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with an introduction by Donald J. Raleigh, trans. David J. Nordlander (Armonk, NY: M. E.
Sharpe, 1995).
Khlevniuk et al., eds., Stalinskoe politbiuro v 30-e gody, 133; Lih et al., eds., 168“9, 203, 205;

O. V. Khlevniuk et al., eds., Stalin i Kaganovich (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2001), 460, 592“3, 601.
Rees suggests that Stalin maintained a particular interest in procurements, in part because it
was easier for him to exercise authority over these targets than over industrial targets, which
involved more complex issues in reconciling ¬gures for different branches of the economy. Rees,
“Changing Nature,” 30.
Yoram Gorlizki and Hans Mommsen

Rather than merely delegating policy documents to specialists, he often liked
to see papers and to edit them, especially where he felt that a document had
wider political rami¬cations. It was in this often quite technical idiom that
Stalin aimed to resolve the numerous battles over economic and organizational
issues which were a typical feature of leadership battles in the early 1930s.93
Stalin™s power was grounded in the administrative structures of party and
state. Just as he had learned how to “work” party procedures in the 1920s he
had, now, learned how to operate the new institutions of the centrally managed
economy. By launching seemingly innocuous inquiries, referring issues to com-
missions, or casting doubt on the minutiae of an economic policy, Stalin could
put colleagues and whole bureaucracies under intense psychological pressure.
The intimate knowledge of the political and economic system he had helped to
fashion would prove invaluable when it came to keeping his colleagues in line.
The contrast with Hitler and with the new political order in Germany was a
sharp one. Whereas Stalin™s rise had rested to a great extent on his control of
the party and state apparatus, Hitler™s chief political weapons were his talent
and reputation as a public speaker and demagogue.94 His virtuoso skills as
propagandist were key to the rise of the NSDAP in the 1920s and to the ability
of the party to set itself apart from other right-wing groups. In the early 1930s
it was Hitler™s capacity to exploit the propaganda opportunities afforded by
election campaigns which helped propel the party forward. It was chie¬‚y the
attraction of Hitler™s personality as Fuhrer rather than that of the NSDAP
which tipped the balance in the elections of March 1933. In much the same
way that Stalin™s power matched the bureaucratic strength of the Communist
Party, so did Hitler™s strengths correspond to the standing of the NSDAP as an
agitational mass movement.
Hitler™s qualities as leader were not only central to the rise of the Nazis
in opposition. They would also help de¬ne the kind of state and admin-
istration over which he presided. Hitler ruled in many respects as a public
speaker. Almost all of his most important policy decisions were accompanied
by major speeches. Such articulations of the “Fuhrer™s will” replaced any insti-
tutional decision making, systematic policy consultations, or regular contact
with members of his government. The contrast with Stalin was again strong.
Stalin worked ceaselessly on the machinery of government, putting in sixteen-
hour days attending committees, overseeing personnel assignments, and editing
mounds of policy documents and bureaucratic directives. By the time an ailing
Hindenburg had retired to East Prussia at the end of 1933, “that” recalls his

It was also characteristic of Stalin™s leadership in this period that, having played a part in the

design of the country™s new economic institutions, he was often keen to seek speci¬cally orga-
nizational or administrative solutions to the problems which then emerged. See, for example,
Khlevniuk et al., eds., Stalinskoe politbiuro v 30-e gody, 123“4, and Khlevniuk et al., eds.,
Stalin i Kaganovich, 19, 232“3, 262.
From 1924 to 1928 Hitler had to accept a ban on public presentations, as a consequence

of which he concentrated his propaganda activities on writing lead articles for Voelkische
Beobachter and on writing Mein Kampf. He only resumed his role as public speaker in 1929.
Political (Dis)Orders 65

press of¬cer, Otto Dietrich, “was the end of Hitler™s hard-working schedule.
He once more reverted to his habit of rising at noon and during the day entered
his of¬ce only for important receptions.”95 Hitler avoided going into the Reich
chancellery to study documents, preferring oral reports from Lammers and a
multitude of changing advisers. His interventions in the affairs of government
tended to be accidental, frequently on account of misleading press reports or
private information. One of his adjutants from the mid-1930s recalled: “He
disliked reading ¬les. I got decisions out of him, even on very important mat-
ters, without him ever asking me for the relevant papers. He took the view that
many things sorted themselves out if they were left alone.”96 He had, concludes
one biographer, “neither aptitude nor ability for organizational matters. Orga-
nization he could leave to others; propaganda “ mobilization of the masses “
was what he was good at, and what he wanted to do.”97
Neither Hitler nor Stalin could have attained the position he did without
enormous reserves of political energy. Their energies would, however, ¬nd quite
different outlets. Whereas Stalin was an interventionist, hands-on manager of
everyday governmental affairs, Hitler liked to maintain a fair distance from the
nuts and bolts of government. This contrast in the preferences of the leaders
was re¬‚ected in different approaches to subordinate bureaucracies and to those
who headed them. Hitler was ordinarily quite content to delegate affairs of state
to his deputies and to the leader-retinue structures which they commanded. He
also preferred administration with the minimum of con¬‚ict or controversy.
Thus he insisted that individual ministers agree on common positions among
themselves before presenting them to the cabinet for rati¬cation. The appoint-
ment of Hess as Deputy to the Fuhrer was designed precisely to spare Hitler
“unwelcome direct confrontations.”98 This would have two consequences for
the structure of government. First, Hitler was content to have his deputies
cultivate their own power bases. Thus, as we saw earlier, as Hitler™s “special
con¬dant,” Goring was allowed to build up a portfolio of departments, includ-
ing the of¬ce of Prussian Minister President, Reich Commissioner of Aviation,
Reich Forestry Commissioner, Head of the General Council of the Four-Year
Plan, and special aide on foreign affairs. Much like Himmler and the heads of
the other retinue structures around Hitler, Goring was allowed to carve out
a personal empire for himself. Secondly, Hitler was unwilling to confront

