Stalin’s Accusations of Subversion

Stalin’s attempts to remove any political factions that were pitted against him provide an iconic example of a totalitarian rise to power.  These ambitions are summarized definitively in “Purges,” a document published in 1935.  In this passage, Stalin’s prose reveals his feelings that the extant companions of Lenin in the Soviet Union constituted a threat to his own political prowess and thus needed to be eliminated by whatever means necessary to decimate their power and credibility with the general public.

Stalin accused figures such as Bukharin, Zinoviev, and Trotsky of “insincerity and duplicity” in their statements of allegiance to the state and claimed that they were responsible for numerous acts of subversion, most significantly “a villainous plot against the life of S.M. Kirov. (Stalin)  The more poignant purpose of these accusations was to portray these Old Bolsheviks as enemies of the “common cause.” (Stalin)  By extension, these opponents of Stalinism became the collective enemy of the public.  Thus, by publishing “Purges,” Stalin attempted to simultaneously denounce the likes of the Old Bolsheviks and create a unifying “us against them” mentality amongst the Russian population.  The administrative technique of “unification against a common enemy” is pervasive throughout history and is evident in countless examples of leadership beyond the political sphere.   “Purges,” however, is one of the most archetypal instances of the usage of this tool.

Do you think that Stalin’s accusations of “insincerity and duplicity” against the Old Bolsheviks were a calculated act of propaganda or simply the product of paranoia? (Stalin)

3 thoughts on “Stalin’s Accusations of Subversion

  1. I believe that both these accusations have some amount of validity. This claim by Stalin was clearly an act of propaganda, his desire to root out any of the “Old Bolsheviks” was important to his goal of taking complete control of the country, and this propaganda set the populous against these established members of the party.

  2. I believe that these accusations were primarily calculated acts of propaganda. The Old Bolsheviks had many sympathizers within the country, so it was necessary for Stalin to set a new precedent that denounced their commitment to the righteous cause that was communism in order to dissuade popular support. By doing this Stalin was also able to offer himself better protection because many potential conspirators would be quieted out of fear for their own safety and wellbeing.

  3. Stalin’s reaction to the Old Bolshevik inner circle seems to suggest an interesting combination of paranoia and propaganda. Stalin was intelligent and he knew that he could not rule unopposed if Trotsky, Bukharin and Zinoviev continued to present other viable options for leadership. The Purges themselves, however, appear to be more propaganda than paranoia due to the use of quotas in determining how many people should have been arrested.

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