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 The Soviet Union and Communism

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PostSubject: The Soviet Union and Communism   Thu Oct 01, 2009 6:20 am

Communism (from Latin: communis = "common") is a family of economic and political ideas and social movements related to the establishment of an egalitarian, classless and stateless society based on common ownership and control of the means of production and property in general, as well as the name given to such a society.[1][2][3] As an ideology, Communism is defined as "the doctrine of the conditions of the liberation of the proletariat".[4] The term "Communism", when spelled with a capital letter C, refers to any government or political party which explicitly identifies itself as Communist, even if that party or government is committed to non-communist economic policies like the modern Chinese Communist Party.
Forerunners of communist ideas existed in antiquity and particularly in the 18th and early 19th century France, with thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the more radical Gracchus Babeuf. Radical egalitarianism then emerged as a significant political power in the first half of 19th century in Western Europe. In the world shaped by the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution, the newly established political left included many various political and intellectual movements, which are the direct ancestors of today's communism and socialism – these two then newly minted words were almost interchangeable at the time – and of anarchism or anarcho-communism.
The two most influential theoreticians of communism of the 19th century were Germans Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, authors of Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), who also helped to form the first openly communist political organisations and firmly tied communism with the idea of working class revolution conducted by the exploited proletariat (or the working class). Marx posited that communism would be the final stage in human society, which would be achieved after an intermediate stage called socialism, and through the temporary and revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.
Communism in the Marxist sense refers to a classless, stateless, and oppression-free society where decisions on what to produce and what policies to pursue are made directly and democratically, allowing every member of society to participate in the decision-making process in both the political and economic spheres of life. Some "revisionist" Marxists of the following generations, henceforth known as reformists or social democrats, have slowly drifted away from the revolutionary views of Marx, instead arguing for a gradual parliamentary road to socialism; other communists, such as Rosa Luxemburg and Vladimir Lenin, continued to agitate and argue for world revolution.
The Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, were brought to power by the Russian Revolution of 1917, where the Tsarist regime disrupted by World War I was smashed by the world's first workers revolution. After years of civil war (1917–1921), international isolation, erosion of the soviets (workers and peasants' councils) and internal struggle within the Bolshevik leadership, the Soviet Union was founded (1922). Lenin died after a second stroke in 1924, and despite of his warnings was succeeded by Joseph Stalin.
Once in power, Stalin carried out multiple purges of dissidents and left communists/opposition, particularly of those around Leon Trotsky, and established the character of Communism as the totalitarian ideology it is most commonly known as and referred to today. The Soviet Union emerged as a new global superpower on the victorious side of World War II. In the five years after the World War, Communist regimes were established in many states of Central and Eastern Europe and in China. Communism began to spread its influence in the Third World while continuing to be a significant political force in many Western countries.
International relations between the Soviet Bloc and the West, led by USA, quickly worsened after the end of the war and the Cold War began, a continuing state of conflict, tension and competition between the United States and the Soviet Union and those countries' respective allies. The "Iron curtain" between West and East then divided Europe and world from the mid-1940s to the early 1990s. Despite many Communist successes like the victorious Vietnam War (1959-1975) or the first human spaceflight (1961), the Communist regimes were ultimately unable to keep up with their Western rivals. People under Communist regimes showed their discontent in events like the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Prague Spring of 1968 or Polish Solidarity movement in early 1980s, most of which were ironically led by or included masses of workers.
After 1985, the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev tried to implement market and democratic reforms under policies like perestroika ("restructuring") and glasnost ("transparency"). His reforms sharpened internal conflicts in the Communist regimes and quickly led to the Revolutions of 1989 and a total collapse of European Communist regimes outside of the Soviet Union, which itself dissolved two years later (1991). Some Communist regimes outside of Europe have survived to this day, the most important of them being the People's Republic of China, whose Socialism with Chinese characteristics attempts to introduce market reforms without western style democratisation and with the introduction of new capitalist and middle classes.


