Mikhail Gorbachev has been eulogised by sections for bringing end to cold war, giving Socialism new perspective an formulating Glasnost and Persetroika.At the time it caused great confusion within the International Communist camp and gave an impression that Gorbachev was creating another revolution. Gorbachev did everything under the sun to undo any remnants of the soviet socialist system and de-construction of the USSR. Basically he was mascot for imperialism and capitalism.
Even if not formally dismantling the party structure Gorbachov launched a tirade against many of Leninist principles, failing to gauge the seeds sown of capitalist restoration and revisionism by Khrushchev. A recent article has projected that we have to reject concept of institutionalised party, unlike Communist parties of today, but makes no reference to the Great Proletarian Revolution in China or Antonio Gramisci earlier.
Gorbachev completely compromised with Western Imperialism in the name of concluding Cold War, supporting influx of greater Western capital in 3rd world countries and undertaking no programme to subvert imperialist relations of erstwhile USSR with 3rd world countries. What Gorbachev undertook was capitalist solution to a capitalist crisis unlike the New Economic Policy of Lenin.
However benevolent was his objective of establishing peace with the West and terminating Nuclear War, he was ignorant of Lenin’s teaching that only Revolution could prevent Imperialist War.
The organised movement in India in 1990 -91 to defend Socialism and expose Gorbachev are fresh in my mind organised of Indian Communist Revolutionary groups, after the fall of the regimes of Eastern Europe. They left no stone unturned in exposing how Russia had diverted to the capitalist road after 1956, and projecting the positive achievements of the Socialist era. It made clear to everyone the extent to which revisionism of traditional Communist parties had caused havoc to the Communist Movement in India and worldwide.
To an extent through channel s of Glasnost and Perestroika Gorbachev positively projected how dissent or individual freedom had to be given a voice, even within a Socialist state. He traced instances when artists., musicians, poets and writers were suppressed in the Stalin era. Even in his books of Perestroika in 1988 he illustrated how dogmatism was predominant feature. but still recognised the positive features of Lenin’s state. He was also self –critical of Russia’s subjugation of East European countries and invasion of Afghanistan. Gorbachev expressed positive words towards the Nicaraguan revolution and was critical of American intervention there. After introducing Perestroika more Communist party members were rehabilitated who were wrongly convicted in the Stalinist purges. Banned novel ’Dr Zhivago’ novel was now permitted in bookstalls or even religious works like ‘Bhagavad Gita “ .However we must demarcate individual freedom from collective freedom.
Gorbachev took over mantle of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, CPSU, in March 1985 and shortly thereafter was named President of the USSR. It was a time when economic, political, social and moral problems were soaring. In the 1970s, the growth rate of national income fell by more than 50% and in the early 1980s it almost reached zero. Corruption was on ascendancy; there was talk of a “second economy” to designate what is known as the “black market,” in which officials at the highest level of the State and leaders of the party were involved. The health system was in shambles; housing was overcrowded; the rates of alcoholism in the population were soaring; people’s life expectancy was reduced and mortality was intensifying.
The roots of capitalism was ressurrected in the former USSR with the coup d’état undertaken by Nikita Khrushchev and his clique in 1956, after the death of Joseph Stalin (1953). Over the years, the successes achieved by socialism in all fields under Lenin and Stalin were undone and capitalist laws and forms of production were enforced.. So much so that Leonid Brezhnev (who succeeded Khrushchev) said that “no one lives on their salary alone,” referring to the existence of the “black market” and the social strata that depended on private economic activity for their income.
Gorbachev, when he assumed the leadership of the party and state, obviously disguised his role as an open patroniserr of capitalist re-establishment; he said that his goal was to establish an “efficient, productive and democratic socialism,” and thus led to the disintegration of the USSR.
The economic and political reforms that crystallised the reversal of socialism initiated by revisionism four decades earlier to the highest point, were made formal l in July 1987. A year earlier they were sanctioned at a Party congress, but as early as 1984, in a speech to the ideological working group of the Central Committee of the Party, Gorbachev stressed the imperative role of information opening (glasnost) and the restructuring of the economic system (perestroika).
Gorbachev’s objective was to install a capitalist market economy, eliminate control over state enterprises, which could now determine what to produce, what quantity to produce and the prices in the market based on consumer demands; a new law on cooperatives restored private ownership to companies in services, manufactures and sectors linked to foreign trade; foreign trade was liberalized. This reversed process of industrialisation and the privatization of state-owned enterprises. In 1994, when the USSR no longer existed, 70% of the assets in Russia came from the private sector.
In league with the pro-capitalist reforms was glasnost (transparency), which intended to liberalise the media but in reality it was a channel to open the tirade of anti-communist propaganda, spurred by the most pro-capitalist sectors. The historical distortion of the process of building socialism in the USSR was one of the targets and, particularly, the unwarranted attacks against Stalin were taken to a crescendo.
Gorbachev formulated d perestroika as a revolution constructed within the revolution, with goal of intensifying socialism and more democracy; in reality it was a counter-revolution within the framework of a counter-revolution. The economic and social problems widened , the USSR fell into morass of political chaos, the demands of the workers and the people were flung into the grave and some Soviet republics demanded secession.
On December 25, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev broadcast a live message on television declaring his resignation from the presidency of the Republic. It was inevitable; He had completed lost grip over the situation in the country; days earlier the Washington Post called him the leader of a kingdom in the air.The collapse of USSR in 1991 was a virtual inevitability.
