Based on detailed study of the career paths of 85 party secretaries and heads of departments of the Central Committee of the CPSU, in post between 1981 and 1991, distinctions are made between different types of officials and levels of personnel renewal in various sectors of the party's top administration. The communist party elite was not unitary but segmented, with important divisions and interests. A systemic characteristic of Soviet state socialism was the inability of the party leadership to exercise control over the government industrial bureaucracy—a failure to achieve precisely the “fusion of economic and political power” which many consider to be the hallmark of state socialism. Gorbachev sought to reduce the power of the economic ministries by exposing them to market forces which logically implied different forms of ownership. He subverted the ideological and political legitimacy of state socialism, dissolved the party's administrative centre, and thereby undermined his own political base.

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