High Stalinism: Trial by Ice

  • Thomas W. SimonsJr.


When they looked out at the world the war left behind, in 1944 and 1945, some East Europeans dreamed of escaping their ruinous historic dependence through American-sponsored liberal democracy and the market, others through Soviet-sponsored social revolution; but most were more practical, and threw themselves into the task of reconstruction through state-led industrialization. There was intense political struggle over which ideology and which people should direct the process, but very little over the basic goal of creating industry rapidly.1


Communist Party Land Reform East European Country National Minority Soviet Bloc 
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  1. 1.
    For a bittersweet retrospective on this consensus, see Włodzimierz Brus and Kazimierz Łaski, “The Objective of Catching Up,” in From Marx to the Market. Socialism in Search of an Economic System (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 22–35.Google Scholar
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  3. 2.
    That these were the alternatives was the thesis put forward already during the war by Paul Rodenstein-Rodan: “Problems of Industrialization of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe,” in A.N. Agarwala and S.P. Singh, eds., The Economics of Underdevelopment (New York: Oxford University Press, 1963), 245–255.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    On this problem, see Vselevod Holubnychy, “Some Aspects of Relations Among the Soviet Republics,” in Erich Goldhagen, ed., Ethnic Minorities in the Soviet Union (New York: Praeger, 1968), 86–93,Google Scholar
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    On nationalization, land reform, and initial collectivization, Nicolas Spulber, The Economics of Communist Eastern Europe (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press/John Wiley, 1957), 43–270, is still excellent.Google Scholar
  8. 5.
    For a convenient summary of early land reform, see “The Early Postwar Period,” in Karl-Eugen Wädekin, Agrarian Policies in Communist Europe. A Critical Introduction (The Hague: Allenheld/Osmun/Martinus Nijhoff, 1982), 31–43, and the country-by-country chart in Ivan Völgyes, “Economic Aspects of Rural Transformation in Eastern Europe,” in Ivan Völgyes, Richard E. Lonsdale, and William P. Avery, eds., The Process of Rural Transformation. Eastern Europe, Latin America and Australia (New York: Pergamon, 1980), 104.Google Scholar
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    These figures are taken from Hugh Seton-Watson, The East European Revolution, 3rd ed. (New York: Praeger, 1956), 245.Google Scholar
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    The UNRRA figure is from ibid., 233–234; the figure on Polish coal is from Geir Lundestad, The American Non-Policy Toward Eastern Europe, 1943–1947: Universalism in an Area Not of Essential Interest to the United States (Tromso: Universitets forlaget, 1978) 216–217.Google Scholar
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    Data on foreign ownership are scattered through Spulber, Economics of Communist Eastern Europe and Seton-Watson, East European Revolution as well as John R. Lampe and Marvin R. Jackson, Balkan Economic History, 1550–1950. From Imperial Borderlands to Developing Nations (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982),Google Scholar
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    Seton-Watson, “The Seizure of Power,” East European Revolution. See also Thomas Hammond, ed., The Anatomy of Communist Takeovers (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1975).Google Scholar
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    On these Polish Communist negotiations with Stalin, see Vojtech Mastny, Russia’s Road to the Cold War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979), 299–300, with citations.Google Scholar
  17. 13.
    On the Polish party, see M.K. Dziewanowski, The Communist Party of Poland. An Outline of History (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1959) (the estimate of 20,000 members in July 1944 is at 187 and 346),Google Scholar
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  19. There is now a very detailed account of the takeover in Poland between December 1943 and July 1945, based in part on new party documents that became available only in the 1970s: Antony Polonsky and Bolesław Drukier, The Beginnings of Communist Rule in Poland (London: Routledge/Kegan Paul, 1980), gives vivid examples of the problems arising from the party’s heavily Jewish composition at 51. In post-Communist Poland, archives, memoirs, and testimony on this period are appearing in volume and may change the picture, but already in the 1980s enough were available to permit a fine new synthesis by a skilled historian, Krystyna Kersten, now available as The Establishment of Communist Rule in Poland, 1943–1948 (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  20. On the Romanian party, see Kenneth Jowitt, Revolutionary Breakthroughs and National Development. The Case of Romania, 1944–1965 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), 78 and passim,Google Scholar
