British Journal of Political Science


The CPSU and Its Members: Between Communism and Postcommunism

Stephen White* and Ian Mcallister*

Once dominant and unchallenged throughout the USSR, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union rapidly lost authority in the last two years of Soviet rule. Banned by Russian presidential decree after the failure of the attempted coup of August 1991, it was re-established in February 1993 and soon became the largest of the postcommunist parties. A 1992 survey of current and former party members as well as other Russians found that members were characterized by a relatively high degree of activism. They were disproportionately male, more affluent than non-members, and better provided with consumer goods. Younger respondents and religious believers were more likely to have left the party than their older colleagues. Those who still regarded themselves as party members were the most likely to oppose economic reform and support the collectivist principles of the communist era, particularly if they were activists; but the differences between members and non-members were not substantial, and both were found to hold generally pessimistic views on the postcommunist system. These findings suggest that, although former members will continue to be influential, CPSU membership is by itself likely to play a limited part in shaping the political direction of postcommunist Russia.


* Department of Politics, University of Glasgow; and Department of Politics, University College, The University of New South Wales, respectively. The New Russia Barometer is part of an ongoing programme of survey research in fifteen postcommunist societies between state and market directed by Professor Richard Rose, Centre for the Study of Public Policy, University of Strathclyde. Irina Boeva and Viacheslav Shironin are the Russian collaborators. The data reported here are from the first NRB survey, conducted in January/February 1992; it was supported by the National Science Foundation, Washington, and the Centre for Research into Communist Economies, London.