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Eight-Episode TV Documentary Series: Preparing for Danger in Times of Safety, Episode Seven

{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 seventh episode.}

Episode Seven: The Organizational Course Of The Communist Party Of The Soviet Union

On the leadership role of the revolutionary party, Lenin said, “Historically, any class that does not promote its own political leaders and advanced representatives to organize and lead the movement cannot achieve governing status.”

The history of the past more than one hundred years proves that, in the struggle of leading the people to seize power, the working class political party needs a leadership group that can continuously develop Marxism and organize and lead a mass movement. During the course of running the government on behalf of the people, and building socialism, there is a need for a leadership group that maintains and advances Marxism, sticks to the socialist direction, sticks to class struggle and the Proletarian Dictatorship, and safeguards the party’s leadership. The key reason for the collapse of the Soviet Union lies within the CPSU. The main problem of the CPSU lies within its leadership group.

The CPSU was the only ruling party in the Soviet Union. It had an unchallenged leadership position in society.

Lenin believed that the people are divided into classes, and a political party usually leads each class. The party is run by a stable group of leaders who are of the highest authority, the most influential, the most seasoned, and, are elected to hold the most important jobs.

The party’s leadership should be a group.

The leadership group of the working class should emerge during the joint struggle of the party and the people. They should have solid political beliefs and be capable of maintaining the correct direction.

This leadership group should have rich practical experience, enjoy broad support from the people, and be able to make scientific decisions that ensure the success of the cause.

From Lenin to Gorbachev, the CPSU’s leadership group went through five periods.

Lenin was the core leader of the first period. The main leadership members included Sverdlovsk, Kamenev, Zinovyev, Trotsky, Bukharin, and Stalin. They were born approximately between 1870 and 1885.

The core leader of the second period was Stalin. The main leadership members included Molotov, Zhdanov, Kaganovich, Malenkov, Khrushchev, and Mikoyan. They were born between 1890 and 1902.

The core leader of the third period was Khrushchev. The main leadership members included Mikoyan, Brezhnev, Kosigin, Podgorny, Suslov, and Gromyko. They were born roughly between 1902 and 1910.

The fourth period had Brezhnev as the core leader. The main leadership members included Kosigin, Suslov, Gromyko, Chernenko, Andropov, and Ustinov. They were mostly born between 1910 and 1920.

Gorbachev was the core leader in the fifth period. The main leadership members included Ligachev, Ryzhkov, Yakovlev, Yeltsin and Shevardnaje. This group of leaders grew up after the death of Stalin. Their worldview was formed during Khrushchev’s period. This group was later dissolved, and a few people led by Gorbachev became the terminators of the CPSU.

In the history of the CPSU, Lenin was the role model for the leaders.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was born in 1870 into an intellectual family in Simbirsk.

Lenin began his revolutionary activities in his youth. For pursuing the truth, he was repeatedly arrested and sent into exile. Later he had to move overseas. This rough revolutionary experience solidified his resolve to overthrow the Czar and implant communist ideology.

Lenin persevered in a steadfast pursuit of and belief in communism; this belief came from his persistent research and study of Marxism. He was thus equipped with a profound appreciation of and insight into the characteristics, reality, and trend of the revolution of his era, which was beyond other normal communist members. This was especially true during critical historic moments.

In 1917, after the February Revolution, there was a period in which two governments coexisted: one was the Soviet government of the workers and soldiers; the other was the bourgeois temporary government. At the time, the Bolsheviks were seriously divided on how to deal with the temporary government.

Lenin, from overseas, strongly insisted that the revolutionary fruit after “a week long bloody battle by the workers” should not be handed to the bourgeoisie, and that the Bolshevik Party should seize power.

However, some of the Bolshevik Party leaders headquartered at Petrograd did not agree with Lenin. Kamenev and Zinovyev believed that the Bolsheviks were not mature enough to establish a Proletarian Dictatorship. Therefore the proletarians should support the temporary government.

Starting on March 30, 1917, Lenin published five articles in Pravda to explain his viewpoint on the current situation. These articles were the famous “Letters from Afar.”

