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Eight-Episode TV Documentary Series: Preparing For Danger In Times Of Safety, Episode One

{Editor’s Note: In June 2006, Beijing released an eight-episode TV documentary series: Preparing For Danger In Times Of Safety – Historic Lessons Learned from the Demise of Soviet Communism. It was a research project conducted by the government think tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Science. Afterwards, the Chinese Communist Party instructed party members across the nation to watch the series and launch serious discussions. The script of the prelude of the documentary quotes Hu Jintao’s words, “There are multiple factors contributing to the disintegration of the Soviet Union, a very important one being Khrushchev throwing away Stalin’s knife and Gorbachev’s open betrayal of Marxism-Leninism.” The full text of the narratives has been translated. What follows is the first episode.}

Episode One: The Historic Path of the Rise and Fall of the Soviet Communist Party

“Dear friends, we all love the Lenin Hills
Let us embrace the light of dawn
From the high mountain we look afar
Moscow, bright scene
Tall factory chimneys pierce into the sky
Red star shining atop the Kremlin
Hope of the world and the heart of Russia
Our capital, Moscow …”

Any of the older Chinese people will be familiar with this nostalgic yet expectant melody, but will also be familiar with this landmark that has had a profound impact on China and Russia and the whole world. It is the hometown of Lenin and the October Revolution, and the model for many of our revolutionary forefathers who fought bloody battles to establish a new society.

During the historic process of the Chinese revolution and development, in spite of serious differences, and even heated debate between the two parties, the Chinese Communists and the Chinese people always feel deeply in their hearts for the hometown of Lenin and the October Revolution.

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) was a proletarian political party with a glorious historic tradition, founded at a turning point in history, when world capitalism entered into the stage of imperialism.

In March 1898, the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party secretly held its first Congress in Minsk. The Congress proclaimed the establishment of the party, which had great political significance and played the role of revolutionary propaganda. However, this Congress did not formulate its party platform. Soon thereafter, two of the three elected Central Committee members were arrested. Thus, in fact, the party was not truly established. [1]

In order to create a new proletarian revolutionary party, Lenin, Plekhanov and others, founded Iskra in 1900 and drew up a party platform for the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party.

During July and August 1903, the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party held its second Congress in Brussels and then London, where a heated debate took place. Lenin spoke as many as hundreds of times to explain and defend the Marxist theory of party building. Lenin and his supporters won votes from the majority in the election of the leadership of the party. So those who supported Lenin’s idea were called the “majority,” or “Bolsheviks” in Russian, while those who opposed Lenin’s idea were called the “minority,” or “Mensheviks” in Russian.

The second Congress of the party passed the party platform, which reflected the Marxist revolutionary line. It clearly set forth the task of establishing the Proletarian Dictatorship, and elected the central leadership of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. Lenin became the leader, thus implementing the revolutionary line, and turning a new page in the history of the Russian proletarian revolutionary movement.

Lenin was the main founder of this new revolutionary political party.

In February 1917, the February Revolution erupted in Russia. Led and actively participated in by the Bolshevik Party, the Russian people overthrew the Tsarist dictatorship. However, the fruit of the revolution fell into the hands of the bourgeois Provisional Government.

The leader was Prime Minister Kerensky of the second session of the Joint Interim Government. Since this government continued to participate in imperialist wars abroad and to suppress the revolutionary masses at home, it quickly ran into a serious crisis.

Lenin made an accurate assessment of the situation and timely issued a call for the overthrow of the bourgeois Provisional Government and for rule by the Soviet regime.  Lenin led the Bolshevik Party and decisively launched the October Petrograd armed uprising that shocked the world.

200,000 workers, Red Guards, and revolutionary soldiers took part in the uprising.

Lenin walked to the podium of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets amidst cheers from the insurgents and declared the great victory of the October Revolution.

The first socialist country, where people are the masters, was born under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party.

Challenging the new Soviet regime, domestic and foreign reactionary forces launched an armed attack in an attempt to strangle it in its cradle.

Under the leadership of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party, the heroic Soviet people and the newly formed Red Army crushed frenzied counterattacks from the bourgeoisie and the landlords, defeated Kolchak and Denikin’s armed rebellion, repulsed the joint military intervention of the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Japan and other imperialist countries, totaling 14, and defended the fruit of the proletarian revolution and the newly born Soviet regime. At the end of 1922 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (the Soviet Union) was formally established.

