Communist Party of the Soviet Union
For the modern day party of the same name, see Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1992-)
|Communist Party of the
Коммунистическая партия Советского Союза (Kommunisticheskaya partiya Sovetskava Soyuza)
|Slogan||Workers of the world, unite!|
|Founded||1 January 1912|
|Dissolved||29 August 1991|
|Preceded by||Russian Social Democratic Labour Party|
|International affiliation||Comintern (until 1943) Cominform (until 1956)|
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Russian: Коммунистическая партия Советского Союза, Kommunisticheskaya partiya Sovetskogo Soyuza; short: КПСС, KPSS) was the only legal, ruling political party in the Soviet Union and one of the largest communist organizations in the world. It lost its dominance in the wake of the failure of the 1991 August putsch.
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union emerged from the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin. After the February Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks pushed for socialist revolution and the overthrow of the Provisional Government. On 7 November, the Bolsheviks orchestrated the October Revolution which overthrew the Provisional Government, thus transferring all governing power to the workers' councils (Russian: soviets). Immediately thereafter, the Bolsheviks founded the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic - the world's first constitutionally socialist state. After a bloody civil war, at the end of 1922 the Bolsheviks emerged victorious and unified territories of the former Russian Empire into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
The Party established the Third International, known as "Comintern" ("Communist International"), an international network of communist parties loyal to the Russian Communist Party, with the aim of fighting "by all available means, including armed force, for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie and for the creation of an international Soviet republic as a transition stage to the complete abolition of the State."1 Domestically, given the central role under the Constitution of the Soviet Union, the Party controlled all tiers of government and social institutions in the Soviet Union. Its organisation was subdivided into communist parties of the constituent Soviet republics as well as the mass youth organisation, the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League (Komsomol) and the Young Pioneer organisation for children.
After Lenin's death in 1924, an ideological struggle ensued within the Party between Leon Trotsky, who advocated permanent revolution and emphasis on international intervention, and Joseph Stalin, who advocated socialism in one country and emphasis on domestic industrialisation. Ultimately, by 1930, Trotsky was expelled from the Party and deported from the Soviet Union, leaving Stalin and his supporters in full control of the party and effectively of governing the country. During this time, Marxism-Leninism became the official ideology of the Party. Later into the 1930s, Stalin initiated the Great Purge, a period of widespread paranoia and repression culminating in a series of show trials and the purging of all original Party members. With the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany, the Party actively sought to form "collective security" alliances with western powers. Unable to do so, the USSR established non-aggressive relations with Germany, which were ultimately broken in 1941 with Germany invading the Soviet Union, thus beginning the Great Patriotic War. After the Allied victory in the war, the Party held a doctrine of establishing pro-Stalin governments in the post-war occupied territories and of actively seeking to expand the domain of influence, through proxy wars and espionage.
After Stalin's death in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev rose to power. In 1956, at the 20th Party Congress, Khrushchev delivered the "Secret Speech", which denounced the cult of personality around Stalin and the political repression of his regime. Khrushchev initiated a policy of de-Stalinisation, which removed the image of Stalin from public life entirely, terminated the correctional labour camp system, and ended the most repressive aspects of the Stalinist system; this period was known as the "Khrushchev Thaw". The Party maintained Marxism-Leninism as its ideology while rejecting Stalinism, thus splitting the two as distinct ideologies. This would later lead to a disintegration of relations with the Communist Party of China during the 1960s, which under Mao's leadership upheld a favourable view of Stalin's legacy.
Into the late 1980s, under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, policies of glasnost and perestroika were implemented, which sought to liberalise the political and economic systems of the Soviet Union. Once the Party lost its constitutional status as the sole governing force of country, the Union began to crumble. The party ceased to exist at the All-Union level after the coup d'état attempt in 1991 and was succeeded by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation in Russia and the communist parties of the now-independent former Soviet republics.
- March 1898 creation of Russian Social Democratic Labour Party
- The Bolshevik faction emerged within the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party as a de facto political bloc separate from the Mensheviks in 1903.
- The RSDLP was formally split in 1912, Henceforth, the Bolshevik faction was known as Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (bolsheviks), RSDLP(b) (Russian: Росси́йская Социал-демократи́ческая Рабо́чая Па́ртия (большевико́в), РСДРП(б)).