On April 3, 1917, Lenin took a huge risk and came back to Russia via Germany. The next day, he gave a speech at the Bolshevik conference in Petrograd, “On the Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution.” This speech was the well-known “The April Theses.” In these theses, Lenin presented the strategic decision to transform the democratic revolution into a socialist revolution.

Kamenev, Zinovyev, and others opposed Lenin’s idea. The majority of party members did not understand the strategic intent of “The April Theses.” On April 21, 1917, when the Bolshevik’s Petrograd Committee members discussed Lenin’s proposal, only two people voted for it, 13 were against it, and one abstained.

Molotov later recollected, “I have never opposed Lenin. But I and all others who have been with Lenin all the time could not immediately clearly understand him. All the Bolsheviks were talking about a democratic revolution, but he was talking about a socialist revolution.”

When most comrades did not understand his strategy, Lenin patiently and warmly explained the profound meaning of his strategic thinking, its objective basis, its strategic objective, and its tactical principles. He also refuted his opponents’ wrong positions.

After this debate, many comrades who were once unconvinced changed their minds. At the party’s 7th National Conference, the party finally endorsed Lenin’s “April Theses.” The Conference approved Lenin’s course, policy, and tactics to transform the bourgeois democratic revolution into a socialist revolution.

That was Lenin.

This was the leader of the proletarian party. He not only introduced Marxist theory into the Russian revolutionary practices, but creatively developed Marxism.

Within the Bolshevik Party, although Lenin’s personal prestige was far above everyone else, he always insisted on the principles of group leadership and brought collective wisdom and power into full play.

In 1921, Lenin wrote a letter to Joffe, the deputy chief of the Soviet Foreign Affairs Committee, “You repeatedly said that the Center was me. You were wrong. You should not have written a thing like this.” According to Lenin, the Center should be a group of leaders, and this was true. During Lenin’s time, the central leadership group under his leadership was an organization of statesmen with strong revolutionary beliefs. The majority of them had a strong belief in the communist cause. At the time, the party’s core leadership organ was firstly the Central Committee, and later, after the 8th CPSU Congress, it was the Politburo.

Lenin’s contemporary, a Russian revolutionary, V. Vorovsky, once commented, “He (Lenin) was good at collecting experiences and knowledge from many people like a concave lens, then consolidating them into common thoughts and common slogans in his rich laboratory of wisdom.”

After Lenin’s death, the party’s central leadership was in need of a helmsman.

At the time, possible candidates included Trotsky, Bukharin, Zinovyev, and Stalin.

In the eyes of most party members and leaders, Trotsky did not have a complete vision for developing a socialist society. He even doubted whether socialism could succeed in the Soviet Union.

Bukharin had a complete plan for developing socialism, but he lacked organizational skills.

Zinovyev was not an outstanding leader in either theory or organization.

Despite his many shortcomings, Stalin had a solid political belief and an ironclad will. His organizational capabilities were second to none.

Joseph W. Stalin was born on December 21, 1879. He participated in revolutionary activities at a young age. From 1902 to 1913, he was arrested eight times and exiled seven times. He escaped six times while in exile. Different from Lenin and other revolutionaries, Stalin’s main political struggle experiences were inside Russia. The brutal struggle forged his strong personality.

Stalin was an outstanding Marxist and a great proletarian revolutionist.

From the day he devoted his life to the revolution until his death, his faith in communism had never shaken, even slightly. In his long political career, the starting point and the foothold of his governance had always been the nation’s strength and people’s livelihoods.

Stalin had a superior organizational capability. As early as in the October Revolution, he assisted Lenin by participating in directing the armed uprising in Petrograd. During the intense civil war, he commanded the Red Army to defend Tsaritsyn (later called Stalingrad) and won many other critical battles. He was good at using language familiar to ordinary cadres and the people to mobilize and organize party members, cadres, and people to advance the established goal. He was a quick decision maker with clear goals in mind. Tough and resilient, he would accomplish the goal at any cost. Stalin was a leader with whom few politicians could even compare.

