Return to the Library

Historical Lessons and Contemporary Implications of the Soviet Communist Party’s Disengagement from the Masses in its Later Period


Two political scientists affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences argue that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) lost its governance legitimacy as a culture of privilege-seeking and corruption formed over time, distracting cadres from understanding and serving the needs of the Soviet people. Based on this assessment, the authors suggest the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continue to expand mass supervision and combat corruption through improvements to cadre education and discipline.

FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrintCopy Link
Original text
English text
See an error? Drop us a line at
View the translated and original text side-by-side

In 1991, the political climate in the Soviet Union experienced a sudden upheaval, the CPSU was disbanded, the national regime underwent transition, and the path of social development was changed. Reflecting on the history of the rise and fall of the CPSU, one can conclude a law for the rise and fall of a political party, that is, the life and death of the party depends on winning the hearts and minds of the people. One may learn by reflecting on other people’s stories; one can understand why powers rise and fall by learning from history. The mass line is the lifeline of the Chinese Communist Party, and the fundamental focus of its efforts. General Secretary Xi Jinping has pointed out that “History has fully proved that the country is the people, and the people are the country, and the support of the people’s hearts is related to the life and death of the Party. By winning the trust and support of the people, the Party will be able to overcome any difficulty and be invincible.”1 “As we have fought to establish and consolidate our leadership over the country, we have in fact been fighting to earn and keep the people’s support.”2 The reason why the CCP was able to lead the Chinese people to achieve great victories in revolution, construction, and reform is because it has always been able to put the people at the center and maintain a close bond between the Party and the people. On the other hand, the CPSU “founded the country when the Party had 200,000 people, defended it when it had 2 million people, but destroyed it when it had 20 million people,” 3 and the important reason remains that the CPSU had disengaged from the people and indulged in formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism, and extravagance, which corrupted party conduct, the political climate, and social morality, and ultimately led the party to be abandoned by its people. Today, reviewing the history of the CPSU’s disengagement from the masses has important educational values and can serve as an important warning.


1. The Manifestations for CPSU’s Disengagement from the Masses in its Later Period


In the early days of the founding of the party, the CPSU attached great importance to the relationship between the Party and the masses. Lenin once said: “It is a naive, very naive idea to build a communist society only by the hands of the communists. The members of the Communist Party are just a drop in the ocean, a drop of water in the ocean of the people.”4 He practiced what he had said by setting a personal example. Lenin kept close contact with the masses, received the visits of the masses in person, listened to the voices of the masses, and created the “Communist Subbotnik.” Stalin led the Soviet people to the victory of the Great Patriotic War and great achievements during the socialist construction period, but he lived a simple life and had very strict requirements on himself and his family. After Khrushchev became the leader of the CPSU, the bad habits of divorcing theory from reality and cadres from the masses had been gradually spreading across the Party. During the time of Brezhnev, the problem of Party conduct within the CPSU had become very serious, and the problem continued to the period when Gorbachev became the leader of the CPSU. Gorbachev’s further disengagement from and his betrayal of the Party and the masses eventually led to the collapse of the CPSU.


“The one who wins the hearts of the people wins the world, and the one who loses the hearts of the people loses the world.” In the entire history of the decline of the CPSU, Gorbachev’s “reforms” were certainly the direct cause of the CPSU’s downfall, but the complete departure from the Party’s fundamental principles and the mass line in the later period of the CPSU was undoubtedly the root cause for its failure. The top leaders of the CPSU gradually disengaged from the masses, which was mainly manifested in its corruption and degeneration with regard to ideology, organization, conduct, and lifestyle.


(1) Stagnant and Unmotivated to Make Progress in Ideology

(一) 思想上故步自封、不思进取

The period when Brezhnev was the leader of the CPSU is generally considered to be the heyday of Soviet social development. Especially in the early days of his tenure, the entire Soviet society showed unprecedented stability and prosperity. During the first five-year plan period (1966-1970) under Brezhnev’s rule, the average annual growth rate of the reached 7.4%.5 When wars broke out in the Middle East in the 1970s, international oil prices rose sharply. The Soviet Union obtained a huge amount of foreign exchange by exporting a great amount of oil and natural gas. From 1970 to 1980, the amount of oil extracted in the Soviet Union increased from 31 million tons to 312 million tons. Solely from oil exports, the Soviet Union had already gained foreign exchange earnings of up to 16 billion dollars per year.6 Stimulated by favorable factors such as economic growth and the increase in foreign exchange earned through oil exports, the overall living standards of the Soviet people also reached an all-time high during this period. In terms of diplomacy, with a large number of nuclear weapons and strong military, the Soviet Union pursued a tit-for-tat bid for hegemony against the United States. For the United States, which was deeply mired in the oil crisis and the Vietnam War at this time, the Soviet Union appeared to have become a real superpower whose competitiveness was tantamount to itself. However, during the middle and later period of Brezhnev’s tenure, the top leaders of the CPSU gradually lost their determination and will to reform. They were complacent in their thinking and conservative in their work, and such complacency and narrow-mindedness were pervasive within the Party. In a blind pursuit of “stability,” Brezhnev, known as the “good old man,” played down the lofty beliefs of the Bolshevik Party during the Lenin period and lost the indomitable fighting spirit of the revolutionaries.


