The paper explores the politics of language of the Soviet Communist Party bureaucracy. It argues against the recent conceptualisation of late socialist discourse as basically 'performative', i.e. as a vehicle for action that was virtually independent of its propositional dimension. Contrary to this, it is suggested that if the analysis is broadened to include the process of producing texts (drafts, censored passages, oral discussions, etc.) we see marked concern, and, indeed, conflict over the ideological meaning of the content. The argument is made through detailed analysis of the memoirs of one Party official, Georgii Lukich Smirnov. This case also shows that Party cadres were far from 'faceless' or without feelings. The ideological battles throughout the late Soviet period, which scarred Smirnov, were what led to perestroika (reconstruction) and glasnost' (transparency) under Gorbachev.