For nearly a decade after the consolidation of Communist power Soviet Russia was ruled by a collective dictatorship of the top party leaders. At the top level individuals still spoke for themselves, and considerable freedom for factional controversy remained despite the principles of unity laid down in 1921.
The scope of political difference among the Communists was restricted, however, by certain severe limiting conditions. Under the New Economic Policy ("NEP"), the party was in power in a situation of postrevolutionary compromise, where reality made the serious application of its theory very difficult. The party was, however, dogmatically committed to the theoretical premises of the "proletarian revolution" and the "workers' state." Finally, the Civil War had bequeathed a military form of party organization, which put decisive political power in the hands of Stalin's Secretariat. While controversy raged between Right, Center, Left, and Ultra- Left groups about the proper way to advance toward the socialist ideal, the course of events was really dictated by the realities of economic backwardness and organizational power.
The uncertainties of the era of controversy came to an end with the successive victories of Stalin's party machine over Trotsky's Left Opposition and Bukharin's Right Opposition. By this time, the most important enduring features of the Soviet regime were laid down--a new system of personal power resting on total party control; a new use of doctrine as unchallengeable justification for the expediencies of government; and a new attack on the problems of backwardness,