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Soviet Union

Commissions

At the September 30, 1988, plenum of the Central Committee, the CPSU announced that six new commissions would be formed to develop policy and oversee its implementation in a series of key areas. A resolution of the November 1988 plenum that actually established the commissions maintained that their purpose was to "facilitate the involvement of Central Committee members and candidate members in active work on major directions of domestic and foreign policy."

Several factors led to the formation of these new party bodies. First, Gorbachev probably sought to strengthen reformist influence at the top of the party hierarchy. Second, the move was designed to reduce the party's day-to-day involvement in the economy. Thus, only one of the six commissions was concerned with economic policy, while another dealt with agriculture. Finally, Gorbachev's desire to reduce the power of his conservative rival, Ligachev, also helped to explain the move. Prior to September 1988, Ligachev had been the party's second secretary, the official who usually chaired meetings of the Secretariat. By limiting the influence of the Secretariat and by placing Ligachev in charge of agriculture--the Achilles heel of the economy--Gorbachev eliminated Ligachev as a competitor for power.

As of May 1989, the actual work of the commissions belied the significance the party attached to them. In their first six months, none of the commissions had met more than once. All the communiqués reporting on their meetings have been devoid of substance.

Data as of May 1989