Stalinism Revisited

Stalinism Revisited: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in East-Central Europe

Edited by VLADIMIR TISMANEANU
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 453
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7829/j.ctt1281tc
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  • Book Info
    Stalinism Revisited
    Book Description:

    Deals with the period of takeover and of ‘high Stalinism’ in Eastern Europe (1945–1955). These years are considered to be fundamentally characterized by institutional and ideological transfers based upon the premise of radical transformism and of cultural revolution. Both a balance-sheet and a politico-historical synthesis that reflects the archival and thematic novelties which came about in the field of communism studies after 1989.

    eISBN: 978-615-5211-81-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    Vladimirt Tismaneanu

    Understanding the nature, dynamics, and consequences of Stalinism in Eastern and Central Europe remains an urgent scholarly and moral task. The present volume compiles the proceedings of the conference “Stalinism Revisited: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in the former Soviet Bloc” (29–30 November 2007, Washington, D.C., USA). The event was envisaged as an opportunity for synthesis and comparison under the favorable circumstances of temporal distance and new available sources. The two decades that have passed since the 1989 watershed brought about an archival upheaval¹ and, consequently, a scholarly explosion within the field of communist studies. The result was an...

  4. Part One STALINISM REVISITED AND THE TAKEOVER MODEL
    • Stalinist Revolutionary Breakthroughs in Eastern Europe
      (pp. 17-24)
      Ken Jowitt

      According to Franz Schurman, a revolutionary breakthrough makes a return to the status quo ante impossible. Otto Kirchheimer, in his seminal article “Confining Conditions and Revolutionary Breakthroughs,” adds substantially to Schurman’s definition noting that a revolutionary breakthrough may occur with the “old data” remaining, “though absorbed in a new context and thereby deprived of its confining nature.” I take his point to be that while all social change is partial, some social change is decisive in radically revising who authoritatively defines the institutions of power at all levels of society. Successful revolutions insure that the “old data,” e.g., former elites,...

    • Diabolical Pedagogy and the (Il)logic of Stalinism in Eastern Europe
      (pp. 25-49)
      Vladimir Tismaneanu

      In order to understand the dynamics of the Stalinist experiment in Eastern Europe, one needs to take into account the prevailing role of direct Soviet intervention and intimidation.¹ Local communist formations were pursuing the Stalinist model of systematic destruction of non-communist parties, the disintegration of civil society, and the monopolistic occupation of the public space through state-controlled ideological rituals and coercive institutions.² The overall goal was to build a passive consensus based on unlimited commitment to the ideocratic political program of the ruling elite. The true content of the political regime is described by the “cult of personality” system. The...

    • Stalin, Soviet Policy, and the Consolidation of a Communist Bloc in Eastern Europe, 1944–53
      (pp. 51-102)
      Mark Kramer

      Soviet policy in Eastern Europe during the final year and immediate aftermath of World War II had a profound impact on global politics.¹ The clash of Soviet and Western objectives in Eastern Europe was submerged for a while after the war, but by March 1946 the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill felt compelled to warn in his famous speech at Fulton, Missouri, that “an iron Curtain has descended across the Continent” of Europe. At the time of Churchill’s remarks, the Soviet Union had not yet decisively pushed for the imposition of Communist rule in most of the East European...

    • Popular Democracy: An Illusion?
      (pp. 103-128)
      Alfred J. Rieber

      From the classic formulations of Marx and Engels to the end of the communist system in Eastern Europe, Marxist theoreticians and communist party leaders wrestled with the dual problem of defining and managing the transition from bourgeois democracy to socialism. During the brief period leading up to the establishment of communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the terms “new democracy” or “popular democracy” entered the communist political vocabulary in order to identify an intermediate stage in the transition that would substitute for the dictatorship of the proletariat. At the end of the war, throughout Europe, not only in the East, new...

  5. Part Two THE ESTABLISHMENT OF COMMUNIST REGIMES IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
    • Eastern Europe between the USSR and the West: Reflections on the Origins and Dynamics of the Cold War
      (pp. 131-142)
      Thomas W. Simons Jr.

