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Stalinismthe economic and political policies and style of government and social and economic organization in the USSR (and in Eastern European socialist societies under the hegemony of the USSR) under the leadership of Joseph STALIN from the late 1920s until his death in 1953, and after. The term is a mainly pejorative one referring to many ‘unattractive’ features of these regimes such as:
- central control of most spheres of life, including the economy and intellectual life;
- bureaucratic controls using a ‘mass party’, itself centrally controlled;
- an official ideology;
- a CULT OF PERSONALITY around the leader of the party;
- the use of state-directed ‘terror’ and political purges.
While initially set up as People's Democracies with multiparty representation, from 1948 most Eastern European socialist states quickly became dominated by Communist Parties whose leadership owed their position to Stalin. In most countries, that leadership continued in power until the late 1980s, adopting the forms of dictatorial party organization and highly centralized state direction of the economy and society which Stalin had equated with communism. These regimes continued after the death of Stalin, despite the denunciation of the crimes of Stalin by Khrushchev in 1956. The extent to which de-Stalinization in the Soviet Union occurred before Gorbachev assumed the leadership in 1985 is debated. On the one hand, state central planning and control of the economy (see COMMAND ECONOMY) continued with only minor modifications. On the other hand, the arbitrary brutality of political control was considerably modified, although political prison camps remained, psychiatric wards rather than camps were used to control dissidents, and civil liberties and freedoms were few. Only with the emergence of GLASNOST and PERESTROIKA was the legacy of Stalin finally challenged fully.
The term Stalinism is also used to describe those political parties and organizations in the West which adopt highly centralized organization with rigid controls over members and who have often adopted an uncritical defence of the Soviet Union. See also TOTALITARIANISM, STATE SOCIALIST SOCIETIES.