By Stephen White, Alex Pravda, Zvi Gitelman (eds.)

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Democratisation would unleash popular energy and enthusiasm, smashing conservative resistance to economic reform and revitalising the Soviet state, by debureaucratising the political system. An analogous process of transformation was to take place in the economic sphere, where bureaucratic direction would give way to market relations. Though previously the market had been regarded as a feature of capitalism which was anathema to socialism, Gorbachev and his supporters declared with increasing frankness that the market had a universalistic character.

Some kept no central register of members, and could therefore report no figures; others kept them secret; others still exaggerated them; and in all cases there was double counting. Some were centrally disciplined neo-Bolshevik parties and others were loose confederations that allowed the formation of fractions, even of communists, within their ranks. Taking these various circumstances into account, it was still clear that, by the early 1990s, no grouping of parties had emerged that could take the place of the formerly dominant CPSU.

An obscurity about objectives was compounded by some uncertainty on the part of the instrument that was supposed to realise those aims, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Traditionally, a centralised Marxist-Leninist party exercising a 'leading role' in the society had been taken as the single most important characteristic of a communist system. The role of a party of this kind, however, became more difficult to sustain in a society in which a wide range of political forces had taken advantage of the opportunities of 'socialist pluralism'.

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