DIRECTORATE OF INTELLIGENCE
THE STALIN ISSUE AM) THE SOVIET LEADERSHIP STRUGGLE
(Referenco Title: CAESAR XXXII)
5 July8 RSS No. 0
THE STALIN ISSUE AND THE SOVIET LEADERSHIP STRUGGLE
Since the ouster of Khrushchev In the fall4 the domestic political scene ln the Soviet Union hasa struggle for power within the leadership. Two of the key figures in this struggle, Brezhnev and Shelepin, have attempted to gain the support of the old-guard party apparatchiks by espousing orthodox policies; of the two Shelepin has been the more aggressive and Brezhnev ln general the more cautious, but thus far Brezhnev has clearly gained the upper hand in the competition. tho struggle hasradual but continuing reversion toward the ideological orthodoxy, rigid controls, and repression which characterized the Stalin years. One aspect of this move toward orthodoxy has been theof Stalin's reputation and the cleansing of his tarnlshod image, developments which many Soviet citizens fear mayeturn to "Stalinism."
The reign of Stalin covered someears, more than half the history of the Soviet Union. Iteriod of intense industrialization, of forced mass collectivization, and of the great sacrifices of World War II. It waseriod of terror and repression during which millions of Soviet citizens died In the purges. Although the terra "Stalinism"umber of connotations, to Soviet citizens ln general and to the intellectuals in particular, the term conjures up memories of total policeepression, terror, purge trials, and labor camps. It is in that context that the term is used is this paper.
Tho scope of the paper is limited to the general use by the leadership of the Stalin issue ln the struggle
a rehabilita-in the Soviet Union specific policy implications theas military
for power and the practical implications of tion of Stalin for intellectual freedom The paper does not deal with often involved in the use of expenditures, agriculture, nationalities
Uhpollcy <luestIons dividing the
Dbx upmuiai nusea:*ch Staff
Note= rnis report was produced solely by CIA it was prepared by the Special Research Staff and coordinated with the Office of Current Intelligence and the Office of National Estimates.
THE STALIN ISSUE AND THE SOVIET LEADERSHIP STRUGGLE
Since the fall of Khrushchev lnradual restoration of Stalin's political respectability within the Soviet Union has coincidedeturn to more orthodox policies and increasingly repressive methods of dealing with non-conformists. The issue of Stalin's rehabilitation has been used by various loaders, most notably Brezhnev and Shelepin, In their attempts to attain tho top position in the Party hierarchy. The aim of each has been to gain the support of the party apparatchiks, both high and medium level, many of whom were dismayed and felt threatened by Khrushchev's reformist tendencies. Thus, each has tried to demonstrate that ho and he alone is the legitimate leader of the party faithful. In order to do so, each hasorthodox views and each has attempted to reach around the reformer Khrushchev to Stalin in an effort toirect lino of legitimacy from Lenin.
Thus far, Brezhnev has prevailed over Shelepin in
the ongoing struggle for power; in order to do so he adopted
the neo-Stalinist position first assumed by the Shelepin
faction. Brezhnev has also managed to stave off attempts
by moderates within the leadership, represented by Podgornyy
and Kosygin, to push their own policy views; in the process
he has apparentlyeasure of support from them,
possibly by convincing them that the alternative to him
was even lessShelepin. However, while
Brezhnev has emerged as the strongest of the Soviet leaders,
his position is still limited by the nature of the leader-
ship;ajority of the Soviet leadersested
interest in preventing Brezhnev from acquiring too much power.
The Issue And What It Means
The Stalin issuereat emotional response among those who suffered during the Stalin years andeturn to the harsh repressive methods of those years.
At the sane time the issue has great political significance To Communists, history Isatter of academic concern; rather ltital element ln political llfo. Communist Ideology is based upon the inevitabilityertain historical progression, and the continued justification of the system as lt exists is based upon the porpetuation of that concept of history. Thus, all policies must at least have the appearance of conforming to the ideology, and for this reason each successive Soviet regime has felt tho need to rewrite Soviet history in order to support its
The classification of Stalin touches upon the very nature and legitimacy of tbe world's foremost Communist system. It was Impossible to denounce Stalin without placing ln question the myth of the party's infallibility and undermining its Ideological authority; this is precisely what happened ln the Soviet Union following6 denunciation of the Stalin period and its cult of personality. The continuing but gradual rehabilitation of Stalin is part of an attempt to return tho party and the systemosition of Ideological legitimacy. The damage done to the party's credibility by the denunciation of Stalin took its toll ln the morale of the party Thus the rehabilitation of Stalin also represents an attempt to reassure theseby naturethat the party retains its legitimacy and authority.
