A Key to Soviet Politics: The Crisis of the Anti-Party Group

A Key to Soviet Politics: The Crisis of the Anti-Party Group

A Key to Soviet Politics: The Crisis of the Anti-Party Group

A Key to Soviet Politics: The Crisis of the Anti-Party Group

Excerpt

Stalin's death in 1953 ushered in the so-called 'collective leadership' in the Soviet Union, which was really a polite covering term for the struggle between Stalin's heirs for supreme power in the party and state. This comprised in part genuine differences of opinion on questions of policy, but also clashes between personalities and interest groups. The struggle came to a climax in June 1957: Molotov, Malenkov and Kaganovich, with the connivance of Shepilov, Bulganin, Pervukhin, Saburov and Voroshilov, all members of the Soviet Presidium, tried at a Presidium meeting to exclude Khrushchev from his post as First Secretary of the Central Committee. Although in a minority in the Presidium, Khrushchev managed to have the question transferred to the Central Committee, which supported his cause. Molotov, Malenkov, Kaganovich and Shepilov were immediately denounced and relieved of all their important posts. Pervukhin and Saburov were also demoted but not criticized openly at the time. Then in the autumn of 1957 Marshal Zhukov, who had given material aid to Khrushchev in June of that year, was accused of anti-party activities and expelled from the Presidium also. In the winter of 1958-9 Bulganin confessed to a Central Committee meeting that he had aided the opposition to Khrushchev in June 1957: Pervukhin and Saburov made similar confessions soon afterwards at the Twenty-first Extraordinary Congress of the Party. Finally, Voroshilov was branded in public as a member of the group at the Twenty-second Congress in 1961.

Such are the bare bones of the crisis which is analysed in this study. Apart from its intrinsic interest, this particular episode in Soviet politics has been chosen for the reasons given below.

To the political historian Soviet events present much the same problems as medieval history. In both fields important sources are lacking altogether, while others are of a fragmentary or unreliable nature. Similarly the ideologies of the two eras are alien to the thought processes of present-day historians from the non- Communist orbit. The documentation of the ideological struggle between Stalin and Trotsky appears hardly less bizarre than the commentaries of the medieval Church on the quarrel between Pope and Holy Roman Emperor.

For these reasons the historian must tread very carefully in both areas of study. In Soviet history especially, the Damocles'

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