Party Building

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Party Building


(partiinoe stroitel’stvo), with reference to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, an intrinsic part of Marxist-Leninist doctrine on the party. Party building is the science of the laws of the development and growth of the leading role of the Communist Party, as well as the science of the principles of its structure, the forms of its organization, and the rules governing its internal life. It is the science of the techniques and methods of the party’s organizational, political, and ideological work among the masses, and it is the science of party leadership through economic and cultural construction and the governmental and social organizations of the toiling people. Party building is inseparably connected with the history of the CPSU. Its foundation consists of the experience accumulated by the CPSU and the international communist movement.

The CPSU is built and operates on the basis of the ideological, political, and organizational principles and the norms of party life and principles of party leadership developed by V. I. Lenin. The organizational structure of the CPSU, the forms of party work, and the methods of party leadership vary, depending on the characteristics of the concrete historical situation and on the tasks facing the party. The chief aspect of CPSU activity is providing political leadership. This includes working out scientifically based general perspectives for the development of society and for foreign and domestic policy, relying on Marxist-Leninist theory; expressing the vital interests of the toiling people; and ensuring the successful construction of socialism and communism. However, the political line alone cannot guarantee success; therefore, the party has always, at all stages of its development, attributed great importance to organizational questions. The organizational forms and practical working methods developed by the party are the means by which it carries out its program and tactics, its political line. By developing and adapting the Leninist principles of party building in a creative way, generalizing and making use of its accumulated experience, the party makes the appropriate changes in its organizational forms and working methods. These changes contribute to the goals of making further improvement in the organizational leadership of the party, increasing its combat ability, strengthening the unity and solidarity of its ranks, and broadening and consolidating its links with the masses in every possible way.

Problems of party building have been considered at all party congresses and conferences and at many Central Committee plenums. Changes in the party’s organizational forms and methods of work are reflected in the Rules of the party, which constitute the foundation of party life and party building.

The guiding principle of the party’s organizational structure is democratic centralism. The specific content of this principle, its forms, and its range of application do not remain the same but are made to correspond with the position of the party in the existing social system and with the actual conditions in which the party operates. During the prerevolutionary period, when the party operated underground, the strictest centralization was the principle of party structure and of internal party activity. This principle governed the structure of party organizations, the procedure for forming party bodies, and the methods employed by them. The party consisted of two elements: the professional revolutionaries, who used conspiratorial tactics and engaged in party work professionally; and the broad network of party organizations uniting party members in factories and cities. The co-optation of new members to party committees was allowed, as was the appointment of party personnel directly by the Central Committee. Whenever possible, local party bodies were elected and held accountable to their membership. A distinctive feature of the party’s work methods in the prerevolutionary period was the combination of illegal and legal activity by the party organizations for the purpose of preserving the revolutionary proletarian party and broadening its ties with the masses. The principles, forms, and methods of party building were subordinated to the principal demands of the Party Program adopted at the Second Congress of the RSDLP in 1903. These demands were developed in a number of works by Lenin, including the Letter to a Comrade on Our Organizational Tasks (1902), What Is to Be Done? (1902), Draft Rules of the RSDLP (published in 1904), and One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (1904), as well as in the Rules of the party adopted at congresses held prior to October 1917.

After the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 the Communist Party became the ruling party in the Soviet state, which was founded under its leadership. At the Eighth Congress of the RCP (Bolshevik) in 1919, the party adopted its second Program, which emphasized building socialism in the Soviet Union. Subsequently, the party altered its organizational forms and work methods to conform with new tasks and circumstances. It developed organizational forms to handle relations between the party and all the other organizations of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and it changed the structure of the party organizations and of the party as a whole. The Orgburo (Organizational Bureau) and the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the RCP(B), which worked under the direction of the Central Committee and the Politburo, were established in 1919. The Central Control Commission of the RCP(B) and local control commissions were organized in 1920 to maintain party unity. Party cells (basic party organizations) were established, in accordance with the Rules of the party, in factories, villages, Red Army units, and offices where there were three or more party members. Corresponding to the administrative and territorial division of the country, party organizations were formed at the volost (small rural district), district, city, okrug, province, and krai levels. (Later, these became raion, city, okrug, oblast, and krai organizations.) National Communist parties organized during this period later became Union-republic parties. From the time of the founding of the Red Army and Navy, there were special political bodies to organize and carry out party political work in the military. In all party committees, from the Central Committee to the raion level, subdivisions were established to deal with particular problems. This party apparatus was designed to direct the work of lower party organizations and to check on the implementation of directives from higher party bodies.

After the conclusion of the Civil War and Military Intervention of 1918–20 and the shift to peaceful construction, the party pursued a course toward the expansion of democracy within the party (internal party democracy). Democratic centralism—especially the election and accountability of party bodies—was observed more consistently. The party took up the task of vigorously developing the creative initiative of Communists through collective discussion and resolution of questions of party policy.