As his reputation rose, the party’s highest decision-making power gradually fell to his hands. Stalin personally believed that “personal worship” was harmful and intolerable. He repeatedly stated his abhorrence and opposition toward “personal worship” of himself, but in his political life as leader of the party and the nation, Stalin sometimes overestimated his individual wisdom and violated proletarian Democratic Centralism.

Dealing with disagreements within the CPSU’s leadership group, Stalin sometimes used the iron fist, or even the “brutal struggle and merciless attack” approach.

The result was, on the surface, that all different ideas in the party disappeared. It looked like a high degree of uniformity within the party was maintained, but the principle of collective leadership upheld by Lenin was undermined. Among the waves of echoing voices, resolutions “unanimously passed” amounted to unconditional obedience to the will of the individual leader. As such, Stalin was made equal to the party. In reality, this practice weakened or even negated the function of the leadership group.

Of course, as a revolutionary leader, Stalin’s faults and mistakes were insignificant compared with his contribution to the CPSU and the Soviet people.

At Stalin’s 80th birthday memorial, Winston Churchill, the leading figure in the western world and the prime minister of the United Kingdom, delivered high praise of Stalin in the House of Commons, “In these trying years, the genius commander in chief Stalin led his own country. This represented great fortune for Russia. Stalin was a most outstanding man. He spent his entire life during a changing and brutal era. He left us with an admirable impression.”

“History and people will never forget a man like him.”

After Stalin passed away, the CPSU for a time emphasized re-establishing the principle of “collective leadership” established by Lenin. But in 1957, when Khrushchev was the first secretary of the party, with Malenkov, Kaganovich, and Molotov struck as an “anti-party group,” the CPSU once again fell under Khrushchev’s personal authoritarian leadership.

Nikita Khrushchev was born on April 17, 1894, in Kalinovka of Russia’s Kursk. His parents were simple peasants. During his youth, he worked as a mineworker in the Ukraine. Growing up during the turbulent revolutionary era, he underwent the test of the Great Patriotic War. But there was another side to his ideologies and behavioral principles, making him a complicated figure.

He used to have a simple and primitive sentiment toward the communist causes, but he lacked cultivation in Marxist theories. Molotov made the following remarks about Khrushchev, “He had little interest in what Leninism and Marxism were all about. Totally ignorant on theories, never did he put any thought into this subject.” Because of this, he violated the Marxist theory of state and the theory of class struggle. At the 22nd CPSU Congress, he announced the erroneous theories of the “State of the People” and the “Party of the People.” He pushed hard to pass a new party Constitution that abolished the “Proletarian Dictatorship,” the core theory of Marxism-Leninism. On one hand, he warned people not to make any premature advancement; on the other hand, he pushed hard on his own premature advancement by declaring that the Soviet Union would “establish a communist society within 20 years.” His version of communism was nothing but “potatoes plus beef.” It can be safely concluded that, starting with Khrushchev, the CPSU began to separate and depart from, and betray some fundamental Marxist principles, causing the Soviet Union to deviate from the correct socialist direction. His practice planted the roots for the future collapse of the CPSU and the Soviet Union.

He criticized the personal worship of Stalin by revealing some untold stories and advocating the correction of Stalin’s mistakes. However, he was a typical two-faced conspirator and careerist. In March 1939, during a 20 minute speech at the 18th CPSU Congress, he praised Stalin as many as 32 times. In the past, he nauseatingly praised Stalin as “the greatest genius, teacher, and leader of the human world,” the “great, ever-winning general,” and “my own father.” But more than 10 years later, the same Khrushchev cursed Stalin as a “murderer,” “robber,” “gambler,” “the largest communist in Russian history,” “bastard,” “idiot,” etc. He dumped the most vicious and dirty language onto Stalin and completely denied Stalin’s great historical achievements. His nasty words for Stalin were in fact a huge insult to the great Soviet people and the CPSU, and a negation of some fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism and socialism. Although Khrushchev opposed personal worship of Stalin, he himself worked hard to promote his own cult of personality and willingly moved himself into a “temple for gods.”

The true nature of his complete negation of Stalin was to fundamentally negate the Proletarian Dictatorship, and the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism that Stalin fought hard to safeguard and develop.

