This book is published because the material it contains is indispensable to knowledge of current Soviet policies.
The central fact of Soviet life is that the only party permitted under the Soviet system is less a party than a ruling elite. Today, with the largest membership in its history, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union still numbers only 3% of the population, and its leaders want fewer members, not more. In Stalin's phrase, this 3% holds the "commanding heights." From it come the government officials, industrial executives, farm managers, trade union leaders, secret police chiefs, editors, army officers--the reader can complete the list himself. It is a huge interlocking directorate holding all the seats of power.
Curiously, this governing elite was not even mentioned in the successive Soviet Constitutions until the present Constitution was adopted in 1936, and even the 1936 Constitution gave it merely passing mention.
This apparent slighting of the country's true governing body in a document which purports to set forth the structure of the government is, as the Russians say, not accidental. It has a logic of its own in view of the manner in which the Party functions: that is, not only in its own person, but as the "guiding nucleus" of all other organizations. Sometimes major policy decisions are announced as joint decisions of the Party and the government (e.g., the formation of the new regime after Stalin's death), with the Party always mentioned first as a matter of precedence. But even when proclaimed only as decisions of the government, or, for that matter, of the trade unions or the sports clubs, no secret is made of the fact that the decisions are adopted under Party instructions. And more and more the distinction between Party and state personnel has disappeared, until today Marshal Vasilevsky can announce to the Party Congress, for example, that 86% of all army officers are members of either the Party or its junior league, the Young Communists.
As the Party is a dictatorship ruling the country, so the Party's upper hierarchy is a dictatorship ruling within the Party. The structure is a pyramid, in which the base consists of the primary Party organizations, formerly called "cells," in factories, farms, offices, military units and all other institutions. Above this base are territorial organizations of varying levels, corresponding to the government territorial divisions. These intermediary bodies serve as administrative channels between the primary units at the bottom and the top or "central" Party bodies. They transmit orders from the top to the lower levels . . .