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1921 - The First Purges

Among the political actions of Lenin's last years were the first harsh steps toward suppression of factions and "deviationists." At the same Tenth Party Congress which proclaimed the NEP, a number of rigid decisions were taken, on Lenin's initiative, to put an end to the discussions and fights which had shaken the party in the last years. The following resolution was adopted :

"6. The Congress orders the immediate dissolution of all groups, without exception, that have been formed en the basis of one platform or another, and charges all organizations strictly to see to it that no factional actions take place. Non-compliance with this decision of the Congress will result in unconditional and immediate expulsion from the party.

7. In order to effect strict discipline within the party and in all Soviet work and to secure the greatest unity in removing all factionalism, the Congress authorizes the Central Committee to apply all party penalties, including expulsion, in cases of breach of discipline or of reviving or engaging in factionalism; and in regard to members of the Central Com- mittee to reduce them to the status of candidates and, as an extreme measure, to expel them from the party. "

In this early period of expulsions, purges, and stern party rule, however, certain safeguards of the rights of accused persons were maintained. A necessary condition for the application of such an extreme measure (to members of the Central Committee, alternate members of the Central Committee and members of the Control Commission) was the convocation of the plenum of the Central Committee, to which all alternate members of the Central Committee and all members of the Control Commission would be invited. If such a general assembly of the most responsible leaders of the party, by a two-thirds majority, deemed it necessary to reduce a member of the Central Committee to the status of an alternate member, or to expel him from the party, this measure must be put into effect immediately.

Party discipline was becoming more rigid, but factions and groupings found means of engaging in political activity. While some dissidents were removed from their posts (arrests among party members were rare), others appeared at party or Comintern congresses to protest and enunciate their programs. At the Eleventh Party Congress in 1922, for instance, V. Kossior could complain, without being expelled from the party

"The administrative system of our Party has remained as authoritarian and to a certain degree militaristic as it was in the war period. If anyone had the courage or deemed it necessary to criticize or point out a certain deficiency which exists in the area of Soviet and Party work, he was immediately counted among the opposition, the appropriate places learned of it, and the comrade in question was relieved of this office. . . . . Madam Kollontai accused the Party leadership of suppressing thought and of inadequate attention to the welfare of the workers. "

The privileged position of members of the Communist party was maintained under Lenin. Party penalties involved transfer to another job or another city or an assignment abroad; arrests of party members did not begin until after Lenin became ill.

Despite violent threats and tirades, the most drastic penalty which Lenin imposed on dissenters was expulsion from the Party, and even this penalty was rarely utilized against Party members of any prominence who had rendered distinguished services in the past. If on occasion Lenin seemed to equate dissent with treason, he still shrank from drawing the practical consequences, at least so far as intra-Party struggles were concerned.

It was at this time that the system of periodic party "purges" was introduced. The purges were aimed at two groups of party members: first, the "careerists," "self-seekers," and criminals who flooded the party; second, the former political opponents, former liberals and socialists in whose new orientation the leaders of the party had no confidence. In the purge of 1921 about 25 percent of the then membership of over 700,000 were expelled.

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Page last modified: 30-01-2016 19:10:18 ZULU