  21. and Robert R. King, A History of the Romanian Communist Party (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1980), which cites the figure of 1,000 at 59 and touches on the importance of recruitment among minorities at 33–38. During my time in Bucharest in the mid-1970s the informal estimate for party numbers in August 1944 was even lower.Google Scholar
  22. 14.
    On the Hungarian party, Bennett Kovrig, Communism in Hungary. From Kun to Kádár (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1979), 448,Google Scholar
  23. cites an estimate of 30,000 Party members in February 1945, but this may reflect recruiting behind Soviet lines in the liberated portions of Hungary since Budapest had been encircled the previous December; Miklós Molnar, A Short History of the Hungarian Communist Party (Boulder: Westview, 1978), 58, considers the 3,000 members cited in the Party’s official history for the end of 1944 to be an unreliable maximum estimate. The best treatment of this period is “Communists in Coalition, 1944–1948” in Charles Gati, Hungary and the Soviet Bloc (Durham: Duke University Press, 1986), 13–126.Google Scholar
  24. The figures on the 1949 purges are from Joseph Rothschild, Return to Diversity. A Political History of East Central Europe Since World War II (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 137, in a chapter that is good on the area purges in general.Google Scholar
  25. As Hungarian politics moved toward roundtable talks in the spring of 1989, memories of the party’s postwar divide-and-conquer “salami tactics” were still vivid enough to be a factor in the opposition’s insistence on negotiating together, or not at all: see László Bruszt and David Stark, “Remaking the Political Field in Hungary: From the Politics of Confrontation to the Politics of Competition,” in Ivo Banac, ed., Eastern Europe in Revolution (Ithaca, N.Y. and London: Cornell University Press, 1992), 33.Google Scholar
  26. 15.
    On the Bulgarian party’s whole history, see John D. Bell, The Bulgarian Communist Party from Blagoev to Zhivkov (Stanford, Calif.: The Hoover Institution Press, 1986).Google Scholar
  27. For estimates on partisan numbers and party membership at the time of the 9 September 1944 coup, see Nissan Oren, Bulgarian Communism: The Road to Power, 1934–1944 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1971), 216–218 and 257,Google Scholar
  28. and John R. Lampe, The Bulgarian Economy in the Twentieth Century (London and Sydney: Croom Helm, 1986), 121.Google Scholar
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  30. 16.
    Cited in Hugh Thomas, Armed Truce: The Beginning of the Cold War 1945–46 (New York: Atheneum, 1987), 268.Google Scholar
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    On the Czechoslovak party, see Paul E. Zinner, Communist Strategy and Tactics in Czechoslovakia, 1918–48 (New York: Praeger, 1963) (1945–46 membership figures on 124)Google Scholar
  32. and the first part of Edward Taborsky’s Communism in Czechoslovakia 1948–1960 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1961).Google Scholar
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  34. Martin R. Myant, Socialism and Democracy in Czechoslovakia, 1945–1948 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  36. 18.
    On the merger of April 1946 in the Soviet zone, see Henry Krisch, German Politics Under Soviet Occupation (New York: Columbia University Press, 1974),Google Scholar
  37. which ends with it, and Ann L. Phillips, Soviet Policy Toward East Germany Reconsidered. The Postwar Decade (New York: Greenwood, 1986), 32–41.Google Scholar
  38. 21.
    Czesław Miłosz’s The Captive Mind (New York: Vintage, 1981), remains the best and most moving evocation of the intellectuals’ dilemmas under Stalinism,Google Scholar
  39. but Zygmunt Bauman, “Intellectuals in East-Central Europe,” East European Politics and Societies, 1, no. 2 (Spring, 1987): 162–186, adds good analytical and historical perspective. On the initial enthusiasm of young Communist believers against the background of postwar collapse, see Jan T. Gross, “Consequences of War: Preliminaries to the Study of Imposition of Communist Regimes in East Central Europe,” ibid., 3, no. 2 (Spring, 1989), 213–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 22.
    See Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Soviet Bloc: Unity and Conflict, rev. ed. (New York: Praeger, 1961), 167, on the Stalinist “dilemma of the one alternative.”Google Scholar
  41. 23.
