develop economic strength without relying on the possibility the workers in other nations would follow the Soviet example was based on a pragmatic assessment of the geopolitical situation. It can be viewed as a long-term strategy based on the experiences of the post-revolution consolidation period in which numerous internal and external threats challenged the revolutionary leadership. In general, it was a means to preserve the revolution that differed significantly from the means envisioned by Marx, Lenin and many of the Bolsheviks.

Many scholars have also examined Stalin's motives in encouraging the Moscow Trials, however a lack of available evidence, despite the release of many Soviet documents from this era, makes this purely speculative.

  • Stalin's decision to exterminate old Bolsheviks was based on his requirement for a monolithic Party structure, as well as the Bolshevik principle of pursuit.
  • During the transition from Leninism to Stalinism, the fear of enemy remnants within the Party grew, even though many of Stalin's old cadres had abandoned power and posed no real opposition by the mid-1930s.
  • Stalin recognized that with the likelihood of a war, these quiet leaders could become powerful, just as the Bolshevik groups did during the First World War.
  • The Moscow Trials were considered to be a preventive measure that would ensure the monolithic nature of the Party and destroy any potential opposition before it could be realized.

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