When dealing with major issues that affected the fate of the party and the nation, Khrushchev lacked rational thinking and in-depth foresight. Often starting from wishful thinking and instant enthusiasm, he even tried to reach his goal by risky and premature means.

He advocated reforming the outdated, highly centralized economic system of the Soviet Union, but his approach was short on scientific guidance and in-depth study and investigation. He arbitrarily made decisions that resulted in many ridiculous consequences.

He blindly insisted on reclaiming large areas of virgin land to expand the cornfields. But tens of millions of acres of land ended up wasted, as they were not suited for planting.

His industrial reform was a simple change from vertical to horizontal management, weakening the power of the central authorities and fostering “localism.”

He forcefully divided the state level and remote area party organizations into separate industrial and agricultural party organizations, severely weakening the party’s leadership. State party secretaries widely opposed this practice.

In 1961, at the 22nd CPSU Congress, Khrushchev declared that the Soviet Union had entered “an era of building communism in full swing,” to “basically finish building a communist society within 20 years.” Khrushchev’s “communism” was not the one based on Marxist scientific vision. It was completely detached from the real situation. Until his resignation, Khrushchev’s “communism” remained a mirage.

On October 14, 1964, after returning from a vacation, Khrushchev chaired the CPSU Central Committee’s Presidium Conference. During the meeting, members of the Presidium made a sudden assault on him, using his own style of secret anti-Stalin speech from years ago. With harsh criticism and allegations against his mistakes on foreign and domestic policies, they forced him to agree to a “voluntary retirement.” He had to sign a prepared resignation statement. This crude reformer with no leadership qualities was kicked out of office before his tenure expired. Until his death years later, Khrushchev never figured out what had gone wrong.

The one who replaced Khrushchev was Brezhnev.

Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev was born on December 19, 1906, into a worker’s family in the Ukraine’s Kamensk.

He spent his childhood during the October Revolution, and completed his education during the Stalin era. He worked in both agriculture and industry as technical management and a political leader. During the Great Patriotic War, he served as a commander in the Soviet military. After the war, he assumed local party leadership positions.

Brezhnev ended the chaotic situation caused by Khrushchev’s impetuous and hasty reform policies. He corrected the one-person decision making style in the party. He also promoted the “new economic system” reform.

Some people believed that Brezhnev lacked rich theoretical knowledge, and lacked extraordinary talent and wisdom. They thought he was a follow-the-book executive. Not paying attention to dynamic situations, he was comfortable with the status quo, and was afraid of major reforms. However, some others believed that Brezhnev acted cautiously, contributing to 18 years of a stable situation in the Soviet Union.

During Brezhnev’s tenure as the first secretary of the CPSU, the Soviet Union experienced a rare stable period in its history. In those 18 years, the Soviet economy made a number of advancements; society was stable; and people’s livelihoods improved. At the same time, some negative phenomena also became apparent. Especially during his later years in power, the CPSU leaders were oblivious to social changes and people’s demands. Failing to realize that Marxist theories should be constantly developed according to reality, they became more and more conservative and rigid in their thinking and actions. Maintaining the status quo, window-dressing, and lack of spirit of reform and renovation became the theme of the Soviet Union during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

In Brezhnev’s later years, although he never stopped emphasizing that the CPSU should represent the Soviet people’s interests and serve the people, his words became more or less empty talk.

In the later period of the Brezhnev years, the communist ideology among the CPSU leaders became very fragile. It became commonplace to pursue a luxurious western life style and engage in adulation. Brezhnev was the highest representative of this special interest group that stayed above the people. As such, the CPSU moved further away from the people, and lost its advanced nature, and the legitimacy of its rule.

In the early 1980’s, the Soviet society exhibited some serious crises. Certain social conflicts became acute. It is fair to say that Brezhnev’s policies and practices planted land mines for eventual shock waves across the country and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Immediate reform was necessary. At the same time, the Soviet people had a stable life, and enjoyed high quality education, medical care, and social welfare. The nation’s scientific and technical brains amounted to one quarter of that of the world. The Soviet Union became one of the two world superpowers and played a pivotal role in international communities. That was why some Russians today believe the Brezhnev Era was the best time of the Soviet people’s life.

