A Documentary History of Communism

By Robert V. Daniels | Go to book overview
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Chapter Seven: Communism Since Stalin

Communism since 1953 has been stable. Its spread to new regions has for the time being stopped, and on the whole its international aggressiveness has moderated. Within its own orbit communism has proved capable of making the transition from the harsh but formative despotism of Stalin to a more moderate bureaucratic routine, although it faces a permanent dilemma between the pressure to alleviate popular discontent through reform, and the need to maintain the basic organizational and doctrinal controls. 1956 was the critical year, when reform almost got out of hand.

In the countries where it is in power communism is solving the problems of backwardness which contributed to its initial success. The Soviet Union now sets itself the goal of realizing Marx's ideal state of "communism," but in practice this mainly means catching up with the standard of living under American capitalism. At this point it is impossible to predict whether the political structure of communism will prove indefinitely viable, drive the world into war, or break down under the weight of its own internal contradictions.


The Death of Stalin and Collective Leadership

Immediately after Stalin's death on March 5, 1953, the Communist leadership was reorganized to forestall Malenkov as a strong individual successor. Malenkov received the post of premier, but the party Secretariat was taken over by Nikita Khrushchev. The party Presidium (as the Politbureau had been renamed) became for the time being a real collective leadership. Praise of Stalin quickly gave way to enunciation of the new principle and criticism of the domineering individual, which Pravda made explicit in April, 1953.

. . . The party committees are organs of political leadership. They cannot apply methods inherent in administrative

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