The Anti-Bureaucracy Struggle

     37. The Stalin leadership was also concerned about the Party's role in this new stage of socialism. Stalin himself raised the fight against "bureaucratism" with great vigor as early as his Report to the 17th Party Congress in January 1934.10 Stalin, Molotov and others called the new electoral system a "weapon against bureaucratization."

     38. Party leaders controlled the government both by determining who entered the Soviets and by exercising various forms of oversight or review over what the government ministries did. Speaking at the 7th Congress of Soviets on February 6, 1935 Molotov said that secret elections "will strike with great force against bureaucratic elements and provide them a useful shock." Yenukidze's report had not recommended, or even mentioned, secret elections and the widening of the franchise. (Stalin, Report to 17th P.C.; Zhukov, Inoy 124)

     39. Government ministers and their staffs had to know something about the affairs over which they were in charge, if they were to be effective in production. This meant education, usually technical education, in their fields. But Party leaders often made their careers by advancement through Party positions alone. No technical expertise was needed for this kind of advancement. Rather, political criteria were required. These Party officials exercised control, but they themselves often lacked the technical knowledge that could in theory make them skilled at supervision. (Stalin-Howard Interview; Zhukov, Inoy 305; Zhukov, "Repressii" 6)

     40. This is, apparently, what the Stalin leadership meant by the term "bureaucratism." Though they viewed it as a danger -- as, indeed, all Marxists did -- they believed it was not inevitable. Rather, they thought that it could be overcome by changing the role of the Party in socialist society.

     41. The concept of democracy that Stalin and his supporters in the Party leadership wished to inaugurate in the Soviet Union would necessarily involve a qualitative change in the societal role of the Bolshevik Party.

Those documents that were accessible to researchers did allow us to understand . . . that already by the end of the 1930s determined attempts were being undertaken to separate the Party from the state and to limit in a substantive manner the Party's role in the life of the country. (Zhukov, Tayny 8)

Stalin and supporters continued this struggle against opposition from other elements in the Bolshevik Party, resolutely but with diminishing chances for success, until Stalin died in March 1953. Lavrentii Beria's determination to continue this same struggle seems to be the real reason Khrushchev and others murdered him, either judicially, by trial on trumped-up charges in December 1953, or -- as much evidence suggests -- through literal murder, the previous June.

    42. Article 3 of the 1936 Constitution reads, "In the U.S.S.R. all power belongs to the working people of town and country as represented by the Soviets of Working People's Deputies." The Communist Party is mentioned in Article 126 as "the vanguard of the working people in their struggle to strengthen and develop the socialist system and is the leading core of all organizations of the working people, both public and state." That is, the Party was to lead organizations, but not the legislative or executive organs of the state. (1936 Constitution; Zhukov, Tayny 29-30)

     43. Stalin seems to have believed that, once the Party was out of direct control over society, its role should be confined to agitation and propaganda, and participation in the selection of cadres. What would this have meant? Perhaps something like this.

The Party would revert to its essential function of winning people to the ideals of communism as they understood it.
This would mean the end of cushy sinecure-type jobs, and a reversion to the style of hard work and selfless dedication that characterized the Bolsheviks during the Tsarist period, the Revolution and Civil War, the period of NEP, and the very hard period of crash industrialization and collectivization. During these periods Party membership, for most, meant hard work and sacrifice, often among non-Party members, many of whom were hostile to the Bolsheviks. It meant the need for a real base among the masses. (Zhukov, KP Nov. 13 02; Mukhin, Ubiystvo)

     44. Stalin insisted that Communists should be hard-working, educated people, able to make a real contribution to production and to the creation of a communist society. Stalin himself was an indefatigable student.11

     45. To summarize, the evidence suggests that Stalin intended the new electoral system to accomplish the following goals:

Make sure that only technically trained people led, in production and in Soviet society at large;
Stop the degeneration of the Bolshevik Party, and return Party members, especially leaders, to their primary function: giving political and moral leadership, by example and persuasion, to the rest of society;
Strengthen the Party's mass work;
Win the support of the country's citizens behind the government;
Create the basis for a classless, communist society.

Stalin's Defeat

Trials, conspiracies, Repression

Notes, Bibliograpy part One