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John Barber and Mark Harrison, The Soviet Home Front 1941“1945: A Social and Economic

History of the USSR in World War II (London and New York: Longman, 1991), 198; Sanford
R. Lieberman, “Crisis Management in the USSR: Wartime System of Administration and
Control,” in The Impact of World War II on the Soviet Union, ed. Susan Linz (Totowa, NJ:
Rowman & Allanhead, 1985), 65“6.
On the “working groups” see Iurii Gor™kov, Gosudarstvennyi Komitet Oborony postanovliaet:

1941“1945: Tsifry i dokumenty (Moscow: Olma-Press, 2002), 55, 72.
Yoram Gorlizki and Hans Mommsen

at the front, and political departments resurrected at the Machine Tractor
Although the state defense committee was an extraordinary body, with
variable attendance and no agendas or minutes, it was nonetheless in many
respects a continuation of the “ruling group” which had existed before the
war. As with that body, the GKO was a collective entity, consisting of political
leaders, which discharged a range of cabinetlike functions.140 In fact, all its
members were full or candidate members of the Politburo.141 Nor should one
exaggerate the formlessness of its proceedings. Over a half of the GKO™s 9,971
decrees were passed by means of a vote.142 Following a resolution of February
1942, there was also a relatively clear division of labor among its members.143
With only a small staff of its own, the GKO relied heavily on the bureaucracies
of the party and state and most of its business was implemented through regular
party and state channels.144 Similarly at a local level GKO plenipotentiaries
tended to rely on local party committees to implement decisions.145
Not only was the GKO a fully functioning cabinet, but its leader took an
active part in its affairs. Almost a quarter (2,256 out of 9,971) of all GKO
resolutions were signed by Stalin, and many of these were either completely
written, dictated, or substantially amended by him.146 In fact, much as in the
early 1930s, and to a far greater degree than Hitler, Stalin was drawn into the
¬ner details of managing the war economy through the GKO. Following the loss
of production during the evacuation and occupation of Soviet territory in the
summer of 1941, for example, Stalin dictated a telegram to the Gor™kii obkom
and to directors of tank-producing factories in the region on the need to raise

Altogether in the war, 13,850 leading party of¬cials, including leading party secretaries and

Central Committee staff, were mobilized to serve in the armed forces. See Iu. P. Petrov, “KPSS “
Organizator i rukovoditel™ pobedy sovetskogo naroda v velikoi otechestvennoi voine,” Voprosy
istorii, no. 5 (1970): 16
The cabinet-like functions of the GKO are emphasized in A. A. Pechenkin, “Gosudarstvennyi

Komitet Oborony v 1941 godu,” Otechestvennaia istoriia, 4“5 (1994): 140.
With the exception of Bulganin, who joined the GKO in November 1944 and was made a

candidate member of the Politburo in March 1946, all the other eight full members of the
GKO were members of the Politburo. The notion that the prewar Politburo continued to
operate, albeit under the auspices of the GKO, can be found in Iu. A. Gor™kov [“K istorii
sozdaniia goskomiteta oborony,” Novaia i noveishaia istoriia, no. 4 (1999): 32], who writes,
“Resolutions of the GKO were, in effect, resolutions of the Politburo of the Central Com-
Gor™kov, Gosudarstvennyi Komitet Oborony postanovliaet, 69.

“O raspredelenii obiazannostei mezhdu chlenami GKO” in Gor™kov, Gosudarstvennyi

Komitet, 70“1.
A. A. Pechenkin, “Gosudarstvennyi Komitet Oborony v 1941 godu,” 131; the Central Com-

mittee also had its own plenipotentiaries, who focused on nonmilitary issues such as the
procurements of fuel. Politburo resolution of 23 July 1942, “Ob upolnomochennom TsK
VKP(b) i SNK SSSR po obespecheniiu zagotovok mestnykh vidov topliva” RGASPI f. 17 op.
3 d. 1045 ll. 23“4.
Petrov, “KPSS “ Organizator i rukovoditel,™” 13.

