Khrushchev in Command:
The Party Reasserts Its Supremacy
WHEN Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Communist party of the Soviet Union, had himself elected Minister President by the Supreme Soviet on March 27, 1958, he served notice on Russia and the world that the five years’ crisis of succession which followed Stalin’s death was over and done with. The pretense of collective leadership, once an expression of a real need for compromise among rival leaders and later a useful fiction, had now become a useless impediment and a source of weakness: it was time for everybody to realize that the Soviet Union had a single ruler again-a dictator whose decisions could not be challenged by his critics because his power was not limited by institutions.
In fact, of course, the succession crisis had ended five months earlier, when the Central Committee confirmed Marshal Zhukov’s removal from control of the armed forces and his expulsion from its own ranks. The elimination of the last potential rival of the First Secretary-the last man, that is, who controlled the levers of a potentially independent power machine-completed at the same time the reassertion of monolithic control by the party machine itself. The final victory of the single leader coincided with the renewed triumph of the single party-the end of the crisis of succession spelt a new lease of life for the totalitarian regime.
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