|“||The Party must be, first of all, the advanced detachment of the working class. The Party must absorb all the best elements of the working class, their experience, their revolutionary spirit, their selfless devotion to the cause of the proletariat. But in order that it may really be the armed detachment, the Party must be armed with revolutionary theory, with a knowledge of the laws of the movement, with a knowledge of the laws of revolution. Without this it will be incapable of directing the struggle of the proletariat, of leading the proletariat.||„|
|~ Joseph Stalin|
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) (Коммунистическая Партия Советского Союза) was the founding and ruling political party of the Soviet Union. The CPSU was the sole governing party of the Soviet Union until 1990, when the Congress of People's Deputies modified Article 6 of the most recent 1977 Soviet constitution, which had granted the CPSU a monopoly over the political system.
The party was founded in 1912 by the Bolsheviks, a majority faction detached from the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, led by Vladimir Lenin, who overthrew the Russian Provisional Government (who previously seized power from Tsar Nicholas II) in the October Revolution of 1917. After 74 years, it was dissolved on 29 August 1991 on Soviet territory, soon after a failed coup d'état by hard-line CPSU leaders against Soviet president and party general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. It was completely outlawed three months later on 6 November 1991 on Russian territory.
The CPSU was a Communist party, organized on the basis of democratic centralism. This principle, conceived by Lenin, entails democratic and open discussion of policy issues within the party followed by the requirement of total unity in upholding the agreed policies.
The style of governance in the party alternated between collective leadership and a cult of personality. Collective leadership split power between the Politburo, the Central Committee, and the Council of Ministers to hinder any attempts to create a one-man dominance over the Soviet political system. By contrast, Stalin's period as the leader was characterized by an extensive cult of personality. Regardless of leadership style, all political power in the Soviet Union was concentrated in the organization of the CPSU.
The highest body within the CPSU was the Party Congress, which convened every five years. When the Congress was not in session, the Central Committee was the highest body. Because the Central Committee met twice a year, most day-to-day duties and responsibilities were vested in the Politburo, (previously the Presidium), the Secretariat and the Orgburo (until 1952).
The party leader was the head of government and held the office of either General Secretary, Premier or head of state, or some of the three offices concurrently—but never all three at the same time. The party leader was the de facto chairman of the CPSU Politburo and chief executive of the Soviet Union. The tension between the party and the state (Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union) for the shifting focus of power was never formally resolved, but in reality the party dominated and a paramount leader always existed (first Lenin and thereafter the General Secretary).
After the founding of the Soviet Union in 1922, Lenin had introduced a mixed economy, commonly referred to as the New Economic Policy, which allowed for capitalist practices to resume under the Communist Party dictation in order to develop the necessary conditions for socialism to become a practical pursuit in the economically undeveloped country.
In 1929, as Joseph Stalin became the leader of the party, Marxism–Leninism, a fusion of the original ideas of German philosopher and economic theorist Karl Marx, and Lenin, became formalized as the party's guiding ideology and would remain so throughout the rest of its existence. The party pursued state socialism, under which all industries were nationalized and a command economy was implemented.
The success of industrialization in the Soviet Union led western countries, such as the United States, to open diplomatic relations with the Soviet government. In 1933, after years of unsuccessful workers' revolutions (including a short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic) and spiraling economic calamity, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party came to power in Germany, violently suppressing the revolutionary organizers and posing a direct threat to the Soviet Union that ideologically supported them. The threat of fascist sabotage and imminent attack greatly exacerbated the already existing tensions within the Soviet Union and the Communist Party. A wave of paranoia overtook Stalin and the party leadership and spread through Soviet society. Seeing potential enemies everywhere, leaders of the government security apparatuses began severe crackdowns known as the Great Purge.
In total, hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom were posthumously recognized as innocent, were arrested and either sent to concentration camps or executed. Also during this time, a campaign against religion was waged in which the Russian Orthodox Church, which had long been a political arm of tsarism before the revolution, was targeted for repression and organized religion was generally removed from public life and made into a completely private matter, with many churches, mosques and other shrines being repurposed or demolished.
After recovering from World War II, reforms were implemented which decentralized economic planning and liberalized Soviet society in general under Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev's foreign policies led to a split with Mao Zedong and the Communist Party of China, in part a consequence of his public denunciation of Stalin. Khrushchev improved relations with Josip Broz Tito's League of Communists of Yugoslavia but failed to establish the close, party-to-party relations that he wanted. While the Thaw reduced political oppression at home, it led to unintended consequences abroad, such as the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and unrest in Poland, where the local citizenry now felt confident enough to rebel against Soviet control.
Khrushchev also failed to improve Soviet relations with the West, partially because of a hawkish military stance. In the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Khrushchev's position within the party was substantially weakened. Shortly before his eventual ousting, he tried to introduce economic reforms championed by Evsei Liberman, a Soviet economist, which tried to implement market mechanisms into the planned economy.
Khrushchev was ousted on 14 October 1964 in a Central Committee plenum that officially cited his inability to listen to others, his failure in consulting with the members of the Presidium, his establishment of a cult of personality, his economic mismanagement, and his anti-party reforms as the reasons he was no longer fit to remain as head of the party. He was succeeded in office by Leonid Brezhnev as First Secretary and Alexei Kosygin as Chairman of the Council of Ministers.
The Brezhnev era began with a rejection of Khrushchevism in virtually every arena except one: continued opposition to Stalinist methods of terror and political violence. Khrushchev's policies were criticized as voluntarism, and the Brezhnev period saw the rise of neo-Stalinism. While Stalin was never rehabilitated during this period, the most conservative journals in the country were allowed to highlight positive features of his rule.
By 1980, various factors, including the continuing Cold War, and ongoing nuclear arms race with the United States and other Western European powers and unaddressed inefficiencies in the economy, led to stagnant economic growth under Alexei Kosygin, and further with Leonid Brezhnev and a growing disillusionment. After the younger, vigorous Mikhail Gorbachev assumed leadership in 1985 (following two short-term elderly leaders who quickly died in succession), rapid steps were taken to transform the tottering Soviet economic system in the direction of a market economy once again.
Gorbachev and his allies envisioned the introduction of an economy similar to Lenin's earlier New Economic Policy through a program of perestroika, or restructuring, but their reforms, along with the institution of free multi-candidate elections led to a decline in the party's power, and after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the banning of the party by later last RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin and subsequent first President of an evolving democratic and free market economy of the successor Russian Federation.
A number of causes contributed to CPSU's loss of control and the dissolution of the Soviet Union during the early 1990s. Some historians have written that Gorbachev's policy of glasnost (political openness) was the root cause, noting that it weakened the party's control over society. Gorbachev maintained that perestroika without glasnost was doomed to failure anyway. Others have blamed the economic stagnation and subsequent loss of faith by the general populace in communist ideology. In the final years of the CPSU's existence, the Communist Parties of the federal subjects of Russia were united into the Communist Party of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR).
After the CPSU's demise, the Communist Parties of the Union Republics became independent and underwent various separate paths of reform. In Russia, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation emerged and has been regarded as the inheritor of the CPSU's old Bolshevik legacy into the present day.