Communist Party of the Soviet Union
- (CPSU)Political party. Known in Russian as Kommunisticheskaia partiia Sovetskogo Soiuza, the CPSU was formed by the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, which was established in 1898. Under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, the Bolsheviks led the first successful socialist revolution, establishing Soviet Russia in 1917 and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1922. The party platform embraced Marxism-Leninism, a revolutionary ideology based on the dictatorship of the proletariat, state control of industry, a centrally planned economy, and the creation of a classless society.The CPSU, and its counterparts in the union republics, established a legal monopoly on political power and constitutionally guaranteed itself a “leading role” in Soviet society, effectively turning the USSR into a totalitarian state. The party dominated cultural, social, economic, and political life in the Soviet Union through its control of the Komsomol youth organization, the media, the military, the KGB, Congress of People’s Deputies, Gosplan (State Planning Commission), the Writers’ Union, and other administrative arms. Party members, colloquially known as the nomenklatura>, rarely exceeded 10 percent of the population, and enjoyed multiple benefits including foreign travel, access to special shops, the best housing, and occupational mobility.During the reign of Joseph Stalin, the general secretary of the CPSU became the highest political position within the Soviet Union. While collective leadership briefly reemerged in the early Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras, the general secretary remained the epicenter of power in the USSR. In the early 1980s, the leadership of the party was accurately described as a gerontocracy, while much of the party’s work was done by slavish apparatchiks. This began to change with the appointment of Mikhail Gorbachev to the party’s top post.Gorbachev’s policies of perestroika and glasnost, implemented to bring about economic acceleration (uskoreniie>), set in motion a series of reforms that slowly chipped away at the CPSU’s monopolization of power. By the end of the decade, numerous newly formed cultural and civic organizations had begun to function as de facto political parties, challenging the CPSU’s privileged position, while the CPSU had decided to allow multicandidate elections at the local and regional levels. In 1990, the creation of the Soviet presidency formally distinguished the head of state from the leader of the party; Gorbachev held the position of president until the dissolution of the Soviet Union (he was succeeded as general secretary of the CPSU by Vladimir Ivashko).In 1991, after giving up many of its other powers, the CPSU voted to end its monopoly on political action, opening the door to legal opposition parties like the Liberal Democratic Party and various national fronts in the non-Russian republics. In the last years of his administration, Gorbachev, finding it difficult to work with the often intransigent members of the party’s hierarchy, often bypassed the CPSU altogether and used popular support to push through his agenda. Reacting to plans to reform the treaty of union between the Soviet republics, Communist hard-liners led the August Coup against Gorbachev. In the wake of the failed putsch, Russian President Boris Yeltsin banned the CPSU on 26 August 1991; the Supreme Soviet suspended party activity shortly thereafter. Hoping to revive the party, a number of nomenklatura established the Communist Party of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, though it remained a marginal player until Gennady Zyuganov restructured it in 1993 to form the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.See also Civil society.
Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. Robert A. Saunders and Vlad Strukov. 2010.
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