After the victory of the October Revolution, Lenin led the Bolshevik Party in implementing the War Communism and the New Economic Policy, and conducted a painstaking exploration on how to build socialism in underdeveloped countries such as Russia.

Lenin fell ill from overwork during the difficult years of creating the proletarian regime. Coupled with a gunshot wound inflicted by domestic reactionary forces in an earlier assassination attempt, on January 21, 1924, the 54 year old great leader left the people and land he boundlessly loved, at the critical moment of early exploration of how to consolidate the red regime and the building of socialism.

Stalin took over the historic task of continuing to explore how to solidify the new regime and build a socialist society.

The CPSU and Stalin led the Soviet people in creating the world’s first basic socialist system. The socialist system greatly unleashed the social productive forces. From 1929 to 1937, the Soviet Union industrial average grew 20% annually. The Soviet Union’s industrial output value in 1937 increased seven times over that in 1913. Capitalist countries increased by only 0.3% over the same period. Through the first and second Five-Year Plans, Soviet industrial output value jumped to first place in Europe and second place in the world, from fourth place in Europe. Miraculously in a short time and from a backward agricultural country, the Soviet Union became universally recognized as a strong socialist industrial power.

In 1939, Hitler ignited World War II.

On June 22, 1941, Germany flagrantly launched attacks against the Soviet Union. Early in the war, the Soviet Army suffered heavy losses.

However, under the strong leadership of the CPSU and Stalin, the Soviet people, relying on the advanced socialist system, quickly transitioned to a wartime system by mobilizing and centralizing the country’s human and material resources, and waged a brave and tenacious struggle with Germany and France.

On October 14, 1941, the Germans were only a few dozen kilometers away from Moscow. At the most crucial and critical moment when the capital was under threat, Stalin and the Defense Committee continued to stay in Moscow. November 7, 1941, was the 24th anniversary of October Revolution. Braving the danger of the enemy air forces’ heavy bombings, grand festivals and the Red Square military parade were held as usual in Moscow. All this greatly encouraged the residents of the capital and the Soviet people, who unanimously made the vow, “to live or die together with the motherland.”

The Reserve Division of the Soviet Red Army went through reorganization alongside the parades and training. After passing through the Red Square review, these mighty soldiers marched directly to the front with no fear, yet with heroic and invincible faith!

Throughout the Great Patriotic War, more than 300 million CPSU members sacrificed themselves in battles or in very difficult environments.

In April 1945, the Soviet Army attacked and entered into Germany. On May 2 they captured Berlin, thus finally obtaining the ultimate victory in the Great Patriotic War against fascism.

The war seriously damaged the Soviet Union’s national economy.

During the war, the Germans destroyed more than 1,700 cities and towns and more than 70,000 villages. They brought ruin to 32,000 plants, 65,000 km of railways and 1,135 mines. 27 million soldiers and civilians died in the war. [2]

After winning the war, the CPSU immediately led the people to revive and develop the national economy.

In 1946, the Soviet Union began the implementation of the Fourth Five-Year Plan of the national economic development.

In 1949, the Soviet Union successfully tested its first atomic bomb.

In 1950, Soviet industry was revived and exceeded the pre-war levels. This year the Soviet Union’s industrial and agricultural output value increased by 73% compared to the pre-war level. [3]

On March 5, 1953, Stalin died at the age of 74. Mao Zedong went to the Soviet Union’s embassy to offer condolences and burst into tears.

