State ideology of the Soviet Union

State ideology of the Soviet Union
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The State ideology of the Soviet Union embodied a number of different theoretical streams, originating primarily from within the Marxist ideology of socialism, but with some minor threads emerging from within the Russian revolutionary movement such as the ideology of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries or from within anarcho-communism such as Makhnovism. After 1921, Russian developed social-democratic ideologies predominated within the ideology of Soviet Communism.


Soviet Communist ideology

Soviet communism can broadly be considered as the ideology, or systematic belief structure, of the advocates of communism within the Soviet councils of the Russian revolution, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) and later the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). As such the early period of Soviet ideology was typified by intellectual competition between varying trends, then between the predominant trend, Bolshevik Russian social democracy, and then the resultant ideological changes within the official ideology of the Soviet Union.

The competing ideologies of the revolutionary period to 1923

Prior to 1923, ideology was both intellectually and politically contested within the Russian Revolution. At first, after the October Revolution, all party governments were formed amongst: Social Revolutionaries, Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, and limited anarchist groups. At the central level, the RSDLP's Bolshevik party was predominant, but at the local level power was held by ideologically mixed non-workplace soviets or workplace council soviets. Through the course of the Revolution, falling outs occurred, significantly between the Left-SR party organisation and the Bolsheviks over the issue of war, leading to a rift with and suppression of Left-SR ideology. Additionally, the crisis between the Makhnovist Black Army and the Soviet Red Army, combined with the Kronstadt Uprising led to the suppression of anarcho-communist ideologies.[citation needed] In addition to this, the military and political success of the Bolshevik led Red Army caused numerous political activists to realign themselves behind Bolshevik ideology.

Early Bolshevik Ideology

Most histories of Bolshevik ideology emphasise the central role of VI Lenin's internal party struggles in creating a cohesive ideological structure. To a lesser extent, Leon Trotsky's external critiques of Bolshevism form a central component of what is called in the contemporary period Leninism.

Bolshevik ideological conflicts during the Civil War period

Towards the later stages of the civil war a conflict emerged between the more workerist ideology of the left communists and later the Workers' Opposition within the Bolshevik Party, and the Central Committee line. In both instances the minority ideology was surpressed, without the supporters of the ideological position being persecuted.[citation needed]

Competition within the Central Committee during the 1920s

The end of the Civil War's effects on Soviet Ideology, and of the position of War Communism, is generally held to being with the imposition of the New Economic Policy (NEP). While the NEP was debated throughout the 1920s, serious divisions emerged within the Bolshevik Party. Many of these divisions were expressed ideology in terms of debates over socialist development and internationalism, and resulted in the development of three broad lines of Soviet Ideology.

Trotskyism and the International Left Opposition

The smallest grouping was of the International Left Opposition and the supporters of Leon Trotsky. While this group was politically weak, it has had a great and continuing influence in ideological circles through the work of Leon Trotsky and his subsequent followers and supporters.

The International Right Opposition

The International Right Opposition was the second largest ideological grouping at the end of the 1920s. They emphasised the political development of socialism within continuing market relations. Ideologically this group proved to be ultimately sterile, though a significant amount of political work was published during the 1930s with some ideological implications.

Marxism-Leninism and Stalinism

The largest group within Bolshevik ideology at the end of the 1920s were the followers and supporters of Joseph Stalin's advocacy of developing socialism within the Soviet Union without seeking overseas revolution. The chief document of Stalinist ideology under Stalin was the Short course history of the CPSU(b). Followers of this ideological position have generally referred to themselves as "Marxist-Leninists" after 1956.

Post-Stalin ideologies

Subsequent to Stalin, some changes occurred in Soviet Ideology. Chief amongst these were Nikita Khrushchev's advocacy of developing quality in preference to quantity in Soviet development and the pursuit of peaceful coexistence; and the declaration of the Brezhnev doctrine. During the 1940s 1950s and 1960s numerous experiments were made in political or organisational issues within Soviet communist framework in Eastern European actually existing socialist states, though there was little systematic creative ideological work conducted by State-supporting mainstream Marxists, the dissenting Marxists tending to produce new ideological material outside of the Soviet communist traditions. However, Imre Nagy's humanist socialism and Alexander Dubcek's socialism with a human face were developments of Soviet communist ideologists. Towards the end, Mikhail Gorbachev introduced new innovations in political life which were perceived by some to indicate ideological change. In 1985, Gorbachev announced that the Soviet economy was stalled and that reorganization was needed. Initially, his reforms were called uskoreniye (acceleration) but later the terms such as glasnost (liberalisation, opening up) and perestroika (restructuring) became more popular.


In the 1950s the Marxist intellectual Herbert Marcuse was commissioned by the government of the United States to complete a major work of Marxist analysis on the ideology of Soviet Communism, titled Soviet Marxism: A Critical Analysis.

See also

  • Index of Soviet Union-related articles

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