Khrushchev's attack on Stalin represented an attack on orthodoxy and inflexibility; it was the beginningrive for change. In general, those who support continued do-Stalinlzation are those who also favor change, reform, and liberalization. Tbey tend toward pragmatism and prefer to adapt theory to the needs of the country rather than vice-versa. Their inclination toward reform in goneral creates an atmosphere conducive to moro open discussion and,esult, more freedom. ositiveof Stalin, on the other hand,oro rigid, dogmatic approach to politics and economics. Those who view the Stalin eraavorable light havo generally argued the case for doctrinal continuity and havethe ideological rolo of tho party. Thoir approach
necessitates tight control and close supervision of the pragmatists and the intellectuals,orresponding lessening of personal freedom.
Alignment within the hierarchy on the Stalin issue, as well as on other policies, is quite complex, and the assignment of classifications to individuals and groups is admittedly somewhat arbitrary. It nonetheless serves the purpose of identifying and highlighting Shades of difference in approach and in points of view. There are several groupings within the leadership which might well wish the rehabilitation offor different reasons and ito different degrees. The old-line apparatchiks who tend to be dogmatic would, in all likelihood,eturn to an atmosphere of tight control and rigid,views; this is the atmosphere in which they rose to the top and in which they would feel more Individuals who seem to fit this description, best represented by Suslov, will be referred to as orthodox.
Another, seemingly more coordinated, group of individuals took the oarly lead in actively pushing anto criticism of Stalin's cult of personality and in urging tighter controls on tho content of published material. For this reason thoy are referred toeo-Stalinist faction. Their main purpose seems to have been toon the views of the orthodox apparatchiks in order to gain support in thoir drive for power. This faction is composed primarily of young members ofhierarchy, many of whomup through the Komsomol and have been closely aligned with Shelepin. The neo-Stalinists have demonstrated an ability to bepragmatic, unlike the orthodox grouping, and even to shift positions in order to attain their main goal, the acquisition of the instruments of power.
On the other side of the political spectrum, the moderates or pragmatistseed for change and reform in the Soviet Union and tend away from rigid, orthodox positions. Kosygin and probably Podgornyy (at least at one time) belong in this category. They would be inclined toehabilitation of Stalin. Even more to the
reform side of tho spectrum are the liberals. Tho member of the hierarchy whoclosost to representing this
f^fitl0n'dropped from the Presidium in6 The aaln strength of tho liberals is found saong theoxanplo, the chief editor of tho liberal journal Noviy Mir, Aleksandr Tvardovskiy. The Intellectuals want moroTroodom to write, to speak, and to dissent. They have actively opposed the restoration of Stalin's image.
?hlfts in policy concerning various aspects of the Stalin issue are reflected first in the Intellectual Reversionavorable view of Stalin has required historians and writers to adhere to the new line. Tho re-Stalinizers have domandod that criticism of Stalin coase and, in the past throe years, they have had considerable success in efforts to untarnlsh Stalin's historical image. The re-Stalinizers also demand that written material be Judged according to the principles of socialistwhich means that, whon writing on the Soviet Union, criticism is out of order and only tho achievements and promisos of Communism may be discussed. In order to restore Stalin's political respectability, therefore, it has been necessary to reimpose prescribed, rigid formulas, and to clamp down on non-conformists.
Increasing pressure on intellectuals to conform has, in fact, accompanied the gradual rehabilitation of Stalin. In the three years sinco Khrushchev's ouster, tho regimo's warnings, threats, and outright repression have intensified. Frustrated in thoir efforts to continue their moves toward greater freedom and frightonod by what they considered toove back toward Stalinist methods, the intellectuals have responded with demonstrations, petitions, and letters of protest. These, in turn, have resulted in oven strongor measures by theexpulsion from the party arrests, commitments to mental Institutions, andin labor camps. Tho result haspiraling cycle
of action and reaction resulting in increasingly harsh measures.
Alignment of Forces
Tbe regime's moves toward harshor policies have generated considerable public opposition, and have beenart of--an ongoing struggle for power within tho hierarchy. In tho first few months after Khrushchev's ouster, the new Soviet leaders were preoccupied with establishing their positions and organizing their forces. Botheo-Stalinist, andoderate, seemed to be in fairly powerful positions, with Brezhnev seeminglyiddle ground. The existence of this somewhat diffused political situation was reflected in the lacklear policy on culture, resulting in considerable freedom for the Intellectuals. Liberal articles were numerous and criticism of Stalin widespread.
