The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks)
Title page of the 1939 English edition of The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks)
|Original title||История Всесоюзной Коммунистической Партии (Большевиков): Краткий курс|
|Publisher||OGIZ Gosizdat (first edition)|
|1 October 1938|
|Pages||350 (first edition)|
- This is an article about the book. For the history of the party, see History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
History of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks): Short Course (Russian: История Всесоюзной Коммунистической Партии (Большевиков): Краткий курс), translated to English under the title The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), is a propagandist textbook on the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, first published in 1938. Colloquially known as "the Short Course", it was the most widely disseminated book during the rule of Joseph Stalin and one of the most important representing the ideology of Marxism-Leninism.
The book was commissioned by Stalin in 1935. Regarding the motives for compiling it, Robert Service quoted a Bolshevik official who said there was a need for a book which "instead of the Bible" would "give a rigorous answer... To the many important questions." At the time, Stalin was concerned with the abundance of publications about the AUCP (B)'s history and sought to have a single, authoritative book which would serve as an official interpretation of the subject. The book was written by a team of historians and party ideologues; the principal authors were Vilhelms Knoriņš, Yemelyan Yaroslavsky and Pyotr Pospelov. Stalin wrote the chapter about dialectical materialism and "closely supervised" the others; Service wrote that "to most intents and purposes he was the general editor."
In 1937, a draft of the Short Course was submitted to Stalin, who in turn requested several revisions to the text, including more historical background. On 16 April, the Politburo decreed that Knoriņš, Yaroslavsky and Pospelov would be relieved from all their other party obligations for a period of four months in order to complete the Short Course.
Between 8 September and 17 September 1938, Pospelov, Yaroslavsky, Andrei Zhdanov and Vyacheslav Molotov (Knoriņš was arrested in the Great Purge and executed on 29 July 1938) met daily with Stalin in his office at the Kremlin to make the last edits to the manuscript. The first chapter appeared in Pravda on 9 September 1938, and the rest of the text was published in serial form, the last chapter on 19 September. On that day, the Politburo decided to have a first edition of six million copies, to be sold at a particularly low price — three rubles a copy, equivalent to the price of a liter and half of milk at the time. On 1 October, the book was released.
On 14 November, the Central Committee issued a resolution On Conduct of Party Propaganda in Connection with the Publication of the Short Course, stating it "ends all arbitrariness and confusion in the presentation of Party history" and turning the book into mandatory reading in the curriculum of all university students and attendants of Party schools.
Until Stalin's death in March 1953, the Short Course was reprinted 301 times and had 42,816,000 copies issued in Russian alone. In addition, it was translated to 66 other languages. In Hungary, 530,000 copies were printed between 1948 and 1950. In Czechoslovakia, over 652,000 copies were printed from 1950 to 1954. It was the most widely disseminated work in Stalin's time, and no Communist publication broke its record until Quotations from Chairman Mao.
In 1956, Nikita Khruschev formally repudiated the Short Course in his Secret Speech. A new authoritative history of the Party, written by a team headed by Boris Ponomarev, was published in 1962 under the name The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Influence in China
Although the Short Course was rejected by the Soviet leadership, its formulations, especially the idea that class struggle not only continued, but intensified, as the state moved towards socialism, continued to be of fundamental importance in China, where Mao Zedong repeatedly attacked his opponents in the Communist Party as "capitalist roaders" and agents of bourgeois, counter-revolutionary and Kuomindang conspiracies.
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