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The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. The name is a translation of the Russian: Союз Советских Социалистических Республик​ (help·info), tr. Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik, abbreviated СССР, SSSR. The common short name is Soviet Union,[1] from Советский Союз, Sovetskiy Soyuz. A soviet is a council, the theoretical basis for the socialist society of the USSR.
Emerging from the Russian Empire following the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Russian Civil War of 1918–1921, the USSR was a union of several Soviet republics, but the synecdoche Russia—after the Russian SFSR, its largest and most populous constituent state—continued to be commonly used throughout the country's existence. The geographic boundaries of the USSR varied with time, but after the last major territorial annexations of the Baltic states, eastern Poland, Bessarabia, and certain other territories during World War II, from 1945 until dissolution, the boundaries approximately corresponded to those of late Imperial Russia, with the notable exclusions of Poland and most of Finland.
As the largest and oldest constitutionally communist state in existence, the Soviet Union became the primary model for future communist nations during the Cold War; the government and the political organization of the country were defined by the only political party, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
From 1945 until dissolution in 1991—a period known as the Cold War—the Soviet Union and the United States of America were the two world superpowers that dominated the global agenda of economic policy, foreign affairs, military operations, cultural exchange, scientific advancements including the pioneering of space exploration, and sports (including the Olympic Games and various world championships).
Initially established as a union of four Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR grew to contain 15 constituent or "union republics" by 1956: Armenian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR, Byelorussian SSR, Estonian SSR, Georgian SSR, Kazakh SSR, Kirghiz SSR, Latvian SSR, Lithuanian SSR, Moldavian SSR, Russian SFSR, Tajik SSR, Turkmen SSR, Ukrainian SSR and Uzbek SSR. (From annexation of the Estonian SSR on August 6, 1940 up to the reorganization of the Karelo-Finnish SSR into the Karelian ASSR on July 16, 1956, the count of "union republics" was sixteen.)
The Soviet Union is traditionally considered to be the successor of the Russian Empire and of its short-lived successor, The Provisional Government under Georgy Yevgenyevich Lvov and then Alexander Kerensky. The last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, ruled until March, 1917 when the Empire was overthrown and a short-lived Russian provisional government took power, the latter to be overthrown in November 1917 by Vladimir Lenin.
From 1917 to 1922, the predecessor to the Soviet Union was the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), which was an independent country, as were other Soviet republics at the time. The Soviet Union was officially established in December 1922 as the union of the Russian (colloquially known as Bolshevist Russia), Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Transcaucasian Soviet republics ruled by Bolshevik parties.Modern revolutionary activity in the Russian Empire began with the Decembrist Revolt of 1825, and although serfdom was abolished in 1861, its abolition was achieved on terms unfavorable to the peasants and served to encourage revolutionaries. A parliament—the State Duma—was established in 1906 after the Russian Revolution of 1905, but the Tsar resisted attempts to move from absolute to constitutional monarchy. Social unrest continued and was aggravated during World War I by military defeat and food shortages in major cities.
A spontaneous popular uprising in Petrograd, in response to the wartime decay of Russia's economy and morale, culminated in the "February Revolution" and the toppling of the imperial government in March 1917. The tsarist autocracy was replaced by the Provisional Government, whose leaders intended to conduct elections to Russian Constituent Assembly and to continue participating on the side of the Entente in World War I.
At the same time, to ensure the rights of the working class, workers' councils, known as Soviets, sprang up across the country. The Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, pushed for socialist revolution in the Soviets and on the streets. In November 1917, during the "October Revolution," they seized power from the Provisional Government. In December, the Bolsheviks signed an armistice with the Central Powers. But, by February 1918, fighting had resumed. In March, the Soviets quit the war for good and signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
Only after the long and bloody Russian Civil War was the new Soviet power secure. The civil war between the Reds and the Whites started in 1917 and ended in 1923. It included foreign intervention and the execution of Nicholas II and his family. In March 1921, during a related conflict with Poland, the Peace of Riga was signed and split disputed territories in Belarus and Ukraine between the Republic of Poland and Soviet Russia. The Soviet Union had to resolve similar conflicts with the newly established Republic of Finland, the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Latvia, and the Republic of Lithuania.