      I was actually born in 1938 during the Munich crisis, so I could almost say, with the 17th-century English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, that fear and I are twins, even if the Cold War and I are not. But I did come of age during the mean early years of the Cold War, from the Berlin Blockade to the Cuban Missile Crisis. I am of the generation that learned in school to get under door jams to survive a Soviet nuclear attack. So when I entered the U.S. Foreign Service in 1963 I hoped to work in and on the...

    • Legitimation Deficit and Legitimation Crisis in East European Societies
      (pp. 143-160)
      Agnes Heller

      In the following paper I use the term “legitimation” roughly in its Weberian understanding. A system of domination can be regarded as “legitimate” if at least one part of the population acknowledges it as exemplary and binding, while the other part, most often the majority, does not confront the existing social order with an image of an alternative one as, at least, equally exemplary and more desirable. In Weber’s view there are three major sources of legitimacy, namely, the legal order, charisma and tradition.

      Dealing with communist systems, I would add first the distinction between the legitimacy of a system...

    • The Paradox of East German Communism: From Non-Stalinism to Neo-Stalinism?
      (pp. 161-194)
      John Connelly

      The German Democratic Republic (GDR) figured as one of the world’s most orthodox Communist states. This was especially apparent against the background of the Soviet Bloc. As one author has stated of the post-1961 period: “Close Party control over all aspects of national life was more systematically elaborated in the GDR than in any other eastern European state…”¹ While Poland or Hungary gradually liberalized, the East German leadership resisted reform so tirelessly that western commentators have called it “neo-Stalinist.”² “Neo-Stalinist,” when applied to Brezhnev’s Soviet Union, referred to a repressive, strictly centralized political regime that had been created in the...

    • Road to “People’s Poland”: Stalin’s Conquest Revisited
      (pp. 195-228)
      Antoni Z. Kaminski and Bartłomiej Kaminski

      The 60th anniversary of the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform), coinciding also with the anniversary of the outbreak of the Cold War and the end of the communist takeover of Central and Eastern Europe, is a good opportunity to revisit the Soviet takeover of Poland, which became People’s Poland, and which ceased to exist in 1989.

      History has already delivered its final verdict on many previously controversial issues. The critics who claimed that communism was not a viable politico-economic order capable of overcoming capitalism turned out to be right. The Soviet Union lost the Cold War thanks to the system that...

  6. Part Three STALINISM AND HISTORIOGRAPHY
    • Revisiting Hungarian Stalinism
      (pp. 231-254)
      János Rainer

      The concept of Stalinism is no longer a subject of wide debate in Hungary. There is still a lot of interest in the Stalinist period of Hungarian history, but less than there was, say, during the change of system, 15 or 20 years ago. Though Stalinism and its period form a common subject of discussion, the discourse takes a declarative, rather than interrogative form. Stalinism is understood and evaluated differently in Hungary today than 15 or 20 years ago, and differently again from 30 or even 50 years ago, when the concept first appeared in Hungarian parlance.

      I will begin...

    • Avatars of the Romanian Academy and the Historical Front: 1948 versus 1955
      (pp. 255-282)
      Bogdan Cristian Iacob

      The starting point of the institutionalization and centralization of history production in Romania under communism is the year 1948. At the time, the academy turned into an enormous institution with several sectors/sections covering all the recognized sciences, history included. This initial stage was part and parcel of the so-called “Sovietization” of Romania (also known in the literature as “High Stalinism”). The Academy was to become the pinnacle of a pyramidal system, an omnipotent institution which aimed to “bring science closer to life” (nauka v zhizn’). However, a second look at this institution’s development throughout the communist period reveals a much...

