Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938

Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938

J. Arch Getty

Language: English

Pages: 285

ISBN: 0511572611

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

This is a study of the structure of the Soviet Communist Party in the 1930s. Based upon archival and published sources, the work describes the events in the Bolshevik Party leading up to the Great Purges of 1937-1938. Professor Getty concludes that the party bureaucracy was chaotic rather than totalitarian, and that local officials had relative autonomy within a considerably fragmented political system. The Moscow leadership, of which Stalin was the most authoritarian actor, reacted to social and political processes as much as instigating them. Because of disputes, confusion, and inefficiency, they often promoted contradictory policies. Avoiding the usual concentration on Stalin's personality, the author puts forward the controversial hypothesis that the Great Purges occurred not as the end product of a careful Stalin plan, but rather as the bloody but ad hoc result of Moscow's incremental attempts to centralise political power.

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as well as corrupt officials fell into this category. One of the reasons for the formation of the TsKK outside the Central Committee was to ensure its independence and, presumably, to decrease the possibility that the TsKK might hesitate to investigate an important official with control over the investigating agency. It was understood that purges were to be carried out "irrespective of person," that is, regardless of the rank of the member. Notwithstanding the intentions of the central party

probably be turned against rank-and-flle members outside the local machines. If the purge were to take a more populist character, maximizing mass input and criticism, members of the local leadership machines would have more cause for worry. In the future, central authorities would change 50 Origins of the Great Purges the administration of the purge to take this situation into account. As in 1929, elements within the leadership seem to have been worried about leftist "excesses" directed

solely to Kirov. A "policy of relaxation" was also perceived on the literary scene. At the Soviet Writers' Congress in August 1934, the venerable Maksim Gorky contrasted "proletarian humanism" to vicious fascism. This, in the wake of the dissolution of the contentious Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (which, in the name of "proletarian literature" had attacked writers considered too "bourgeois"), seemed to augur a more tolerant attitude toward literature. Previously suppressed artists

shortcomings in that he "used criticism of the Central Committee to shield himself."94 In the course of these discussion meetings, Rumiantsev and his circle were denounced for the failures in party work that had been spelled out so clearly in the regional conference resolution of the preceding week, and there is therefore no need to reiterate them here. A poignant final criticism of Rumiantsev came from one Comrade Klimkin and probably tells more about Klimkin and the general level of political

expel as many people from the party as possible. We expelled people when there were no grounds for explusion. We had one aim in view - to increase the number of embittered people and thus increase the number of our allies.19 Yet terror was uneven and uncoordinated. An examination of the 1937 material in the Smolensk Archive shows that in a number of organizations, the events from the February plenum through the fall of the generals to the removal of Rumiantsev and the Obkom leadership were

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