After the death of Brezhnev, the CPSU went through two brief periods of Andropov and Chernenko. In March 1985, the supreme power passed into the hands of new leadership team headed by Gorbachev.

On March 2, 1931, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was born into a peasant family in Stavropol of Northern Caucasus. He graduated from Moscow State University and had a long career in party work.

His world view was formed during his youth, which coincided with the period when Khrushchev completely negated Stalin and the CPSU history, promoting the “Party of the People’ and the “State of the People” ideology. This experience imposed a deep imprint on the young Gorbachev and the entire generation he represented, with a devastating effect on their communist belief and their faith in the socialist path.

Let us listen to what Gorbachev had to say. In a March 2001 interview on Russia’s Radio Mayak, Gorbachev confessed, “We are the children of the 20th CPSU Congress. The Soviet history of the 1960’s had a big influence on us. At a young age, we joined the party with all the trust and loyalty to the party. But after the CPSU’s 20th Congress, our thoughts began to change.” Starting in 1993, in a period of a year and half, Gorbachev had a number of conversations with a Japanese social activist, Daisaku Ikeda. Afterwards, they published their dialogues in a book, Moral Lessons of the Twentieth Century. In the book, Gorbachev said, “When I was a student, I discovered that the socialist reality was thousands of miles away from the ideology.” He not only pointed his finger at Stalin; he directly blamed Lenin, and even Marx, criticizing the Marxist theory that historical facts repeatedly proved to be true. He said, “The tragedy of Russia was that, at the beginning of the 20th Century, it chose a dead idea that had died in Marx’s later years.” “Communism is an impossible slogan.”

In June 1988, at the 19th CPSU National Conference, Gorbachev proposed to implement “unrestricted democracy.”

In the same month, several “unofficial organizations” held a rally in downtown Moscow, calling for abolition of the Soviet Union’s state justice system and law enforcement. They demanded their political “right to participate and nominate representatives to the Soviet government.” They also openly called for multi-party politics.

From June 28 to July 1, 1988, during the CPSU’s 19th National Conference, Gorbachev delivered a political report, “On the Implementation of the CPSU 27th Congress Resolutions and the Tasks of Deepening the Reform.” In his report, Gorbachev proposed a series of reform plans geared toward a “humanitarian and democratic socialism.” Its true nature was to sever the link with Marxist basic theory, and adopt the political system from western capitalist countries by introducing multiparty politics. His objective was to rearrange the power structure between the party and the Soviet Union, fundamentally dissolve the CPSU’s ruling position, and shake the class foundation of and people’s support for the party.
Before and after this conference, the unrestricted openness and western style democracy quickly gave birth to a bunch of so called independent non-government organizations (NGO) in the Soviet Union’s political arena.

On December 28, 1987, an editorial at Pravda disclosed that there were over 30,000 NGO’s in the Soviet Union. These organizations blatantly promoted anti-communist views and advocated establishing an opposition party and independent labor unions.

On June 28, 1988, the CPSU’s 19th National Conference and Soviet Union’s First People’s Representatives Conference became the turning point for the change in the Soviet Union’s political system.

Before the 19th National Conference, the CPSU was the country’s core leadership. The Politburo of the Central Committee was the supreme decision making body. The Secretariat of the Central Committee assisted the Politburo to manage daily affairs and organization work.

After the 19th Conference, the CPSU leadership was restructured. Twenty-three departments directly under the Central Committee were removed. The Politburo meetings became less frequent. Sometimes it did not have a meeting for several months.

Between the highest political agencies, a power sharing and balancing mechanism began to dilute the CPSU’s power. The CPSU further lost its control of the situation.

In May 25, 1989, the First Soviet People’s Conference was held. Under Gorbachev’s new reform proposals, Boris Yeltsin and a large number of political opponents inside and outside of the party became the Soviet people’s representatives.

During the First People’s Conference, almost at every moment and on every topic, there were fierce debates and battles.

Millions of Soviet citizens sat in front of their TVs and watched the chaotic situation being broadcast live.
From December 10 to 12, 1989, at the Soviet Second People’s Conference, representatives of “Cross Regional Representatives,” Sakharov and Popov, once again called for including an amendment to Article Six of the Constitution in the meeting agenda.