From April 1923 to March 1953, Stalin served as the General Secretary of the CPSU. He held the country’s main leadership positions for over 30 years. This was a thriving and prosperous period of time in the history of the CPSU and the Soviet Union. During this period, the Soviet’s social economic development and the growth of its overall national power greatly exceeded that of the capitalist countries. In 1953, the Soviet Union’s national income increased by 12.67 times compared to 1913, while the U.S. increased by only 2.03 times, the United Kingdom increased by 0.71 times, and France increased by 0.54 times. The Soviet Union during Stalin’s time announced to the world the incomparable superiority and vitality of the new socialist system.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, once Stalin’s collaborator and opponent, commented on Stalin in a tone of awe, “When he took over Russia, Russia was a country that only had wooden plows; and when he passed away, Russia already had nuclear weapons. [4]

The Soviet people who had personal experiences of Stalin’s times fully affirmed Stalin’s great historic feats, but they also experienced the expansion of his purges, as well as the bitter fruit from his autocratic working style and the mistakes caused by his abusive manner. However, as time goes by, when we brush off the dust of history, people feel more than ever that Stalin’s errors should never tarnish his position as a great Marxist and a proletarian revolutionary in history.

After the death of Stalin, Khrushchev gradually came to power controlling the Soviet party, government, and military.

On February 14, 1956, the 20th Congress of the CPSU was held in Moscow. On the night it ended, the delegates were suddenly summoned back to the Kremlin, where Khrushchev, first secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, made a presentation of a secret report entitled, “On Personal Worship and its Consequences.”

In the secret report, Khrushchev exaggerated Stalin’s errors and expressed sharp criticism of Stalin.

After the 20th Congress of the CPSU, the Soviet Union launched a nationwide campaign criticizing Stalin.

In 1961, at the 22nd Congress of the CPSU, Khrushchev set off another round of major criticism of Stalin. The Congress decided to move Stalin’s body out of the mausoleum. People started to demolish Stalin’s monuments and commemorative statue, which was abnormal.

During the 11 years that Khrushchev was in power, the anti-Stalin campaign led to the denunciation of the history of the party and the country under Stalin’s rule, resulting in the rejection of the basic principles and guidelines of Marxism and socialism. Inevitably, it brought about a series of severe consequences.

Just as Mao Zedong said, the CPSU lost the knife of Stalin.

Young people in the CPSU grew up under Khrushchev’s ideological influence at the 20th Congress’s criticism of Stalin. They were unfamiliar with the Party’s revolutionary tradition, and lacked firm beliefs in socialism. They were later known as the “the babies born at the 20th Congress.” After the mid-80s of the 20th century, it was exactly these people who became the backbone that disintegrated the CPSU and buried the socialist system.

In October 1964, the majority of the members of the Soviet Presidium conspired. Led by Brezhnev, they overthrew Khrushchev. It marked the end of Khrushchev’s reign and the beginning of the 18 years under Brezhnev.

After Brezhnev came into power, the Soviet Union adjusted some policies aimed at correcting some of measures hastily issued in the Khrushchev period. At the same time, they adopted a series of correct reform initiatives geared to the conditions in the Soviet Union at the time, so that the Soviet Union became an industrial, technological, and military superpower that could match the United States on the world stage.

However, the party leaders had also inherited some of the Khrushchev era mistakes, and, having succeeded at some major achievements, they grew complacent and arrogant. They maintained the status quo domestically and expanded the scope of hegemony worldwide. This situation seemed particularly obvious after the mid-70s. The Soviet Union’s highly centralized political and economic systems became further trapped in rigidity and stagnation.

In November 1982, Brezhnev died from illness.

The next two General Secretaries of the CPSU, Andropov and Chernenko, passed away within less than three years.

In March 1985, Gorbachev was elected General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee.

In February 1986, the CPSU held the 27th Congress. It was the first party Congress after Gorbachev took office. Shortly thereafter, Gorbachev formally put forward the slogans of “democratization,” “openness,” and “media diversity,” and took those as the “breakthrough points of hindrance of the reform mechanism.”

At that time, people wanted reform and wanted to get rid of stagnation, but were not clear or did not even have time to think about the true meaning of these slogans that Gorbachev proposed under the name of reform.

In June 1988, the CPSU held its 19th National Conference

In his report Gorbachev made a confession. He said, “The main guideline of the Soviet Union’s political system is not a matter of advocating for the issues of “democratization,” “openness,” and “media diversity,” but is also an issue of abandoning the CPSU as the core of the Soviet Union’s political system, an issue involving transfer of the national center of power from the hands of the Communist Party to the Soviets.

In July 1990, the CPSU held its 28th Congress. This was the last Congress of the CPSU before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Congress adopted the programmatic statement of “Towards a Humane and Democratic Socialism” and other resolutions.