In 1967, Brezhnev asserted that the Soviet Union had successfully built a “developed socialism.”7 This assertion, though divorced from reality and lacking sufficient theoretical support, was publicized as a “theoretical leap” in the history of the CPSU. And the pace of reform within the CPSU gradually slowed down. With CPSU’s increasing idolization of the theory of “developed socialism,” after the 24th Congress of the CPSU in 1971, the economic reform led by Kosygin, chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union, was forced to a halt. Under Brezhnev’s so-called “developed socialism” theory, the entire Soviet society was preoccupied with finding ways to rationalize the theory. In contrast, pragmatic and realistic “reform” and “innovation” had been shelved and ignored. In the later period of Brezhnev’s power, dogmatism, hedonism, and blind optimism had almost spread across the entire Soviet society, and the Soviet Union had stopped advancing, falling into a state of “stagnation.”


(2) Organizational Formalism and Strict Bureaucracy

(二) 组织上形式主义、官僚主义严重

Regarding formalism and bureaucracy, Lenin made a brilliant point: “The occurrence of formalism and bureaucracy should be attributed to those who refuse to work under the leadership of the central authority, which makes it difficult to avoid formalism in dealing with problems.”8 In other words, formalism and bureaucracy are essentially a working style that opposes and rejects the centralized and unified leadership of the party and only serves the interests of individuals and small groups. If its development and influence is unchecked, it will definitely damage the authority of the party. In the later period of the CPSU, formalism and bureaucratic style pervading the ranks of cadres had become more and more serious, which further deteriorated the relationship between the party and the masses.


Formalism was particularly serious in the field of CPSU propaganda. Since Khrushchev’s administration, the top leadership of the CPSU had generally lacked the theoretical literacy of Marxism and made no outstanding contributions to the application and development of Marxism in practice or to innovations or breakthroughs in publicizing Marxist theories. The absence of theoretical guidance left CPSU’s ideological guidelines with little update for a long period of time, making it unable to keep pace with the times, which in turn led to empty and boring propaganda rhetoric. In most cases, the propaganda of the CPSU picked individual words and judgments of Marxism-Leninism as the only criterion for judging right from wrong, without considering the actual needs and the voice of the masses at all. This dogmatic way of preaching and indoctrination gradually bound ideological work with rigid mentalities, weakened the powerful function of Marxism in understanding and transforming society, damaged Marxist thought’s ability to lead and mobilize people, concealed ever-intensifying social conflicts and problems, and further severed the close ties between the party and the masses.


During Brezhnev’s tenure, “bureaucracy, parochialism, bureaucratic authoritarianism and arbitrariness underwent a so-called doubled exacerbation.”9 In order to pursue the stability of the cadre team in its literal sense, there had been no transition of leadership of the CPSU for a long time, forming a de facto tenure system for leading cadres. Brezhnev criticized Khrushchev’s rotation mechanism for cadres, believing that “the unreasonable transfer and replacement of cadres will make them unconfident, which restrains them from fully living up to their abilities, and provides grounds for irresponsible behavior.”10 He also abolished the practice whereby one-third of the members of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Party Committee must be replaced in every re-election. During Khrushchev’s tenure, 49.6% of the members of the Central Committee had been re-elected. By the 22nd Congress of the CPSU, 79.4% of the members of the Central Committee had been re-elected. By the 25th Congress of the CPSU, it was 83.4%. By the time of the 26th Congress of the CPSU, the percentage had risen to over 90%.11 When Brezhnev was in power, the Politburo and the Secretariat of the CPSU underwent even smaller changes, with only 12 people being replaced in the course of 18 years.12 This made it difficult for young cadres to develop themselves, meant stand-out talents were unable to obtain leadership positions in their prime of life, and made the mentality of the CPSU leadership even more rigid and conservative. In order to defend their vested interests, the ruling bureaucratic clique opposed reform and innovation, and was content to maintain the status quo, causing the country to miss good opportunities for its development.


