The Retreat from Dogmatism: Populism under Khrushchev and Brezhnev
In order to understand popular feeling in the years after Stalin's death, it is important to grasp two contradictory elements in Party policy under Khrushchev and his successors. While central elements of top-down governance remained in place until the collapse of Party rule in 1991 -- constitutional recognition of the Party's 'leading role' in political and social life, the mechanisms of the command economy, the agglutination of legislative and executive powers in Moscow under the democratic centralist system -- subtle shifts in ideology and cultural regulation led to changes in perception of the 'the people' or 'the masses' as a symbolic entity. Though laws against mass resistance -- strikes and uprisings -- remained in place, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs retained wide-ranging powers against dissent, a growing recognition was given, in official policy and planning, to the practical causes of discontent (such as problems with the supply of food, consumer goods, and housing). In the late 1960s, the term 'mass culture' started to be applied, for the first time, to Soviet society as well as to Western societies, signalling a new, more complex and ramified, comprehension of the tastes and ideas of 'the people'. 1 Though the lower classes, for reasons which will be explained below, did not have the intelligentsia's enhanced possibilities of negotiation with the authorities, which facilitated the expression, on some occasions, of open dissidence, ordinary people's experience of Soviet life went through changes that were no less significant, even if they were not always so obvious.