25. Policy Information Statement for the United States Information Agency1
20TH CONGRESS OF THE CPSU
The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union is scheduled to meet in Moscow, February 14, 1956. Under the Soviet system the Party is the directing and controlling force in the Soviet state, and the Party Congress is theoretically the supreme Party forum. The Party itself has been alternately subjected to the control of a few persons, or of one person, i.e., STALIN, who became the unquestioned master of both Party and state.
Six Party Congresses were held before the October Revolution, in various countries. From 1918 to 1925, Congresses were held annually. The 15th Congress was held in 1927, and the 16th, 17th and 18th in 1930, 1934 and 1939, respectively. At the 17th Congress in 1934, it was decided that Party Congresses would be held every three years. This rule was not observed. It was not until October 1952 that the 19th Congress was held.
At the 19th Congress many changes were made in Party rules. The word “bolshevik” was dropped from the name of the Party, which became the “Communist Party of the Soviet Union.” The Politburo was replaced by a larger Presidium, and the Central Committee was enlarged. After the death of STALIN, the Presidium was reduced in size, so that it was again numerically comparable to the old Politburo.
The convening of the 20th Party Congress was announced by the Soviet press on July 14, 1955. The decision was made a few days previously by the plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU, which published the following agenda:
- Report of the Central Committee of the CPSU by Secretary of the Central Committee, N.S. Khrushchev.
- Report of the Central Auditing Commission of the CPSU by Chairman of the Auditing Commission, P.U. Moskatov.
- Directives of the 20th Congress of the CPSU for the Sixth Five-Year Plan for the development of the national economy of the USSR in 1956–60, by Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers, N.A. Bulganin.
- Election of the central organs of the Party.
Delegates to the 20th Party Congress have been and are being selected by oblast, krai and republic Party Congresses. These meetings have been accompanied by announcement of certain changes in the positions of state and Party leaders. These changes give some reason to believe that the Congress itself may reveal certain other adjustments in the top Party leadership. There has been speculation that Party First Secretary Khrushchev is strengthening his position as top man of the Party hierarchy. For the present, however, it seems unlikely that he will yet assume the position once occupied by STALIN.
The draft directives of the Sixth Five-Year Plan will no doubt be adopted in approximately their present form.
It is also possible that the Congress may receive a report from the special committee created in 1952 to revise the Party Program. There have been no published revisions of the Program of the Party adopted in 1919. The special committee was headed by STALIN, and included Beria, Kaganovich, Malenkov, Molotov and several others. Since STALIN and Beria are dead and Malenkov has been demoted, the special committee has presumably been reorganized in the meantime.
The 20th Party Congress will probably not bring any surprises on policy issues. The post-STALIN leadership has been rather voluble in the discussion of Party lines and purposes. Nevertheless, the proceedings of the 20th Congress will be followed with considerable interest, particularly from the standpoint of any possible personnel shifts within the Party hierarchy, and tightening up of Party ideology.
It is not in our interest to give the 20th Party Congress undue public attention. The proceedings should be reported factually and objectively without any great amount of commentary on the news emanating from the Congress itself. If the Congress should develop news of a sensational character, further guidance will be given.
The meeting of the 20th Party Congress offers a good opportunity to illustrate the great contrast between the Soviet one-party dictatorship and our democratic system of parties and government. The fact that this is an election year in the United States underlines the appropriateness of comment along these lines.
The subserviency of national Communist parties to the Soviet Party and to Soviet policy can be underlined by appropriate noting of attendance at the Moscow sessions by representatives of these parties.
The following themes could be used to emphasize the nature of the Communist Party dictatorship in the Soviet Union: [Page 58]
- Article 126 of the Soviet Constitution establishes the Communist Party as the only legal party.
- The Party makes all the important decisions in the Soviet system, not the legislative or executive bodies.
- The Party itself is controlled and directed by an elite group at the top. The Congress is a rubber-stamp for decisions made by this small group.
- Any changes in leadership or organizational forms do not alter the autocratic and dictatorial nature of the regime.
Speculation on moves toward a Stalinist-type, one-man control should be avoided.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 511.00/2–856. Confidential. Drafted by Collins and cleared with EE, P, and EUR. This statement was sent to 115 diplomatic and consular posts as an enclosure to instruction CA–6001, February 8.↩