- In 1918 leaders adopted the name Russian Communist Party (bolsheviks) (Russian: Росси́йская Коммунисти́ческая Па́ртия(большевико́в), РКП (б)), decision of the 7th Extraordinary Party Congress, March 6–8, 1918.
- In 1925 the party was renamed the All-Union Communist Party (bolsheviks) (Russian: Всесою́зная Коммунисти́ческая Па́ртия (большевико́в), ВКП(б)), decision of the 14th Party Congress, December 18–31, 1925.
- In 1952 the party was renamed as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, decision of the 19th Party Congress, October 5–14, 1952.
The governing body of the CPSU was the Party Congress which was held once in 1–5 years, depending on the historical period, with an exception of a long break from 1939 to 1952. Party Congresses would elect a Central Committee which, in turn, would elect a Politburo. Under Stalin, the most powerful position in the party became the General Secretary who was elected by the Politburo.2 In 1952 the title of General Secretary became First Secretary and the Politburo became the Presidium before reverting to their former names under Leonid Brezhnev in 1966.
In theory, supreme power in the party was invested in the Party Congress. However, in practice, all executive power was in the hands of the General Secretary and the Politburo.
- Party Congress of delegates
- Central Committee
- Politburo (Bureau of Presidium in 1952-53)
- General Secretary of Party
At lower levels the organizational hierarchy was managed by Party Committees, or partkoms (партком). A partkom was headed by the elected "partkom bureau secretary" ("partkom secretary", секретарь парткома). At enterprises, institutions, kolkhozes, etc., they were called as such, i.e., "partkoms". At higher levels the Committees were abbreviated accordingly: raikoms (райком) at raion level, obkoms (обком) at oblast levels (known earlier as gubkoms (губком) for guberniyas), gorkom (горком) at city level, etc.
The bottom level of the Party was the "primary party organization" (первичная партийная организация) or "party cell" (партийная ячейка). It was created within any organizational kpss entity of any kind where there were at least three communists. The management of a cell was called "party bureau" (партийное бюро, партбюро). A partbureau was headed by the elected "bureau secretary" (секретарь партбюро).
At smaller party cells, secretaries were regular employees of the corresponding factory/hospital/school/etc. Sufficiently large party organizations were usually headed by an "exempt secretary" (освобожденный секретарь), who drew his salary from the Party money. During the 1970s the relative number of communists in Republics of the Soviet Union was as follows:
- Russian SFSR: 7.2%
- Ukraine: 5.35% (1976)
- Moldavia: 3.43% (1975)
- Tajikistan: less than 3%
- The mean value for the Soviet Union was: 5.935% (1974)
Membership in the party ultimately became a privilege, with a small subset of the general population of Party becoming an elite class or nomenklatura in Soviet society. Nomenklatura enjoyed many perquisites denied to the average Soviet citizen.citation needed Among those perks were shopping at well-stocked stores, access to foreign merchandise, preference in obtaining housing, access to dachas and holiday resorts, being allowed to travel abroad, sending their children to prestigious universities, and obtaining prestigious jobs (as well as party membership itself) for their children.citation needed It became virtually impossible to join the Soviet ruling and managing elite without being a member of the Communist Party.
Membership had its risks, however, especially in the 1930s when the party was subjected to purges under Joseph Stalin. Membership in the party was not open. To become a party member, one had to be approved by various committees and one's past was closely scrutinised. As generations grew up never having known anything but the USSR, party membership became something one generally achieved after passing a series of stages. Children would join the Young Pioneers, and then, at the age of 14, might graduate to the Komsomol (Young Communist League). Ultimately, as an adult, if one had shown the proper adherence to party discipline or had the right connections one would become a member of the Communist Party itself. However, membership also had its obligations. Komsomol and CPSU members were expected not only to pay dues but also to carry out appropriate assignments and "social tasks" (общественная работа).
In 1918 it had a membership of approximately 200,000. In the late 1920s under Stalin, the party engaged in a heavy recruitment campaign (the "Lenin Levy") of new members from both the working class and rural areas. This was both an attempt to "proletarianize" the party and an attempt by Stalin to strengthen his base by outnumbering the Old Bolsheviks and reducing their influence in the party.
By 1933, the party had approximately 3.5 million members, but as a result of the Great Purge party membership was cut down to 1.9 million by 1939.citation needed In 1986, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had over 19 million members or approximately 10% of the USSR's adult population. Over 44% of party members were classified as industrial workers, and 12% were collective farmers. The CPSU had party organizations in 14 of the USSR's 15 republics. In the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic itself there was no separate Communist Party until 1990 as affairs were controlled directly by the CPSU.
