Communist Party of the Soviet Union


Communist Party of the Soviet Union
(CPSU— Kommunisticheskaia Partiia Sovetskogo Soiuza)
   The Communist Party of the Soviet Union officially came into being in 1952 as the new name for what had been the All-Union Communist Party, and before that the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), and before that the Russian Social Democratic Party (Bolsheviks). At its height the CPSU permeated nearly all aspects of Soviet life and was the leading party in the international communist movement. Its structure mirrored that of the Soviet state with a hierarchical organization headed by the All-Union Congress (the supreme policy- making body on paper), and with the more significant bodies of the Central Committee, the Political Bureau (Politburo) and the Secretariat exercising real power. Party membership was high with some 15 million members even in 1991 on the eve of its dissolution. The breakup of the Soviet Union in that year saw the party banned by the new regime headed by Boris Yeltsin.
   Originally conceived by Vladimir Ilich Lenin as a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries, the party under Josef Stalin increasingly became a centralized, hierarchical and bureaucratic organization for transmitting the orders of the leadership and elaborating an ideology justifying Stalin and the party’s rule. Under Nikita Khrushchev during the late 1950s and 1960s the party became more open with new members from the peasantry and workers encouraged, and many existing officials replaced. Khrushchev also took steps to decentralize the party, rotate officials, enhance accountability and increase the frequency of meetings of its decision-making bodies and debating forums. Participation and mobilization were key themes for the party during Khrushchev’s time as leader. In the 1970s under Leonid Brezhnev the party underwent further changes in an effort to modernize by adopting modern methods of scientific management as part of a more technocratic approach while retaining a role of ideological guidance. The next major change in the CPSU occurred under Mikhail Gorbachev whose policies of perestroika and glasnost saw the party move toward a more limited ideological and political role, with greater internal democracy and a more pluralistic political arena. Ideologically the party was moving toward a greater humanism and pluralism, with the 1991 draft party program talking of “Humane Democratic Socialism” and stating “While restoring and developing the initial humanist principles of the teaching of Marx, Engels and Lenin we include in our ideological arsenal all the wealth of our own and world socialist and democratic thought.” By 1991, with the Soviet Union on the brink of collapse, the CPSU had effectively abandoned orthodox MarxismLeninism and scientific socialism in favor of an ethical socialism, and from being the dominant communist party in the world was soon to lose its existence.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.