Leader Cults

  • Kevin Morgan


Chapter 4 begins with the central cult of Stalin. In the power struggles that followed Lenin’s death, it was Trotsky whose literary and oratorical brilliance and revolutionary accomplishments offered the promise or threat of a more personalised appropriation of Lenin’s legacy. In identifying himself with the collectivities of party, state and bureaucracy, Stalin had no such obvious personal qualities or record of achievement on which to draw. It was thus that the cult of his leadership, inextricably bound up with that of the party, was projected through the paradoxical attributes of modesty, identification with the collective and avoidance of loquacity and display. A second section considers the French communist leader Maurice Thorez. He also lacked the personal political capital of some political rivals and had had no conspicuous role in the defining moment of the communists’ collective memory, the resistance. In conditions of Cold War isolation, Thorez was also therefore an integrating figure whose cult required the marginalisation, subordination or exclusion of any personal history that might have overshadowed his own. The Briton Harry Pollitt and the Belgian Joseph Jacquemotte, discussed in a final section, exercised claims to leadership that were founded on the deployment of a personal political capital accumulated in a wider sphere of activities that predated the formation of communist parties. These were not therefore in the first instance simply integrating figures; but in tracing these parties’ histories into the Cold War years, in both cases it is the features of the integrating cult that by this time are seen to predominate.


Communist Party Labour Movement General Secretary Central Committee Collective Memory 
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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin Morgan
    • 1
  1. 1.Sch of Social Sci PoliticsUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK

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