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Gorbachev Versus the Apparat?
In September 1988 six CPSU commissions were created to make policy proposals to the Politburo on the "most important issues in the life of the party and the country." The new commissions were intended to constitute the highest-level advisory bodies to the Politburo. More importantly, the creation of the commissions enabled Gorbachev to circumvent the CC departments, the backbone of the traditional party apparatus which was obstructing perestroika. In the apparat's place, the members of the "electoral organs" of the CPSU, i.e., the Central Committee and to a lesser extent the Central Revision (now Control) Commission, were to be brought into the decision-making process. This was part of Gorbachev's attempt to destroy the power of the apparatchiki thereby facilitating the separation of the party's functions from those of the state.
With the aid of the Institute's computer database, which includes extensive information on party appointments, it is possible to draw tentative conclusions on the Gorbachev leadership's attitudes toward top-level party bodies. The membership of the commissions was announced at the November 1988 Party Plenum. Subsequently two more commissions were established, an Interethnic Commission (December 1989) and a Culture, Education, and Science Commission, created by the 28th Congress in July. Thus there now appears to be a total of eight commissions (although the Interethnic Commission has not been referred to again since its creation was announced). At the 28th Congress a major "cleansing" of the party's leadership took place that included a large number of retirements from the Central Committee. Assuming that CC membership is a requirement for commission membership, Table I lists the most prominent members originally appointed and indicates in boldface the surviving members. Members of CC departments (discussed below) are indicated by daggers. Former and current commission members appointed in March to the Presidential Council (eight of seventeen) are indicated by asterisks. Two (Medvedev and Yakovlev) originally served as commission chairmen.
Table 1. The Commissions and Their Membership
Boldface indicates members who remain after the 28th Party Congress.
Culture Education and Science Commission
If the commissions are to play a significant role in party affairs, a large number of appointments to already existing commissions will be required, in addition to staffing two additional commissions. As Table I shows, at the Congress three new commission chairmen were appointed, and Shenin may be slated to be the new head of the Party Building and Cadre Commission, since he has assumed these functions in the Secretariat. In the past, all commission chairmen have been simultaneously Politburo members and CC Secretaries. It will not be possible to follow this precedent in filling all four vacant chairmanships, since there are only two candidates with the necessary dual status (V.A. Ivashko and G.V. Semyonova). According to the November 1988 resolution, the commissions were to "present draft documents and analytical materials" to the Politburo. However, most of the commissions have held far fewer meetings than the minimum four times per year required by the resolution, the International Commission being the least active. In fact, for a period of 13 months this commission did not meet.
As part of the policy of breaking the power of the apparatus, in August 1988 the decision was announced to eliminate 11 departments, leaving only nine. Table II shows the departmental reorganization. The November 1988 resolution made it clear that the departments were to be subordinated to the commissions, and were to play an advisory role to the new higher bodies. The abolition of the majority of the departments was accompanied by an extensive purge of the department staff. Between the fall 1988 reorganization and the 28th Congress, 680 apparatchiki were eliminated. The reorganization of the apparatus and the establishment of commissions were intended to bring about the "further activization of the Central Committee." Thus of the total 128 members of the original six commissions (excluding chairmen and a cochairman), 114 were either CC full or candidate members, of whom 30 remain in the current CC. On the other hand, as Table I shows, only six of the original commission members were drawn from the CC departments. The seniority of commission chairmen further emphasizes the standing of the commissions. Department heads have been at most CC members (with the sole exception of the original Party Building Commission chairman G.P. Razumovsky, who was then a Politburo candidate member and CC Secretary). Finally, it is noteworthy that of the total of 53 CC members re-elected at the 28th Congress, 30 were commission members, whereas only nine department members remained on the Central Committee.
Both the original reorganization and the subject areas of departments created subsequently confirm the planned change in the functions of the party apparatus from executive-administrative responsibilities to a political-advisory role. The August 1988 memorandum on the reorganization made it clear that the Agrarian and Defense Departments were being retained only during a "transitional stage." On the other hand, in November 1989 and April 1990 an Interethnic Department and a Department for Work with Sociopolitical Organizations were set up. In addition, at the 28th Congress not only was the Culture, Education, and Science Commission established, but also Gorbachev called for the creation of a Women's Issues Department (although there was no reference to it in the Congress's resolutions).
As well as appointments of Gorbachev supporters in the new Central Committee to the many commission vacancies, possibly accompanied by the establishment of new commissions headed by high-ranking party officials, another purge of the traditional apparatus may be expected. At a meeting of the Central Committee Secretariat on August 7, the decision was announced to "finally reject nomenklatura stereotypes," i.e., the nomenklatura principle of appointments. In addition, the size of the apparatus is to be cut further, and attestations (performance reviews) are to conducted for all the members of the Central Committee apparatus
Copyright ISCIP 1990
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