In recent years the Communist Party's fate has been developing in a truly tragic way. With the start of perestroika in society it gradually and then rapidly started lagging behind the changes taking place in the country. Having previously been the backbone of the state administration, the party was unable to find its place in the conditions of political pluralism and to overcome the conservative-bureaucratic nature of its structures. 1
Before Gorbachev unleashed his radical political reforms in the summer of 1988, there were two major bureaucracies in the Soviet Union, one for the Communist Party and one for the Soviet state. In each bureaucracy, centralism ruled. Decisions that in other societies might have been taken at lower levels were continually pushed upwards, to the all-union Politburo, Central Committee, and secretariat within the party and to the USSR Supreme Soviet and Council of Ministers within the state (see Table 2.1). This extraordinary concentration of power in central party and state institutions, and especially in their executive organs, was guaranteed by a tightly-regulated flow of information, by a prohibition against organized factions, and by the emasculation of legislative bodies. Neither delegates to party conferences nor deputies in the state's system of soviets were able to restrain the executive leadership of the party and state.
At the apex of this leadership was the general secretary of the party, who chaired meetings of the Politburo and embodied political authority for the average Soviet citizen. The state contributed two senior members of the leadership. The prime minister, formally the chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers, supervised over 100 ministries and state committees that comprised