After the War

     4. As we've seen, Stalin believed an important problem for both the USSR and the Bolshevik Party was the situation of "dual power." The Party, not the government, really ruled society. Increasingly, the Party officials exercised control by oversight, or supervision, rather than as managers of production.

     5. Getting the party out of direct control of the state would serve a number of purposes:

     It would institute the 1936 Constitution and strengthen the ties of the Soviet population to the Soviet state.
     It would return the running of state institutions to those who were really qualified.
     It would save the Party from degenerating -- in its upper levels -- into a caste of parasitical and corrupt careerists.

     6. Until the war the Politburo had met at least twice a week. In May 1941 Stalin became the official head of the Soviet state, replacing Molotov as Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, or Sovnarkom, the official executive body of the government of the USSR.

     7. But during the war the USSR was in reality run neither by this body nor by the Party, but by the State Committee for Defense composed of Stalin and three of his closest associates. During the war the Central Committee held only one Plenum, while not only during the war, but also after it, the Politburo met rarely. According to Pyzhikov, "the Politburo, for all practical purposes, did not function." Soviet dissident Zhores Medvedev believes that the Politburo met only 6 times in 1950, 5 times in 1951, and 4 times in 1952.2 That is, Stalin took the Politburo out of the running of the state (Pyzhikov, 100; Medvedev, Sekretnyi).

     8. Stalin seems to have neglected his role as head of the Party. CC Plenums became rare. No Party Congress was held for the thirteen years between 1939 and 1952. After the war Stalin signed joint decisions of the Party and government simply as Chairman of the Council of Ministers (the renamed Council of Peoples' Commissars), leaving one of the other Party secretaries, Zhdanov or Malenkov, to sign on behalf of the Party (Pyzhikov 100)

     9. The Party's authority remained high. But perhaps this was so only because Stalin was still General Secretary of the Party. He was the only Allied leader to remain in office after the war: Roosevelt had died, and Churchill was voted out of office in 1945. It is no exaggeration to say that, among working people, Stalin was the most famous, and most respected, person in the world. The communist movement he headed was the hope of hundreds of millions of people. It had expanded tremendously as a result of the victory over fascism. Stalin's great prestige as head of state gave authority to the Party apparatus (Mukhin, Ubiystvo 622; Ch. 13 passim).

     10. Stalin's actions suggest that he was still trying to remove the Party from direct rule over the state. However, if this was so he went about it cautiously. Perhaps we can infer some reasons for this caution:

     Showing an unwarranted lack of trust in the Party would be a bad example to the other countries of the world, where the Communist Parties had not seized power yet.
     The Central Committee and nomenklatura would oppose it, as they had before the war.

Therefore, this would have to be done quietly, with as little disruption as possible. (Mukhin, Ubyistvo 611)

The 1947 Draft of the Party Program