The 1947 Draft of the Party Program

     11. There is probably more to the Stalin leadership's plans for democratization than we know about today. Aleksandr Pyzhikov, a very anti-communist and anti-Stalin historian, has quoted tantalizing selections of a 1947 draft of a Party program to promote further democracy and egalitarianism in the USSR. This fascinating and hitherto utterly unknown plan has never been published and is, evidently, not yet available to other researchers.

     12. Here is the section quoted verbatim by Pyzhikov:

The development of socialist democracy on the basis of the completion of the construction of a classless socialist society will increasingly convert the dictatorship of the proletariat into the dictatorship of the Soviet people. As each member of the whole population is gradually drawn into the day to day management of state affairs, the growth of the population's communist consciousness and culture, and the development of socialist democracy will lead to the progressive dying out of forms of compulsion in the dictatorship of the Soviet people, and to a progressive replacement of measures of compulsion by the influence of public opinion, to a progressive narrowing of the political functions of the state, and to the conversion of the state into, in the main, an organ of the management of the economic life of society.

Pyzhikov summarizes other sections of this unpublished document as follows:

     In particular [the draft] concerned the development of the democratization of the Soviet order. This plan recognized as essential a universal process of drawing workers into the running of the state, into daily active state and social activity on the basis of a steady development of the cultural level of the masses and a maximal simplification of the functions of state management. It proposed in practice to proceed to the unification of productive work with participation in the management of state affairs, with the transition to the successive carrying out of the functions of [state] management by all working people. It also expatiated upon the idea of the introduction of direct legislative activity by the people, for which the following were considered essential:

     a) to implement universal voting and decision-making on the majority of the most important questions of governmental life in both the social and economic spheres, as well as in questions of living conditions and cultural development;
     b) to widely develop legislative initiative from below, by means of granting to social organizations the rights to submit to the Supreme Soviet proposals for new legislation;
     c) to confirm the right of citizens and social organizations to directly submit proposals to the Supreme Soviet on the most important questions of international and internal policy.

     Nor was the principle of election of managers ignored. The plan of the Party program raised the issue of the realization, according to the degree of development towards communism, of the selection of all responsible members of the state apparatus by election, of changes in the functioning of a series of state organs in the direction of converting them increasingly into institutions in charge of accounting and supervision of the economy as a whole. For this the maximum possible development of independent voluntary organizations was seen as important. Attention was paid to the strengthening of the significance of social opinion in the realization of the communist transformation of the population's consciousness, of the development, on the basis of socialist democracy among the broad popular masses, of "socialist citizenship," "the heroism of work," and "valor of the Red Army." [emphasis added, GF]

     13. Again according to Pyzhikov, Zhdanov reported on the work of the planning commission at the February 1947 Central Committee Plenum. He proposed convening the 19th Party Congress at the end of 1947 or 1948. He also set forth a plan for a simplified order of convocations of party conferences once a year, with "compulsory renewal" of not less than one-sixth of the membership of the Central Committee per year. If put into effect, and if "renewal" actually resulted in more turnover of C.C. members, this would have meant that First Secretaries and other Party leaders in the C.C. would have been less entrenched in their positions, making room for new blood in the Party's leading body, facilitating rank-and-file criticism of Party leaders (Pyzhikov 96).

     14. This bold plan echoes many of the ideas of the "withering away of the state" envisaged in Lenin's seminal work The State and Revolution, which in its turn develops ideas Lenin found in Marx and Engels. In proposing direct democratic participation in all vital state decisions by the Soviet people and their popular organizations, and "renewal" -- with at least the possibility of replacement -- of no less than 1/6 of the Central Committee every year through a Party Conference, this Party plan envisaged the development of democracy from below in both the state and in the Party itself.

     15. But this plan came to nothing. As with the previous proposals for democratization of the Soviet state and Party outlined previously, we don't know the details of how this happened. Probably it was rejected at the Central Committee Plenum. The 19th Party Congress was postponed until 1952. Again, we do not know why. The nature of the draft Party plan suggests that opposition from the Central Committee -- the First Secretaries -- may have been responsible.3

The Nineteenth Party Congress