On December 30, 1922, the First All-Union Congress of Soviets adopted the Declaration and Treaty on the Formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The Union formed the world’s first socialist state that united the Soviet republics born of the Great October Revolution.
At the time of formation, the Soviet Union consisted of four republics: the Russian SFSR, the Byelorussian SSR, the Ukrainian SSR and the Transcaucasian SFSR (in 1936 it was divided into the Azerbaijan SSR, the Armenian SSR and the Georgian SSR). In 1922, about 136 million people lived in the Union. Subsequently, 15 union republics were part of the Soviet state: Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Uzbek, Kazakh, Georgian, Azerbaijani, Lithuanian, Moldavian, Latvian, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Armenian, Turkmen and Estonian.
It was a qualitative leap that made it possible to turn these semi-feudal republics into one great political, economic and military power under the leadership of the working class. Under the USSR the conditions of life vastly improved in many ways.
Before the revolution, the illiteracy rate was over 80% for the adult population. By 1934 it had been reduced to less than 10%, with pre-school, kindergarten, college and university education provided and completely free. Upon completion of their education, graduates were guaranteed a job 6 months in advance of them leaving school.
Soviet citizens were also provided with free transportation from where they lived to where they worked, and back again. They even had the shortest working day, working for no longer than 8 hours a day, which included one month’s paid leave every year. With guaranteed social security and housing.
They were the first in the world to benefit from free professional medical healthcare, the first to provide legal abortions for women, as well as the right to 3 years paid maternity leave for all mothers, and free milk for their children during this period.
Within the USSR, citizens of every nationality were recognised as equals, with many laws put forward that enshrined this recognition. The same was true for Women, who were accorded the equal rights with men in all fields of economic, State, cultural, social, and political life.
Even after surviving the brutalities of World War II, with complete victory over Germany at the cost of the lives of 27 million soviet citizens in the struggle against fascism, the USSR stood strong and continued to progress. In 1945, the USSR became one of the founding states of the UN and a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Their successes and achievements in science and technology skyrocketed, quite literally, with the world’s first nuclear power plant in 1954, the first artificial Earth satellite in 1957, the first male pilot-cosmonaut made a flight into space in 1961, the first female pilot-cosmonaut made a flight into space in 1963, the first spacewalk in 1965, the first planetary landing (Venus) in 1970, and the first space station in 1971.
From the poverty and destitution of the pre-revolutionary Russian Empire, to growing equality, health, wellbeing, and the far reaches of our very solar system within the space of 50 years is progress beyond imagination.
However from the late 1980s the USSR began to feel the political and economic crisis that eventually led to its collapse and disintegration. From 1985, when reformist tendencies were ascendant, and under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, restructuring was pursued to reinvigorate a supposedly stagnant economy. The actions of the reformers were not fully thought out or consistent, ultimately undermining the socialist economic system and weakening the democratic power of the working class.
In an attempt to stop the destruction of the USSR, a referendum was held on March 17, 1991. Here nearly 80% of the citizens of the Soviet republics who took part in the vote (of an 80% overall turnout) spoke in favour of preserving the Soviet Union as a renewed federation of equal sovereign republics. However, the working class was unable to overturn the market forces which were pulling Soviet society apart.
The USSR dissolved on December 25, 1991, sending shockwaves around the world. At the time of the collapse, the USSR occupied almost 1/6 of the inhabited land of the Earth with a population of 293 million people.
The ruins of the USSR and Eastern Bloc were soon jumped upon by multinational corporations, turning their economy towards privatisation, resulting in the abject poverty of millions, and thousands even froze to death having never had to pay for a heating bill in their lives. From the plummeting standards in education, housing and health, to the colossal rolling back of workers rights, the people of the former Socialist Republics were decimated. For women the newly adopted constitution eliminated paid maternity leave, job security during pregnancy, prenatal care and affordable day-care. Employment was massively reduced, many settling for much lower-paid jobs, and some turning toward prostitution. The legal, financial and psychological independence that women had under a developing socialist state was gone.
In Russia the amount of women murdered annually went from 5,300 to 15,000 within the first three years since the collapse, and by the end of the 90’s the life expectancy form all Russians had been reduced by 10 years.
But even today the fear of the Soviet Union among the ruling class has not weakened and grows stronger. As we live through an era where the gap between rich and poor is ever widening, where imperialist wars are raging (even amongst former Socialist Republics, such as between Ukraine & the Russian Federation, and the ethnic Nagorno-Karabakh conflict), and where Capitalism cannot offer any real prospects for the majority of humanity, the lessons and legacy of the Soviet Union are rising from its ashes.
The hunger and need for an alternate system which prioritises the well-being, health, education, and overall life of humanity above all else is yearned for. Where the abolition of sex and racial inequality are paramount, and the equal rights between men and women are not put into question.
The realisation of socialism within the USSR against the attacks of many, for almost 70 years, demonstrated that another better world was and is indeed possible, and can be achieved by the union of the working class. The Young Communist League of Britain recognises the massive achievements made by the world’s first and greatest Socialist State, and dedicates itself to the pursuit and creation of Socialism within our lifetimes. We recognise and support the further attempts at developing Socialism around the world, from the vastness of the People’s Republic of China, to the small island of Cuba, who continue to challenge world capitalism and create progress, health and happiness for all of humankind.
Long live the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics!
Long live Socialism & Communism!
Young Communist League
30 December 2022