Cult Developments 1917–1956
Chapter 2 begins by outlining the key features of the Lenin and Stalin cults as projected internationally from the early 1920s to the 1950s. It then describes the internationalisation of the cult phenomenon through the promotion of a wider cast of international figures from the early 1930s. Rather than a simple unilinear process corresponding to a stalinisation narrative dating from the 1920s, the plotting of different cases internationally suggests two distinct phases in the development of the cults. The first, which became increasingly evident over the course of the 1930s, did include mimetic elements deriving from the cult of Stalin. However, it must also be understood as a form of adaptation to national histories and political cultures characteristic of the popular front approach adopted by communist parties from the mid-1930s. From the mid-1940s, a second phase can be identified of a near-ubiquitous cult of party leader according to largely standardised rituals and conventions. This was a time both of greatly extended communist influence – mass parties in the West, people’s democracies in the East – and of the intensified isolation one identifies with communist counter-societies and the iron curtain. It is to this period that the idea of a stalinisation of the cult phenomenon is most applicable.