In 1917 the social democratic workers’ party (Bolsheviks) had 200000 members. The following year, Vladimir Lenin persuaded members to change the name of the organisation to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Traditionally, the Party Congress elected a 27 member Central Committee every year. Lenin decided this was too large to determine policy and in 1919 the party created a Politburo. This was made up of five members (increased to nine in 1925 and ten in 1930). Its first members were Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Joseph Stalin, Lev Kamenev and Nikolai Krestinsky.
There were over 700000 members of the CPSU in 1921. The CPSU was now all powerful and all other political parties were banned. It controlled the government, which consisted of the Council of Peoples’ Commissars, headed by its Chairman (who was “Prime Minister”). The CPSU also appointed all local and national public officials, who had to be members of the party before they could be appointed to these posts.
Gradually power passed from the Politburo to the General Secretary, who controlled the appointment of party members to key jobs throughout the country. Joseph Stalin, who became General Secretary in April, 1922, dominated the CPSU after the death of Vladimir Lenin in January, 1924.
After Stalin, CPSU was headed by different leaders. But Russia, which was behind the “Iron Curtain” was brought to the forefront by Mikail Gorbachev.
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