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Theoretically, power lay with the broad lower ranks of the Communist Party, at periodic meetings Party Congresses, which were annual events in the 1920s. No Party Congress met between 1939 and 1952, and after Stalin's death in 1953 they occurred every five years. Members of the Party Congress often voted according to how they were told to vote, ratifying decisions made by the higher ranking party members.
Party Congresses were supposed to have influence on the Central Committee, which met in full session at least once every six months and which ruled between Party Congresses. The Central Commitee was supposed to direct "all activities of the party," including recruitment, social organization and activities, dispersing funds of the party budget and selection of the members of the Politburo, which made day to day decisions. The General Secretary of the Communist Party, Josef Stalin, was a member of the Central Committee, selected by the Central Committee. Between 1934 and 1939, Stalin managed to purge the Central Committee of members that he feared or disliked. After 1934, Stalin signed documents as "Secretary of the Central Committee."
Stalin was also a member of the Party's executive committee: the Politburo. In 1926 the Politburo consisted of nine full members and five candidate members. After Stalin's death the Politburo's name changed to Presidium.
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