The Party Activists
In the political opportunity structure of the Soviet Union, an important intermediate stage is that of the activist. Indeed, this stage is quite formalized, and its members collectively bear the surprisingly appropriate designation of ‘aktiv’. So institutionalized is this in the Soviet setting that every organization has, apparently, this aktiv of volunteers. Certainly the major structures such as the party, soviets, Komsomol, and trade unions do so. The party aktiv, comprising from one quarter to one third of the membership, is regarded, of course, as the most important of these. Western, particularly American, Sovietologists have already written about several aspects of the functioning of this group of activists — about how they are mobilized for various party tasks, how career types are represented among them (as well as what proportion of them are not mere activists but full-time apparatchiki), and the role they play in decision-making. The recruitment function of the party aktiv has, however, been overlooked. If it is accepted that the party selectors of decision-making personnel are, in fact, those choosing the Soviet political elite, then it is reasonable that the aktiv in closest proximity to those selectors must be their chief source of recruits, as the party literature indeed claims.
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- 1.See, for example, Merle Fainsod, How Russia is Ruled, rev. edn (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1964) pp. 215–34;Google Scholar
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- Philip D. Stewart, Political Power in the Soviet Union: A Study of Decision-Making in Stalingrad (Indianapolis and New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1968) ch. 5. To the research agenda of students of Soviet politics should be added the subject of the various non-Party activists.Google Scholar
- A first step in this direction, on the soviet aktiv, is Theodore H. Friedgut, Political Participation In the USSR (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1979) pp. 196–288.Google Scholar
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