(3) Pervasive Privilege-Seeking Attitudes and Widespread Hedonism in Conduct

(三) 作风上特权思想弥漫、享乐主义盛行

In the years of Soviet revolution and war, the CPSU was out in front and not afraid of making sacrifices, and eventually led its people to achieve major achievements in socialist construction and victory in the Great Patriotic War. However, as it consolidated its ruling position and the inner-party supervision and restraint mechanism lost its binding power, a hedonistic climate began to spread widely across the CPSU.


With the expansion and solidification of the Party and government cadres of the CPSU during the Brezhnev period, a special bureaucratic privileged class gradually formed within the Party. This class was mainly composed of Party and government cadres who held power. They held high positions of authority and had great power, forming a self-consistent group, and were highly apt to hide behind the scenes, characterized by great selfishness, greed, and conservatism.13 Officials at all levels of the CPSU enjoyed different treatment according to their respective official positions and status. The higher the position, the greater the privilege, and the greater the gap between their material privileges and the material condition of ordinary people. For example, General Nikolai Sholokov (Николай Щёлоков), a personal friend of Brezhnev, who served as Minister of Internal Affairs for 17 years, appropriated the largest national villa of the Ministry of the Internal Affairs and the No. 8 National Villa, the guest house of the Ministry of the Internal Affairs, solely for himself. In one of the villas, there were seven layers of carpets stacked one on top of the other,  and oil paintings by famous Russian painters were even placed under the bed. The privileged class not only enjoyed all kinds of preferential treatment openly and shamelessly, but also used their privileges to buy and sell means of production and consumer goods on the market, making a fortune. The “black caviar smuggling case” uncovered in 1980 involved more than 300 cadres from the Ministry of Fisheries, the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Food Industry, and the Pacific Fleet, causing the country to suffer economic losses of several million rubles.14

随着勃列日涅夫时期苏共党政干部队伍的膨胀与固化,一个特殊的官僚特权阶层逐渐在党内形成。这一阶层的主体力量是那些握有实权的党政干部,他们位高权重,自成一体,具有极大的隐蔽性、自私性、贪婪性和保守性。苏共的各级官员按照官职大小、地位高低享受不同的待遇。职务越高,特权越大,享有的种种物质待遇同普通群众之间的差距也越大。如勃列日涅夫的私人好友尼古拉·晓洛科夫 (Николай Щёлоков) 大将,任内务部部长长达17年,将内务部第一大型国家别墅和曾作为内务部迎宾馆的第八国家别墅据为己有,其中的一个别墅里光地毯就一张叠一张地堆放了七层,连俄罗斯著名画家的油画都被放在了床下。特权阶层不仅堂而皇之地享受各种优厚待遇,还利用手中的特权在流通领域中倒买倒卖生产资料和消费品,大发横财。1980年破获的“黑鱼子酱走私案”涉及渔业部、商业部、食品工业部、太平洋舰队等300多名干部,使国家遭受几百万卢布的经济损失。

Given the scarcity of social and economic resources and the low living standards of the Soviet Union, the affluent life of the privileged class aroused discontent among the masses. In addition, the privileged class had taken advantage of various connections to form “political alliances,” promoting each other and shielding each other from supervision and punishment of the Party discipline and state laws, which further aggravated social injustice, corrupted the social atmosphere, and damaged the relationship between the Party and the masses. During the Brezhnev period, nepotism became a common phenomenon among Party cadres, and “loyalty to the individual superior leader” became the principle for selecting and promoting cadres. Outstanding talents from all walks of life could not enter the center of power, while the children of cadres and relatives and friends of leaders with mediocre abilities could easily gain high positions by relying on nepotism.


The ossification, self-confinement, and nepotism among the leading cadres intensified as they tried their best to maintain the status quo while refusing to reflect and change. This led to reduced or even stagnant social mobility, which severely damaged the reputation of socialism, and created a social divide. The decadent and degenerate climate of blindly obeying the orders of the superiors, turning a blind eye to the voice of the masses, and prioritizing the interests of one’s own political faction gradually grew within the party and government departments. A large number of Party members and cadres no longer regarded the interests of the people above all else, but rather did their best to maintain and expand their own privileges and vested interests. As a large number of corruption cases were uncovered and exposed to the public, the socialist ideals and beliefs in the hearts of the people quickly evaporated, causing a serious crisis of confidence about the CPSU, which had long been advertising itself as a “servant of the people.” And there were also widespread doubts about the legitimacy of CPSU’s governance.


