Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union


(CC of the CPSU), the party’s ruling body in the intervals between congresses; members and candidate members of the CC are elected at congresses of the CPSU, with candidate members replacing members in the case of vacancies.

The CC of the CPSU is the party’s organ of political leadership and its theoretical and ideological center; its importance was repeatedly emphasized by V. I. Lenin. Commenting on the Mensheviks’ refusal to submit to the authority of the central organs elected at the Second Congress of the RSDLP in 1903, Lenin declared that “refusal to accept the direction of the central bodies is tantamount to refusing to remain in the Party, it is tantamount to disrupting the Party” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 8, p. 351). “The Congress elects the Central Committee, thereby expressing its supreme confidence and vesting leadership in those whom it elects” (ibid., vol. 43, p. 108).

The CC is guided in its work by the decisions of the party congresses, to which it is accountable. The functions of the CC are defined in the Rules of the CPSU. As stated in the Rules confirmed by the Twenty-second Congress of the CPSU in 1961 (amended in part by the Twenty-third Congress in 1966 and the Twenty-fourth Congress in 1971), the CC directs the entire work of the party and of local party organs, selects and places top-level personnel, and directs the workers’ central state and public organizations through the party groups operating within them; it establishes and oversees the work of the various party bodies, offices, and institutions; it appoints the editorial boards of the central newspapers and magazines whose publication it controls, disburses the party’s funds, and has control over the party budget. The CC represents the CPSU in the latter’s relations with other parties.

All power is vested in the CC, which is the organ of party authority; as such it has broad powers and enjoys the full confidence of the party’s members. The membership of the CC includes prominent and politically experienced party and state figures who are well versed in Marxist-Leninist theory, economic and administrative agency employees, front-rank production workers from various branches of the national economy, representatives of the building industry, finance workers, members of the armed forces and of the diplomatic service, lawyers, scholars, and representatives of the arts and sciences. The CC’s members are well-qualified leaders who are devoted to the cause of the party, are closely linked to the party and nonparty masses, and have a thorough knowledge of social conditions and needs. Consequently, the CC’s decisions and directives share the characteristic trait of penetrating to the core of an issue; they are concrete, wide-ranging, and efficient, and they reflect the creative thinking, political attitudes, and many-faceted experience of the CPSU’s membership as a whole.

Imbued with the Leninist spirit, the CC works for the unity and cohesion of the party into a monolithic whole; a great deal is demanded of the CC’s members and candidate members. Being a collegial leadership body, the CC of the CPSU holds regular plenums—that is, meetings of all the CC members and candidate members. According to the Rules of the party, such meetings-are held at least once in six months. Candidate members of the CC have consultative rights at the plenums. By established practice, members of the Central Auditing Commission (CAC) of the CPSU attend and have consultative rights in the CC plenums. The regular convocation of the CC plenums is a necessary condition for maintaining the collective nature of party leadership. The plenums of the CC elect the Politburo, the Secretariat, and the general secretary of the CC of the CPSU.

The CC, being at the head of the party in power, implements the general line set forth by the congresses of the CPSU; at its plenums the CC considers the cardinal questions of Soviet state policy, the principal national economic problems, and the successive tasks of communist construction; the CC’s decisions on these matters are binding on all party organizations and members.

In addition to the plenums at which attendance is restricted to CC members, CC candidate members, and members of the CAC of the CPSU, other plenums are convoked by the CC at which attendance and consultative rights are extended to persons who are not members of either body. Such plenums are similar to the meetings, or sessions, of the CC that were held jointly with party workers—for example, the Kraków Meeting of 1912 or the extended session of the CC of the RSDLP(B) held on Oct. 16 (29), 1917, which supported the CC’s decision to prepare for the armed uprising. Between August 1921 and January 1933, the CC and the Central Control Commission of the ACP(B) met 16 times in joint plenums in which the members of the two bodies had equal rights. These meetings, held at times of intensified intra-party struggle, played an important role in preserving party unity and strengthening the party’s collective leadership.

The Russian Bureau of the CC of the RSDLP and the Central Committee Bureau Abroad of the RSDLP functioned, with interruptions, until 1917—that is, during the party’s underground period. It was practically impossible and extremely dangerous for all the members of the CC to meet regularly; thus, on Feb. 9 (22), 1905, nine CC members were arrested during a meeting, and only two members, who were absent, were spared. As a rule, questions were discussed without the full membership being present; the opinion of the other members was subsequently ascertained by correspondence, and CC resolutions were adopted in the same manner. Because of the strict secrecy imposed by circumstances, only partial documentation remains with respect to the CC’s activities before 1917. The materials that have been preserved show that the first CC meeting to be referred to as a plenum of the CC was the one held in Geneva in August 1908. Discussions at this meeting included the question of the structure of the CC and the functions and rights of its subdivisions.

The Mensheviks’ schismatic activities complicated the work of the CC in its role of governing body of the RSDLP. In effect, the CC was repeatedly paralyzed by the Mensheviks—as, for example, in 1904, when on Lenin’s initiative the Bolsheviks were forced to set up the Bureau of the Committees of the Majority. After the Sixth All-Russian Conference of the RSDLP, held in Prague in January 1912, the Mensheviks were barred from membership in the party CC.

Before the Revolution of 1917, the party Rules gave the CC the right of co-optation, or self-replacement; in view of the party’s illegal status, this provision made it possible—in spite of savage police persecution—to maintain the viability of the party’s governing body, even though the turnover in CC membership was considerable. After the October Revolution of 1917, the CC grew in size as the party’s ranks continued to swell and as both the party’s activities and the tasks facing it increased in scope and complexity. As proposed by Lenin, the Twelfth Congress of the RCP(B), held in April 1923, raised the number of CC members to 40, and that of candidate members to 17. The CC’s membership was again enlarged by the Fifteenth Congress, held in December 1927, and by successive congresses; the Eighteenth Congress, held in March 1939, raised the number to 71 members and 68 candidate members. The CC elected by the Twenty-fifth Congress of the CPSU, held in February-March 1976, consisted of 287 members and 139 candidate members. L. I. Brezhnev was elected general secretary of the CC at the plenum of March 5.

The stenographic records and other materials of the CC plenums are published in the party press; CC resolutions have been reproduced in The CPSU in the Resolutions and Decisions of the Congresses, Conferences, and Plenums of the CC, consisting of several volumes. Such publications reflect the broad range of activities of the party’s ruling body as it leads the struggle against tsarism and capitalism on behalf of the dictatorship of the proletariat and for the establishment of socialism and communism.


Ustav KPSS. Moscow, 1976.
Partiinoe stroitel’stvo, 4th ed. Moscow, 1976.
KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh i resheniiakh s”ezdov, konferentsii i Plenumov TsK, 8th ed., vols. 1–10. Moscow, 1970–72.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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