    The literature is vast; some has been cited earlier, and more will be cited later; but there is a recent vignette that conveys some of the flavor of the period in Jacques Rupnik, The Other Europe (New York: Pantheon, 1988/89) 109–128 (“Stalinism: The Ice Age”). For a summing-up by a veteran,Google Scholar
  42. see Włodzimierz Brus, “Stalinism and the ‘Peoples’ Democracies,” in Robert C. Tucker, ed., Stalinism. Essays in Historical Interpretation (New York: Norton, 1977), 239–256. On purposeful atomization as the first step on a very twisted path,Google Scholar
  43. see Elemér Hankiss, “Demobilization, Self-Mobilization, and Quasi-Mobilization in Hungary, 1948–1987,” East European Politics and Societies, 3, no. 1 (Winter, 1989), 105–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 24.
    On the Party as Hero, see Paul Neuberg, The Hero’s Children. The Post-War Generation in Eastern Europe (New York: William Morrow, 1973), 11–42,Google Scholar
  45. and more analytically (and I think fundamentally), Kenneth Jowitt, The Leninist Response to National Dependency (Berkeley: Institute of International Studies, University of California Press, 1978), 34–62.Google Scholar
  46. 25.
    Peter J.D. Wiles, Communist International Economics (Oxford: Blackwell, 1968), 311.Google Scholar
  47. 26.
    In an interview with Milovan Djilas, George Urban quotes back a marvelous Stalinist passage Djilas wrote in November 1942: George Urban, ed., Stalinism. Its Impact on Russia and the World (New York: St. Martin’s, 1982), 214. The full text of Urban’s exchanges with Djilas and Leszek Kołakowski, another Stalinist who became a relentless and effective anti-Stalinist, is well worth reading (180–278).Google Scholar
  48. 27.
    And hence the purges. On the theory, see Leszek Kołakowski, Main Currents of Marxism. Vol. 3: The Breakdown (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978), 38.Google Scholar
  49. On the East European purges themselves, the best testimony comes from Czechoslovakia, which was most traumatized by them: Jiři Pelikán, ed., The Czechoslovak Political Trials 1950–1954 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1971);Google Scholar
  50. Eugen Loebl, Stalinism in Prague. The Loebl Story (New York: Grove, 1970);Google Scholar
  51. and Karel Kaplan, Report on the Murder of the General Secretary (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1990), a chilling account of the Czechoslovak witchhunt and the Slánský trial, preceded by a convenient areawide summary: 1–37.Google Scholar
  52. 28.
    In addition to 27 million in the 1930s, another 24 million moved from country to city between 1939 and 1959, another 8.4 million between 1959 and 1964, and another 16 million between 1964 and 1970: Moshe Lewin, The Gorbachev Phenomenon. A Historical Interpretation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 34.Google Scholar
  53. On Eastern Europe, see Huey Louis Kostanick, “Characteristics and Trends in Southeastern Europe: Romania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, and Turkey,” and Leszek Kosiński, “Demographic Characteristics and Trends in Northeastern Europe: the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary,” both in Kostanick, ed., Population and Migration Trends in Eastern Europe (Boulder: Westview, 1977), 11–48.Google Scholar
  54. 32.
    This is the thesis of György Konrád and Ivan Szélényi in The Intellectuals on the Road to Class Power (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979). It is ably argued but still requires tempering, which I have sought to provide.Google Scholar
  55. 33.
    In addition, it industrialized without building adequate urban infrastructure. For consideration of the consequences, see György Konrád and Ivan Szélényi, “Social Conflicts of Urbanization: The Hungarian Case,” in Mark G. Field, ed., Social Consequences of Modernization in Communist Societies (Baltimore: Johns Hopkns University Press, 1976), 162–190.Google Scholar
  56. 34.
    I shall cite works concerning anti-Semitism under communism as it relates to individual countries, but the best summary is still Paul Lendvai, “Communism and the Jews,” in his Anti-Semitism Without Jews (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971), 3–88. See also Charles Gati, “A Note on Communists and the Jewish Question,” in his Hungary and the Soviet Bloc, 100–107, and now Krystyna Kersten’s moving and reflective Polacy. Zydzi. Komunizm. Anatomia półprawd. 1939–1968 (Poles. Jews. Communism. The Anatomy of Half-Truths, 193–1968 (Warsaw: Niezalena Oficyna Wydawnicza, 1992), which deserves translation into English.Google Scholar
  57. 35.
    For a convenient short summary of the whole Communist period after it was over, see J.F. Brown, Surge to Freedom: The End of Communist Rule in Eastern Europe (Durham, N.C. and London: Duke University Press, 1991), Ch. I, “Millennium becomes Memento Mori,” 7–44.Google Scholar

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© Thomas W. Simons, Jr. 1993

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