This essay argues that the definition of the USSR's political system as a “party-state,” ignores the crucial difference between the majority of the members of the CPSU who hold positions in the Soviet state and the minority who are full time party officials with no such position and who regard themselves as the natural leaders of the party as a whole. To highlight this distinction, this essay defines the party officials as the “inner party” and the party members who man the state as the “outer party” and focuses on the ongoing dispute among party officials over the most effective way to provide leadership of the Soviet state. This conflict is expressed indirectly in the published discussion of the relative importance of officials' “internal work” (personnel management, verification of fulfillment and ideological education) and their “economic work” the close supervision of state agencies' administration of the five year plans. The essay briefly summarizes Stalin's own formulations on the subject, the conflict between Malenkov and Zhdanov over this issue from 1939 to 1948, and the ongoing debate among officials after the reform of the departments of the Secretariat in 1948. The bulk of the essay analyzes the widely divergent views of officials' priorities presented at the Nineteenth Congress of the CPSU in October 1952. It concludes that Western scholars have generally underestimated the role of the Congress in the creation of the political oligarchy that ruled the USSR after 1953.