The word cadre originally referred to ‘the permanent skeleton of a military unit, the commissioned and non‐commissioned officers, etc., around whom the rank and file may be quickly grouped’ (Chambers Dictionary). Thence it was applied in Russia to ‘a cell of trained Communist leaders, or to a member of such a cell’.
The political use of this military term indicated the intention of the Leninist leadership of the Russian Revolution to create a disciplined, hierarchically organized, and swiftly responsive system of control of the revolutionary movement. The cadre system was also the embodiment of the ‘vanguard party’ which Lenin believed was made necessary by the inability of the working class to achieve class consciousness spontaneously. Cells were established in all neighbourhoods, work places, and social organizations, and their cadres owed their entire loyalty not to the members of the organization within which they worked, but to the Party cadres at the level above. The control from above of appointments and postings of the cadre force was the basis of Stalin's rise to power.