Purges -- Stalin's Great Blunder Term Paper

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" He concluded that "the prosecutor's office must be centralized and completely independent of the local organs of authority." This conclusion, quite naturally, was buttressed with the appropriate reference to the guiding hand of the revolution's leader: "From the principle that there is a single legality obtaining throughout the Republic "and the entire federation" (Lenin) and from the obligation of the public prosecutor to see to it that no single decision of local authority deviated from the law, Lenin deduced all the most important principles for the organization of the prosecutor's office..." (Vyshinsky, Law, 525). Contrast this with Vyshinsky's admonition of a witness, "Don't pay attention to the laws, just listen to me" (Huskey, "Vyshinsky, Krylenko," 427).

The Soviet people, however, lost a great deal more from their ordeal of the 1930s. Not only did they lose the best of their intelligentsia and military, they ultimately lost the power for informed dissent and political debate. By the end of the 1938 Trial, any semblance of due process and civil rights had been abandoned. Vyshinsky himself declared his support for a simple campaign for the eradication of the opposition: "When it is a question of annihilating the enemy, we can do it just as well without a trial " (Tucker, Cohen).

Conclusions - Stephen Cohen observed with considerable consternation that a scholarly consensus had dominated the study of Stalin and Stalinism in the West, thereby limiting the options for creative research in the field. The limitations were held to be implicit in the continuity thesis, reducing Stalinism to a general phenomenon that was the outgrowth of the Party-regime that preceded it. What meaningful differences existed, Cohen argued, were (to borrow Marxist phraseology) of "quantity" and not "quality." Cohen and other critics of the Cold War "totalitarian school" were certainly correct in pointing out that much of the old scholarship seemed teleologically confined by international politics and a ritual-like preoccupation with the party ideology (Cohen, 2002). It thus often ends up proving what it had assumed in the first place, while failing to recognize both the extraordinary complexity of the subject, and the fact that there were (and continue to be) numerous aspects of Stalinism which developed dynamics specific to their emergence in historical time. Objectively, Stalin used Andrei Vyshinsky and a legal theory to dispose of his enemies, and most especially those who knew him from the pre-revolutionary days or were privy to Lenin's reservations about Stalin as a leader. Finally, objectively, the Great Purges and the Terror, orchestrated from above, below and the middle, certainly left the Soviet Union far more vulnerable in 1940 that it had been in 1935. One can only speculate what a fully realized general command, a greater number of Party functionaries, and a less fearful population might have had on the Soviet participation in World War II.


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