The Qing Dynasty, the last of the ruling Chinese dynasties, collapsed in 1911 and China was left under the control of several major and lesser warlords during the "Warlord era." To defeat these warlords, who had seized control of much of Northern China, the anti-monarchist and national unificationist Kuomintang (KMT) party and the President of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-sen, sought the help of foreign powers.
However, Sun's efforts to obtain aid from the Western democracies were ignored. In 1921, Sun turned to the Soviet Union. For political expediency, the Soviet leadership initiated a dual policy of support for both the KMT and the newly established Communist Party of China (CPC). The USSR hoped for Communist consolidation, but were prepared for either side to emerge victorious. Thus the struggle for power in China began between the KMT and the CPC. In 1923, a joint statement by Sun and Soviet representative Adolph Joffe in Shanghai pledged Soviet assistance for China's unification.
On December 28, 1922 a conference of plenipotentiary delegations from the Russian SFSR, the Transcaucasian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR and the Byelorussian SSR approved the Treaty of Creation of the USSR[2] and the Declaration of the Creation of the USSR, forming the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.[3] These two documents were confirmed by the 1st Congress of Soviets of the USSR and signed by heads of delegations[4] – Mikhail Kalinin, Mikha Tskhakaya, Mikhail Frunze and Grigory Petrovsky, Aleksandr Chervyakov[5] respectively on December 30, 1922.
On February 1, 1924, the USSR was recognized by the British Empire. Also in 1924, a Soviet Constitution was approved which further legitimized the December 1922 union of the Russian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR, the Belarusian SSR, and the Transcaucasian SFSR to form the "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics" (USSR).
The intensive restructuring of the economy, industry and politics of the country began in the early days of Soviet power in 1917. A large part of this was performed according to Bolshevik Initial Decrees, documents of the Soviet government, signed by Vladimir Lenin. One of the most prominent breakthroughs was the GOELRO plan, that envisioned a major restructuring of the Soviet economy based on total electrification of the country. The Plan was developed in 1920 and covered a ten to 15 year period. It included construction of a network of 30 regional power plants, including ten large hydroelectric power plants, and numerous electric-powered large industrial enterprises.[6] The Plan became the prototype for subsequent Five-Year Plans and was basically fulfilled by 1931.[7]
The government of the Soviet Union administered the country's economy and society. It implemented decisions made by the leading political institution in the country, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).
In the late 1980s, the government appeared to have many characteristics in common with liberal democratic political systems. For instance, a constitution established all organizations of government and granted to citizens a series of political and civic rights. A legislative body, the Congress of People's Deputies, and its standing legislature, the Supreme Soviet, represented the principle of popular sovereignty. The Supreme Soviet, which had an elected chairman who functioned as head of state, oversaw the Council of Ministers, which acted as the executive branch of the government.
The chairman of the Council of Ministers, whose selection was approved by the Supreme Soviet, functioned as head of government. A constitutionally based judicial branch of government included a court system, headed by the Supreme Court, that was responsible for overseeing the observance of Soviet law by government bodies. According to the 1977 Soviet Constitution, the government had a federal structure, permitting the republics some authority over policy implementation and offering the national minorities the appearance of participation in the management of their own affairs.
In practice, however, the government differed markedly from Western systems. In the late 1980s, the CPSU performed many functions that governments of other countries usually perform. For example, the party decided on the policy alternatives that the government ultimately implemented. The government merely ratified the party's decisions to lend them an aura of legitimacy.