(4) Extravagance in Lifestyle

(四) 生活上奢靡之风泛滥

During the Brezhnev period, the gift-giving fashion among cadres at all levels in the Soviet Union came to its extreme. Every time Brezhnev traveled the country, he would bring a large number of priceless gifts and give them to local officials. Local officials would also give Brezhnev numerous more expensive gifts in return, such as “precious boutonnieres, gemstone necklaces, rings, pistols with gold and silver holsters, various gold ornaments, and other valuable gifts.”15 Every time Brezhnev returned from a visit, he would unload dozens of boxes containing luxurious gifts from the plane and send them back to the General Secretary’s villa.16 What the superior loves, the inferior will further strive for. In order to cater to Brezhnev’s hobby of hunting, officials at all levels presented him with more than 100 luxury shotguns. During a visit to the Republic of Azerbaijan, the First Secretary of the Azerbaijan Communist Party Heydar Aliyev (Гейдар Алиев) even gave Brezhnev a solid gold bust as a present.17

勃列日涅夫时期,苏联各级干部之间的送礼之风达到了登峰造极的地步。勃列日涅夫每一次出访都会携带大量价值连城的礼品赠予当地各级官员。而地方官员则回赠给勃列日涅夫大量更为贵重的礼品,如“贵重的胸花、宝石项链、戒指、配有金银枪套的手枪、各种黄金饰品及其他贵重礼品”。以至于勃列日涅夫每次出访回来,都会从飞机上卸下几十只装有高档礼品的箱子,然后运回总书记别墅。上有好者,下必甚焉。为了迎合勃列日涅夫的打猎嗜好,各级官员赠送给他的豪华猎枪就有100多把。而在对阿塞拜疆共和国的一次视察中,该共和国第一书记盖达尔·阿利耶夫 (Гейдар Алиев) 竟然送给勃列日涅夫一座纯金半身塑像。

The gift-giving fashion had a negative impact on Soviet society, forming a social climate in which people believed that “money is everything” and “money is omnipotent.” Solicitation and acceptance of bribes by officials at all levels had become the norm. Governmental positions at all levels even had clear prices for purchase, and it had become an open secret that one could buy an official position with money. For example, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan cost 200,000 rubles, the Second Secretary cost 100,000 rubles, the Minister of Social Security cost 120,000 rubles, the Minister of Urban Public Works cost 150,000 rubles, the Minister of Commerce cost 250,000 rubles, and a university president cost 200,000 rubles.18


In stark contrast to the extravagant life of the top officials of the CPSU, in the markets, there were only empty shelves and people standing in long queues. At the end of 1989, only 11% of the 989 kinds of mass consumer goods could be supplied. Dmitry Fadeyev (Дмитрий Фатеев), associate professor of Russian State Pushkin Institute of Languages said: “In 1990 and 1991, various tickets were issued. There were blue ones and pink ones. When I was young, I remember standing in a long line for most of the day. When it was my turn, the woman in front of me bought the last half kilogram of sausage, and I got nothing. I kept crying, and after that, I vowed never to go to the store again.”19 Under an economy of scarcity, it was difficult for people to buy daily consumer goods, let alone daily necessities that were of both high quality and cheap prices. The abundant choices of market consumer goods in Western countries had become an elusive dream for the masses of the Soviet Union. Through such a comparison, the discontent of the masses evolved into the discontent towards the CPSU and the Soviet system.

与苏共高层奢靡生活形成鲜明对比的是市场里空空如也的货架和等待购物的长队。1989年末,在989种大众消费品中,只有11%的商品能够实现勉强供应。俄罗斯国立普希金语言学院副教授德米特里·法捷耶夫 (Дмитрий Фатеев) 说:“1990年、1991年开始发行各式各样票证,有蓝色的、粉色的。当时我还小,记得排了大半天的长队。结果轮到我的时候,前边的妇女把最后半公斤香肠买走了,到我这儿什么也没有。我不停地哭,哭完以后,我发誓再也不去商店了。”在短缺经济的条件下,人民群众很难买到日用消费品,更别提质优价廉的生活用品。而西方国家琳琅满目的市场消费品,成了广大苏联群众可望而不可及的梦想。通过这样的对比,群众的不满演化成对苏共和苏联制度的不满。

2. Reasons for the Soviet Communist Party’s Disengagement from the Masses in the Later Period


The reason for CPSU’s drastic deviation from the mass line of the Marxist party in its later stage was that it had neglected party building for a long time, which gradually weakened the Party’s advanced nature and leadership, and finally depleted the trust and support of the people.