Gor™kov, Gosudarstvennyi Komitet, 80“1.
Political (Dis)Orders 79

production from three tanks to four to ¬ve tanks a day.147 On another occasion,
having ordered that the Ministry of Defense and Gosplan provide him and the
rest of the GKO every month with a schedule for the daily production of
antitank ammunition, Stalin went on to dictate a draft resolution that directed
that the secretaries of the six most proximate regional party committees take
day-to-day control of the production of 45 mm anti-tank and 76 mm division
guns and that they report to Stalin personally on the ful¬llment of this program
every day.148
By contrast, on the eve of the war, the upper reaches of the German state
had dissolved into a series of one-to-one relationships between Hitler and a
variety of favored individuals. As the war progressed, without a cabinet or
a collective agency, such as the de facto Politburo or the GKO, to provide
a regularized forum for interaction and discussion, the processes by which
policies were initiated and decisions reached became ever more disjointed and
fragmentary.149 Unlike the USSR, where all leading directives were formally
issued under the authority of the institutions of the party-state, most often the
GKO, but sometimes as resolutions of the Central Committee or Sovnarkom,
the majority of key wartime edicts and resolutions in Germany were received as
“Hitler” directives.150 Further, some of the ¬ercest policy con¬‚icts of the early
phase of the war, such as on how to resolve the competing claims between
the army and the war industries for manpower, were resolved, outside the
framework of a collective decision-making body, by Hitler alone, in this case
in favor of the latter. Once these procedures for relatively unstructured one-
person decision making had been established, they became self-reinforcing.
Thus, for example, after Hitler had in effect stripped the leadership of the
armed forces of any capacity for collective action on the eve of the war, it
was army leaders such as von Fritsch, Beck, and Halder who, in their desire to
preserve their own in¬‚uence over policy, opposed the creation of an agency to
oversee all the German armed forces. “As a result, no institution such as a war
cabinet, joint chiefs of staff or a combined services committee existed in Nazi
Germany; the threads came together only in the hands of Hitler.”151
The fact that there had not been a deep-seated transformation of the social
structure in Germany under the Nazis also had an impact on the kinds of
societal pressures which impinged on the political and economic system dur-
ing the war. Without the Soviet state™s economic and coercive instruments,

Pechenkin, 132“3. On 3 March 1942 Stalin authored a Politburo resolution obliging the

director of factory no. 26, V. P. Balandin, to produce 800 M-105P aircraft motors in March,
with a view to producing 30 a day by the end of March and 40 a day in April. RGASPI, f. 17
op. 162 d. 37 l. 32.
Gor™kov, Gosudarstvennyi Komitet, 74; Pechenkin, 133“4.

This is discussed in Kershaw, Hitler, 1936“45, 186, 311“13.

According to Overy, of the 650 major legislative acts promulgated during the war years, only

72 were formal laws, while 241 were Fuhrer decrees and 173 Fuhrer orders. See Overy, The
¨ ¨
Dictators, 71.
Jurgen Forster, “From ˜Blitzkrieg™ to ˜Total War,™” 92, 100“1.
¨ ¨
Yoram Gorlizki and Hans Mommsen

the German state found it harder to depress social demands. Unlike the Soviet
case, where the social structure and social expectations had been refashioned
to limit, as far as possible, constraints on the state™s economic and military pri-
orities, the German state™s capabilities were circumscribed by powerful social
pressures, especially in the consumer sector. Further, to the extent that the
Hitler state co-opted existing social interests, it was also contained by them.
Having allied itself to established corporate interests, the state found that its
economic structures and policies had, in certain respects, become “privatized”;
thus, the unreconstituted nature of German society was mirrored in the struc-
ture of social and economic interests within the state. With the outbreak of
war, a variety of political-economic alliances, each headed by a powerful state
department but supported by major business interests, participated in the rela-
tively unstructured competition for resources. At the highest levels these state
departments included Walter Funk™s Ministry of Economics, the War Econ-
omy Of¬ce headed by General Georg Thomas at Supreme Headquarters, and
Goring™s FYP organization; below them another twenty-seven national of¬ces
played their part in the planning anarchy.152
The fact that a relatively underdeveloped economy such as the Soviet Union™s
did not collapse on being invaded, as did many other countries in a similar
position, and that the Soviet Union was able to mobilize so rapidly in the face
of calamitous military defeats is relevant to our theme, for it points to two
distinctive features of the Soviet political system. One key to this success was
not so much the fact that the Soviet Union had detailed economic controls, as
that it was able to maintain economic integration under intense stress. Before
the war, the Soviet economy had taken signi¬cant steps toward overcoming the
strategic disadvantage of a low developmental level through the establishment
of a centralized, integrated system for allocating industrial and agricultural
products. Soviet leaders had deployed a “superior institutional capacity for
integration and coordination” which matched or exceeded that of much more
highly developed economies so that, despite a relatively poor economy, the
USSR could commit a very high proportion of national resources to the war
effort.153 A second factor, given the relative balance of resources in the ¬rst
phase of the war, which helps account for the Soviet Union™s ability to stave
off collapse, was the extraordinarily coercive approach of Stalin not only to
his own troops, but to civilians as well. The infamous orders on surrender
and on retreat (no. 270 of 16 August 1941 “On Capture” and order no. 227

Werner Abelshauser, “Germany: Guns, Butter and Economic Miracles,” in Mark Harrison, ed,

