T. Cliff


(Winter 1963)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.15, Winter 1963/4, p.39.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

A Key to Soviet Politics. The Crisis of the ‘Anti-Party Group’
R. Pethybridge
Allen & Unwin; 21s.

The best of Kremlinology. In the face of the lack of important sources, and the fragmentary and unreliable nature of other sources, quite a successful solution of the jig-saw puzzle has been put together. The book describes the struggle between different branches of the bureaucracy: the Party apparatus, Government officialdom, economic managements, and the military. The interlinking of the different bureaucracies, and especially the leeching of the Party apparatus on the rest is well described. The special place of the police, a force relatively independent of outside control, made it a challenger to the Party supremacy after the death of Stalin, the man who kept close personal ties with the secret police as well as heading the Party apparatus. The conflict between the Party apparatus and the State apparatus, including the economic management, as expressed in the issue of decentralisation of economic decisions versus centralisation, is well described. The rising role of the Party apparatus, as the result of the virgin land campaign, the dissolution of the Machine Tractor Stations, the transfer of industrial management to local Economic Councils are also well illustrated. It is true that all this is quite well known, but the weaving together of the different strands is useful.

The book tells us quite a lot about the rough and tumble, the manouvres and intrigues of Kruschev, as, for instance, when he used a war scare to get the military commanders, including Marshal Zhukov, on his side, when he argued that the latter’s emphasis on light industry threatened the military might of Russia. Pethybridge points out, how, after June 1957, Kruschev dealt with the ‘anti-party’ group piecemeal, completely ruining some members, temporarily disgracing others, and playing a cat-and-mouse game with still more. In his manoeuvres Kruschev shows himself a true disciple of Stalin. Kruschev showed himself a master also of the use of the amalgam technique – making an amalgam of the different trends in opposition to him: the orthodox Stalinists (Molotov, Kaganovich), and the Revisionist liberals (Shepilov, Malenkov). Quite an interesting hypothesis about the role of Peking in the internal struggle in the Kremlin is put forward.

Pethybridge’s searchlight, even if penetrating, is unfortunately too narrow. This is the specific weakness of all Kremlinologists.

Last updated on 25 March 2010