The Stalinist System

  • R. W. Davies
Part of the Studies in Soviet and Society book series (SREEHS)


The frank and sometimes astounding reports of Stalinist repression and of the opposition to Stalinism described in the previous chapter are of great interest, but for me they are not the most important development. What is outstanding, exciting and moving in recent writings about the Stalinist past is their desperate struggle to understand and learn from these experiences. It is common ground among the critical writers that the explanation of Stalinism offered by the party in 1956 was inadequate. A. Latynina has insisted that ‘at the present level of our understanding, the slogans of 1956 — “cult of the individual”, “violations of socialist legality”, “contradictions of the period” — explain very little’. According to Latynina, ‘the whole course of events of the 1920s and 1930s induced the belief that a communist must be subordinate to the will of the collective, the mind of the collective’. And the ‘belief in an organised purposive society directed to a single goal justified the removal of those who were not drawn into this movement or who even opposed it’:

Could this have been just a matter of Stalin? If it was, how can the Marxist understanding of the role of the individual in history be reconciled with the extraordinary significance which we attached to a specific individual over so many years?1


Administrative System Personal Power European History Recent Writing Socialist Legality 
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Notes and References

  1. 3.
    A. Bek, Novoe naznachenie (Frankfurt-am-Main, 1977); details of the banning of the book in the USSR appear on the dust jacket.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    T. H. Rigby, in R. C. Tucker (ed.), Stalinism: Essays in Historical Interpretation (London, 1977), pp. 53–76.Google Scholar
  3. 15.
    Voprosy istorit KPSS, no. 2, 1988, pp. 110–33; the report was prepared by Yu. S. Aksenov and L. K. Vinogradov.Google Scholar
  4. 22.
    ‘Obrok s gosudarstvennoi nivy’ (Feudal Rent from the State Pastures), Literaturnaya gazeta, May 18, 1988. He has published a further article in Ural, no. 1, 1988, which I have not seen.Google Scholar
  5. 23.
    Kommunist, no. 12, 1988, pp. 73–84 (L. Gudkov, Yu. Levada, A. Levinson and L. Sedov).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© R. W. Davies 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. W. Davies
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Russian and East European StudiesUniversity of BirminghamUK

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