In her article “Us Against Them” in Fitzpatrick’s Stalinism: New Directions, Sarah Davies describes a society in the Soviet Union that is fraught with discontent. In the mid to late 1930’s the elite party leaders were attempting to reconstruct a class system–albeit a different one than before–and the people were growing weary.
The long-term goal of the revolutionaries was to abolish the class system and bring to fruition a country ruled by the working class, but it was a goal that proved to be nearly impossible. If the ideology of the party was based on a hatred for the Bourgeoisie and the belief that the workers ought to rule, eliminating all class structures and identification made it more difficult for the party to differentiate between its allies and enemies. Consequently, some new system had to be constructed to distinguish friend from foe.
In hindsight it is easy for us to see the flaws in the plan, but at the time it seemed the logical solution to a party-made problem. Elite party members became a new “class,” with workers, peasants, and other social groups like Jews classified at lower statuses. What resulted was in essence a new Bourgeoisie (the Party), with the lower working class remaining in the same old social stratum.
The workers had been “liberated” by the revolution and been given the hope that someday in the near future they would rule the Soviet Union, yet here they were less than two decades later being governed yet again by a class of elites–this time by members of the same revolutionary movement that deplored class distinctions. The grand strategists of this plan created an “us against them” environment that was counterproductive to its overall goals. Additionally, history shows that this dichotomy is a powerful motivating force–just look at the Russian revolutions.
The Communist Party may not have successfully abolished all class distinctions with their revolution, but they did instill a new mentality in the Proletariat. It was this new mentality that sparked discontent towards the new “classes” in the 1930’s, and ultimately eroded the revolutionary foundations of the Soviet Union.