The Fate of the Party Apparatus Under Gorbachev

by Myron Rush

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For most of its history, the Soviet political system has been dominated by the Communist Party's permanent staff — the party apparatus, or apparat. The apparat has been charged with executing such vital functions as managing the party apparatus itself, and recruiting persons with the requisite skills and political loyalties; controlling other institutions of the regime, choosing their leaders, and checking on their performance; servicing the Politburo, alerting it to the need for policy decisions, and drafting the directives required to activate the relevant institutions; and monitoring these massive and recalcitrant bureaucracies and ensuring that the party's directives are implemented. The apparat's performance in carrying out these functions is indicated by the sad state of the Soviet Union when Gorbachev became head of the party apparatus, the General Secretary, in 1985. In the following five years, Gorbachev moved from a concern with revitalizing the apparat to enable it to perform its traditional functions more effectively to a concern with emancipating the legislative and executive "branches" of the Soviet government from heavy-handed party control. This report traces Gorbachev's effort and assesses its consequences.

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