In authoritarian, tsarist Russia, Viacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, at the age of 16, joined the Bolshevik wing of Russia’s Social Democratic Party. Six years later, in 1912, he helped found the Bolshevik newspaper, Pravda. In 1915 he was exiled to Siberia, and the year after that he escaped and did more organizing for the Bolsheviks. In the civil war years of 1918-21 he held a number of positions in various provinces for the Bolsheviks. In 1921 he was elected Secretary of the Communist Party’s Central Committee and was a candidate for the party’s leading body, the Politburo. He was Lenin’s chief of staff, and when Stalin became General Secretary of the Central Committee, Molotov became Stalin’s deputy secretary. In 1926 he became a full member of the Politburo. He took part in the collectivization of agriculture and in the purging of anti-Stalinists and became the head of the Soviet government (in addition to holding other party positions). In 1939 he was appointed commissar of foreign affairs (foreign minister).
In 1957, Nikita Khrushchev dismissed Molotov from all posts and expelled him from his position on the Central Committee and the Presidium. Khrushchev was moving against old Stalinists, and in 1962 Molotov was expelled from the Communist Party. His career as a high-ranking Communist revolutionary was over.
He had a reputation as having been Stalin’s yes-man, but Molotov had not been afraid to disagree with him. Rather than having felt threatened by Molotov, Stalin had seen him as a reliable supporter. And Molotov’s support for Stalin continued after his dismissal from the Party.When interviewed in his old age, Molotov was confronted with the comment that people saw him as having been “inhumane,” that he had had people shot because of the views they held. In a “bourgeois parliamentary system,” he was told, “senators are never placed before a firing squad.
That’s because in bourgeois democracies they don’t do what needs to be done. Initially we did not take everything into account, we did not understand everything that was going on. Of course we did not believe that everything would go smoothly, but certain developments escaped our attention. When wrecking began, however, we quickly began to understand.
Asked about Stalin and the class struggle, Molotov replied:
The service rendered by Stalin’s leadership in strengthening the unity of the party – and of the world communist movement as well – is tremendous. Stalin was a man of integrity.
The book from which this is drawn is Molotov Remembers, an English translation of conversations between Molotov and Felix Chuev that began in 1969. The book was published in 1993, ISBN: 1-56663-027-4.