The Plenary Session in February 1990 of CPSU’s Central Committee was an important meeting for moving the country toward multi party politics.

“Democratic” representative Yeltsin said, “(The party) must allow changes from one party rule to a multi party system, and prepare for sharing power with other parties based on the social organization law.

Gorbachev agreed with Yeltsin’s position. He clearly stated the need to change the Constitution, to remove the reference in Article Six that guarantees Communist Party leadership.

Faced with pressing opposition, the CPSU, lacking people’s support, lost its ruling position step by step.

On March 12, 1990, the Soviet Third Special People’s Representatives Conference began.

The Conference passed the “On Establishing the Soviet Union’s Presidency and Soviet Constitution (Fundamental Law) Amendment.”

In the preface, the wording “Communist Party, the Vanguard of all the people, is to be enhanced” was removed. Article Six “The Communist Party of the Soviet Union is the leading force and guiding force of Soviet society, and the core of its political system, state and society,” was changed to, “The Communist Party of the Soviet Union, other political parties, labor unions, the communist youth league, and other social groups and movements, through their elected people’s representatives of the Soviet Union and other forms, participate in making the policy of the Soviet Union, and administering the state and social affairs.” These changes opened the door to abolishing the Communist Party’s leadership and promoting a multi party system. On the level of the theoretical foundation, these changes destroyed the CPSU’s governance status that had lasted for 73 years, since the October Revolution.

The Constitutional Amendment also added an article on the “Soviet Union’s President,” and announced the separation of the party from the state.

Gorbachev was elected as the first president of the Soviet Union.

In July 1990, in his report to the 28th CPSU Congress, Gorbachev, with a straight face, proposed that the CPSU shall “try to keep its ruling party status” through elections. Yet he was merely trying to cover up his real intention of destroying the Communist Party.

After the CPSU Central Committee of the February Plenary Session in 1990 and the Soviet Special People’s Representative Conference, the Communist Party lost its special leadership position guaranteed by the Constitution. The unregistered political organizations consisting of radicals now began to enjoy the same constitutional protection as the Communist Party.

Yeltsin was the first secretary of the Communist Party in Sverdlovsk. After Gorbachev came to power, he promoted Yeltsin to become an alternate member of the Politburo. Yeltsin later became the first secretary of the Moscow CPSU Committee. Thereafter, under the banner of attacking special privileges and corruption, he endeavored to garner political capital and fiercely attacked the comrades who insisted on the correct principles.

Yeltsin quickly targeted the CPSU Central Committee, especially the Number Two Leader Ligachev who was a strong proponent of the socialist path. In the CPSU Central Committee’s Plenary Session on October 21, 1987, Yeltsin strongly criticized the slow pace of the Central Committee’s reform development, singled out Ligachev by name, and criticized the problem of his so-called working style. Yeltsin immediately received strong reactions and criticism from nearly all of the central committee members. Soon after, he was removed from both of his positions, as an alternate member of the Politburo, and as first party secretary of Moscow.

Nevertheless, Gorbachev kept him as a member of the central committee, and appointed him to be the Vice Director of the State Construction Commission.

In May 29, 1990, in the Russian Federation First People’s Congress, Yeltsin was elected as Chairman of the Russian Federation’s Supreme Soviet with 535 “yes” votes, and 502 “no” votes. With only four votes above the minimum legal requirement, Yeltsin grabbed the top position in the Russian Federation.

During the CPSU’s 28th Congress in July 1990, Yeltsin openly announced his withdrawal from the Communist Party.

Ryzhkov, and Bakatin, who Gorbachev had nominated, to become Russia’s president.

One month and eight days later, on July 20, Yeltsin issued a decree to declare a ban on political parties’ activities in government agencies, people’s organizations and local enterprises. The target was the CPSU. Yeltsin contributed the last blow to the collapse of the CPSU and the Soviet Union.

When a ruling party’s first defender of the principles of its existence and development becomes the destroyer of these principles, and if the destructive actions are not timely curbed, the party is heading toward a disastrous abyss.