Membership in the party ultimately became a privilege, with a small subset of the general population of Party becoming an elite class or nomenklatura in Soviet society. Nomenklatura enjoyed many perquisites denied to the average Soviet citizen. Among those perks were shopping at well-stocked stores, access to foreign merchandise, preference in obtaining housing, access to dachas and holiday resorts, being allowed to travel abroad, sending their children to prestigious universities, and obtaining prestigious jobs (as well as party membership itself) for their children. It became virtually impossible to join the Soviet ruling and managing elite without being a member of the Communist Party.
Membership had its risks, however, especially in the 1930s when the party was subjected to purges under Joseph Stalin. Membership in the party was not open. To become a party member one had to be approved by various committees and one's past was closely scrutinised. As generations grew up never having known anything but the USSR, party membership became something one generally achieved after passing a series of stages. Children would join the Young Pioneers and then, at the age of 14, might graduate to the Komsomol (Young Communist League) and ultimately, as an adult, if one had shown the proper adherence to party discipline or had the right connections one would become a member of the Communist Party itself. However, membership also had its obligations. Komsomol and CPSU members were expected not only to pay dues but also to carry out appropriate assignments and "social tasks" (общественная работа).
In 1918 it had a membership of approximately 200,000. In the late 1920s under Stalin, the party engaged in a heavy recruitment campaign (the "Lenin Levy") of new members from both the working class and rural areas. This was both an attempt to "proletarianize" the party and an attempt by Stalin to strengthen his base by outnumbering the Old Bolsheviks and reducing their influence in the party.
In 1925 there were 1,025,000 communist party members in a population of 147 million. In 1927, after an intensive recruitment campaign, membership rose to 1,200,000
By 1933, the party had approximately 3.5 million members but as a result of the Great Purge party membership was cut down to 1.9 million by 1939. In 1986, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had over 19 million members or approximately 10% of the USSR's adult population. Over 44% of party members were classified as industrial workers, 12% were collective farmers. The CPSU had party organizations in fourteen of the USSR's 15 republics. In the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic itself there was no separate Communist Party until 1990 as affairs were controlled directly by the CPSU.
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Famous quotes containing the word membership:
“The two real political parties in America are the Winners and the Losers. The people dont acknowledge this. They claim membership in two imaginary parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, instead.”
—Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (b. 1922)