World Politics

Research Article

Interest Groups and Communist Politics

H. Gordon Skillinga1*

a1 University of Toronto

The idea that interest groups may play a significant role in Communist politics has, until recently, not been seriously entertained either by Western political scientists or by Soviet legal specialists. The concept of “totalitarianism” that has dominated the analysis of communism in the West has seemed to preclude the possibility that interest groups could challenge or affect the single ruling party as the fount of all power. The uniqueness of a totalitarian system has been deemed to lie in the very totality of its political power, excluding, as it were by definition, any area of autonomous behavior by groups other than the state or party, and still more, preventing serious influence by them on the process of decision-making. Marxist theorists, starting from different presuppositions, have assumed that the single ruling party, the organization of the working class, best knew the “real” interests of the people as a whole, and have denied the possibility of fundamental conflicts of interest within the working class, or between it and associated friendly classes such as the peasantry. Within the ruling party itself, groups or factions opposing the leadership have not been admitted in theory or permitted in practice.

H. Gordon Skilling is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Centre for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Toronto. His books include Communism National and International: Eastern Europe After Stalin (1964) and The Government and Politics of Communist East Europe (1966), and he is now preparing a study of the history of Czechoslovak communism.

* This article is based on a paper delivered at the annual meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association, Vancouver, B.C., June 11, 1965. Appreciation is expressed to Professor Frederick C. Barghoorn, Yale University, and to my graduate students for their helpful comments.