(1) The Continuous Deviation of Guiding Ideology from the Guiding Principles of Marxism, which Eventually Evolved into a Non-Marxist and Anti-Marxist Position in the Later Period

(一) 指导思想上不断背离马克思主义的指导方针,直至后期转向非马克思主义、反马克思主义立场

The idea of party-people relationship is an important component of Marxist theory. The Marxist philosophy of party-mass relations requires that the historical status of the masses be maintained and that the party persist in serving the people wholeheartedly, utilizing new communication methods and channels between the party and the masses. During the Brezhnev period, conformity and conservatism became the mainstream of the ideology of the CPSU, and the broad masses of the people were excluded from political life. For a long time, reasonable demands of the people could not be met, democratic rights could not be guaranteed, people’s creativity could not be respected, and a large number of social problems and conflicts had accumulated. Gorbachev proposed the goal of establishing a “democratic and humane socialism” at the 19th National Congress of the CPSU, replacing the guiding Marxist theory with the thinking of Western social democrats. This marked a complete break from the Marxist thought of the party-people relationship and a complete departure from the basic position of Marxism.


(2) The Weakening of Collective Leadership in Institutional Building and the Abandonment of Democratic Centralism

(二) 制度建设上弱化集体领导,抛弃民主集中制

During the Brezhnev period, not only was the long-standing phenomenon of “rule by the voice of one man” in the party not corrected, but the phenomenon of individual arbitrariness was strengthened instead. The senior leaders of the CPSU gave up inner-party supervision and collective leadership, replaced the wisdom of the majority with the will of the individual or the will of the few, and made decisions solely based on subjective feelings. The Party became seriously divorced from reality, even such a major decision as sending troops to Afghanistan was only decided by Brezhnev and five other people, bypassing the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee. Under the climate where people tended to create feigned tranquility by whitewashing the status quo, the top leadership of the CPSU was often unable to accurately and effectively understand the actual situation at the grassroots level, which affected the democratization and scientificization of decision-making, led to a series of major decision-making mistakes, and exacerbated the people’s distrust of the ruling party.


(3) Disregard for Long-Standing Unhealthy Party Conduct and Widespread Formalism, Bureaucracy, Hedonism, and Extravagance

(三) 作风建设上对党内长期存在的不正之风视而不见,形式主义、官僚主义、享乐主义和奢靡之风蔓延

In the later period of the CPSU, senior party leaders set a negative example in terms of party conduct. Brezhnev was keen on flattery from all walks of life and had a special penchant for various honors and medals. Although he did not have outstanding military achievements during the Great Patriotic War and his political achievements were relatively mediocre, he was still made Marshal of the Soviet Union and was awarded more than 200 medals, including the Order of Lenin and the Hero of the Soviet Union – many of which were granted upon his suggestion. Formalism and bureaucracy prevailed in the CPSU. Officials at all levels were boastful, unpragmatic, content with the status quo, and lacking in initiative to make progress. They were good at praising the good deeds of their superiors and angling for undeserved fame, but were unconcerned by real-world circumstances and people’s voices from the grassroots. The ensuing privilege-seeking culture and corruption had far-reaching and terrible consequences.


(4) The Covering-up, Tolerance, and even Encouragement of Corruption, and the Absence of Effective Supervision of Party Members and Leading Cadres in Building a Clean Government

(四) 廉政建设上对腐败问题持包庇、纵容甚至鼓励的态度,缺乏对党员领导干部的有效监督

Regarding the long-term, arduous, and complex nature of the fight against corruption, in the later period of the CPSU, there was no systematic or comprehensive understanding of corruption within the Party, and the CPSU believed that corruption was only a product of capitalist countries, and there was no corruption in socialist countries. The Party even used expressions such as “bribery” and “abuse of power” to downplay the importance of corruption among their officials. Regarding the spread of corruption, Brezhnev stood on the sidelines. Not only did he not start the fight against corruption, he even publicly stated that “in our country, no one can live on wages” 20 and “the bribery among cadres is normal.”21 For the so-called reason of maintaining political stability, the anti-corruption struggle carried out by the CPSU was neither thorough nor profound. Corruption cases were often treated with different standards, and the corruption of high-level leaders and their cronies was usually covered up and tolerated. Brezhnev’s daughter, Galina (Галина Брежнева), smuggled huge amounts of jewelry and diamonds, but always escaped with impunity; her son-in-law, Churbanov (Юрий Чурбанов), received bribes, and the bribes he received for just six years were equivalent to 270 years’ wages of an ordinary Soviet worker. He was only arrested five years after Brezhnev’s death. With Brezhnev’s acquiescence and tolerance, the issues of corruption within the CPSU, especially among the top leaders, became increasingly rampant. The people hated this, and believed that “for the upper class, communism has already been achieved.”22

