Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union


held in Moscow, Feb. 14–25, 1956. The congress was attended by 1,349 delegates with deciding votes and 81 delegates with consultative votes, representing 6,795.896 members and 419,609 candidate members of the party.

The composition of the delegation to the congress (with deciding votes) is characterized by the following figures: 438 delegates worked directly in production, of whom 251 worked in industry and transport and 187 in agriculture: 20.3 percent of the delegates were under 40 years of age, 55.7 percent between 40 and 50, and 24 percent over 50; 758 delegates had received a higher education, 116 an incomplete higher education, and 169 a secondary education; about 80 percent of all the delegates had received a higher, incomplete higher, or secondary education; 22 delegates had joined the party before the Great October Socialist Revolution, 60 delegates between 1917 and 1920, 24.9 percent of the delegates between 1921 and 1930, 34 percent between 1931 and 1940, 21.6 percent between 1941 and 1945, and 13.4 percent in 1946 or later; 193 women were elected delegates to the congress, accounting for 14.2 percent of all the delegates; 60 delegates to the congress were Heroes of the Soviet Union and 95 were Heroes of Socialist Labor. Delegations of communist workers’ parties from 55 foreign countries attended the congress.

The agenda of the congress included the report of the Central Committee of the CPSU, delivered by N. S. Khrushchev; the report of the Central Auditing Commission of the CPSU, delivered by P. G. Moskatov; a report of the Directives of the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU on the six five-year plans for development of the USSR national economy for the 1956–60 period, delivered by N. A. Bulganin; and elections of the central party agencies.

The congress discussed the report of the Central Committee of the CPSU and pointed out that the Soviet people, under the leadership of the Communist Party and in close cooperation with all the socialist countries, have made great strides in the struggle for building a communist society in the USSR and for world peace. Between 1953 and 1956 the Central Committee of the CPSU carried out important measures that guaranteed, by consolidating the party and raising its guiding role in Soviet society, to further develop the socialist economy and raise the welfare of the Soviet people. The Central Committee of the CPSU denounced the cult of personality, laid bare the violations of socialist legality that had occurred, and took steps necessary to correct them; it did much to restore the Leninist norms of party life, develop democracy within the party, establish the principle of collective leadership, and refine the style and methods of party work. The Twentieth Congress completely approved the policy and work of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the proposals and conclusions presented by its reports on international and domestic affairs.

The congress resolution points out that radical changes increasing the strength of socialism have taken place in international affairs. The most important trait of our epoch is that socialism is no longer restricted to one country, but has become a world system. The colonial system of imperialism has been crumbling under the onslaught of the peoples’ national liberation struggle. The congress noted that deep social contradictions in the capitalist world are increasing, and its sphere of influence has been greatly restricted. The general crisis of the capitalist system is becoming deeper and deeper.

The congress noted that two antagonistic trends have taken shape in international affairs. The imperialist powers, headed by reactionary American circles, try to suppress the workers’, democratic, and national liberation movements, weaken the camp of socialism, and establish world domination. On the other hand, the forces fighting for a stable peace and for the security of peoples are on the rise in the world arena. The congress resolution states that “a steady rise in the strength of the international camp of socialism, which exerts an ever-increasing influence on the course of world events, is decisive in this process” (XX s”ezd KPSS: Stenograficheskii otchet, vol. 2, 1956, p. 411). The Communist Parties are the most active and consistent fighters against the threat of war. Fraternal relations among all the socialist countries must be strenghtened in every possible way on the basis of the Leninist principles of equality of peoples and proletarian internationalism. The congress charged the Central Committee of the CPSU with carrying on its steady fight for peace and for the security of peoples, keeping a watchful eye on the intrigues of the enemies of peace, and taking the necessary steps to raise the defensive might of the Soviet state and to ensure its security.

The Central Committee report and the decisions of the congress provided a theoretical basis for important problems of our time. They reaffirmed and elaborated Lenin’s dictum that the peaceful coexistence of states with different social systems is possible. The congress pointed out that the peaceful coexistence of states with different social systems does not reduce the intensity of class antagonism and the class struggle between socialism and capitalism. In fact, peaceful coexistence does not rule out a struggle between the communist and bourgeois ideologies but assumes it will go on.

The resolution stated that as a result of the new correlation of forces produced by the emergence and consolidation of the world system of socialism—which, with the peace-loving political forces of other nations, has not only the moral but also the material means to curb imperialist aggression—there is a real possibility of preventing a new world war in our time. The congress pointed out that the labor movement has become an enormous force in the capitalist countries, that the influence of Communist Parties, trade unions, and youth organizations has increased, and that a popular peace movement has gained strength in all countries. A vast “peace zone” has developed as a result of the disintegration of the colonial system. There are now more and more states that vigorously oppose war, although they do not belong to the socialist camp. War is therefore not fatally inevitable. At the same time, the congress resolution emphasized that because imperialism has not disappeared and has not changed in nature, the economic basis for new aggressive wars has not been eliminated and all partisans of peace must keep a vigilant eye on the intrigues of the imperialist aggressors. The countries of the socialist camp must increase their defense capabilities in every possible way.

