Political Sociology: A Reader

By S. N. Eisenstadt | Go to book overview

the old in Chinese society is a struggle between the new forces of the broad masses of the people (the various revolutionary classes) and the old forces of imperialism and the feudal class. Such a struggle between the new and the old is a struggle between revolution and counter-revolution. This struggle has taken a full hundred years if dated from the Opium War, and nearly thirty years if dated from the Revolution of 1911.

But as has been said before, revolutions also can be differentiated into old and new, and what is new in one historical period will become old in another. The century of China's bourgeois-democratic revolution can be divided into two main stages—a first stage of eighty years and a second of twenty years. Each has a basic historical feature: China's bourgeois-democratic revolution in the first eighty years belongs to the old category, while that in the next twenty years, owing to the change in the international and domestic political situation, belongs to the new category. Old democracy—the feature in the first eighty years. New Democracy—the feature in the last twenty years. This distinction holds good in culture as well as in politics.


89
The Nature of the Soviet System

Zbigniew Brzezinski


II

The Soviet system has now existed for more than forty-three years, and its political history has been closely identified with three major Communist leaders, each of whom symbolizes a distinct, but also a related, stage of development of that system. Broadly speaking, the phase of Leninism after 1917 can be said to have involved primarily the consolidation of the Communist Party's rule over society and the internal transformation of the party from a revolutionary vanguard into a more disciplined ruling elite. While some small measure of internal diversity remained within the party, especially at the top, perhaps the most enduring achievement of Leninism was the dogmatization of the party, thereby in effect both preparing and causing the next stage, that of Stalinism.

The Stalinist phase, particularly during the years 1928-41, was the time of what might be called the totalitarian "break-through," that is the all-out effort to destroy the basic institutions of the old order and to construct at least the framework for the new. The postwar period, that is, 1945-53, was in some respects a repetition of the preceding period and an extension of it. The process of postwar reconstruc‐

tion again meant a conflict with society, destruction of established ways, and an extension of earlier efforts to build "socialism" in agriculture, through industrialization, in the arts and sciences, and so forth. The political consequences of these efforts, especially as they were shaped by Stalin's own personality, were the decline in the importance of the party, the personalization of leadership, the growth of the secret police, and the reliance upon terror as the crucial, most characteristic feature of the system. Indeed, Stalin's totalitarian edifice could be said to have rested on three supporting columns: the secret police, the state bureaucracy, and the party, with all three co-ordinated by the old dictator's personal secretariat. At the same time, the party reached perhaps its lowest point since the seizure of power. Weakened and demoralized by the purges, it became less and less the instrument of social revolution. Decline in zeal, dogmatic stagnation, and bureaucratization were the familiar consequences.

During the.fourth phase, which began with several years of instability within the Kremlin but can still be associated with the name of Khrushchev, there occurred a gradual lessening of the conflict between society and the regime coupled with a certain maturation, and social acceptance, of the new order. This phase was made possible by the Stalinist liquidation of all nonpolitically directed social groups, and hence the regime could afford the luxury of

____________________
From Zbigniew Brzezinski, "The Nature of the Soviet System," Slavic Review, XX, No. 3 (October 1961), 354-368. Reprinted by permission of the publisher and the author.

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