The communist party
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) was the linchpin of the Soviet political system. What we shall call in the next chapter the ‘unwritten constitution’ of Soviet government was generated by the existence of a party with great but undefined powers. This endowed the system, however well ordered it might have looked superficially and from the perspective of the formal constitution, with an arbitrariness that became the hallmark of the entire regime. The party acted as a ‘ministry of politics’, claiming a monopoly on organised political life. The Bolshevik party was indeed, as Lenin claimed, a ‘party of a new type’, a unique combination of organisational and ideological innovation.