After Perestroika

K. S. Karol


I find it difficult to speak calmly of 'real problems and false solutions' in the former USSR. The theme arouses too many passions for it to be reduced to economic and social factors alone. Even at its most critical of the Soviet experiment, the Western Left has always had to define itself in relation to the Revolution of October 1917, which was the product of a common socialist culture. Despite the polemics, the hope that both branches of the tree would one day unite never disappeared totally. With the coming to power of Mikhail Gorbachev, that hope became much more substantial from 1985 onwards. Resolved to democratize society, the new leader made a brave attack on the dogmas of a Marxism-Leninism that had become anachronistic. If Gorbachev could succeed in his attempt, it did seem that this time the USSR would be able to transform itself, if not into a truly socialist society - the heritage of the past was too burdensome for that - at least into a transitional society which would no longer give socialists and communists of the whole world cause to blush. The scale of the project - and of its likely repercussions - explains the disappointment felt by the left when it failed. Twice betrayed by his supporters in 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev has been removed from power, and the USSR has ceased to exist. It has splintered into fifteen Republics, two of which are already at war with one another and three of which are being torn apart by civil wars, whilst the other ten are embroiled in chaos. The CPSU, which had as many as 19 million members, has vanished into thin air almost overnight, like a groupuscule. How could this happen? Can we speak of a new 'Russian Revolution'?

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