senior ¬gures and was extremely reluctant to have those who had served the
movement either publicly humiliated or executed. Eschewing a divide and rule
strategy, he even avoided manipulating the rivalries which rapidly emerged
between his deputies after the seizure of power. So long as his own personal

Otto Dietrich, 12 Jahre mit Hitler (Munich: Isar Verlag, 1955), 249.

Fritz Wiedemann, Der Mann, der Feldherr werden wollte: Erlebnisse und Erfahrungen des

¨ ¨
Vorgesetzten Hitlers im 1. Weltkrieg und seines spateren personlichen Adjutanten (Velbert:
Kettwig, 1964), 68“9 and 80“108.
Ian Kershaw, Hitler, 1889“1936: Hubris (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1998), 156.

Broszat, 202.

Ibid, 278“80, 300“1, 308.
Yoram Gorlizki and Hans Mommsen

prestige was unaffected, Hitler™s socio-Darwinist obsessions led him to believe
that personal and institutional rivalries should be allowed to follow their own
course. Although this approach could in the short term be highly effective and
quite compatible with a utilitarian emphasis on “achievement,” it did little for
the overall coherence of the state apparatus. Hitler™s con¬‚ict-averse stance and
his associated unwillingness to deal head-on with decisions of fundamental
importance often meant that problems were dealt with anemically, normally
by setting up yet more administrative units to cope with them. Hence bureau-
cracies tended to multiply, undermining the administrative unity of the state.
Stalin™s treatment of his colleagues was quite the reverse. As in the Hitler
leadership, disputes were likely to arise among Stalin™s immediate deputies,
normally over resources or personnel. Yet far from shunning or ignoring them,
or having them resolved behind closed doors, as was Hitler™s wont, Stalin
seized on policy con¬‚icts of this kind as a valuable source of information on
the policy positions of his colleagues and of the bureaucracies they headed. “I
cannot know everything,” Stalin once told the Minister of Communications, I.
V. Kovalev; “that is why I pay particular attention to disagreements, objections,
I look into why they started, to ¬nd out what is going on.”100 This attitude
to con¬‚ict was consistent with Stalin™s wider attitude to the management of
his colleagues. Rather than pursuing a laissez-faire approach and leaving his
deputies to their own devices, Stalin kept his entourage on a short leash. Even
when Stalin was in the south, spending months near the Black Sea in the
summer, he insisted on a daily exchange of policy documents of all kinds with
his Politburo colleagues in Moscow. “As before we receive from the boss a
steady stream of directives,” Kaganovich wrote in 1932.101 Rather than merely
casting his eye over documents, Stalin usually read them thoroughly, either
editing them for style or, on occasion, dismissing draft resolutions tout court.
Rejections of this kind could put members of the entourage under immense
pressure. It was entirely consistent with the nature of Stalin™s authority that
in the more extreme confrontations of this kind he could accuse offenders of
“violating the position of the Central Committee” or, even, of being “anti-
In terms of their approach to work and to their entourages Hitler and Stalin
were at polar ends of an imaginary dictatorial leadership spectrum. Hitler was
a leader who cared little for organizational work and who channeled most
of his energy into the worlds of propaganda and public oratory. Stalin, by
contrast, was a hard-working machine politician who thrived in the world

Cited in Konstantin Simonov, Glazami cheloveka moego pokoleniia: Razmyshleniia o I. V.

Staline (Moscow: Novosti, 1989), 160“1.
Politbiuro v 30-e gody, 126.