The CPSU put into practice and continues to observe the principle of collective leadership as the highest leadership principle of the party. It regards as basic the instructions of Lenin that the normal activity of the party organizations and of the party as a whole is only possible if the principle of collective leadership is strictly observed, thus safeguarding the party against elements of chance and one-sidedness in its decisions. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, when the question “Who will prevail?” had not yet been resolved, there were different categories of prospective party members. These categories were intended to facilitate the entry of advanced cadres from the working class and hinder the entry of nonproletarian elements. The principles of party building during the period of socialist construction were elaborated by Lenin in the article “The Workers’ State and Party Week” (1919) and in speeches to party congresses and conferences, as well as in the party Rules of 1919–34.

The CPSU perfected its organizational forms and its methods of work, repelling the assaults of various opportunist groupings within the party (the Trotskyites, the Workers’ Opposition, the Democratic Centralists Group, the New Opposition, and the Right-wing Deviation in the ACP [Bolshevik]). These groups favored factionalism and tried to split the ranks of the party. Through uncompromising struggle, the party smashed the opportunists, strengthened the unity of its ranks, and ensured the building of socialism in the USSR.

After the victory of socialism and the elimination of the exploiting classes in the USSR, the party pursued a course intended to expand democracy within the party and establish a regular schedule for party meetings, plenums, conferences, and congresses. The party also endeavored to prescribe the secret ballot in elections of party bodies and prohibit the co-optation of new members into party bodies. Hoping to improve work within the party and strengthen ties with the masses, the Eighteenth Congress of the ACP(B), which took place in 1939, made changes in the party Rules. For all prospective members—whether workers, peasants, or intellectuals—the same set of conditions for admission to the party and the same trial period (candidate stage) were established.

Questions of party building are discussed extensively in the Third Program of the CPSU, which was adopted at the Twenty-second Party Congress in 1961; in the materials of the Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth Congresses (held in 1966 and 1971, respectively); and in the party Rules now in effect. Party building is also discussed in the resolutions adopted at plenums of the Central Committee, in Central Committee decrees on various problems of party work, and in other documents of the Central Committee of the CPSU.

Under the conditions of advanced socialist society, the successful completion of the tasks of communist construction are promoted by the organizational design of the CPSU, the structure of its organizations, and its methods of work. The party is pursuing a line aimed at further development of internal party democracy, at increasing the activity of all members, and at strict observance of the Leninist norms of party life, as well as at strengthening party ties with the working class and with the entire Soviet people. For a long time there has been no social base in the Soviet Union for the emergence of various deviations from the general party line. But as long as capitalism exists, it will take advantage of every possible means of exerting its influence on unstable elements in the Communist and working-class parties. The most important tasks of the CPSU are strengthening the unity and solidarity of its ranks, qualitatively improving the composition of the party, and replenishing its ranks on the basis of rigorous, individual selection from among the advanced and most worthy representatives of the working class, the toiling people of the villages, and the intelligentsia. The working class must continue to hold the leading place in the social composition of the party. The predominant position of the working class in the party’s social makeup corresponds completely with the character of the Communist Party and with the role and position of the working class in Soviet society.

The period of full-scale communist construction in the USSR is characterized by a further increase in the role and importance of the CPSU as the guiding and directing force of the Soviet people. The greater the complexity of the tasks that must be solved in building communism, the greater is the importance of the conscious, organized, planned element in society. The embodiment of that element is the Communist Party, armed with Marxism-Leninism. The new stage in the development of the Soviet state makes necessary the continuous improvement of the political, ideological, and organizational activity of the party and each of its organizations. Party organizations have the duty of periodically discarding everything that is obsolete and discovering and supporting, in every possible way, whatever is new and progressive, the product of the initiative of the party masses and the nonparty masses. Therefore, the further improvement of the style, form, and methods of party work is a very important condition for the successful construction of communism.

Party building is inseparably linked with the history of the party, with the past and present experience of the CPSU and the international communist movement. Profound and creative study of the principles of party building raises the political level and furthers the ideological tempering of the leading cadres and of all Communists, helps improve the style and methods of work in the party organizations, and contributes to the more successful completion of current tasks. All the fraternal Communist and working-class parties draw on the experience of the CPSU in party building.

The theory of party building is studied in party schools of the CPSU and in the system of party education. There are sub-departments of party building in the Academy of Social Sciences of the Central Committee of the CPSU, in the Higher Party School and the Higher Party Correspondence School of the Central Committee of the CPSU, and in higher party schools on the republic and interoblast levels. At the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Central Committee of the CPSU there is a department on party building. Problems of party building are discussed in the magazines Kommunist and Partiinaia zhizn’, which are issued by the Central Committee of the CPSU; in the newspaper Pravda; and in other party press organs.


Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch. 5th ed. (See Index volume, part 1, p. 455.)
V. I. Lenin o normakh partiinoi zhizni i printsipakh partiinogo rukovodstva. Moscow, 1973.
Brezhnev, L. I. Ob aktual’nykh problemakh partiinogo stroitel’stva. Moscow, 1973.
Partiinoe stroitel’stvo, 4th ed. Moscow, 1976.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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