24th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

24th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

The 24th congress of the communist party of the USSR held for ten days starting March 30 1971, turned out to be Brezhnev's show. This was not unexpected. Ever since Lenin's centennial celebration in April 1970, when Brezhnev seized the national spotlight by delivering several nationally televised speeches, there was little doubt that the general secretary of the party had achieved first-among-equals status in the Politburo. Since then, his activities have received prime coverage by the Soviet media, and this February Brezhnev, not the Central Committee, signed the important but long-delayed directives of the ninth five-year plan, covering 1971-1975. [citebook|title=Contemporary East European Marxism |author=Edward D'Angelo|year=1982|publisher=John Benjamins Publishing Company|id=ISBN 9060321898|pages=227|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=oPtEH07pKgoC&pg=PA227&ots=oAYtw94sMh&dq=%2224th+Congress+of+the+Communist+Party+of+the+Soviet+Union%22&as_brr=3&ie=ISO-8859-1&output=html&sig=eQ33VmYEg_qgfcb2tyaN6GDyVmU]

That Brezhnev was in the cockpit of power was undeniably demonstrated at the congress. He delivered the keynote address, which lasted six hours and was the only speech to be televised. During the speech Brezhnev was repeatedly interrupted by the thunderous applause of 5,000 delegates, many of whom, jumping to their feet, chanted "Glory, glory" rhythmically, in tribute to their chief. In the speeches that followed, national and regional party leaders, with isolated exceptions, heaped praise on Comrade Brezhnev for showing constant concern for the well-being of the people, whose universal love and respect he had earned. No single leader has received such adulation since former premier Nikita Khrushchev, who was overthrown by the collective leadership in 1964.

Brezhnev's speech

Although Brezhnev discussed many issues, including politics and foreign policy, the main emphasis of his talk was on the economy. He assured the average Soviet citizen that the primary aim of the party's economic policy was to raise the standard of living without neglecting Soviet defense requirements.Specifically, Brezhnev promised that during the ninth five-year plan the minimum pay of workers and employees (but not collective farmers) would be raised from the present level of 60 rubles per month to 70 rubles (US$78.40). This might affect as much as one-third of the urban labor force. The basic salary scale for teachers, doctors (now receiving approximately $120 a month), medical personnel, and workers in service industries was also to be raised. Old age pensions were to increase from 30 to 45 rubles as a minimum monthly payment. Mothers were to receive more paid days off to look after sick children, and university students' stipends ($35 a month) were to be raised by 25 percent. A most significant welfare innovation was the announcement that a family allowance (no specific figure was cited) would be provided for those families with per capita incomes of less than 50 rubles a month. (Although the Soviet government provides various forms of welfare assistance through highly subsidized rents, child-care centers, and so forth, it does not make relief payments to those who are financially destitute).

A distinct and most welcome surprise to the Soviet public was the shortening of the 20-year moratorium on repayment of state bonds, which was imposed by then-leader Khrushchev in 1958. The bonds total about 26 billion rubles and were due to be repaid between 1977 and 1996. The new repayment dates have now been moved up to 1974-1990.The whole package of wage increases, better pensions, loan repayments, and child allowances will cost $24.2 billion, compared with the $11.1 billion allotted in the last five-year plan. They will go into effect at various times between 1971 and 1975.


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