The CPSU used a variety of mechanisms to ensure that the government adhered to its policies. The party, using its nomenklatura authority, placed its loyalists in leadership positions throughout the government, where they were subject to the norms of democratic centralism. Party bodies closely monitored the actions of government ministries, agencies, and legislative organs.
The content of the Soviet Constitution differed in many ways from typical Western constitutions. It generally described existing political relationships, as determined by the CPSU, rather than prescribing an ideal set of political relationships. The Constitution was long and detailed, giving technical specifications for individual organs of government. The Constitution included political statements, such as foreign policy goals, and provided a theoretical definition of the state within the ideological framework of Marxism-Leninism. The CPSU leadership could radically change the constitution or remake it completely, as it did several times throughout its history.
The Council of Ministers acted as the executive body of the government. Its most important duties lay in the administration of the economy. The council was thoroughly under the control of the CPSU, and its chairman—the Soviet prime minister—was always a member of the Politburo. The council, which in 1989 included more than 100 members, was too large and unwieldy to act as a unified executive body. The council's Presidium, made up of the leading economic administrators and led by the chairman, exercised dominant power within the Council of Ministers.
According to the Constitution, as amended in 1988, the highest legislative body in the Soviet Union was the Congress of People's Deputies, which convened for the first time in May 1989. The main tasks of the congress were the election of the standing legislature, the Supreme Soviet, and the election of the chairman of the Supreme Soviet, who acted as head of state. Theoretically, the Congress of People's Deputies and the Supreme Soviet wielded enormous legislative power.
In practice, however, the Congress of People's Deputies met infrequently and only to approve decisions made by the party, the Council of Ministers, and its own Supreme Soviet. The Supreme Soviet, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, the chairman of the Supreme Soviet, and the Council of Ministers had substantial authority to enact laws, decrees, resolutions, and orders binding on the population. The Congress of People's Deputies had the authority to ratify these decisions.
The judiciary was not independent from the other branches of government. The Supreme Court supervised the lower courts and applied the law as established by the Constitution or as interpreted by the Supreme Soviet. The Constitutional Oversight Committee reviewed the constitutionality of laws and acts.
The Soviet Union lacked an adversarial court procedure known to many common law jurisdictions, but rather utilized the Roman Law inquisitorial system, where judge, procurator, and defense attorney work collaboratively to establish the truth. However, globally the inquisitorial system is more widespread than the adversarial system and indeed some countries such as Italy utilize a combination of both systems.[14][15]
The Soviet Union was a federal state made up of fifteen republics (sixteen between 1946 and 1956) joined together in a theoretically voluntary union; it was this theoretical situation that formed the basis of the Byelorussian and Ukrainian SSRs' membership in the United Nations. In turn, a series of territorial units made up the republics. The republics also contained jurisdictions intended to protect the interests of national minorities. The republics had their own constitutions, which, along with the all-union Constitution, provide the theoretical division of power in the Soviet Union.
All the republics except Russian SFSR had their own communist parties. In 1989, however, the CPSU and the central government retained all significant authority, setting policies that were executed by republic, provincial, oblast, and district governments. In the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, there were two chambers that represented the population (in later constitutions). One was the Soviet of the Union, which represented people indiscriminately, and the Soviet of Nationalities, which represented the various ethnicities in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The de facto leader of the Soviet Union was the First Secretary or General Secretary of the CPSU. The head of government was considered the Premier, and the head of state was considered the chairman of the Presidium. The Soviet leader could also have one (or both) of these positions, along with the position of General Secretary of the party. The last leader of the Soviet Union was Mikhail Gorbachev, serving from 1985 until late December 1991.
List of Soviet Premiers
(Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR (1923–1946); Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR (1946–1990); Prime Minister of the USSR (1991))
List of Soviet Heads of state
(Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets (1917–1922); Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR (1922–1938); Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR (1938–1989); Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR (1989–1990); President of the Soviet Union (1990–1991))


In conclusion. All hail The CCCP, and all it stands for. -Salute.-

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