对于反腐败斗争的长期性、艰巨性及复杂性,苏共后期在党内并没有系统且全面的认识,认为腐败只是资本主义国家的产物,社会主义国家不存在腐败,用“受贿”“滥用职权”等表述淡化官员的腐败问题。对于蔓延开来的腐败行为,勃列日涅夫冷眼旁观,不仅不开展打击贪污腐败的斗争,甚至曾经公开表示,“在我们国家里,靠工资谁也生活不了”,“干部的贿赂行为都是正常的”。出于所谓维护政治稳定的原因,苏共所开展的反腐败斗争既不彻底,也不深刻,对于腐败案件的处理往往标准不一,高层领导及亲信的腐败行为通常会得到包庇和纵容。勃列日涅夫的女儿加林娜 (Галина Брежнева) 走私巨额珠宝、钻石,却始终逍遥法外;女婿丘尔巴诺夫 (Юрий Чурбанов) 仅6年的受贿所得就相当于苏联普通工人270年的工资,在勃列日涅夫逝世5年后才被逮捕。在勃列日涅夫的默许和纵容下,苏共党内特别是高层领导的腐败问题愈演愈烈,人民群众对此深恶痛绝,认为“对于上层人物来说,共产主义早已经建成了。”

3. Practical Lessons of the CPSU’s Disengagement from the Masses in the Later Period


Not long before the collapse of the CPSU, the Academy of Sciences of the USSR conducted a social survey on “Who exactly does the CPSU represent?” The results of the survey showed that 7% of the interviewees believed that the CPSU represented the working people, 4% the laborers, 11% Party members, and 85% the bureaucrats, cadres, and government officials.23 When the CPSU was forced to disband, it still had nearly 20 million Party members and 433,000 grassroots organizations. However, when hostile forces disbanded the CPSU, Party organizations at all levels did not resist, members of the CPSU did not hold any large-scale protests, and the Soviet people did not take any organized actions to support or display solidarity with the CPSU.


“The past cannot be mended, but the future can still be pursued.” The profound historical lessons of the CPSU’s failure are still thought-provoking today. In order to avoid repeating the mistakes of the CPSU, we must adhere to the Party’s mass line at all times and strengthen the close ties between the Party and the people.


(1) Strengthen the Party Politically and Always Adhere to the Correct Political Direction

(一) 加强政治建设,始终坚持正确的政治方向

The mass line was created and developed by the Chinese Communist Party during the long-term practice of revolution, construction, and reform. It has withstood the test of history and is a correct and effective political line. The gradual deviation from the mass line in the later period of the CPSU is an important demonstration of the CPSU’s departure from the basic direction of Marxism and its reorientation towards an evil path. General Secretary Xi Jinping has repeatedly warned the entire party, “The Chinese Communist Party has always represented the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people; it stands with them through thick and thin and shares a common fate with them.”24 “The people are the deepest foundation and the greatest source of confidence for our Party to govern.”25 To adhere to the correct political direction and resolutely uphold the authority and centralized, unified leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core, we must fully implement the Party’s mass line and always take the stand of the people as the Party’s fundamental position, and work for the wellbeing of the people as our fundamental mission. We must adhere to the fundamental purpose of serving the people wholeheartedly, respect the principal position of the people and their pioneering spirit, as well as always maintain close ties with the people.


(2) Strengthen the Party Ideologically and Firmly Establish a People-Centered Development Philosophy

(二) 加强思想建设,牢固树立以人民为中心的发展思想

General Secretary Xi Jinping has emphasized, that “The Party has in the people its roots and its lifeblood. The fundamental purpose of the party uniting and leading the people in revolution, construction, and reform is to enable the people to live a better life. No matter how many challenges and pressures they face, no matter how much they sacrifice and what price they pay, this point remains unswervingly true.”26 Party organizations at all levels should attach great importance to ideological building, and practice it especially in combination with the recent study and education campaign of the Party’s history, revisit our feelings towards the people, and stand firmly on the people’s side. Since its establishment, the CCP has unified its people-centeredness and the Party’s spirit, and has always stood with the people and fought for the interests of the people. The leaders of all generations of the Party have regarded “putting the people first above all else” as the quintessence of the Party and the country. Comrade Mao Zedong established the principle of serving the people wholeheartedly and uttered the strongest voice of the era: “Long live the people.” Comrade Deng Xiaoping adhered to the idea that people are the main body of the country and pointed out that in everything we do, we must “take the people’s support, approval, happiness, and consent as the fundamental criterion for judging all our work.”27 Comrade Jiang Zemin pointed out that the CCP should always represent the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people. Comrade Hu Jintao insisted on putting the people first above all else and insisted that the Party “shall exercise power for the people, demonstrate concern for them, and work in their interests.”28 Comrade Xi Jinping proposed to take the people’s yearning for a better life as the goal of the whole Party’s unremitting struggle. In different historical stages and historical conditions, the CCP has always adhered to the principle of serving the people, has always adhered to the idea of placing the people first above all else, and has continuously improved the Marxist philosophy of party-mass relations, which has greatly enriched and developed Marxism.


