Stalin’s Big Deal

In her pivotal work, historian Vera Dunham points out that after the war, Stalin and the party were faced with a decision – they could choose to honor the promises and concessions that they had granted to their people during the war in order to garner their support or to abandon it completely.  Instead of choosing either side, the party chose a middle ground – making an effective treaty with some of these people.[1]  This treaty was between the party and the middle class, which Dunam terms “the big deal.”  The Communist party needed a way to rebuild the country from the destruction faced by war, and the middle class was its best option.[2]  The regime needed a dependable and dedicated force of workers, and to gain the support of the middle class, the party was willing to accommodate pre-eminent middle-class values in order to keep the status quo in balance.[3]

This treaty was mutually beneficial to both parties.  The regime received loyalty, hard work, commitment, professional dedication and nationalism.[4]  The middle class did not leave this arrangement empty handed.  They wanted incentives which would include luxuries, time off and better housing – material possessions that would foster a sense of security, beauty and normalcy.[5]  Ultimately this arrangement worked for the simple reason that both sides desperately needed it to.[6]  Although the Big Deal fundamentally opposed some of the ideologies and tenants espoused by Marxism, neither the party or the middle class was particularly interested in ideology during this period.[7]  They were able to work together in order to stabilize a country that had been devastated by war and desperately needed stability in order to rebuild, grow and become one of the world’s superpowers in the wake of one of the most brutal and bloody wars in history.

[1] Vera S Dunham, In Stalin’s Time, (Durham: Duke University Press, 1990), 13.

[2] Dunham, In Stalin’s Time, 13.

[3] Dunham, In Stalin’s Time, 14.

[4] Dunham, In Stalin’s Time, 17.

[5] Dunham, In Stalin’s Time, 17.

[6] Dunham, In Stalin’s Time, 187.

[7] Dunham, In Stalin’s Time, 17.

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