Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

The Politburo (in Russian: "Политбюро", full: Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, abbreviated "Политбюро ЦК КПСС"), known as the Presidium from 1952 to 1966, functioned as the central policymaking and governing body of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The body was made up of the top members of the Central Committee. In theory, it acted as the political bureau (hence "Politburo") of the Central Committee, elected by them to direct the Party between the sessions of the committee and with a mandate that only covered the Party. The Politburo was responsible to, and its membership was subject to, the approval of the Central Committee.

In reality, the Politburo oversaw the operations of the Committee and made all major policy decisions, which it then passed down through the Central Committee, the Supreme Soviet and the Party Congress. Its control extended from the Party and into government because Party personnel held all key government posts and party discipline therefore ensured that Politburo policy was implemented by all government organizations. One example of the Central Committee overruling the Presidium (as the Politburo was known) was the defeat of the so-called Anti-Party Group in 1957.

Lenin set up a political bureau in 1917 specifically to direct the Revolution, but this precursor did not outlast the event; the Central Committee continued with the political functions. However, due to practical reasons, usually less than half of the members attended the regular Central Committee meetings during this time, even though they decided all key questions.

The Eighth Party Congress in 1919 formalized this reality and re-established what would later on become the true center of political power in the Soviet Union. This new Political Bureau, which decided on questions too urgent to await full Central Committee deliberation, originally consisted of 5 full members: Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Joseph Stalin, Lev Kamenev and Nikolai Krestinsky.

Although, in theory, the Politburo was elected from below, in practice, the leading members of the Politburo and, of course, Lenin were highly influential in determining the body's composition which, in the end, reflected the weight and competing influence of various individuals within the party, their allies within the Politburo and supporters outside of it.

Under Stalin the processes under which the leadership of the party was determined became an entirely hierarchical matter with the General Secretary (i.e. Stalin) determining the composition of the Central Committee and even that of the Politburo rather than the reverse. After Stalin's death the authority of the General Secretary waxed and waned to various degrees and the composition of the Politburo again became a matter of shifting alliances among leading members and interest groups within the party, at least until a General Secretary was able to consolidate his position.

The Politburo had both full and candidate (non-voting) members. The actual size of the Politburo varied, but it usually consisted of fourteen full and eight candidate members. Although it had no formal head, the General Secretary of the Party, who was also often head of the Central Committee, always played the leading role. In practice the most powerful Politburo members also had membership of the Secretariat of the CPSU Central Committee, the General Secretary leading of this group. Those who had seats on only one of these two bodies had less influence. Only a few women ever became members of the Politburo.

In order to minimize personal clashes and avoid factionalism there was a convention of procedure which mandated that strong criticisms be circulated beforehand to avoid conflict during actual meetings .

In 1990, the 28th Party Congress agreed to transfer the powers of the Politburo to Parliament, and the Politburo ceased to exist in August 1991.

See also Organization of the Communist Party of the USSR

Politburo/Presidium membership

All names of Politburo members in boldface. All elections to and removals from the Politburo were by vote of the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Party, unless otherwise specified.

ee also

* Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union


Further reading

* Oleg Khlevniuk [2006] "Politburo". Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-11066-9

External links

* [http://www.terra.es/personal2/monolith/ussr2.htm Leadership of the CPSU] Full list of members and candidate members of the Politburo includes dates on the body and year of death (or execution).

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