Conquest, Robert
April 1970
Foreign Affairs;Apr1970, Vol. 48 Issue 3, p509
This article assesses the sociopolitical changes in the Soviet Union in relation to the prevalence of Stalinism in the country in the 1970s. The present leaders started for the most part in humble posts in the newly Stalinized Party of the early thirties, whose main activity was an almost unbelievably brutal crushing of the peasantry. Most of them made their careers in the great purge of 1936-38, a period when the qualifications required for promotion were denunciation of one's comrades and servility to the Stalin machine. At the February-March 1937 plenum of the Central Committee, which marked the final establishment of Stalin's personal autocracy, he told those present that all party officials should select, within a certain period, two people in each case, two party workers capable of being their real substitutes. As it turned out, his estimate was conservative. Throughout the country, it was very common for only the third or fourth of a series of party secretaries or of army commanders or factory directors to be holding their positions by the end of the purge. Academician Andrei Sakharov, the atomic scientist, has lately told us that one-half of the party membership was actually arrested in 1936-39 and that of these only 50,000 ever came out of jail again.


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