End of Communist rule
In 1989, Gorbachev allowed other political associations (de facto political parties) to coexist with the Communist Party and in 1990 obtained the repeal of Article Six of the USSR constitution which gave the party supremacy over all institutions in society, thus ending its vanguard status. The Communist Party's power over the state formally ended that same year with the newly created Soviet Presidency, whose first and only President was Party General Secretary Gorbachev.
The growing likelihood of the dissolution of the USSR itself led hardline elements in the CPSU to launch the August Coup in 1991 which temporarily removed Gorbachev from power. On August 19, 1991, a day before the New Union Treaty was to be signed devolving power to the republics, a group calling itself the "State Emergency Committee" seized power in Moscow declaring that Gorbachev was ill and therefore relieved of his position as president. Soviet vice-president Gennadiy Yanayev was named acting president. The committee's eight members included KGB chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov, Internal Affairs Minister Boris Pugo, Defense Minister Dmitriy Yazov, and Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov. The coup dissolved because of large public demonstrations and the efforts of Boris Yeltsin who became the real power in Russia as a result. Gorbachev returned to Moscow as president but resigned as General Secretary and vowed to purge the party of hardliners. Yeltsin had the CPSU formally banned within the Russian SFSR on August 26. The KGB was disbanded as were other CPSU-related agencies and organisations. Yeltsin's action was later declared unconstitutional, but by this time the USSR had ceased to exist.
The Communist Party in between Gorbachev's resignation and its suspension was politically impotent. By the time of the 28th Congress of the CPSU in July 1990, the party was largely regarded as being unable to lead the country and had, in fifteen republics, split into opposing factions favouring either independent republics or the continuation of the Soviet Union. Stripped of its leading role in society the party lost its authority to lead the nation or the cohesion that kept the party united. Its last General Secretary was Vladimir Ivashko, chosen on August 24, 1991. Actual political power lay in the positions of President of the Soviet Union (held by Gorbachev) and President of the Russian SFSR (held by Yeltsin). Ivashko remained for five days as acting General Secretary until August 29 when the party's activity was suspended by the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union.
Archives of the Party are now preserved in a number of Russian state archives (Archive of the President of the Russian Federation, Russian State Archive of Contemporary History, Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History, State Archive of the Russian Federation), many of them remain classified.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russian adherents to the CPSU tradition, particularly as it existed before Gorbachev, reorganised themselves as the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Today there are many parties in Russia claiming to be the successors of CPSU. Several of them used the name CPSU. However, CPRF is generally seen (because of its large size) as the inheritor of the CPSU in Russia.
In other republics, communists established the Armenian Communist Party, Communist Party of Azerbaijan, Party of Communists of Kyrgyzstan, Communist Party of Ukraine, Party of Communists of Belarus, Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova, Communist Party of Kazakhstan and the Communist Party of Tajikistan. Along with the CPRF, these parties formed the Union of Communist Parties - Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
- In Turkmenistan, the local party apparatus led by Saparmurat Niyazov was renamed the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan and abandoned communist ideology.
- In Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov changed the CPSU branch into the People's Democratic Party.
- In Georgia, the Socialist Labour Party was founded in 1992. This party would later evolve into the Communist Party of Georgia (SKP). Another communist faction in Georgia, which is larger than SKP, is the United Communist Party of Georgia (SEKP).
- In Estonia, the CPSU branch was in the hands of reformers, who converted it into the Estonian Democratic Labour Party (EDTP). A minority regrouped into the Communist Party of Estonia.
- In Lithuania, the CPSU was banned in 1991. A branch of "progressive" communists led by Algirdas Brazauskas established the Democratic Labour Party of Lithuania in 1992.
- In Latvia, communist organizations were officially banned and a major part of the party there had broken away in 1990 and formed the Latvian Social Democratic Party. The remnants of CPSU became the Union of Communists of Latvia, which went underground. Later, communists regrouped into the Socialist Party of Latvia.