Since then, a multiparty system and parliamentary democracy as well as the ideology of pluralism officially became the party’s guiding principles.

A large number of various anti-communist organizations were established and took the opportunity to grow, fighting against the CPSU using a variety of means.

It was reported that Kuptsov, the CPSU Central Committee’s Vice Chairman, said on February 28, 1991, that only one year after amending the constitution, about 20 political parties were formed at the Union level, and a coalition of more than 500 political parties was formed at the Republic level. The majority of them become political forces that brought about the ultimate resignation and the dissolution of the CPSU.

Instigated by Gorbachev’s “democratization,” “openness,” and the principle of a multi-party system, nationalist sentiment was increasingly running high in the republics of the Soviet Union. The centrifugal tendency of the narrow nationalism was growing and the party organizations in the republics of the Soviet Union were also moving away from the central government.

Since 1989, the Communist Parties in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and some other republics made demands to separate or become independent of the CPSU. Despite the CPSU’s discouragement and opposition, on December 20, 1989, the Communist Party of Lithuania adopted the “Lithuanian Communist Declaration,” and the “Decision on the Status of the Communist Party of Lithuania” at its 20th Congress, declaring its separation from the CPSU and “an equal partnership” with the CPSU.

At the same time, Mikhail Gorbachev was steadily retreating, and the CPSU was moving towards federation.

The so-called “democrats” within the CPSU took advantage of this situation. They echoed and coordinated closely with the national separatism outside the party to engage in activities to split and disintegrate the CPSU and the Soviet Union.

On March 17, 1991, the Soviet Union held a people’s referendum for the entire Union. Those who favored retaining the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics accounted for 76.4%, while opposing votes accounted for 21.7%. But 6 Republics, Georgia, Lithuania, Moldavia, Latvia, Armenia, and Estonia refused to conduct the referendum.

On April 23, 1991, Gorbachev, circumventing the CPSU Central Committee and the Supreme Soviet, met with the leaders of the 9 republics including the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. They issued the “nine-plus-one” agreement and proposed to sign a new Union Treaty as soon as possible. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics would be renamed as the Union of Soviet Republics. The deletion of the word “socialist” would dissolve the national unity under the law, and, in particular, would change the direction of the country’s socialist nature and development.

At this point, in order to seize supreme power, Boris Yeltsin, Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation, the Soviet Union’s largest republic, did not care about the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

August 20 was the date when the new Union Treaty was signed. On August 19, Vice President Yanayev, leading a group of senior military and political leaders of the Soviet Union in an attempt to preserve the socialist Soviet Union, and, at the same time, to prevent the so-called “democrats” from coming to power, declared a six-month “emergency” in some parts of the country. They also set up an “emergency committee” headed by Vice President Yanayev. This was the “8.19” incident that shocked the Soviet Union and abroad. This was the last attempt launched by some CPSU leaders to try to save the socialist Soviet Union from heading toward a disastrous abyss. But lack of a clear and firm conviction in socialism and strong political will in the real struggle became the fundamental reason leading to their failure. Gorbachev, away on vacation, first sat on the fence, then betrayed their efforts, thus accelerating the failure of the incident.

The “8.19” incident ended in vain. Pushed by Gorbachev, the CPSU Central Committee dissolved itself. The Russian authorities seized and confiscated the Soviet Union’s 4,228 office buildings, 180 social and political centers, 16 social and political research institutes and other facilities.

With the nest turned upside down, no eggs would survive.

The Communist Party organizations in various regions in Russia and in other republics were quickly dissolved or banned.

As such, a powerful political party with nearly 20 million members lost its ruling position after 74 years in power. The entire party was defeated and collapsed. To date, both in the central or local historical archives, one cannot find any records showing resistance from any Party organizations to the hostile forces abolition of the Communist Party. Nor can one find any records showing Communist Party members organizing any large-scale protests to defend their respective district, municipal or state party committees. There were no records about the masses supporting and demonstrating solidarity with the CPSU in any organized action. Of course, more than a decade after tasting the bitter fruit of the tragic dissolution of the Soviet Union, many of them have started to reflect.

The extinction of the Communist Party brought about the inevitable destruction of the regime.

