Stalin's Lieutenants: A Study of Command under Duress

By William J. Spahr | Go to book overview

Lenin, had seized state power in the name of the workers and peasants in November 1917. By 1922, having emerged victorious in a civil war and stalemated foreign intervention, the new rulers sought to rationalize the complex administrative problems of governing the sprawling former empire struggling to recover from almost eight years of conflict. The Party was governed, in theory at least, by a Central Committee. A seven-man Politburo was chosen to prepare and direct the November seizure of power. Subsequently, the Politburo was continued as the Central Committee's executive agency. The committee assembled periodically in plenary sessions to confirm the Politburo's actions and guide its future course.

While Lenin was alive, he was the unquestioned leader of the Party. He had created it in the early years of the twentieth century under political conditions in Russia that often forced him to lead the Party from exile abroad using conspiratorial methods to communicate with the Party's underground cells within the homeland. The discipline required of an illegal, underground party struggling to survive under the surveillance and censorship of an oppressive regime was to remain characteristic of the Party even after it came into power in 1917 and remained so until its demise in 1991.

At the Eleventh Party Congress in April 1922, it was decided to strengthen the existing Secretariat by appointing a Politburo member as general secretary to supervise the preparation of materials for the weekly sessions of the Politburo, to ensure that the Politburo's decisions were delivered to the appropriate agency for implementation, and to perform other tasks for its members. Stalin was chosen for this position almost by default; none of the other leading figures in the Party leadership wanted the post. Stalin accepted it because he seemed to have a talent for administration and because he may have realized its potential to enhance his personal power. Stalin was proposed for the post by Lev Borisovich Kamenev, a Politburo member who considered Stalin a potential ally in the ongoing policy debates. The possibility of a power struggle to succeed Lenin was hardly in anyone's mind at that time, although Lenin was beginning to experience the headaches and fatigue that were the early symptoms of his terminal illness. The initial medical prescription was for Lenin to take a long vacation away from the capital, giving the

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Stalin's Lieutenants: A Study of Command under Duress
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments viii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Forming an Army of a New Type 4
  • 2 - Stalin and Voroshilov Gain Military Experience 17
  • 3 - Egorov the Odd Man In 41
  • 4 - Tukhachevsky the Noble Revolutionary 62
  • 5 - The Soviet-Polish War, 1920 85
  • 6 - Stalin Routs Trotsky 109
  • 7 - The Army Develops a Brain 128
  • 8 - The Military Purges 164
  • 9 - Stalin and Voroshilov Prepare to Meet the Axis Threat 190
  • 10 - Timoshenko Tries to Answer the Finnish Wake-Up Call 227
  • 11 - Stalin's Lieutenants 247
  • Epilogue 291
  • Bibliography 299
  • Index 310
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