This paper demonstrates that the communist party, in terms of personnel, only partially penetrated the government bureaucracy in the USSR. Detailed biographies of 212 members of the Soviet government of ministerial status were analysed into four groups depending on their degree of party work experience, and further analysed in terms of their participation by type of ministry, including the military industrial complex, and by the time and tenure of appointment. Their life occupational histories were plotted against their participation in different work sectors. It is concluded that the recruitment of personnel to many of the key sectors of the government bureaucracy appeared to be determined by the applicants previous experience and tenure in the bureaucracy. The party was able to penetrate those government bodies concerned with ideology, coercion, and culture, but was not able to penetrate the elite levels of those ministries with actual control over the means of production (the industrial ministries and the military industrial complex). The research indicates that the government had a relative institutional autonomy and great powers of self-recruitment and renewal, that the attempts by party leaders to control the bureaucracy failed, and that the relative autonomy of the government apparatus was an important contributing factor in the collapse of the communist state.

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