POLITICAL power in Soviet Russia is not divided and is delegated only in respect to minor matters; it rests firmly concentrated in the hands of one small group, the steering committee, or "Politbureau," of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. The nine members of the Politbureau, together with their eight alternates, are the spear-head of the Communist Party's force of a million and a half members. On the one hand they dominate and direct the Government of the U. S. S. R. (the usual abbreviation for Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), and on the other hand the Third, or Communist, International. They are the main-spring of all action in the realm of the Soviets and of all Communist action abroad.

This fact is to be emphasized because of a tendency to speak of the Soviet Government as though it were an independent agency, like the Government of the United States. There is hardly any similarity between them. In the one case we have a Government of which the President, his Cabinet, and probably a majority of the elected members of Congress belong to a particular Party, but feel bound hardly at all even to the formal Party platform. In Russia today we see a Government recruited entirely from the sole existing legal Party, the supreme organ of which is a self-perpetuating and autocratic group that meets secretly and can banish or imprison every person in the country who incurs its displeasure.

Similarly there often is doubt regarding the relations of the Soviet Government with the Third International, the sponsors of world-wide revolutionary propaganda. Certain spokesmen of the Soviet Government cultivate the theory that they are not responsible for, or in any way connected with, the Third International -- a troublesome body, they pretend, which they would be glad to see installed elsewhere than in the Soviet domain. It is true that they may not be responsible for the actions of the Third International, because they cannot control it; but their own masters, the Politbureau, do control it. In particular it cannot escape attention that Rykov, who fills the position analogous to that of Premier in the Soviet Government, and who is also a member of the Politbureau, was elected in September of the present year to the Executive Committee of the Third International. If it is indeed true that the Soviet Government has no connection with the Third International, then Rykov must, in his triple function, find himself in even a more difficult situation than did the late Franz Joseph, who said "The Emperor of Austria must never know what the King of Hungary is thinking or doing."

The distinction which the Soviet Government asks foreign opinion to make between its official statements and acts and those of the Communist Party and of the Third International seems quite unreal if we examine the mere physical structure of the three bodies. Of the 71 members of the Party's Central Committee (of which, as has been explained, the Politbureau is a part), over half hold high positions in the Soviet Government (including 8 of the 11 members of the Council of Commissars); and 8 are members of the Executive Committee of the Third International. The following table lists the various functions of the nine members and eight alternate members of the Politbureau. It supplies a simple demonstration of the way in which the Party steering committee interlocks, on the one hand with the Soviet Government, and on the other hand with the Third International.

POLITBUREAU OF THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE U. S. S. R.

Members

BUKHARIN

Member of Executive Committee of Third International

Editor of Pravda, Organ of the Communist Party

Delegate of Communist Party to VI Congress of Third International

KALININ

Senior President, Central Executive Committee of U. S. S. R.

President of Central Executive Committee of Russian Soviet Republic

Delegate of Communist Party to V Congress of Third International

KUYBYSHEV

President, Supreme Council of National Economy of U. S. S. R.

Member of Council of Labor and Defense of U. S. S. R.

Delegate of Communist Party to V Congress of Third International

MOLOTOV

Member of Executive Committee of Third International

Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party

Delegate of Communist Party to VI Congress of Third International

RUDZUTAK

Vice-President of Council of Commissars of U. S. S. R.

Commissar for Communications of U. S. S. R.

Vice-President, Council of Labor and Defense of U. S. S. R.

Member of Praesidium of Central Executive Committee of U. S. S. R.

Delegate of Communist Party to V Congress of Third International

RYKOV

Member of Executive Committee of Third International

President of Council of Commissars of U. S. S. R.

President of Council of Commissars of the Russian Soviet Republic

President, Council of Labor and Defense of U. S. S. R.

Delegate of Communist Party to VI Congress of Third International

STALIN

Member of Executive Committee of Third International

Secretary-General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party

Delegate of Communist Party to VI Congress of Third International

TOMSKY

President of Central Council of Trades Unions of U. S. S. R.

Member of Praesidium of Central Executive Committee of U. S. S. R.

Member of Council of Labor and Defense of U. S. S. R.

Delegate of Communist Party to V Congress of Third International

VOROSHILOV

Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs of U. S. S. R.

Member of Council of Labor and Defense of U. S. S. R.

Member of Central Executive Committee of U. S. S. R.

Delegate of Communist Party to V Congress of Third International

Alternates

ANDREYEV

Member of Praesidium of Central Executive Committee of U. S. S. R.

Member of Praesidium of Central Council of Trades Unions

Delegate of Communist Party to V Congress of Third International

KAGANOVITCH

Member of Praesidium of Central Executive Committee of U. S. S. R.

KIROV

Member of Central Executive Committee of U. S. S. R.

Delegate of Communist Party to V Congress of Third International

KOSIOR, S.

Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party

Delegate of the Communist Party to the V Congress of the Third International

MIKOYAN

Commissar for Foreign and Domestic Commerce of U. S. S. R.

Member of Council of Labor and Defense of U. S. S. R.

Delegate of Communist Party to V Congress of Third International

PETROVSKY

2nd President of Central Executive Committee of U. S. S. R.

President of Central Executive Committee of the Ukranian Soviet Republic

Delegate of Communist Party to V Congress of Third International

TCHUBAR

Member of Praesidium of Central Executive Committee of U. S. S. R.

President of Council of Commissars of the Ukranian Soviet Republic

UGLANOV

Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party

Commissar for Labor of U. S. S. R.

Member of Praesidium of Central Executive Committee of U. S. S. R.

Delegate of Communist Party to V Congress of Third International

Other members of the Central Committee are such important government personages as Antipov, Commissar for Posts and Telegraphs; Chicherin, Commissar for Foreign Affairs; Lepse, President of the Union of Metallurgists and member of the Praesidium of the Central Council of Trades Unions and of the Praesidium of the Supreme Council of National Economy; Lobov, Assistant President of the Supreme Council of National Economy; Menzhinsky, President of the O. G. P. U., or secret police; Schwartz, President of the Union of Miners and member of the Central Council of Trades Unions; Skripnik, who besides being a member of the Executive Committee of the Third International is a member of the Praesidium of the Central Executive Committee of the U. S. S. R.; and Smirnov, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, Vice-President of the Council of Commissars of the Russian Soviet Republic, and member of the Praesidium of the Central Executive Committee of the U. S. S. R.

The varied and influential functions of these Central Committee members, grouped about and subject to the all-powerful Politbureau, merely corroborate our understanding of the interdependence of Government, Party and Third International -- "these three, and the greatest of these is the Party."

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now