Stalin and the Great Terror:
Defected to the U.
Tue Nov 28, Mon Jan 29, 1: There are two sides to the argument however. Some people argue that the purges came from the secret police, the bureaucracy.
They argue that fear of the bureaucracy is what led many people to denounce others. People were so afraid for their own and their families safety that they denounced others to show that they were loyal to socialism and protect themselves from the purges.
Even at party level, members were quick to denounce others to avoid punishment themselves. So arguably the purges came from the bottom up. However, the secret police was controlled by Stalin, as were all levels of the party, and you could arguably say that the secret police only killed who they were ordered to kill.
Power was heavily centralised within the party and even though others might have carried out the murders, it was Stalin who ordered them.
He signed death warrants of many people, and so must be held responsible. The secret police only killed members of the public and other party members because they themselves were afraid of being killed if they refused to do what Stalin said.
Another example of why Stalin was paranoid was the Ryutin platform. It said Stalin had ruined the socialist construction of the Soviet Union. This document was handed out among party members in Moscow, and members such as Kamenev and Zinoviev were known to have read it. It led to a lot of opposition within the party to Stalin, which obviously made Stalin worried about his power.
He was afraid of being overthrown. The old Bolsheviks did indeed pose a large problem to Stalin. He felt threatened by their knowledge of him and the revolution.
They all knew that the propaganda about him was lies. They all knew that he did virtually nothing in the revolution. They knew the real history and not the one in the textbooks which had been edited by Stalin.
Stalin was aware of this and was extremely paranoid about it. He knew full well that his political career would be ruined if all the old Bolsheviks decided to go against party unity and overthrow him. So he purged them. Was this just a mere coincidence?
Also, in terms of the general population, many began to dislike Stalin because of things that went wrong within the country.
This was due to the sheer amount of propaganda which said Stalin WAS the Bolshevik party, and so while being responsible for all the good it did, it also meant that anything bad that happened could be attributed to him.
So as Stalin discovered this growing opposition in the population, so the amount of purges grew. He was paranoid about any sort of mass uprising and could justify purging the causes of unrest by saying they were anti-Bolshevik and anti-revolution, while perhaps just being anti-Stalin.
So overall the evidence overwhelmingly points to Stalin being threatened by opposition as the main cause of the purges. Perhaps there were some who were genuinely trying to sabotage the revolution, but it appears that anybody who opposed Stalin, even while still being communists, even Bolsheviks, were either sent to gulags or killed.Much of Stalin’s paranoid fixation about the Red Army was focused on its head, Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky.
As brutal as Stalin in quelling opposition, using poison gas on revolting peasants, and executing reform-seeking sailors, Tukhachevsky was a brilliant advocate of armored warfare. Stalin's purges could otherwise be translated as "Stalin's Terror".
They grew from his paranoia and his desire to be absolute autocrat, and were enforced via the NKVD (Communist Secret police) and public 'show trials'.
They helped develop a centrally-enforced 'cult of Stalin-worship', and a terrifying system of labor camps - the gulag. Just as Stalin's nature led to the Purges, growing from Bolshevism, Yezhov's nature led to the Yezhovschina growing from the Purges.
Stalin did not initiate the Purges because of a desire to make economic scapegoats or unify the country in foreign policy opinion, but whilst the Purge occurred he seized these opportunities. Studies of Stalin and Mental Illness “Personality and Foreign Policy: The Case of Stalin,” which appeared in the journal Political Psychology is an excellent source in understanding the theory that Stalin’s terrorizing behavior stemmed from paranoia.
The author, Raymond Birt, explains that paranoia often begins during childhood in a situation in which the child feels both dependent on and threatened by . Joseph Stalin’s tenure as the Soviet Union’s head of State is remembered largely for his domestic policies like the First Five Year Plan, but also his paranoia fueled purges of the Soviet people and the Communist Party.
This is yet another example of how the purges were not entirely due to Stalin’s paranoia as he was, this time reflecting his obsession with protecting Russia from the threat of invasion.
Another factor that shows that the purges may have been carried out for economic reasons is the benefits they had for the government, as it was able to.