NOMENKLATURA: The Soviet Ruling Class by Michael Voslensky

NOMENKLATURA: The Soviet Ruling Class

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Yugoslav Communist Milovan Djilas blew the whistle on the ""new class"" in charge of the eastern socialist societies 40 years ago, so it's not surprising to find him writing the introduction to this refinement of his initial thesis. Voslensky is an ÉmigrÉ Soviet historian who has been in the west since 1972. The title refers to a list of functionaries whose positions are affirmed by higher authorities: i.e., party and state bureaucrats appointed and recruited by higher-ups in the same bureaucracies. Such a list does exist: it amounts to about three million people; and it is essentially a list of the Soviet ruling class. This class owes its existence, indirectly, to the original Bolsheviks, says Voslensky--but the connection is strained. Ideologically, the idea of a leadership stratum directing the working class toward socialism was laid out by Lenin in his creation of a vanguard party; those revolutionaries took over the post-revolutionary society. Today's nomenklatura, however, are the direct descendants of Stalin's transformation of the Communist party bureaucracy into an agency of personal rule. His purges eliminated the Bolshevik ruling class and replaced it with one that owed its allegiance to the bureaucracy. This is a ruling class based on power rather than wealth (it is wealthy because it is powerful); and for that reason Vosiensky thinks--quite problematically--that the Soviet leadership has a built-in tendency toward world domination, the ultimate power. It also has a tendency toward crisis at the top-the top spot being the only one for which there is no higher authority. The nomenklatura is parasitic; mostly inept; and accustomed to the perquisites of power--increasingly, the ability to pass its positions on to its children, the sure mark of a ruling class. This is all unremarkable enough to anyone with at least some acquaintance with recent profiles of Soviet society, and Vosiensky's informal style doesn't quite compensate for either the repetition of his theme or the obviousness of the message. Respectable--but little advance on Hedrick Smith.

Pub Date: Aug. 17th, 1984
Publisher: Doubleday