After the death of Lenin (1924) dissident elements in the party were silenced as Joseph Stalin emerged as Lenin's successor. While party debates in the party congresses of the 1920s were stormy and intraparty democracy was still evident, by the 16th party congress (1929) Stalin established virtual supremacy. The party (from 1925 the All-Union Communist party), was strongly urban. One purpose of the massive agricultural collectivization launched in 1929 was to strengthen the party's rural base. By 1933 there were more than 3,500,000 party members and candidates, many recruited from rural areas.
A series of purges in the 1930s decimated the party. Former leaders—Trotsky, Bukharin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rykov, and others—were accused of treason, convicted in spectacular show trials, and executed or exiled. As the purges drew to a close by 1938, party membership had declined to 1,920,000. There was an immediate upturn in membership with the approach of World War II; in the period after the war membership grew more slowly.
The whole Stalinist period (1930–53), was dominated by a repressive and omnipotent dictatorship over all Soviet citizens, including party members. In 1952 the party was renamed the Communist party of the Soviet Union.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.