If any faction seemed tolight edge at the time lt was the moderates. Apparent Presidium-level supportersoderate policy included Podgornyy, Kosygin, and Mikoyan, while those who clearly seemed toard line woro Shelepin, Shelost, and Suslov. With the Presidium divided ln thisalancing group, conservative by inclination and headed by Brezhnev, possessed considerable power to swing votes in favor of one group or another. Polyanskiy and Kirilenko probably belonged to this group.
Brezhnov apparently saw his biggost throat as coming from the moderates. In5 an attack was launched against Kbar'kov Oblast, Podgornyy's former bailiwick; the author of the article was Shcherbitskiy, the FirBt Secretary of Dnepropetrovsk Oblast, Brozhnev's old power base. In the same month members of the neo-Stalinlst faction (Pavlov and Yegorychev) attacked those who criticize the period of the cult of personality. Thus, the struggle for power had begun, with the moderates coming under attack from both the neo-Stalinists and Brezhnev.
By the early spring5 the backersehabilitation of Stalinell-coordinated campaign underway to restore Stalin's World War II imago. Although Brezhnev's statements at tho time were not so harsh as those of such neo-Stallnists as Moscow City Chief Yegorychev and Komsomol First Secretary Pavlov, he must have supported the proposal to restore Stalin's reputation and haveecision in favor of it. He probably had various reasons for doing so. In ordor to Justify Khrushchev's ouster lt was useful to demonstrate that Khrushchev had Btrayed from the truo party line; thus, if virtually the whole period of party rule was not to be in disrepute, the respectability of the Stalin era (and of Stalin himself) must be restored. Secondly, Brezhnev too was fighting for the leadership and must have felt that he needed the support of the orthodox apparatchiks.
The decision to rehabilitate Stalin was Implemented first with respect to Stalin's imageartime loader. Various military leaders made increasingly favorable comments concerning Stalinartime leader. Thehas been ln the forefront on the Stalin issue no matter which line tho party hasusing the issue to defend the prerogatives of the military. When de-Stallnizatlon was the line, tho military criticized Stalin for not listening to the professionals. Now, they began to prais'o him because he did listen. Anotherof the trend was the partial suspension ln tho spring5 of the program of rehabilitating Stalin's victims. This partial rehabilitation of Stalin was given official sanction inhen Brezhnev became the first member of the hierarchy to mention Stalin's name in public; at this time he referred lo Stalin as the wartime head of the State Defense Committee.
In the summer and early fall5 tho liberals fought back against the onslaughts of both the neo-Stnlinlsts and Brezhnev. Publication of rehabilitations of Stalin's victims was resumedumber of liberal articles appeared. In earlyiberal defense of the intellectuals, signed by Pravda editor Rumyantsev,
associate of Podgornyy, appoared in Pravda. This counterattack by tho liberals was, however, sTiort-iivod. Rumyantsov was fired in mid- September and roplaced byelorussian closely associated with Belorussian leaders Mazurov and Masherov, both of whom were to express neo-Stallnist opinions subsequently. Also in September the writers Daniel and Slnyavskiy were arrested for having published works abroad; thisictoryard-line approach.
Shelepin's Bid Fails But Hnrd-Line Prevails
. Shelepin's drive for power, begun inntensified throughout tho summer and early fall* but it had been decisively defeated by the December central committee plenum. The Party-State Control Committee which he headed was abolished, and he was removed from his position as deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers However, the moderates alsoet-back at the plenum indicating that the strength to strike at Shelepin had not been mobilized by them, although they might well have supported it. Podgornyy replaced Mikoyan as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet,osition with far less political power than his position on the party Secretariat, which he lost. Furthermore, Mikoyan's removal indicated that this strong supporteroderate position was on his way out. Thus, the net gainer at this time was Brezhnev, who probably had gained the support of suslov by supporting orthodox views.
Brezhnev's support for re-Stalinizing and tho need for conformity had been revealed in the publication in5 of an article by an apparent protege of his. Trapeznikov, Instructing propagandists that the period off finouJdbe viewed negatively and indicating that this applied not only to the question of wartimo leadership but to other aspects of the period,such asand industrialization. ravda article the following January instructed historians to stop describing tho Stalin era as the period of the cult of personality.
as this time In history had been characterized by many positive achievements. Consequonces of this move toward orthodoxy include the arrests innd trial the following February, of tho writers, Daniel and Slnyavsxiy, for unauthorized publication of their works in tho West.
On the eve ofd Congross, which opened in late thero were numerous reports that Stftlin would be formally rehabilitated. umber of hard-line articles and speeches given during this period supported tbe rumors, as did the apparently well-coordinated program to improve Stalin's historical reputation. The rumors were alsoby the resurrectionumber of Stalinist terms-such as cosmopolitanism, sharpening of the class struggle (used in reference tond enemies of the The prospectehabilitation of Stalin drew strong negative reactions from severnl foreign Communist countries and frightened reactions from Soviet intellectuals, who sentetter urging that Stalin not be rehabilitated.