(3) Strengthen the Party Organizationally and Build a Team of Cadres who Work Diligently for the People

(三) 加强组织建设,培养勤政为民的干部队伍

Improving governance capabilities is a major task in the training of cadres in the new era. For a long period of time, the CPSU appointed cadres not based on their professional capabilities, but on nepotism. They put “loyalty” to their superiors first and ignored fostering professional capabilities for the cadre team. The quality of social governance in Soviet Union was consequently low and the society was characterized by great social conflicts. Therefore, we should attach great importance to governance capacity building of the cadre team in the new era. The solid manifestation and practical requirements for serving the people in the new era are highlighted in whether the cadre team can completely, accurately, and comprehensively implement the new development philosophy, whether they have the professional spirit and ability to promote development of different industries, rural revitalization, and grassroots governance, and whether they can effectively respond to the people’s yearning for a better life. This is further manifested in whether they can effectively respond to various risks and challenges to adapt to the new requirements of the modernization of the governance system and governance capabilities. General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out, that “Working for the wellbeing of the people and rejuvenation for the nation is the immutable aim of our Party in leading the modernization drive, and the ‘root’ and ‘essence’ of the new development philosophy. We will only have the right view of development and modernization if we follow a people-centered approach, insisting that development is for the people, reliant on the people, and that its fruits should be shared by the people. “29 To improve the governance capabilities of the cadre team and build a high-caliber and professional cadre team, we should first improve the political and theoretical literacy of the cadre team. We must consolidate our Party members and cadres’ theoretical understanding of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics and the national governance system, and clarify issues such as “for whom to govern” and “by whom to govern.” Second, we should improve the professional capabilities of the cadre team. We should bear in mind the specialized, professionalized, and refined nature of governance in the new era, carry out relevant professional training and special training, focus on improving the professional skills necessary for cadres to perform their job duties, excel in organizational work, promote career development, and third, we should establish and improve the evaluation system for cadres. We should mainly base our evaluation of cadres on the practical, good, and ordinary things they have done for the people, and make people’s support an important factor to be considered during the selection of government officials.


(4) Strengthen the Party through Conduct and Maintain Close Ties between the Party and the People

(四) 加强作风建设,保持党同人民群众的血肉联系

General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized, that “as a century-old Party, we should always strive to win lasting support from the people. To achieve lasting greatness for the Chinse nation, we should always remember our original aspiration and mission. We must resolutely remove whatever weakens the Party’s advanced nature and undermines the Party’s purity, and rid ourselves of any tumor that erodes the Party’s health. We must resolutely guard against all dangers of running counter to the original aspiration and the mission or shaking the foundation of the Party.”30 Formalism and bureaucracy will corrode the conduct and culture of the Party, weaken the Party’s ability to take on challenges, damage the Party’s authority and image in the eyes of the masses, and reduce administrative efficiency as well as the vitality and health of the political system.31 The pervasive formalism and bureaucracy is one of the important reasons for the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the failure of the CPSU. These features have seriously hindered the development of socialist democracy, and we must resolutely fight against them. To eradicate formalism and bureaucracy, we must first trust and rely on the vast majority of cadres and the masses, and constantly consolidate and expand the Party’s ruling foundation. We must give more space and time for local and grassroots cadres and masses to display their initiative and creativity. Secondly, we must highlight positive examples for imitation and negative examples for warning. We must identify and encourage positive role models who are innovative, creative, and dynamic, and at the same time reveal and punish the attention-seeking, specious negative examples. Finally, we must unleash the creativity of the people, fully mobilize the wisdom and enthusiasm of the people, and constantly explore convenient, efficient, and effective working modes. Hedonism and extravagant lifestyle not only cause a huge waste of social wealth, and dissolve the will and numb the spirit of people; they also corrupt the political climate and Party conduct, and are therefore resented by the people. At present, we must be particularly vigilant against the invisible and variable forms of hedonism and extravagance. We should give full play to the advantages and functional roles of various departments, effectively mobilize and integrate various professional supervision forces, use big data for analysis and judgment, and improve the accuracy of investigating and dealing with related issues. We should also actively utilize new media and technologies to mobilize the masses to participate in supervision.