- Source: Справочник по истории Коммунистической партии и Советского Союза 1898-1991 (Handbook on the History of the Communist Party and the Soviet Union)6
Voting + Non-Voting
|7th All-Russian Conference of the RSDRP(b)||May 7–12, 1917||131 + 18|
|VI Congress of the RSDRP(b)||August 8–16, 1917||157 + 110|
|VII Extraordinary Congress of the RKP(b)||March 6–8, 1918||47 + 59|
|VIII Congress of the RKP(b)||March 18–23, 1919||301 + 102|
|8th All-Russian Conference of the RKP(b)||December 2–4, 1919||45 + 73|
|IX Congress of the RKP(b)||March 29 – April 5, 1920||554 + 162|
|9th All-Russian Conference of the RKP(b)||September 22–25, 1920||116 + 125|
|X Congress of the RKP(b)||March 8–16, 1921||694 + 296||Factions formally banned in the Communist Party.|
|10th All-Russian Conference of the RKP(b)||May 26–28, 1921||239|
|XI Congress of the RKP(b)||March 27 – April 2, 1922||522 + 165|
|11th All-Russian Conference of the RKP(b)||August 4–7, 1922||129 + 92|
|XII Congress of the RKP(b)||April 17–25, 1923||409 + 417|
|13th Conference of the RKP(b)||January 16–18, 1924||128 + 222|
|XIII Congress of the RKP(b)||May 23–31, 1924||748 + 416|
|14th Conference of the RKP(b)||April 27–29, 1925||178 + 392|
|XIV Congress of the VKP(b)||December 18–31, 1925||665 + 641||Changes party name to "All-Union Communist Party (bolsheviks)."|
|15th Conference of the VKP(b)||October 26 – November 3, 1926||194 + 640|
|XV Congress of the VKP(b)||December 2–19, 1927||898 + 771|
|16th Conference of the VKP(b)||April 23–29, 1929||254 + 679|
|XVI Congress of the VKP(b)||June 26 – July 13, 1930||1268 + 891|
|17th Conference of the VKP(b)||January 30 – February 4, 1932||386 + 525|
|XVII Congress of the VKP(b)||January 26 – February 10, 1934||1225 + 736||So-called "Congress of the Victors."|
|XVIII Congress of the VKP(b)||March 10–21, 1939||1569 + 466|
|18th Conference of the VKP(b)||February 15–20, 1941||456 + 138|
|XIX Congress of the CPSU||October 5–14, 1952||1192 + 167||Changes party name to "Communist Party of the Soviet Union."|
|XX Congress of the CPSU||February 14–25, 1956||1355 + 81||Many delegates hear so-called "Secret Speech" of N.S. Khrushchev.|
|Extraordinary XXI Congress of the CPSU||January 27– February 5, 1959||1269 + 106||Timed to aid Khrushchev's consolidation of power after defeat of so-called "Anti-Party Group."|
|XXII Congress of the CPSU||October 17–31, 1961||4394 + 405|
|XXIII Congress of the CPSU||March 29 – April 8, 1966||4620 + 323|
|XXIV Congress of the CPSU||March 30 – April 9, 1971||4740 + 223|
|XXV Congress of the CPSU||February 24 – March 5, 1976||4998|
|XXVI Congress of the CPSU||February 23 – March 3, 1981||5002|
|XXVII Congress of the CPSU||February 25 – March 6, 1986||5000|
|XXVIII Congress of the CPSU||July 2–13, 1990||Abolition of the political monopoly of the party, Boris Yeltsin exit from the party|
Source: A.A. Solov'ev, S"ezdy i konferentsii KPSS: Spravochnik. ("Congresses and Conferences of the CPSU: Handbook.") Moscow: Politizdat, 1986. All dates New Style.
- MI5 History, The Inter-War Period
- Kevin McDermott, Stalin: Revolutionary In An Era of War (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006) 41-43.
- Chetyrnadtsatyi s"ezd Vseoyuznoi Kommunisticheskoi Partii (b), p. 52.
- Organisational report of the Central Committee: Pyatnadtsatyi s"ezd Vesoyuznoi Kommunisticheski Partii-(b), pp. 100-3. This number includes probationary members.
- Union of Communist Parties – Communist Party of the Soviet Union (alliance UCP-CPSU)
- Young Pioneer organization of the Soviet Union
- Komsomol (VLKSM)
- Communist Party
- Decommunization of Russia
- Handbook on history of the Communist Party and the Soviet Union 1898 – 1991
- Index of Soviet Union-related articles
Media related to Communist Party of the Soviet Union at Wikimedia Commons
- Executive Bodies of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1917-1991)
- Program of the CPSU, 27th Party Congress (1986)