The Economics of World War II: Six Great Powers in International Comparison (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1998), 145, 155“6.
Mark Harrison, “The Economics of World War II: An Overview,” in The Economics of World

War II: Six Great Powers in International Comparison, ed. Mark Harrison (Cambridge and
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 20, 24; and Mark Harrison, “The Soviet Union:
The Defeated Victor,” in The Economics of World War II: Six Great Powers in International
Comparison, ed. Mark Harrison (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press,
1998), 270“2.
Political (Dis)Orders 81

“Not a Step Back” of 28 July 1941), which were designed to threaten any
“collaboration” with death, were complemented by mass deportations of the
Soviet Union™s own ethnic groups, and extraordinarily severe punishments not
only for various food crimes and looting, but also for lateness, absenteeism, and
illegal quitting at work. It was this form of leadership which allowed Stalin, in
Mark Harrison™s words, to “close off the options of honorable surrender.”154
The Soviet Union™s victory at Stalingrad considerably shifted the military
balance in its favor, a fact which soon brought on a stabilization in decision-
making structures. At this stage a variety of collective bodies designed to
facilitate political and economic integration were reestablished. Thus a new
operational bureau of the GKO consisting of four senior politicians, Molotov,
Beria, Malenkov, and Mikoian, was set up on 8 December 1942.155 For the
rest of the war, the bureau passed 2,256 resolutions on military affairs and as
many again on defense production.156 With the upturn in the military situation,
there was also a reemergence of traditional party structures at the center, in the
regions, and in the newly occupied territories. So as to “bring organizational
order” to the work of regional party committees and to “raise the account-
ability” of regional party secretaries, on 6 August 1943 the work of regional
party secretaries was rationalized and a clear authority structure subordinat-
ing regional party organizations to the Central Committee was reinstated.157
Attention was also paid to establishing embryonic party-based bodies in the
newly occupied territories and subordinating these directly to the All-Union
Central Committee.158
In Nazi Germany, the Party also played an increasing role as the war pro-
gressed, but its position in the wider political landscape was very different
and tended to undermine political integration rather than reinforce it. In the

The use of coercion as part of Stalin™s strategy is discussed at length in Mark Harrison, “The

USSR and Total War: Why Didn™t the Soviet Economy Collapse in 1942?” in Chickering et al.,
A World at Total War, eds. Roger Chickering, Stig Forster, and Bernd Greiner (Washington,
DC, and Cambridge: German Historical Institute and Cambridge University Press, 2005),
The full text of the resolution (no. 2615) can be found in Gor™kov, Gosudarstvennyi Komitet,

521“2. The activities of the GKO bureau, which were further extended on 18 May 1944, were
similar to those of the Bureau of Sovnarkom, which had ¬rst been set up on the eve of the war.
See Gorlizki and Khlevniuk, “Stalin and His Circle,” 256; and Gor™kov, 532“3.
Gor™kov, Gosudarstvennyi Komitet, 31.

One of the resolutions of 6 August entrusted the senior Central Committee Secretary and

Politburo member Georgii Malenkov with day to day supervision of regional party committees
and gave him the right “to summon and to hear reports at the Secretariat and the Orgburo,
of ¬rst secretaries of obkoms, kraikoms, and the Central Committees of the union republic
parties, and to carry out through the Secretariat and Orgburo necessary decisions and practical
measures for correcting shortcomings and improving the work of local party organizations in
accordance with the results of these checks.” RGASPI f. 17 op. 3 d. 1048 l. 37.
Sanford Lieberman, “The Re-Sovietization of Formerly Occupied Areas of the USSR during

WWII,” in The Soviet Empire Reconsidered: Essays in Honor of Adam B. Ulam, eds. Sanford
Lieberman et al. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994), 51“2; and RGASPI f. 17 op. 3 d. 1048
ll. 36“7.
Yoram Gorlizki and Hans Mommsen

economic sphere, rationalization of the war economy, which ¬nally enabled
mass production of armaments, did lead to a dramatic increase in labor pro-
ductivity in the armaments sector.159 However, in the political sphere, author-
ity became if anything even more fragmented than it had been before. At the
very highest level there continued to be no central administrative authority to
coordinate the war effort. The new “Committee of Three,” which consisted of
the heads of the chancelleries for administration, party affairs, and the armed
forces (Lammers, Bormann, and Keitel) and which had been set up during
the Stalingrad crisis to allocate manpower, met only eleven times. Attempts to
regenerate the Reich Defense Council also came to naught. Rather, it was the
orders issued under Hitler™s authority, the so-called “Hitler orders,” that pre-
scribed aggregate levels of arms production, allocated labor between industry


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