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35 Probs. Communism 1 (1986)
Gorbachev's First Year: Building Power and Authority

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Gorbachev's First Year:



Building Power and Authority






Thane   Gustafson and Dawn Mann


    ikhail Gorbachev has now been General Sec-
        retary of the CPSU for more than a year. It is
        still much too soon to take his measure as a
leader, but it is not too soon to begin analyzing his
strategy for building power and authority. How does
his approach  differ from that of his predecessors?
What does  it tell us about the political resources avail-
able to a general secretary in the third generation of
the Soviet system?
  The  most fundamental question about any poltical
system  is how power is derived and distributed in it.
Yet among  observers of the Soviet po ity, no question
is less settled Western  writings a generation ago
stressed the crucial importance of control over party
cadres. For example, Zbigniew  Brzezinski noted:

In the Soviet Union the division of power means the
sharing of a single resource control over the Party
organization,   Industrial author  scientif. knowl-


Thane  Gustafson  is Director of the Soviet Studes
Program  at the Center for Strategic and International
Studies, Georgetown   University (Washington, DC),
and Dawn  Mann  is a Research Associate at the Cen-
ter. The authors are grateful to Timothy Colton, Werner
Hahn  Jerry Hough, Miche/ Tatu, and Elizabeth Teague
for their helpful crticismn Personnel analysis for this
article was assisted by SOV TLe Monde  in Paris and
by SOVSET',  a computer  network  linking the Soviet
studies community in North America and Western Eu-
rope  The author  thank the F  H  Prince Chantable
Trusts for their support A preliminary version of this
article was presented at the March 1986 meeting of the
 British National Association for Soviet and cast Euro-
pean  Studies, Fitzwiianm College, Cambridge


edge,  military expertise, national popularity, personal
wealth, ethnic group  support, are neither autono-
mous   nor deployable  on the plains of politics in
the  same  manner   [as in other  systems].

Yet, while Nikita Khrushchev's control over the cadres
weapon  remained  intact to the end, it did not save him
from  being overthrown. And under  Leonid Brezhnev
this instrument of power appeared to erode, both in
frequency and  effectiveness of use. Wrestling to rec-
oncile such facts, Western scholars over the last 20
years have  attempted to assess the changes  in the
sources  of power in Soviet politics.2
  Their main theses can be  summed  up  in this way:
the range of resources for power has broadened, and
some   of Brzezinski's non-deployable  resources
have  become   factors that general secretaries must
now  reckon with. Unwritten conventions on promotion
and representation have come to limit a general secre-
tary's choices in applying the cadres weapon.  The
distribution of political forces has shifted; the party
apparatus  in the provinces matters less, while the
major state institutions in Moscow have increased their
presence  and  influence. The end result is oligarchy
rather than one-man rule, a politics of accommodation
instead of dictate. The power  of any one  general
secretary may increase the longer he serves, but the

  Zbignrew Brzezinsk and Samuel P Huntngton, Poliica/ Power
USA/USSR, New York, Vking, 1964 pp 194-95
  'See especially Grey H-odniet Thre Pattern of Leadership Poirtics in
Seweryn Biaier, E. The Domestic Sources oi Soviet Foreign Policy, Boulder,
CO Westview 1980 pp 87-118 T H Rigby 'A Concepua Approach to
Authoy, Power, and Poicy in the Soyiet Union in TH Rigby Arch e Brown,
and Peter Reddaway Eds Authority Power, and Policy in the USSR, New
York. St. Marri's Press 1980 pp 9-31; and Paul Cocks The Raiionalizaon
of Party Contro in Chairers Johntson, Ed , Change in Communist
Systems Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 1970, pp 153 -90


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