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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union


In 1987 primary party organizations (PPOs) numbered 441,851. The PPO was the lowest rung on the party's organizational ladder. (PPOs were called party cells until 1934.) One existed in every factory, office, collective farm, military unit, and education institution having more than three party members (see table 22, Appendix A). According to the Party Rules, the highest organ of the PPO was the party meeting, which comprised all party members in a given work unit. PPOs having more than fifty members could be divided into groups led by steering committees. Party meetings generally convened at least once a month, although the interim could be longer for PPOs having more than 300 members. The party meetings elected a bureau of two or three persons to supervise the affairs of the PPO. The secretary of the PPO, nominally elected by the party meeting but actually appointed by the next highest party organization, managed the work of the PPO and was a full-time, salaried member of the party.

The PPO performed many important tasks. It admitted new members into the party; apprised rank-and-file party members of their duties, obligations, and rights within the party; organized agitation and propaganda sessions to educate party members in the ideology of Marxism-Leninism; stimulated productivity in the enterprise; encouraged efficiency and effectiveness of production methods and innovation; and disciplined party members for dereliction of their duties. An enumeration of the activities of the PPO only begins to suggest the importance of this organization to the party. For several reasons, the PPO was an important factor underlying the party's control over society. The PPO possessed what was known as the right of verification (pravo kontrolia), checking how managers met the demands of their position and how faithfully they implemented the plan for their enterprise. This power led to the PPO secretary's involvement in the day-to-day affairs of the enterprise. Moreover, factory managers or chairmen of collective farms, as well as chiefs of the enterprise trade unions normally were party members; consequently, they were bound by democratic centralism to follow the orders and suggestions of their party leader, the PPO secretary. Thus, the PPO secretary and not the manager carried primary responsibility to the party for the work of the enterprise.

The PPO itself was also critical to the implementation of the economic plan. The state devised its economic plan on the basis of party requirements. The government implemented the party's plan, and therefore the norms of democratic centralism obligated the PPOs to enforce it. At the enterprise level, the principal activity of the PPO secretary and of all party members was to stimulate production. Party members had to set an example with their work and encourage nonmembers to fulfill their production quotas and improve their labor productivity.

The PPO not only conveyed party policies to nonmembers in the enterprise but also apprised the party hierarchy of the mood of the masses and prevented the formation of groups to promote grass-roots change. Rank-and-file party members were scattered throughout the Soviet Union. Party members had hands-on experience in their jobs and knew nonparty members personally. Because of this intimate knowledge of their surroundings, party members were in a position to inform their superiors about the concerns and problems of people in all walks of life. With this knowledge, the party could take steps to stem potential sources of unrest, to institute new methods of control, and, more generally, to tailor its policies toward the maintenance of the population's political quiescence.

Data as of May 1989