Perhaps in response to these reactions the Soviot leaders stepped backull-scale formal rehabilitation, and when the congross opened only the vostlges ofrogramrestoration of the terms Politburo and General Secrotary. While tho return of these Stalinist terms was purely symbolic, it nonetheless demonstrated the mood of the Soviet leadership and suggested tho direction ln which it wished to go. Brezhnev's acquisition of the title General Secrotary set him apart from his colleagues, distinguished him from Khrushchev, and identified him with Stalin, the only othor Soviet leader ever to hold this
Brezhnev's success was further reflected in the fact that both the moderates and Shelepin again sufferod set-backs at tho congress. Mikoyan was dropped from the Politburo; Sholopln, apparently at this time, was assigned
responsibility for lightlear step down for him. Brezhnev and the orthodox element in the party gained, however, Pelshe, the Latvian First Secretary anduslov associate,ull member of the Politburo, andrezhnev protege,andidate member. The continued strength of Shelepin's views was suggested by tho appointmentandidate Politburo member of Belorussian First Secretary Masherov, who, whilerotege of Shelepin, supported many of the same views.
Brezhnev's speech at the congress was mild compared with some of those which followed, indicating that in spite of the adoption of an increasingly hard-line stand, pressuro by the neo-Stalinist faction for even harsher methods Some of these speakers called for administrative action against non-conformist writers, and such liberal journals as NQvly Mir and Yunost' received strong criticism. After the congress these threats wero haltederiod, perhaps because of the sharp protests, both foreign and domestic on the eve of tho congress, or possiblyesult of Shelepin's defeat.
Perhaps encouraged by the failure of the congress to formally rehabilitate Stalin and the reassurances given to them that Stalinist times would not return, the liberals proceeded to write andumber of articles in the late spring and early summer In particular, thereemporary upsurge in the program ofStalin's victims,umber of articles criticizing Stalin for his role in collectivization appeared. This initiative was quickly squashed however, and articles casting Stalinavorablo light soon predominated onco again.
In spite of the prevalenceonservative influence, the liberals continued to voice opposition In February and in the summer, two
meetings were held, one toook by a. Nekrlch criticizing prowar preparations, and the second to discuss the third volume oi the History of the CPSU. At each of those meetings those in charge lost control and attacks were launched by participants on Stalin and the personality cult. umber of petitions also wero circulated; for example, inroup of intellectuals protested the passageecree extending an article of the RSFSR criminal code to Include any form of "slander" of Soviet society; the Intellectuals feared that this would open the way for further reprosssion of tho intellectuals. Also in December Llteratiirnaya Gazeta published an articleruthful examination of tho past. Orthodoxy still dominated, but resistance to the pressure to conform continued.
Leadership Tension Continues
Friction within the leadership was reflectedebate which was waged in the press during the summer and early fall The issue was that of collective leadership versus Individual responsibility and all factions participated. The neo-Stalinlsts opened the debate with several articles stressing the importance of collective leadership and warning of the dangers inherent in theof one-man rule. They received support from an unlikely directlon--the liberals who usod the cult ofand the resulting violations of legality to illustrate the evils of one-man rule. Both of these factions clearlyested interest ln retainingleadership and in preventing Brezhnev from acquiring too much power.
Brezhnev and his backers responded to the concerted attacks with several articles emphasizing the need for responsibility and discipline, stressing the Importance of individual leadership, and quoting Lonln to the effect that irresponsibility must not be permitted to hide beneath references to collectivity. Brezhnev also responded by mentioning favorably that most notable of individual leaders-Stalin; ovember speech in Tbilisi, he referred to Stalin as an "ardent revolutionary."
A rigid, orthodox policy clearly prevailed in The rehabilitation program was halted and refurbishing of Stalin's imago continued. Dissident Intellectuals were arrested, particularly in the Ukraine and Leningrad, where party leaders Shelest and Tolstikov supported the neo-Stalinist line. Other examples of the ascendancy of orthodoxy were the harassment of Novly Mir and the replacement of two key members of its editorial-board, and the expulsion of the historian Nokrich from tho party in July for his criticism of Stalin's handling of tho prewar situation.
