The Reasons for the fall of Socialism/Communism and the Troubles of Starting the New Democratic System in the Russian Federation “Let’s not talk about Communism. Communism was just an idea, just pie in the sky.” Boris Yeltsin (b. 1931), Russian politician, president. Remark during a visit to the U.S. Quoted in: Independent (London, 13 Sept. 1989).
The fall of the Communist regime in the Soviet Union was more than a political event. The powerful bond between economics and politics that was the integral characteristic of the state socialist system created a situation that was unique for the successor states of the Soviet Union. The Communist regime was so ingrain in every aspect of Soviet life that the Russian people were left with little democratic tradition. Russia faces the seemingly impracticable task of economic liberalization and democratization. This is combined with the fact that the new administration must address human rights issues, such as living conditions and the supply of staple goods in this new form of administration makes the prospect of a full democratic switch seemingly impossible. To fully understand the scope of the transference of governing power in the Russian Federation, one must first look at the old Socialist/Communist regime, to see the circumstances under which it fell gives a good view of why this transference is almost impossible.
In the beginning Communism seemed to the people of Russia as a utopian ideal. The promise of the elimination of classes, of guaranteed employment , “The creation of a comprehensive social security and welfare system for all citizens that would end the misery of workers once and for all.” Lenin’s own interpretation of the Marxian critique was that to achieve Communism there would first have to be a socialist dictatorship to first suppress any dissent or protest. Through coercive tactics this new government seized power and in 1917 Lenin came to power. Under his “rule” the Soviet Union underwent radical changes in it’s economic doctrines adopting a mixed economy which was termed the New Economic Policy also referred to as NEP, this economy called for some private ownership of the means of production, but the majority of industry was made property of the people, which meant the majority of the means of production was controlled by the government. Lenin’s government made many achievements. It ended a long civil war against the remnants of the old Czarist military system and established institutions in government.
During this period, and in fact throughout the majority of the Communist rule, censorship and the subordination of interest groups such as trade unions was imposed to stop dissension and increase conformity to the new governments policies. Lenin died in 1924, and was quickly followed by Joseph Stalin as head of the Soviet Communist Party, the oppressive reforms started by Lenin were continued and at length became completely totalitarian. Stalin became the most powerful man in Russia. He controlled to bulk of all the political power and with that he started a ruthless campaign of removing all opposition to the Communist rule. During this period called the “Great Purge” Stalin systemically executed anyone who stood in his path. Millions of people were arrested and either harassed or killed.
The economic status of the Soviet Union was yet again changed and the entire system became controlled by the government. All private ownership ended. A mass program of industrialization was commenced, and the strength of the Soviet Military was substantially increased. The citizens during this period endured great hardship. Agricultural production output diminished resulting in food shortages, these shortages were enha! nce by the mass exportation of food, this was done to pay for industrial imports.
Stalin also put the production of what he called production goods such as manufacturing machinery over basic consumer goods such as clothes and other staples. During this period the Second World War broke out and drained most of what was left of the already impoverished state. Yet after the war national unity was strengthened as well is the Soviet military machine. The Soviet Union became a super power, the U.S. being the only country more powerful than it. After the death of Stalin in 1953 Nikita Khrushchev became First Secretary of the Communist party.
Stalin’s death marked the end of supreme power for the head of the party, and Khrushchev condemned Stalin’s actions as unnecessary and harmful to the process of moving the Socialist government to it’s goal of pure Communism. During this period the public was given a say in the government, albeit an extremely minor one, and the judicial system eased it’s aggressiveness allowing a defendant a better chance of defending themselves. Khrushchev concerned himself with bettering the plight of the individual, attempting to increase the supply of food and making goods such as home appliances, making automobiles somewhat available, and providing more housing. A new policy of efficiency and quality control was brought in. Leadership was somewhat decentralized to allow common managers and directors more power to run their production units.
Although Krushchev started a process of slight reform he was dismissed due to in part a massive shortage of grain and dairy products, and the fact that he had started to seize more power and “His efforts to streamline party organizations produced chaos and conflict among party administrators.” He was also blamed for the Russia “defeat” during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and of not accomplishing anything toward the reunification of Germany under East German rule. After the ousting of Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev became the Soviet Communist Party Secretary General in October of 1964. Under his administration the majority of the decentralization of power was destroyed bringing a centralized form of control back into effect. Krushchev’s denouncing of Stalin’s policies was criticized and slowly some of Stalin’s political disciplinary policies were restored. Stalin was named a war hero. There began an outright attack on dissidents from the literary and scientific community. During this time there was an inefficient use land, labour and resources which resulted in an economic slackening.
In this time what was supposed to ultimately be a classless society became classed as bureaucrats were paid for loyalty with material wealth, allowing them a better standard of living, because of this public interests were placed secondary to personal gain. The 1980’s saw a dramatic drop in the Soviet citizens already impoverished standard of living. This caused strikes and public outcry against the administration which threatened the stability of the Soviet Union. The people were angry at the fact that the Communist Party had not lived up to what it had promised which was in return for their obedience they would receive employment, free health care, and a level of comfort. March 1985 marks a turning point in the Communist rule of Russia. Mikhail Gorbachev is elevated to the position of General Secretary. He is aware of the current social upheaval occurring and that change must occur if Communism is to survive.
He begins a program called “Perestroika” which was the organizational restructuring of the Soviet economy and government apparatus. Gorbachev discovers that this change will depend on other changes, among others a more tolerant and open political environment , more public influence over governmental and military institutions. This called for major long term change of the political system. He began a policy called “Glasnost” which emphasized openness with regard to discussion of social problems and shortcomings. The purpose of these reforms was to elevate the Soviet standard of living in order to reaffirm the citizenry’s loyalties to the Communist party and to enable the rebirth of the Soviet economy and ideal.
State control was lo! osened and individual initiative encouraged. He expanded the authority of the Soviet presidency and transferred power from the Communist party to popularly elected legislatures in the union republics. In international affairs, he withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan, normalized relations with China, signed a series of arms control agreements with U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. During this period of change strong Nationalistic opinion started in the republics of the Soviet Union causing major upheaval.
In 1991, as the Soviet economy deteriorated, Gorbachev faced competing pressures from hard-line Communists, from free-market reformers, and from nationalists and secessionists seeking independence for their republics. The hard-liners, who included many top government officials, staged a coup in August, placing Gorbachev under house arrest, but within three days the reformers had restored Gorbachev to power. He immediately resigned as Communist party general se! cretary, suspended party activities, and placed reformers in charge of the military and KGB. After allowing Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to become independent republics. Nationalist forces became stronger in the republics as the year went on.
The USSR voted itself out of existence in December 1991, and Gorbachev resigned his position as president of the USSR. Under the Communist Regime there were immense social problems. In the period before Gorbachev all religion was dismissed. Although the citizens were still allowed to practice their religion it was made extremely difficult for them by the government and the official attitude towards religion was that it was a relic of the past and Atheism was encouraged. There was a substantial amount of alcoholism mostly due to the living and working conditions.
There was also a substantial amount of crime. There was extreme discrimination against women. There was …