After the death of Stalin, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union realized they had to prevent the rise of another dictator like him in the future. Yet the reforms and procedures put in place b the CPSU to avoid a new Stalin actually had the effect of stopping any dramatic change in leadership or reform within the leadership of the CPSU.
As the stagnation of the Brezhnev era increased, it became harder for one Soviet leader to make any important difference in the policies of the CPSU, much less become a dictator. The only thing the oligarchs in the CPSU were interested in was staying in power.
In March of 1985, nobody could really forsee the major changes that would soon shake the world and end the cold war. The selections of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko as successors to Brezhnev pointed out how out of touch the CPSU was with the rest of Soviet society. Yet then something remarkable occurred with a young and relatively unknown party member named Mikhail Gorbachev was chosen as the new General Secretary and everything in the Soviet Union turned upside down.
At first, it was difficult to see if Gorbachev was going to be any different in his rule than his predecessors. He wasnts going to be another Peter the Greater this was as formidable challenges of his administration had yet to come. First, Gorbachev had no road map in which to follow for his reform as no leader had sought to attempt the type of reform he was about to undertake. Second, Gorby faced a Politburo, Central Committee and nomenklatura that were in no mood for drastic changes as they saw any reformer as a direct challenge of their leadership positions. Lastly, Gorby must have realized that any major reform effort could threaten the entire system as any quick reforms may lead to a lost of control of the process.
The terror and repression of Stalin era and the suffocation of Brezhnev’s term had created a populace that was totally alienated from the party and state. To solve this problem, the mass need to be reengergised as such Gorbachev made some changes to the top party and state posts. At first, his job of restructuring was made easy due to many of the top positions of the state and party being occupied by old men who were hangovers from the Brezhnev era. These changes where not only for the benefit of the populace but was a way for Gorbachev to keep control of the leaders in the party’s upper echelons thus consolidating his position of power. Not only did he cause a shake up in party leadership but he even went so far as amending Article 6 of the USSR which brought about the end of parallel hierarchies. With this the CPSU lost it’s power over the main branch of the Executive which brought about a multiparty system which deviates from centralism within for which communism in grounded in.
Gorbachev’s political reform emphasized rule of law rather than a true democratic system. Contraty to what many state his glasnot reform did not allow for a complete democratisation as he was of the belief that the CPSU would remain the dominate force in directing state affairs with Marxist-Leninist thought as the guiding principle. Yet it can be noted that although glasnost was not true democracy it almost immediately went out of control. This could be seen were more and more persons within the soviet union began to openly question the system upon the passage on his glasnost policies.
During the glasnost period, nationalist movements among the country’s began to challenge the existent of the Soviet State. This was so as early Russian communist preached class identity over ethnic identity, however, now under Gorbachev, his behavior forced persons to call themselves, Lithuanians first or Armenians first rather than Soviets. As anti-Russian sentiment built up throughout the Soviet Union, the call for independence increased. The nationalities question would prove to be the breaking point for Gorby as it was a problem he could not solve. The backwardness of the republics hurted Gorbachev because a lot of the rural peasants in the rural republics actively resisted any call for reform or change. Meanwhile, those republics that were modernizing began to see that they wouldnt need the Russia.
The distrust of Gorbachev by the left and right was intensified due to his economic policy. In contrast to China, Gorby was unable to successfully juggle economic and political reform at the same time. Let it be noted China did not juggle both as it did not even attempt it and as such it can be noted to be a factor in why the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) still exist will the CPSU does not. Along with his reshuffling of party positions, Gorbachev began to criticize the stagnate Soviet bureaucratic state that was created during the Brezhnev era. Gorby had inherited a mess from Brezhnev. Heavy industry was the most efficient part of the Soviet economy, but even there, production was very low. The consumer sector was only worst off as it accounted for less than 15% of the Soviet’s Gross National Production. The source of this failure on Brezhnev part was due to the centrally planned economy. Economic decisions were being made by people at the top who didnt know anything about economics on the grassroots level.
Corruption was rampant by the time Gorbachev took office. This corruption emanating from the party’s power elites was the conducting of trade in the black market. With this many of the people became to distrust the Party and the bureaucracy. At first, Gorbachev tried to make minor changes to economic policy like with his anti alcohol programs however he soon saw that these minor changes were not enough. By 1987, Gorbachev and his followers were calling for nothing less than a full restructuring of the dying Soviet economy. Borrowing from Lenin’s New Economic Policy, he created his New Market Mechanism (NEM), under which restrictions on farms and factories were eased which allowed them to sell more of their products for profit.
The goal of Gorby’s economic reform (Perestroika) was to break the grip of the state and party bureaucracies on the Soviet economy by loosening the command style economy and allowing farmers or factory managers to start making profits on their products. This was intended to undermine the black market and improved the dreadful state of the Russian Consumer Economy. Like the opposition to glasnost, Gorbachev faced resistance from the nomenalature and the military who where the one to be mostly affected by his reforms. Instead of well thought out reforms, Gorbachev’s agenda involved trying to bridge the gap between socialist policies and capitalism, the results of which where disastrous. These poisonous policies led to a substantial drop in GDP by 1990 which made many people losing their entire income.
Whatever he did Gorbachev tried to prove that he was still a dedicated communist as be was of the belief that he could reform the system without transforming it. He like Khrushchev 30 years earlier, though that the cancer infecting the Soviet Union could be removed without destroying the Party. As like Khrushchev, Gorbachev would pay for that mistake the same way Khrushchev did but even worst; this can be seen where he was not only removed from power but is today noted the as the reason for the callaspe of his party. To many pro communist Gorby is considered a sellout who brought about the destruction of the USSR which they see as a result of him being bewitched by western capitalist states.
While the western capitalist states had to rethink their views on Russia in the pass few decades; it is important to note that one of the biggest and well armed nations happens also to be Communist China. Jiang Zemin and the CCP were in an almost opposite situation than what Gorby found himself in by the 1990s. Gorbachev tried to implement reform on all fronts which fall into three realms: economic, social and political. His economic reforms and the rise of the nationalist movement in the republics spiralled out of control leading to the fall of the USSR led by Mother Russia. China had learned from the lesson of the soviets and concentrated their reforms on the economy only. To get rich is Glorious! was the mantra of Deng Xiaoping and the CCP during the 80s but this was on the condition that nobody should challenge the power and authority of the CCP.
The CCP with the help from the Soviet Union, emerged in the early 1920’s as one of the forces in China attempting to save its nations from civil war, backwardness and foreign domination. Its not surprising that a lot of young people would look towards Marxism as a way to save their country. Marx’s analysis of people being oppressed and Lenin’s emphasis on imperialism, appealed to young Chinese intellectuals even though both Lenin and Marx represented more a western philosophical teaching. Ironically, the defeat of the CCP in the Shanghai Massacre created the conditions for the rise of the most influential leader in China’s 20th Century. The political, military, economic and backwardness of China was as beneficial to Mao Zedong rise.
Although Mao would later have problems with the USSR, which could be seen as he wasnt on speaking terms with Khrushchev or Bresznchev; he initially had to depend on them for help in consolidating his power after taking over China in 1949. Upon solidifying power, Mao crushed the opposition to communist rule and nationalised the Chinese economy. Mao did not hide his brutality as he stated that political power grows out of a barrel of a gun. Thousands of people were either killed or sent to re-indoctrination camps. No unions, parties or organisations were allowed to exist outside the CCP. Through his decision of nationalising China’s industry and collectivizing the farms, