The essential characteristics of authoritarian political systems are internal coercion and external militancy, and to achieve these postures the ruling elites must maintain powerful security organs and large military establishments. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union claims hegemony within the state, and, on the basis of their common ideological commitment, demands primary loyalty from all, individuals as well as institutions. Any institution, therefore, that seeks to close itself off from the regime's scrutiny and interference, and whose members look on their profession as a guild, represents a threat to the Party. Much research is focused on social and political change, and is devoted to an analysis of Soviet phenomena which starts with the premise that Soviet society is in transition. Most of the Western writers on Soviet affairs seemed to share Winston Churchill's image of the Soviet Union as a riddle, a mystery, and an enigma.