The report of the Central Committee and the decisions of the congress contained a theoretical elaboration of the forms of transition of different countries to socialism. This analysis is of great theoretical and practical value. It was pointed out at the congress that the historical experience has fully confirmed Lenin’s prediction that “all nations will arrive at socialism, this is inevitable, but all will do so in not exactly the same way, each will contribute something of its own to some form of democracy, to some variety of the dictatorship of the proletariat, to the varying rate of socialist transformation in the different aspects of social life” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 30, p. 123). At the present stage, a revolutionary transition to socialism does not necessarily involve a civil war. Under certain conditions, radical political and economic transformations may be carried out peacefully. Recognizing that different countries’ transition to socialism may legitimately vary, the congress emphasized in its resolution that no matter what form the transition to socialism assumes, several conditions are necessary and decisive in this process. These conditions are the political leadership of the working class and its vanguard, the Communist Party, a vigorous struggle against opportunist elements, and the defeat of the reactionary antipopular forces. No matter what form the transition from capitalism to socialism assumes, whether it is peaceful or not, it can be carried out only through a socialist revolution and the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat, in one form or another. The resolution states that more favorable conditions for the victory of socialism in other countries have become possible because socialism has triumphed in the USSR and is being victorious in the other socialist countries. An allegiance to revolutionary Marxism-Leninism and a resolute and vigorous struggle against the ideology of reformism and opportunism are the necessary conditions for the victory of socialism.

The congress assessed the results of the fifth five-year plan (1951–55). It noted that all branches of national production have grown rapidly, the people’s material well-being and cultural level have greatly increased, and the Soviet social and political system and the moral and political unity of Soviet society have been further strengthened. In the course of the fifth five-year plan the national income of the USSR rose 68 percent, real wages of workers and employees rose 39 percent, and real earnings of kolkhoz members rose 50 percent. Gross industrial output was 85 percent higher than that of 1950. The congress approved measures adopted by the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the USSR between 1953 and 1955 on organizing an upswing of agriculture, on further raising the real wages of the lowest-paid workers, on increasing the personal material interest of workers in the result of their work, and on regularizing the pension system.

The congress approved the measures that had been implemented for the strengthening of Soviet legality, the strict observance of the rights of citizens, and broadening the powers of republic agencies in economic management and cultural development. It charged the Central Committee with ensuring a further development of Soviet socialist democracy and instructed party organizations that they must devote more attention to the day-to-day management of economic development.

The congress adopted some very important decisions on ideological work. It pointed out that the party has the important tasks of overcoming the gap between ideological work and practical communist construction and fighting against dogmatism and pendantry.

The congress adopted directives on the sixth five-year plan for the development of the national economy for 1956–60.

The congress charged the Central Committee of the CPSU with working out the draft of a new Policy Program. It adopted a resolution on introducing some changes in the Rules of the CPSU.

The congress elected the Central Committee of the CPSU. composed of 133 members and 122 candidate members, and the Central Auditing Commission, composed of 63 members.

The Twentieth Congress discussed problems related to overcoming the cult of Stalin’s personality and its consequences. It adopted a resolution approving the great work done by the Central Committee on restoring Leninist norms of party life and developing inner-party democracy. The congress advised the Central Committee to consistently carry out measures toward fully overcoming the cult of personality, which is alien to Marxism-Leninism; eliminating its consequences in all spheres of party, state, and ideological work; and ensuring a strict observance of Leninist norms of party life and the principle of collective leadership. In this criticism of the cult of the personality, the party has been guided by the Marxist-Leninist propositions on the role of the popular masses, the party, and the individual in history and by the propositions banning the cult of a political leader’s personality, no matter how great his merits may be.

The special June 30, 1956, resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU “On Overcoming the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences,” which was published soon after the Twentieth Congress, elaborated the decisions of the congress. These decisions were fully approved and supported by the Communist Party, the Soviet people, and the fraternal communist and workers’ parties.


XX s’ezd KPSS: Stenograficheskiiotchel, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1956.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(2.) See John Gollan, 'Socialist Democracy--Some Problems: The Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Retrospect', Marxism Today, January 1976, pp4-30.
THE TWENTIETH CONGRESS OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY of the Soviet Union assembled in Moscow in the Great Hall of the Kremlin on February 14th, 1956.
The process of dismantling Stalinism began officially with the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956 and since then the development of "real socialism" consisted in the gradual abandonment of its totalitarian features.