The Struggle with Dissent
The general mood changed in 1947-1948. A shift of opinion could be seen in the outlook of the authorities as well. As early as the beginning of 1947 motifs reminiscent of the Great Terror of the 1930s could be discerned in their public speeches. 1 They quoted Central Committee documents of 1935 and 1936 having to do with the murder of Sergei Kirov, and they summoned the people to vigilance against the "intrigues of enemies." 2 They referred to Stalin's speech at the February-March 1937 Central Committee plenum, which was the real precipitant of the Great Terror. "Comrade Stalin said that the bourgeois states . . . constantly send among each other masses of spies. There are thus no grounds for supposing that they send fewer among us. On the contrary, the bourgeois states send us two to three times more than to any bourgeois state." This was the spirit in which Central Committee Secretary A.A. Kuznetsov spoke in September 1947. 3 It seemed that a wave of witch hunts for spies and wreckers was about to roll over the country again. The mechanism of the Ministry of State Security was always ready. And still the experience of the 1940s did not duplicate that of the 1930s. The political repression of the postwar years did not resort, for example, to show trials. After all, the circumstances of the two periods were different.
In the trials of the late 1920s and the 1930s Stalin struggled with real opposition to his bid for absolute power--from partisans of Trotsky and of Bukharin, from various kinds of "deviationists"--and he won. His strongest rivals were physically destroyed, and their supporters either ended their lives in the camps or returned hopelessly old and ill. After the war there were no oppositionists of this kind. Moreover, the Stalinist regime had reached its mature form by the end of the 1930s, and thus it possessed a vastly more powerful arsenal