December 25, 1991, was the last day that Gorbachev served as the Soviet President. It was also the last day of the Soviet Union.

At 10:00 in the morning, Gorbachev came to the Presidential Kremlin, and “carefully” prepared his resignation to be announced in the evening.

At 19:00 in the evening, Gorbachev announced his “To the People” statement in his Presidential Office in front of the cameras of the Soviet Union Central TV and the United States’ CNN, to the Soviet country and to the world. Gorbachev announced that he thereby resigned “with unease,” and would “stop his activities as President of the Soviet Union.”

At 19:32, the Soviet Union flag with the sickle and hammer pattern cherished deeply by several generations of Soviet people and the world’s people quietly fell in the cold wind from the top of the Kremlin.

At 19:45, the Russian Federation tricolor flag rose on the flagpole.

On the morning of December 26, 1991, the House of the Republics of the USSR Supreme Soviet held its last meeting. The conference hall was mostly empty and deserted. The Chairman of the House of the Republics, Alimdzhanov was the only one on the rostrum. Delegates adopted by a show of hands a declaration that the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

Thus, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – the two names that had shined for decades, slipped off of the stage of history.

The post-Soviet Russia adopted the “shock therapy” that Americans designed and imposed privatization reform in the economy. As a result it quickly led to severe depression and recession.

The result was rapid national poverty, social chaos, and crimes in large numbers. According to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, more than 8,000 large-scale organized criminal gangs emerged. In his State of the Union in 1996, Yeltsin also admitted, “Today’s Russia has surpassed Italy and become the largest mafia kingdom in the international community.”

From the 1991 Soviet disintegration to the end of the 20th century, Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) declined by 52% compared with the GDP level in 1990, while it declined only 22% during the war years from 1941 to 1945. Over the same period (1991 to the end of the 20th century), Russian industrial production decreased by 64.5%, and agricultural production by 60.4%. As the ruble devaluated, prices rose 5000 times. Since 1992, the Russian population has been declining. In 1990 average life expectancy in Russia was 69.2 years, but it fell to 65.3 years in 2001, almost 4 year’s decline. The male life expectancy in some parts dropped a full 10 years. [5]

The disintegration of the CPSU and the Soviet Union has brought disastrous consequences to the people and the country, far beyond these figures and situations.

In 2005 when delivering the annual State of the Union address, Russian President Vladimir Putin painfully lamented, “The disintegration of the Soviet Union is the most serious geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. For the Russian people, it is a real tragedy.”

Many Russian scholars have come to this conclusion: the collapse of the CPSU and the Soviet Union has pushed Russia’s economic and social development back by several decades.

A party that Lenin personally created; a party that led the Russian working class in overthrowing the reactionary rule of tsarist Russia and successfully established the first socialist state under the dictatorship of the proletariat; a party that resisted the armed intervention of 14 countries and successfully defended the fruit of the revolution; a party that defeated Nazi Germany in the great patriotic war, and made great contributions to victory in World War II; a party that has made brilliant achievements in socialist development and was the first to send satellites into space; why, after 74 years in power, did it actually lose its ruling position?

When the CPSU had 200,000 members, it led the February Revolution and overthrew the tsar’s autocracy; with 350,000 members it achieved the victory of the October Socialist Revolution; when the membership reached 5.54 million, it led the people and defeated the mighty German Fascism and played a magnificent role in ending World War II. However, with nearly 20 million members, it lost its ruling position, and the Party and country became extinct.

What went wrong?

It lies inside the CPSU.

[1] [Russian] Ponomarev, History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Moscow 1960 edition, page 41; [Russian] Pospelov, History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Volume I, Shanghai People’s Publishing House, 1983 edition, page 339.
[2] [Russian] S.A.Seraeva, History of the USSR. An Epoch of Socialism, Volume III, Moscow 1983 edition, page 361.
[3] [Russian] Samsonov, A Concise History of the Soviet Union, Volume II, Moscow 1972 edition, page 541.
[4] [Russian] Karpov, Razprava Stalin, Social Science Academic Press, 2005 edition, page 792.
[5] Li Shenming, Year 2005: Tracking Study of Global Socialism, Social Science Academic Press, 2006 edition, page 67.