To what extent did Stalin’s power over the party change between 1928 and 1953?


Throughout the course of Stalin’s power over the USSR, he exhibited control through the many forms of an autocratic dictator, showcasing forms of terror in an extremely centralised government as well as terror shown by purges. Stalin’s course of power originated on the fundamental foundations of terror throughout the communist party leading onto further formations of the Soviet constitution and the rise of high Stalinization that formed within the latter half of Stalin’s control due to his tactics within the party. These forms of power display a noticeable change through the dependence on the tactics used that Stalin has to how he exercises the forms of power that originate from regulating the communist party at the very beginning of his authority to the slow demise of his power post-war.

One of Stalin’s main tactics to secure his power was the removal of political rivals so that his own policies could be put forward easier as well as eliminating any obstacles to his rise in power. There were disagreements within the party during 1928, such as the Rights concern about the removal of the NEP that was translated by Stalin as standing in the way of ‘socialism in one country’. Stalin neutralised the right through undermining Bukharin to get to the wider opposition of the right in the politburo. Targeting individuals at the extent that Stalin did with Bukharin was a good tactic used to stabilize his control that is shown to have foreboded possible future methods used by Stalin to minimize threats to his power (possibly the Kirov murder1934).  However, there is a notable change within the shift of the number of purges used by Stalin that contrasts to the beginning foundation formed by the removal of his political rivals.

The purges of the 1930s further secured his hold over the party. Stalin used forces of terror such as the chistka to accentuate the power that he was controlling. Additions such as the chistka imply the lengths that Stalin took to rule over the party and signifies the start of reliance upon the use of terror through purges as it is shown to be a focal factor in maintaining the power. This unchanging way of regulating the party was a good way to get rid of opposing party members, and to Stalin, this was a vital way of securing his prominent authority within the government. It secured the allegiance of Stalin’s cronies, and as said by professor of history; Ronald Grigor Suny ’purging was a permanent and necessary component of totalitarianism in lieu of elections to seeing the Great Terror as an extreme form of political infighting’, it shows how before the war the great purges played a focal role with Stalin’s power over the party and was a shift from the early 1930s where the severity of the purges heightened.  Through the 1930s as the purges widened, it further highlights the dependence and the importance of purges, and it indicated how Stalin was working at his own agenda to not only secure the communist party but also trying to secure his own personal position. Furthermore, this is especially demonstrated through how purges widened with show trials after the Kirov murder as an excuse to ensure loyalty. This factor can be shown as a similarity or a constant that has always been a motive for Stalin, due to the fact that the purges of the Politburo were to ensure that the ruling opinion was Stalin’s. This tightening of power over the party creates more terror, which could suggest superficial power over the party due to the fact that it is not party members actual opinions and intentions. It can bring up the question; if the actual intention to agree with policies is not there, then is true power?

The Soviet constitution of 1936 showcases a different type of control that is utilized by Stalin. It was not a form of terror as such, but a façade of a democratic constitution created to display a united front for the government, it shows off a different type of way Stalin secured his power over the party. Additionally there were limits to Stalin’s power that has shown to have weakened his strength over the party such as personal limits and limits imposed within the leadership, such as concerns expressed by the Politburo about the increased use of brutality and even economic plans presented by Stalin that faced high amounts of concern from within the Politburo. These concerns show the dissatisfaction within the party members that hindered Stalin’s power to dictate without obstacles, these factors can show how only the strongest force for control over the party were the purges.

During the war Stalin’s power was at a high and it demonstrates a change in Stalin’s form of power over the party as purges decreased and even some ex party generals were released from gulags (Russian labor camps) The use of propaganda heighted to retain support and to mobilize the masses for the war effort, it shows a direct contrast to the brutality used within the party before the war. The events of the war rose Stalin up as a hero for the Soviets and soon developed into High Stalinism, increasing the influence that Stalin had over people and exhibits the power of this cult of personality that formed.

After the war Stain needed to reassert power over the party, yet the exterior look of power and control that Stalin had developed was shown to have been a façade as his health started to decline. Stalin gradually relied on political scheming to minimize threats to his position and power. Additionally, Stalin could no longer command his subordinates and could only maintain through the intrigue of terror. This is further showcased through the Mingrelian affair and the use of expanding the politburo to use as counterweight against Beria and Malenkov. It further highlights the façade that Stain was still powerful when in reality his power was draining away so he had to resort to diluting other party member’s power to make himself seem more powerful. The decline of power that reflects his health shows an end to Stalin’s ability to control the party yet his cult of personality is still maintained.

To conclude, from 1928-1953 Stalin’s power noticeably changes through the course of his control over the communist party through the forms of terror implemented over the party, ranging from the extents of the terror, such as the great purges of the late 1930s that exhibited a great amount of terror to implement control, over the party. Changes to Stalin’s method of control starts to change over the course of the war and the deterioration of the maintenance of power starts to show after the war. This direct contrast to the beginning of Stalin’s power with a heightened method of control to the draining away of power as a façade begins to form highlights the extent to which the power drastically changed over the course of 1928-1953.

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