Analysis Of The Significance Of Mikhail Gorbachev Politics
In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev was elected as general secretary of the Soviet Union. With this earned power, Gorbachev sought to establish major economic and political reforms in order to fix the damage the era of stagflation had done to the country. At the time of his election, the country was struggling to care for its citizens, so in order to help combat these problems Gorbachev introduced two new policies. The first policy that was implemented by Gorbachev was titled Glasnost or when translated into english meant ‘transparency’. The second policy that was implemented and the most significant one that helped lead to the downfall of the Soviet Union was titled Perestroika or when translated to english means 'restructuring’. This policy that intended to reform the country and to bring it out of its current state would ultimately fuel its downfall and led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 31, 1991. This essay investigates the effects of Perestroika on the economy and will detail and assess the role that the policy played in the collapse of the USSR in 1991.
The Soviet Union during 1985, was in complete disarray due to various external and internal factors. Some of the main factors that were causing this instability within the Soviet Union was the centralized economy, the crippling military budget and the OPEC embargo. Throughout the 1970s, the Soviet Union had a highly centralised command economy. While at first this form of economy did not pose a problem, it would later be too hard to control seeing as the country was expanding at a rapid rate. This led Alexi Kosygin, a ukranian economist, to suggest that the Soviet Union get rid of the centralized government and to move back to a profit based economy. While this did stimulate the economy for a short period of time it would later prove to be ineffective which would lead the Soviet Union into the era of stagnation. The term, era of stagnation, was coined by Mikhail Gorbachev after he witnessed the effects that these factors had on the economy and on the country itself. When Gorbachev entered office in 1985, he made plans to change the current economic state of the Soviet Union with his new policy Perestroika. According to Gorbachev’s book, Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World, he says “In short, we need broad democratisation of all aspects of society. That democratisation is also the main guarantee that the current processes are irreversible… We want to invigorate the human factor.” (Mikhail Gorbachev) In essence, Gorbachev’s new plan called for significant changes regarding the decentralisation of the Soviet Economic policy.
Perestroika in many ways was one of the main causes for the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Perestroika as defined by the historian Robert Grogin, was designed to cure the economic inertia, overhaul the bureaucracy, the Communist Party, and even the military, and so make the country more competitive. The restructuring of the Soviet economy came to include a partial reduction of the central planning system, the introduction of market mechanisms, an emphasis on quality, the more efficient employment of labor, and the infusion of new investment and technologies into industry. While Gorbachev’s intentions for reform were pure and honest, they eventually brought the demise of the empire. In the document written by the CIA in 1988, they provide a detailed analysis regarding perestroika and highlight potential failures of the policy and speculate the outcome of the nation. According to the document, there were three long term problems that could arise if Gorbachev continued to push his aggressive economic reform policy, problems facing industrial modernization, revitalizing management, and dealing with finite resources. Another thing mentioned in the document is Gorbachev’s idea of implementing capitalism into their ‘communist’ system. He wanted to redefine the idea of communism in his own way which gave people false hope and which ultimately lead to widespread unrest within the Soviet Union
In addition to this Gorbachev enacted many different half policies in an attempt to fix the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Archives, it details the half policies of Perestroika that Gorbachev enacted which eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Among these the most notable were the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan in February of 1989, the emancipation of Germany with the removal of the Berlin wall, and the end of the Warsaw Pact. The document also detailed the effects of Gorbachev’s futile attempts of establishing a market economy. The document details how the attempt not only didn’t work but it also caused lines for scarce goods in stores to rise dramatically and civil unrest to peak. This soon led to many different coups and revolutions which in turn caused the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the formation of the commonwealth of independent states.
Although Gorbachev did cause many of the problems that would ultimately lead to the demise of the union, it can be argued that the Soviet Union was already on course to fail. According to political scientist Robert Knight’s book, Stalinism in Crisis, he believes that the flaws of the Soviet Union were caused by the Centralized planning and were never undercome. He believed that Perestroika only expedited the fall of the Soviet Union and that the centralized planning of the economy and the excessive overspending on the military during the Cold War era was the major flaw of the Soviet Union. However, economist Victor Kuzentsov, argues in his essay “The Economic Factors of the USSR’s Disintegration”, that while the centralized economy and the excessive spending did cause many problems, the Soviet Union was still considered moderate in the eyes of the world. He believes that it wasn’t until Gorbachev’s half policies that the Soviet Union truly began to collapse.
In conclusion, Gorbachev’s policy of perestroika was a significant factor in the decline and dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. In addition the half policies created from perestroika played a vital role in the economic decline of the country and the beginning of the revolutions which would ultimately lead to the Soviet Union’s collapse.