Soviet Union Table of Contents
By 1984 the Soviet Union had recognized communist and workers' parties in ninety-five countries. Fifteen of these were ruling communist parties. The Soviet Union considered these most ideologically mature parties as part of the world socialist system. The select group included the ruling parties of Albania, Bulgaria, China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Laos, Mongolia, North Korea, Poland, Romania, the Soviet Union, Vietnam, and Yugoslavia. Besides these ruling parties, the Soviet Union perceived other less ideologically mature ruling parties as "Marxist-Leninist vanguard parties," a label that distinguished them from "true" communist parties. These vanguard parties existed in several Third World "revolutionary democracies," which have included Afghanistan, Angola, Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen). Nonruling communist parties (of greater or lesser ideological maturity) that existed in developed capitalist and in Third World states "on the capitalist path of development" made up another category of parties.
Lenin founded the Comintern in 1919 to guide the activities of communist parties and communist front organizations abroad. The Comintern's first act was a manifesto urging workers abroad to support the Bolshevik regime in Russia. Later the Comintern became a tool the Soviet Union used to direct foreign communist parties to execute policies of benefit to the security of the Soviet Union. The Comintern was formally dissolved by Stalin in 1943 as a gesture of cooperation with the wartime allies, but the International Department was created to carry out its responsibilities. Another organization--the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform)--was created in 1947 to carry out liaison and propaganda duties, and it included as members the communist parties of Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, Hungary, Italy, Romania, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia. The Cominform expelled Yugoslavia as a member in June 1948 for ideological deviation. With the thaw in relations between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia in 1955 and 1956, the Soviet Union formally dissolved the then-moribund Cominform as a gesture to the Yugoslavs.
The Cominform conflict with Yugoslavia in 1948 signaled the breakup of what in the West was perceived as "monolithic communism" and the emergence of "polycentrism." Polycentrism (literally, many centers), a Western term, describes the relative independence from Soviet control of some nonruling and ruling communist parties. Polycentrism was further in evidence following the Sino-Soviet split that became evident in the late 1950s and early 1960s. More recently, some foreign communist parties have successfully resisted Soviet efforts to convene a conference of world communist and workers parties, the last of which occurred in 1969. The emergence in the early to mid-1970s of a broad and somewhat disparate set of ideological beliefs, termed "Eurocommunism," was further evidence of polycentric tendencies. Eurocommunist beliefs were espoused by nonruling communist parties in France, Italy, Spain, and elsewhere in the West that criticized Soviet attempts to assert ideological control over foreign communist parties and even denounced Soviet foreign and domestic policies.
Despite polycentric tendencies in the world communist movement, the Soviet Union was able to influence many parties through financial and propaganda support. This influence varied over time and according to the issue involved. The influence that the Soviet Union was able to exercise through the local nonruling communist parties was seldom significant enough to affect the policies of foreign governments directly. Local communist parties have reported on the local political situation to Moscow, have engaged in subversive activities of benefit to the Soviet Union, have served as conduits for Soviet propaganda, and have attempted to rally local populations and elites to support Soviet policies. During the late 1980s, the united front (see Glossary) strategy of alliances between nonruling communist parties and other leftist, "progressive," and even "petit bourgeois" parties received new emphasis. The goal was for communists to exercise influence through participation in electoral politics and through holding posts in legislatures and executive bodies. The global trend toward democratization was assessed by the Soviet Union as providing opportunities for the united front strategy. As was noted in Pravda in 1987, "The struggle for democracy is an important way of weakening monopolistic state capitalism, and the results of this struggle can be a starting point for the preparation of socialist transformation."
Data as of May 1989
Soviet Union Table of Contents