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Communist Party During the Stalin Period (1928 to 1953)
In order to examine the changes undergone by the Communist Party during the reign of Stalin, let us first look at some background on one of the most notorious mass murderers in history, Joseph Stalin, for by the end of his reign, he had become the Party. Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin was born Ioseb Jughasvili on December 21, 1879 in Gori, Georgia. As a child he was given the nickname Soso. His father was a cobbler named Vissarion Jughashvili, known as Beso, and his mother Ekaterina Geladze, was born a serf. They had two other children who died young. His father had been a serf, but after obtaining his freedom, he opened his own cobbler shop. He quickly went bankrupt and was forced to work in a shoe factory.
Stalin's grew up in an abusive family. His father was frequently drunk, and when he was, he beat Stalin and his mother. These beatings left Stalin hard and heartless and gave him a hatred of authority. It is said that anyone with power reminded him of his father. His father also instilled in him another cruel feeling -- anti-Semitism. "Because they were well-to-do and consummate masters of their craft, they were hated by the drunken ne'er-do-well Beso. As a small child Soso was given his first lessons in malice toward the Jews by his father."
In 1888, his father went to live in Tiflis, leaving the family without any means of support.
At the age of eight, Stalin began his education at the Gori Church School. In school, Stalin was forced to speak Russian and he and his Georgian classmates were held up to ridicule by the teachers because of his accent. They also mocked him for his ragged school uniform and his pockmarked face. Young Soso soon learned to outsmart his tormenters by intimidating them and exploiting their weaknesses. He avoided physical confrontation by accusing his attackers of using violence as a substitute for brains. In this way he would assert leadership over his peers.
Stalin excelled in school and graduated first in his class at the age of fourteen. He was awarded a scholarship to the Tiflis Theological Seminary, a Russian Orthodox school which he started attending in 1894. Although his mother wanted him to be a priest, Stalin attended for the educational opportunities, rather than because of any vocation for the Church. This is where Stalin's involvement with the socialist movement began. In 1899 he was expelled from the seminary after failing to appear for an examination.
Over the next decade, Stalin worked with the political underground in the Caucasas. During this time, between 1902 and 1917, he was repeatedly arrested and exiled to Siberia. He was an adherent of Vladimir Lenin's doctrine of a strong centralist party of professioanl revolutionaries, which was called Bolsheviks. There is also some evidence that Stalin, who had taken the pseudonym of Koba, was in the employ of the Tsar's Secret police. According to Olga Shatunovskaya, a member of the party since 1916, and at one time the secreatry to Stephan Shaumyan, chairman of the Baku Commune, he was. "Shatunovskaya stated publically on a number of occasions that Shaumyan had been absolutely convinced that Stalin was a provocateur. He used to talk about his own arrest in 1905 at a safe house known to one person only -- Koba."
His work gained him a place on the movement's Central Committee in 1912, and in 1913 he adopted the name Stalin, which means "man of steel" in Russian. It was during this time that Stalin was maried briefly to Ekaterina Svanidze in 1907. She died after three years, but they had one son together, whose name was Yakov Dzhugashvili. At the funeral he is said to have made a statement about any warm feelings he had for people, having died with his wife. His son, with whom he did not get along, served in the Red Army during the Second World War, where he was captured by the Nazis. Although the Nazis offered to exchange him for a German officer of higher rank, Stalin refused and his son was later killed trying to excape.
In 1917 Stalin was editor of Pravda while Lenin was in exile. After the February revolution, the first stage in the Russian Revolution, Stalin was elected to the Politburo in May, a position he held for the rest of his life. Stalin played only a minor role in the October revolution, apparently not distinquishing himself.
Later, he embellished his actions after he came to power.
In 1919 a Politburo was created initially with five members, to run the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) on a day-to-day basis. Previously, the highest body of the Party had been the Central Committee. The first full members of the Politburo were Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Lev Kamenev, Stalin and Nikolai Krestinsky, with Nikolai Bukharin, Grigori Zinoyiey and Mikhail Kalinin as alternate members. The governing body of the CPSU was the Party Congress which initially met annually through the 1920s, but whose meetings became less frequent, particularly under Stalin. Party Congresses would elect a Central Committee which, in turn, would elect a Politburo. Under Stalin the most powerful position in the party became the General Secretary, who was elected by the Politburo. In theory, supreme power in the party was held by the Party Congress, however, in practice the power structure became reversed and, particularly after the death of Lenin, supreme power rested with the General Secretary.
At lower levels, the organizational hierarchy was managed by Party Committees, or Partkoms. A Partkom was headed by the elected Partkom Secretary. The bottom level of the Party was the Primary Party Organization or Party Cell. It was created within any organizational entity of any kind where there were at least three communists. The management of a cell was called the Party Bureau. A Party Bureau was headed by the elected Bureau Secretary. At smaller Party Cells, secretaries were regular employees of the corresponding plant, hospital or school. Sufficiently large party organizations were usually headed by an Exempt Secretary, who drew his salary from the Party's money.
Membership in the party ultimately became a privilege, with Communist Party members becoming an elite, or Nomenklatura, in Soviet society. Members of the Nomenklatura would enjoy special privileges such as shopping at well-stocked stores, preference in obtaining housing and access to dachas and holiday resorts, being allowed to travel abroad, and sending their children to the best universities and obtain prestigious jobs for them. It became virtually impossible to join the Soviet ruling and managing elite without being a member of the Communist Party.
Membership had its risks, however, especially in the 1930s when the Party was subjected to purges under Stalin. Membership in the Party was not open. To become a Party member one had to be approved by various committees and one's past was closely scrutinised. As generations grew up never having known anything but the U.S.S.R., Party membership became something one generally achieved after passing a series of stages. Children would join the Young Pioneers and then, at the age of 14, graduate to the Komsomol (Young Communist League) and ultimately, as an adult, if one had shown the proper adherence to party discipline, or had the right connections, one would become a member of the Communist Party itself. When the Bolsheviks became the All Russian Communist Party, it had a membership of approximately 200,000. By 1933, the Party had approximately 3.5 million members and candidate members, but as a result of the Great Purge, Party membership fell to 1.9 million by 1939.
Following the October revolution in 1917, Russia was plunged into Civil War from 1918 to 1921. The two major opposing forces were the Red Army, which was the military arm of the Bolsheviks, and the White Army or White Movement. The Whites were Russian forces, both political and military, who were the monarchists, conservatives, liberals and socialists opposed to the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution. The White forces were a loose confederation of forces and lacked any type of central coordination. The officers who made up the core of the White Army mostly supported monarchist ideals, but some elements of the White Army drew support from many other political movements, including democrats, social revolutionaries, and others who opposed the October Revolution. There was also a third group, the Greens, who opposed both the Whites and the Red Army.
Initially, the Bolsheviks were lenient with those they deemed enemies of the state. In some cases, officers and men were released if they promised not to join the Whites. This quickly changed, however, after the attempted assasination of Lenin on August 30, 1918, and the assasination of Chairman of the Petrograd Cheka, Moisei Uritsky. Following this, the "red terror" was unleashed and anyone suspected of counter-revolutionary activity could be imprisoned or executed without trial. The execution of ex-Tsar Nicholas II and his family on July…[continue]
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