The international bourgeoisie heaped praises for what Gorbachev did. None other than George Bush Sr. said that “the revolutionary transformation of a totalitarian dictatorship and the liberation of its people from its suffocating embrace” had taken place. If the most powerful imperialist head of state on the planet said that, it is because Gorbachev’s services to world capitalism were enormous.”
Gobbachev was an arch enemy of Communism. Quoting Gorbachev in an interview in Turkey in 1999 “My ambition was to liquidate communism, the dictatorship over all the people. Supporting me and urging me on in this mission was my wife, who was of this opinion long before I was. I knew that I could only do this if I was the leading functionary. In this my wife urged me to climb to the top post. My ideal is the path of social democracy
World without communism is going to be much better. After year 2000 the world will be much better, because it shall develop and prosper. But there are countries which shall try to struggle against this. China for one. I was in Peking during the time of the protests on Tienanmen Square, where I really thought that Communism in China is going to crash. If Communism would fall in China, all the world would be better off, and on the road to peace.”
“Then Yeltsin broke up the USSR and at that time I was not in the Kremlin, all the newspaper reporters asked me whether I shall cry? I did not cry, because I really managed to destroy Communism in the USSR, and also in all other European Socialist countries.The liquidation of the USSR is not beneficial to the USA, since they have now no mighty democratic country (the former USSR) which I wanted to call the Union of Independent Sovereign Republics. I could not accomplish all of this. “
We have to remember that whatever gross errors Stalin committed he was a firm adherent of Marxism –Leninism, placing Socialism on it’s feet, braving all odds. His five year plans and collectivisation were remarkable achievements, with Russia achieving record production in Iron and Steel ‘, surpassing literacy rates of all Western countries, eradicating unemployment and introducing the world’s best health system. It is worth recalling the praise of personalities like George Bernard Shaw, Sydney and Beatrice Webb or even Jawaharlal Nehru. In recent times Marxists like Joseph Ball summed up the achievements of USSR under Stalin. Bourgeois historian E.H.Carr held achievements of Soviet in great esteem.
Grover Furr undertook invaluable research exposing how many victims of the purges in USSR were executed by the Left Opposition and not Stalin and how Khrushchev virtually lied about Stalin. Most intensively Furr dug into the archives to investigate how even Leon Trotsky launched a conspiracy against Stalin, and why in many case it was imperative for Stalin to put to trial and punish many conspirators. The background of the mass terror should be dialectically grasped, in light of the conspiracy of counter-revolutionaries. True, innocent members perished and Stalin failed to realise that Socialism had not been completely won, with strong capitalist elements still penetrating the State. He neglected the superstructure and failed to encourage mass movements to deal with opposition from below to check revisionism. Unable to grasp that contradictions persisted within a Socialist state. Stalin violated democratic centralism, failing to generate democracy from below to generate sufficient debate. George Thomson projects how he only used the secret police to overpower counter revolutionaries and not people’s resistance.
Marxists need to recall the experience of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, where for the first time a revolution was undertaken within a Socialist state itself or a revolt within a Communist party. Khrushchev had dismantled the collective farms, introduced concept of private profit and private plot, welcomed consumerism and terminated support to national liberation struggles.Grover Furr and Vijay Singh have evaluated Khrushchev as a Trotskyite supporter, which is invaluable information.
Furr speaks of opposition conspiracies within the Soviet Union, or of holes and outright falsifications in the official story of Katyn. Evidence was illustrated of defendants of the Moscow Trials being involved in terrorist conspiracies to overthrow the Soviet government and assassinate officials. He also exposes the lie that Kirov was killed by Stalin .
Quoting Yiri Yemilianov “Furr projected examples of how Stalin involved as many competent persons as possible in the decision-making process and provided conditions for open and profound discussions from divergent points of view on all important subjects. Furr shows that a number of Party functionaries including Khrushchev fought against Stalin’s attempts to change the composition of the whole body of the Soviet administrators.. Stalin wanted to put an end to such rotten practices and bring about the greater democratisation of the Soviet society. The efforts of Stalin and his supporters in the Politburo in this direction were expressed in the USSR (‘Stalin’) Constitution of 1936. The Constitution put an end to the inequality in representation between city-dwellers and villagers. Furr discloses the complicated and contradictory character of the USSR political crisis of 1937 – 1938. The scholar shows that a number of high Party officials opposed the changes urged by Stalin since they were afraid to lose their posts during the elections. Furr discloses the complicated and contradictory character of the USSR political crisis of 1937 – 1938. That is why they insisted on reprisals against those who might challenge them under the pretext of preventive measures against possible anti-Soviet elements.”
Today arguably the revolutionary contingent within the International Communist camp has to further develop concept of democratisation of the Leninist Communist party, to check bureaucracy and promote spirit of dissent or debate. Even the Cultural Revolution in China filed to establish such party that overcame bureaucracy completely and created mass democracy from below. Lenin in his own time evaluated bureaucracy with Soviets, and was likely to undertake a cultural revolution. A weakness prevails in the name of Maoism on harshly condemning Stalin in practice and theory. In my view we have to study and respect the analysis of the Stalinists, but also detect their flaws on evaluation of Stalin, giving no criticism to the mass terror of the 1930’s.Nor is the Maoist Cultural Revolution theory complete on developing a truly democratic society and Communist party.
Harsh Thakor is a freelance Journalist who has undertaken extensive research on International Communism