USSR: Communist Party: Congresses - Archontology

USSR: Communist Party: Congresses

According to the party charter, the Congress was the supreme organ of the Communist Party. It was convened to decide all key questions and to elect the Central Committee. Formally, the Congress was responsible for revisions of the charter and of the party program, but, in fact, its power was limited to official approval. Despite its definition as the supreme organ, the Congress did not elect the Politburo (Presidium), the Orgburo or the Secretariat. These bodies reported to the Congress, which assumed their functions for the period when it was in session [1].

The frequency of the Congress convocation in 1917-1925 reflected its important role in decision-making during the Bolshevik revolution and the Civil War in Russia. At times, the Congresses turned into a battlefield for rivaling factions within the party. It made all key decisions relating to the party policies and the general course. As Stalin increasingly consolidated his power and eliminated the factions, the Congress lost its original significance. It turned into a vast body convened to approve the politics pursued by the Politburo. The gaps between the Congresses increased from one year in 1917-1925 to five years in 1934-1939. During the World War II and after Stalin and his Central Committee did not convoke the Congress for 13 years. Starting from 1956, the party charter provided for convocation of the Congress once in five years.

[1] This temporary takeover caused differences in defining the terms of the Politburo (Presidium), the Orgburo and the Secretariat members as it depended on approach to this problem. In this regard, the end of tenure might be fixed a) on the day when a Congress convened and assumed full authority according to the charter, and b) on the day when the new party organs were elected by the Central Committee after each Congress. For instance, Mihail Tomskij was elected full member of the Politburo on 3 Apr 1922, and was re-elected in 1923, 1924, 1926, 1927. The 16th party Congress opened on 26 Jun 1930, and closed on 13 Jul 1930. On the same day the Central Committee elected a new Politburo without Tomskij. So it would be correct to say that Tomskij's membership in the Politburo lasted form 3 Apr 1922 to 26 Jun 1930/13 Jul 1930.