With the moderatos on the defensive, Brezhnev and his followers next turned their big guns on Sholepin. Inhelepin's protego Somlchastnyy was removed as head of tho KGB and the following month the most outspoken neo-Stallnlst, Yegorychov, was removed as Moscow City First Secretary. Shortly before his dismissal, Yegorychev had reportedly attacked tho leadorshipentral Committee plenum for its handling of the Middle East criBis. Shelepin was apparently held responsible for Yegorychov's attack and his power was curtailed; in July he became head of the Soviet Union's trade union organization and then In September he was removed from tho secretariat.
jIn tho face of BreZnnovts organizational victories, Shelepin s. backers began to issue more warnings in the press against high-handed leadership methods. As they had they again stressed collective leadership, but they came down most strongly on the right of party members to criticize their superiors, citing the dangers involved ineader who cannot take criticism. Two of those articles used the cult of personality (one directly andindirectly) to illustrate the dangers inherent ln the imposition of one-manBrezhnev's. The adoption in67 of an anti-Stalin lino of argument by Shelepin's neo-Stalinist
supporters was an indication of their dosporation. Finding themselvesulnerable position, they used argumonts best suited to help prevent both the acquisition of further power by Brezhnev and thoir own subjection to more political TiiZt '< Sone* individuals not in sympathy with Yegorychev's views might also have feared the precedent set by Yegorychev's abrupt dismissal.
c, suffered by Shelepin and the noo-
Vlt he 8Drln67 briefly encouraged the liberal intellectuals. At the end of June several
CGnsor*hip *nd urging its abolition Inn bii85ed:alBOStthoy wero repudiated tne hjrd-llne reaffirmed by articles in tbe central
I ?rroats and trials of dissident intellectuals continued; clearly the defeat of Shelepin did notorresponding defeat for hard-line policies.
Postlude and Prospects
flrSt few Bonths ^the atmospherengrow still more menacing. Intel-lTSSfi wero Proaecuted for "anti-Soviet" activities;
Brozhnev continued to gain strength and to hack away at Shelepin's position during tho first half of tho year. In April. First Secretary Katushev of Gorkiy Oblast, who had supported Brezhnev on several occasions previously,arty Secrotary and, in May, Shelepin's protege Pavlov was relieved of his position as Komsomol Chief. Late ln March Brezhnev delivered his most militant cultural statement to dato. Emphasizing tho importance of ideology, ho described the "sharp ideological struggle" being waged and charged that bourgeois imperialists were trying to Influence Soviet citizens. He attacked Soviet renegades and hypocrites who fall into the imperialist net and warned that they would not go unpunished. He again announced that what he termed ideologically "weak works" would betrict appraisal. Less than two weeksentral committee plenumesolution callingurther tightening of idoologlcal controls. While it seems clear that Brezhnev's speech and tho resolution wore at least partially in reaction to the revolutionary liberalizing ovents taking place in Czechoslovakia inoth wero consistent with the trend which had existed in Soviet policy over the previousalf years.
While the current atmosphere Is less restrictive than that of the Stalin years, when terror and repression wore tho order of tho day, It Is much more stifling than that which existed during Khrushchev's tenure. Tho situation varied under Khrushchev; when he was relatively strong thoreorresponding relaxation of ideologicaland when he was on the defensive (for example ln2 andhereightening in cultural policy and less freedom of expression. Nonetheless, the current clamp-down far exceeds in severity any clamp-down which occurred during tho Khrushchov years.
At the present time thero seems little likelihoodeturnore liberal policy. Over tho pastalf years there have been few personnel changes at the highest levels of the party, but those that have occurred have tended to strengthen the hard-line forces apparently dominated by Brezhnev. As long as thebalance remains essentially Intact tho prevailing policy is likely to remain orthodox and, if anything,
become moro repressive.
On the other hand there would also appear toimit to the extent of regression to Stalinist tactics as long as the current leadership structure remains. 6 when Khrushchev in his "secret speech" condemned Stalin's crimes he implicitly pledged that such methods would not again be employed, thus limiting the potential for control by an individual and laying the groundwork for the sanctifying of collective leadership. While tho rehabilitation of Stalin and the crackdown on thohave raised the spectreomplete return to Stalinist terror tactics,evorsion virtually presupposes the ability of one individual to impose his will and authority. risis situation in which one man might have to make the decisions, the diversity still existing within the Politburo would seem to work againstossibility.
Bach member of tho hierarchy, whether moderate or orthodox, has an interest in prevonting any otherfrom acquiring too much power. Thus, although Brezhnev is quite cloarly first among equals, and is more secure than ever before, his power is far from unlimited. For example, while he has undermined Shelepin's position considerably, be has not yet been able to oust him from tbe Politburo,umber of Shelepin's supporters remain ln Important positions. Each member of the hierarchyostod interest in seeing that Brezhnev's ability to exert his will remains limited.