    • Bulgarian Stalinism Revisited
      (pp. 283-304)
      Ekaterina Nikova

      Any attempt to set the chronological boundaries of Bulgarian Stalinism puts us in the middle of two continuing debates. The first one is the great controversy about who unraveled the wartime alliance and when, subsequently starting the Cold War and provoking the division of Europe. An implicit subplot to this story is whether Stalin had a master plan to Bolshevize Eastern Europe and if so what place Bulgaria held in it.¹ The second one is the domestic Bulgarian debate about the nature of the autochthonous developments in 1944–47 and their correlation to endogenous and exogenous factors driving these developments....

    • Historicizing a Disputed Theme: Anti-Communist Armed Resistance in Romania
      (pp. 305-342)
      Dorin Dobrincu

      The wars waged by small irregular groups against regular military forces or even big armies, of the “classical” type, have been known since Antiquity. But the term “guerrilla war” entered the military vocabulary with the Napoleonic invasion to Spain, at the beginning of the 19th century, when the Spanish irregular forces played an important part in Napoleon’s defeat. The term “guerrilla” means “small war” or “irregular war” waged by unprofessional civil-soldiers, who transform into fighters when their country is invaded by a foreign power.² therefore, if a war is carried on with regular armies, it is considered to be the...

  7. Part Four NATIONAL OR REVOLUTIONARY BREAKTHROUGHS?
    • Hope Died Last: The Czechoslovak Road to Stalinism
      (pp. 345-366)
      Bradley Abrams

      Having written quite extensively on the immediate post-war period in Czechoslovakia, I will be drawing upon many of those writings to discuss the path that Czechoslovakia took from liberation in 1945 to Stalinism in 1950 as two different, but deeply related phenomena. The first is relatively straight-forward and is in distinction to what usually takes center stage in discussions of the Sovietization of Eastern Europe: international aspects of, in my case, Czechoslovak developments. In what i will call the Czechoslovak Road to Socialism, I will focus on domestic events and briefly examine some of what I see as the most...

    • Propaganda and Culture in Romania at the Beginning of the Communist Regime
      (pp. 367-386)
      Cristian Vasile

      In the aftermath of the communist takeover, high on the Romanian Communist Party’s to-do-list was the creation of a Soviet-type culture. According to the official discourse, this new culture was going to be the creation of the working class. But it is no surprise that its genesis was attentively and exclusively monitored by the communist leadership. The agency designed for such purpose was the dreaded Propaganda and Agitation Department, an institution attached to the party’s Central Committee.

      The present paper has two parallel goals. It analyzes the activity of the Propaganda and Agitation Department during the Stalinist period (1948–53)....

    • Varieties of Stalinism in Light of the Yugoslav Case
      (pp. 387-400)
      Svetozar Stojanovic

      “What’s the time now in moscow?” (D.Ćosiæ in the novel The Sinner) is one of the best metaphors for international Stalinism. The time in Moscow did, indeed, change continually and unforeseeably in rhythm with the super-despot’s twists and turns, while all the other communist parties set their own clocks in tune with the Kremlin’s (until the Yugoslav communists began, so to say, asking “What’s the time now in Belgrade?”).

      Stalinism was a somewhat diffuse phenomenon. A long time ago I put forward some conceptual and other distinctions for it, relying on the specific example of the Yugoslav Communist Party (YCP)....

    • Community-Building and Identity Politics in Gheorghiu-Dej’s Romania, 1956–64
      (pp. 401-424)
      Dragoş Petrescu

      Numerous scholars have been concerned with Nicolae Ceauşescu’s flamboyant display of chauvinistic nationalism. Indeed, under the reign of Ceauşescu (1965–89), the Romanian Communist Party (RCP) adopted coherent strategies explicitly aimed at reinforcing the ethnic ties among the Romanian majority and assimilating the historic ethnic minorities.¹ This project was heralded by the launch of the so-called “Theses of July 1971” and was followed by concrete measures for building an ethnically homogeneous “socialist nation” in Romania. Nonetheless, it was Gheorghe Gheorghiu-dej, Ceauşescu’s predecessor, who initiated, after 1956, a return to the local traditions and thus to an ethnic understanding of the...

  8. List of Contributors
    (pp. 425-430)
  9. Index
    (pp. 431-444)