1.1.02 Nature of Gov- Dictatorship


Dictatorship under Lenin 1917-24

  • Main Sims and Diffs b/w autocracy and dictatorship?
  • Sims= both assume absolute rule by one person with restrictions on personal freedom
  • Diffs= autocracy justified by divine right, dictatorship by other means (laws of Marxism for communist dict) 
  • Power derived by autocrats can be limited eg by "mystical bond", but powers of dictator not limited by anything-> their own opposite "mystical bond" that they're working in the interests of the people eg Cult of Personality
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Marxism (Engels, Marx) is based on two key principles:

  • Marx believed that in all societies there was a ruling elite who impose a superstructure of institutions (e.g Orthodox church) upon the BASE LAYER aka the proletariat. Therefore, these institutions had to be destroyed to create an egalitarian society. 
  • The 'Labour theory of value' adopted by Marx, claimed that under a capitalist economy the proletariat never gain the full value of their efforts. But, this would eventually lead to revolution against the bourgeouisie from the workers which would end up with an idealised industrial state- but Marx believed that htis was definitely going to happen -> Determinism
  • After final revolution (and seizure of the means of the production, distrubution and exchange), there would be a short transitory period whereby there would be a dictatorship of the proletariat  before full communism could emerge. 
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  • Bolsheviks had own interpretation of Marxism, with their own 'guidelines' that suited their circumstances. 
  • Early 1900s, Lenin disagreed with some of his colleagues in the RSDLP (Social Democratic Party) about the socialist rev in Russia. Unlike Martov (later a Menshevik) he believed that they could bypass te need for a democratically elected assembly, and just jump ahead to a Communist regime government led by Party Central Committee led by a dedicated bunch of revolutionaries. This was Lenin's interpretation of the DOTP. This was main justification for Lenin's dictatorship from 1917-24.
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Implementation of Marxism-Leninism

  • Lenin set out his interpretation of Marxism in What is to be Done? (same name as Chernyshevsky 1863 novel) pamphlet (1902). Caused the split in the RSDLP so by 1903 there were now Bolsheviks and Mensheviks
  • After Bolshevik revolution in Oct 1917 and defeat of opposition in the Civil War 1917-1921 started to implement policy.
  • War Commnism used to ensure there was no drigft from close followers, was implemented ruthlessly like A3 implemented Russification using the secret police (A3= Ohkrana, L = Cheka)
  • Toleration of moderates by Lenin (like A2)- Changed War Communism policy to New Economic Policy in 1921
  • Trotsky, more radical left wing Bolshevik, wanted 'permanent revolution'= spreading of communism throughout the world whereas Bukharin (+Stalin) disagreed and NEP necessary measure to ensure consolidation of 'socialism in one country'.
  • Similarity to A2, Lenin was willing to allow concessions and implement reforms when necesssary but reamined true to his ideal of maintaining dictatorship.
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Totalitarianism (Stalin)

From 1928 onwards Stalin redefined Marxism-Leninism and moved Russia towards a totalitarian state through Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism, two key strands:

  • Base of society could be permanently changed by using a particular type of 'superstructure' (hierarchy). Did this through the command economy- one which is completely controlled by the state, based on centralised planning (Five Year Plans) and collectivisation
  • Superstructure had to be highly personalised under control of one person. Would prevent infighting. Disagreement = bourgeois and propaganda/cult of personality would reinforce Stalin's ideology. Repression of opposition on unprecedented scale
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Why a shift to Totalitarianism?

Historians have different explanations for Stalin's shift which include:

  • practical solution to Soviet Union's problems by using collectivisation and FYPs in order to modernise
  • Stalin's personality and megalomania meant this was his brand of Marxism-Leninism
  • Some have argued that Stalin was continuing the work of Lenin- Lenin afterall had used the Cheka to implement policy and deal with opposition. The establishment of the Party Central Committee suggests that Lenin did have an intention of centralising control of all aspects of Russian life

Whatever the reasons, Stalin's rule was taken to a new terrifying level. During most fervent period of his Purges Great Terror 1936-8 almost 1 million russians shot by the NKVD, and 3 million in the Gulags by 1939. And own Party was purged. only 16/71 of members of the 1934 Central Committee of the CPSU were alive in 1939

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  • Nikita Khrushchev's policy, 1953-64 
  • After Stalin's death in 1953, power struggle between Malenkov, Beria, Khruschev, Vorishilov 
  • Immediate attempt after Stalin's death to reorganise the political establishment and discard Stalinists= Presidium reduced to 10 members, and by 1956 1/3 of Party Central Committee was new. 
  • Khrushchev's denouncement of Stalinism in 1956 Secret Speech "The cult of the individual and its consequences" on the grounds that:-
  • -It was not Lenin's wish that Stalin became leader of Soviet Union
  • -Stalin had not prepared USSR properly for WWII or the Great Patriotic War 1941-45
  • -Stalin had committed crimes against the Russian people
  • -Possible 'outsider' allies, eg Hungary Stalin ordered assasination of Hungarian rev leader Béla Kun, had been alienated by Stalin
  • Release of political prisoners from labour camps, started b4 Secret Speech, but gained speed 
  • Relaxation of censorship publication of critical articles, novels and plays eg work by Solzhenitsyn and Pasternak
  • Attempts to remove legacy of cult of personality- Stalingrad renamed Volgograd and in 1961 Stalin's body was removed from the Lenin Mausoleum.
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Reaction and Conclusion DeStal

  • However, very similar reaction to Khrushchev's reforms as to that of A2's. There were strikes, riots and protests for even greater freedoms (especially from Satellite states including Yugoslavia, Poland and Hungary). Change: Khrushchev did resist the temptation to use violence to deal with unrest and let the MVD deal with it. 
  • But, (continuity) NK did dismiss rebellious politicians eg Bulganin and Zhukov and Anti-party Group eg Molotov and Kagonovich. 
  • And used physical force to deal with unrest eg Tanks were sent into Hungary in 1956 to suppress the Nagy regime. Therefore like A2, NK did not intend to move too far from authoritarian rule. 
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Conc. Continuity vs Change

Similarities (Continuity)

  • Belief in need for absolute control (Fundamental Laws, all Soviet leaders no move away)
  • Personalised power
  • Use of repression to maintain control
  • Use of reform to maintain control (N2 1905 October Manifesto, Lenin 1921 NEP)
  • Reluctance ot allow opennes and proliferation of freedoms (A2 rule and NK rule)

Differences (Change)

  • Justification for autocratic rule Tsars = God/Divine right, Soviets = Marx
  • Views on human nature Tsars = weaknesses inherent, soviets = social class+environment detr.
  • Views on reform, Tsars= challenge to gov not welcomed, Soviets = not welcomed as maintained bourgeois system
  • Views on rep. govern: Tsars = a threat due to dilution of power, Soviets= threat due to parliaments being bourgeois + dilution of power tbf see closure of Constituent Assembly 1918
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