(5) Strengthen the Party through Disciplinary Improvement and Resolutely Oppose the Privilege-Seeking Attitudes and Behavior

(五) 加强纪律建设,坚决反对特权思想和特权现象

The cohesion and readiness to take on challenges of party members come from the strictness of discipline. It is precisely because the CPSU had loosened the Party’s standard for discipline, that more and more Party members and cadres moved from pretending to comply with Party orders but quietly opposing them, to openly opposing the Party’s resolutions, and eventually to openly opposing the Party’s policies. The CPSU was continuously disengaging from the people, deviating from its ideals and beliefs, and had gradually become a special organization catering to the interests of small groups. And eventually, it was abandoned by the people. Party members and cadres who lack discipline will surely seek power, special treatment, and special status that can distinguish them from others, and transform them into a privileged class. Promoting disciplinary improvement and raising the awareness of Party members and cadres to abide by political discipline and rules is an important way to effectively contain privilege-seeking attitudes and behavior. General Secretary Xi Jinping affirmed, that “everyone is equal before the Party discipline, and we will not allow any special Party member to be exempt from discipline. Party organizations at all levels must actively explore ways to make disciplinary education a regular activity with an institutional basis, and must provide their members with warnings and advice so that Party members and cadres can truly understand that Party discipline is the code of conduct that the entire Party must abide by. To strictly observe and resolutely uphold our discipline is the basic requirement for being a qualified party member and cadre.”32 It is necessary to continuously strengthen our disciplinary awareness, establish and improve the discipline education mechanism, strictly clarify the main responsibility of discipline building, and strengthen disciplinary supervision.


(6) Strengthen the Party Institutionally and Implement Democratic Centralism

(六) 加强制度建设,贯彻和落实民主集中制

Democratic centralism is the Party’s fundamental organizational and leadership system, and it is the Party’s greatest institutional advantage. Through an extensive collection of opinions in the decision-making process, it reflects the demands of different stakeholders to the greatest extent, effectively achieves consensus, and maximizes the overall and long-term interests of the people. Democratic centralism truly embodies the decision-making process of “from the people, to the people,” which can stimulate creativity and vitality within the Party and ensure that the Party’s lines, principles, and policies are drafted in a scientific and democratic manner. Democratic centralism can also effectively prevent and overcome problems such as anarchism, dictatorial rule, paternalism,  and the problem of discussion without resolution and resolution without action. In the later stage of the CPSU, it violated democratic centralism, continuously diminished the democratic activities within the party, and restricted the democratic rights of party members, which in turn resulted in dictatorial individuals, bureaucracy, and disengagement from the masses. General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out, that “In the implementation of democratic centralism, it is very important for the highest leader to lead by example.”33 Leaders and cadres at all levels, especially the major ones, should take the lead in implementing democratic centralism. We should strive to improve the highest leaders’ understanding of democracy and their capabilities for practicing democratic centralism, and for the ones who trample on democratic centralism, we should also hold them accountable. At the same time, it is necessary to improve and implement various specific mechanisms of democratic centralism and continuously promote the development and innovation of democratic centralism.


(7) Promote Anti-Corruption Campaigns and Foster Solidarity of the Party and the People

(七) 推进反腐倡廉,凝聚党心民心

General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized, that “‘Worms can only grow in something rotten.’ In recent years, long-pent-up problems in some countries have led to resentment among the people, unrest in society and the downfall of governments, with corruption being a major culprit. Facts prove that if corruption is allowed to spread, it will eventually lead to the destruction of a party and the fall of a government.”34 In the later period of the CPSU, a large number of Party and government cadres became corrupted and lost their support of the people, which directly threatened the foundation of the CPSU’s governance. Drawing lessons from the collapse of the CPSU, we must consciously strive to combat corruption and build a clean government, and enhance the ability to resist corruption and prevent moral decline. We must vigorously strengthen anti-corruption education and promote a social climate that advocates a clean government. We must guide the majority of Party members and cadres to strengthen their ideals and convictions, and resolutely oppose corruption. We must improve our system that checks and oversees the exercise of power, and confine power to an institutional cage. We should oppose corruption with the rule of law in theory and practice, and ensure that the laws are strictly abided by.


To top

Cite This Page

张树华 (Zhang Shuhua), 张彰 (Zhang Zhang). "Historical Lessons and Contemporary Implications of the Soviet Communist Party's Disengagement from the Masses in its Later Period [苏共后期脱离群众的历史镜鉴及现实启迪]". CSIS Interpret: China, original work published in World Socialism Studies [世界社会主义研究], November 3, 2021

FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrintCopy Link