Lara Douds examines the practical functioning and internal political culture of the early Soviet government cabinet, the Council of People's Commissars (Sovnarkom), under Lenin. This study elucidates the process by which Sovnarkom's governmental decision-making authority was transferred to Communist Party bodies in the early years of Soviet power and traces the day-to-day operation of the supreme state organ.
The book argues that Sovnarkom was the principal executive body of the early Soviet government until the Politburo gradually usurped this role during the Civil War. Using a range of archival source material, Lara Douds re-interprets early Soviet political history as a period where fledging 'Soviet' rather than simply 'Communist Party' power was attempted, but ultimately failed when pressures of Civil War and socio-economic dislocation encouraged the centralising and authoritarian rather than democratic strand of Bolshevism to predominate.
Inside Lenin's Government explores the basic mechanics of governance by looking at the frequency of meetings, types of business discussed, processes of decision-making and the administrative backdrop, as well as the key personalities of Sovnarkom. It then considers the reasons behind the shift in executive power from state to party in this period, which resulted in an abnormal situation where, as Leon Trotsky commented in 1923, 'leadership by the party gives way to administration by its organs'.
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