Kremlin Succession

December 3, 1969

Report Outline
Question Of Present Regime's Stability
Succession Struggles Since Lenin's Day
Collective Leadership vs. One-Man Rule

Question Of Present Regime's Stability

More than five years after the ouster of Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev, Western experts on Soviet affairs are still trying to determine exactly who is who in the Kremlin. Ever since Oct. 14, 1964, the day Khrushchev was thrown out, it has been widely believed that the collective leadership formed around Communist Party Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and Premier Alexei Kosygin would prove to be of a transitional nature, and that some form of one-man rule would eventually emerge. Although rumors of internal power struggles which might be the precursors of such a development have thus far remained only rumors, speculation in that direction has been encouraged of late by softening of the official attitude toward Stalin. A new edition of the official history of the Soviet Communist Party goes some distance toward rehabilitating the late dictator, and reports from Moscow say that the anniversary of his birth, this year the 90th, will be given official observance on Dec. 21 for the first time since 1955.

Staying Power of the Brezhnev-Kosygin Team

Despite such pitfalls as the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, border clashes with China in 1969, the failure of post-Khrushchev agricultural policies, the space program fiasco, and a drop in the industrial growth rate, the Brezhnev-Kosygin government has shown remarkable stability. However, Sovietologists tend to feel that it lacks the drive and boldness needed to deal successfully with Russia's continuing internal and external problems. And experience indicates that when the Soviet leadership fumbles, changes follow.

Michel Tatu, a former Moscow correspondent of Le Monde of Paris, has pointed out that the Soviet government may offer a monolithic facade to the world and then suddenly, when everything seems serene, “the news breaks that a group of leaders have been in opposition for months or even years, or that the man believed to be a venerated leader has for a long time been execrated by those around him.” Anatole Shub, a Washington Post correspondent who was expelled from Moscow earlier this year, wrote recently that in October 1968, following the invasion of Czechoslovakia, “the classic signs began to appear of a grim, intense struggle for Kremlin power, involving various leaders, factions and patronage groups, the rival machines of the Party, the Army, the K.G.B. [secret police] and the M.V.D. [civil police].”

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