In one of the better known episodes Stalin characterized the decision of the Politburo, initiated

by Ordzhonikidze, to censure the deputy procurator general Andrey Vyshinsky in August
1933 as an “outrage.” “The conduct of Sergo [Ordzhonikidze]” he wrote to Molotov shortly
afterward, “cannot be characterized as anything other than anti-Party.” Lih et al, eds., 234;
Khlevniuk, Politburo, 92“3; Khlevniuk et al, eds., Stalin i Kaganovich, 303“4.
Political (Dis)Orders 67

of committees, personnel assignments, and internal directives. Where Hitler
left his subordinates and the bureaucracies they managed to ¬ght out their
con¬‚icts among themselves, Stalin did his best to rein them in, monitoring
and micromanaging their behavior. The contrast, however, was by no means
merely one of personality. The two leaders answered the needs and matched
the peculiarities of the systems they headed. As supreme propagandist Hitler
the orator spearheaded a mass-agitational party movement whose relationship
to the state was never properly ¬xed or institutionalized. As master bureaucrat
and organizer, Stalin headed a massive all-embracing hierarchy in which a well-
staffed party bureaucracy “ to a great extent molded by him “ came to assume
a pivotal role.
The behavior of the two leaders and the mechanics of the political systems
they headed were by no means constant or unchanging. Both systems were
marked by dynamic characteristics which were rooted in large part in the
extraordinary ambitions of their leaders. These ambitions would push both
political systems into major upheavals in the late 1930s. Yet these upheavals
took on very different forms. In order to trace the complex and fast-changing
trajectories of the regimes in this period we pay particular attention to the
interaction of the key structural components “ parties and leaders “ that were
the subject of the ¬rst two parts of the essay.

patterns of development
The task Stalin faced in controlling the party-state bureaucracy was of a dif-
ferent order from Hitler™s. One reason was that the overall remit of the Soviet
party-state, which included the micromanagement of most aspects of the econ-
omy, was considerably wider. In the Soviet case the authority and overall
effectiveness of the state also rested to a far greater degree on a large party
apparatus. But the party apparatus was itself dogged by long-standing con-
cerns over the quality of its staff. In the early 1930s this would combine with
Stalin™s relentless need to manage and control, as well as a growing suspicious-
ness on his part toward certain sections of the party bureaucracy, to mean
that the vanguard party™s apparatus was itself subjected to a period of inten-
sive scrutiny. Somewhat fortunately for Stalin, and unlike in National Socialist
Germany, the Bolsheviks had in the party “purge” a relatively institutionalized
mechanism for carrying out an operation of this kind. Party purges, which
had taken the form either of chistki (cleanings) or proverki (veri¬cations), had,
since 1919, been applied nationally at intervals of around two to three years
and become a recurrent feature of Communist Party life. But whereas purges
had up until this point principally been applied to the rank and ¬le in the form
of “membership screening exercises,” from around 1933 the purge mechanism
was turned against the party apparatus itself.
The reasons behind this turn of events, and as to why the purge of the party
apparatus became extremely violent, forming one of the principal strands of
the Great Terror of 1937“8, are complex. Following recent research one may
Yoram Gorlizki and Hans Mommsen

identify three major contributory elements.103 First, a series of purges, begin-
ning with the chistka of summer 1933, revealed severe problems in the party™s
records and membership-accounting procedures and suggested that the con-
centration of the party on economic tasks during the industrial transformation
had been at the expense of the more traditional areas of party work, such as the
political training of cadres. In the rush to acquire new personnel, “alien” and
“nonparty” elements had reportedly wormed their way into the party organi-
zation. The relative ineffectiveness of the 1933 purge which followed and of
the subsequent “veri¬cation of documents” of 1935 was attributed by the cen-
tral authorities to the fact that these processes were effectively in the hands of
regional party leaders, who were determined to protect their own networks.104
In addition, however, there were two other, relatively independent, factors
which fed into the widening vortex of coercion which would culminate in the
Great Terror. The ¬rst of these was the Stalinist regime™s tendency, evident
for much of the 1930s, to resort to relatively arbitrary and coercive measures,
such as searches, mass arrests, and deportations, to deal with a whole host of
socioeconomic problems. After 1933, in particular, the Soviet police shifted
their attention away from class war in the countryside to cleanse the country™s
major cities as well as other strategic locations of “socially harmful elements”
(sotsvrediteli). “Mass operations” of this kind, launched against sotsvrediteli
and national minorities by a decree of 9 May 1935, were deemed so successful
that they were extended to other social problems.105 These two factors would
combine, in 1937, with a third, the imperative, as the Soviet leadership saw it,
in the face of deepening international tensions and the growing threat of war,
to ensure the “moral-political unity” of Soviet society. Following the events in
Spain, the authorities became anxious that a German invasion, which appeared
increasingly likely, would be the signal for armed uprisings by disaffected
groups, most notably members of diaspora nationalities who had contacts
with conationals abroad, and the million or so class-alien kulaks who, half
a decade after collectivization, were released, in theory at least, from their
original conditions of exile. Noting the sudden change in language in mid-
1937, as Soviet leaders began to talk of a threat of a “¬fth column,” David
Shearer suggests that it “was the threat of war which introduced a national

The approach here draws on David Shearer, “Social Disorder, Mass Repression and the NKVD

during the 1930s,” in Stalin™s Terror: High Politics and Mass Repression in the Soviet Union,


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