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Leonid Brezhnev succeeded him and was general secretary until his death in , being in turn succeeded by Yury Andropov. The CPSU continued to serve as the model for the Soviet-dominated states of eastern Europe, however, until , at which time the communist parties of eastern Europe either disintegrated or transformed themselves into Western-style socialist or social democratic parties. From through the s the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was a monolithic , monopolistic ruling party that dominated the political, economic, social, and cultural life of the U.

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The constitution and other legal documents that supposedly ordered and regulated the government of the Soviet Union were in fact subordinate to the policies of the CPSU and its leadership. Constitutionally, the Soviet government and the CPSU were separate bodies, but virtually all high government officials were party members, and it was this system of interlocking dual membership in party and governmental bodies that enabled the CPSU to both make policy and see that it was enforced by the government. In the CPSU voted to surrender its constitutionally guaranteed monopoly of power, thereby permitting opposition parties to flourish legally in the Soviet Union.

A failed coup by communist hard-liners against Gorbachev in August discredited the CPSU and greatly hastened its decline. The basic unit of the CPSU was the primary party organization, which was a feature in all factories, government offices, schools, and collective farms and any other body of any importance whatsoever.


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At its height the CPSU had some 19 million members. Nominally, the supreme body in the CPSU was the party congress, which usually met every five years and was attended by several thousand delegates. The party congress nominally elected the or so members of the Central Committee of the CPSU, which met at least twice a year to perform the work of the party in between congresses.

In its turn the Central Committee elected the members of various party committees, two of which, the Politburo and the Secretariat, were the actual centres of ultimate power and authority in the Soviet Union. The Politburo, with about 24 full members, was the supreme policy-making body in the country and exercised power over every aspect of public policy, both domestic and foreign.

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The party units elect delegates by secret ballot to a series of party organs, reaching the top of the pyramid in the All-Union Party Congress, the supreme organ of authority. This body, according to the party statutes, is to meet every 2 years. However, there has been no full-dress Congress since Between sessions the Congress delegates its powers to a central committee, which it elects by secret ballot. The central committee, composed of 71 members, in turn elects a secretariat, an organization bureau Orgbureau which is entrusted with administrative functions, and a political bureau Politbureau of 9 members.

The Politbureau is concerned with formulation of party policies and is the real source of authority and power in the Soviet Union. The members of the Politbureau are named by secret ballot in the central committee of the Communist Party. But in practice their selection is determined by Stalin, secretary-general of the party since and himself -a member of the Politbureau. While Stalin occupied no important post in the government until —when, like Lenin in the early years of the regime, he became premier—he has long exercised a decisive influence on both party and government policy.

All fundamental problems of party and government policy are first threshed out in the Politbureau, whose meetings are not open to the public. There they were actually formulated by Stalin and his closest associates. This predominance of the party over the government, as already pointed out, means that the is and can be no political conflict between them. All leading Soviet officials are members of the party, while the majority of the members of the Politbureau occupy responsible govern merit positions.

The statutes of the party provide for freedom of discussion regarding controversial questions. Once a decision has been reached, however, party discipline demands the cessation of discussion. It would be less than honest if we failed to mention Russian secret-police terror, purges, and concentration camps.

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The Soviet political system, then, is very different from our own. In contrast to our two-party system, with free expression of political opposition by the minority party, the Russians have a one-party dictatorship.


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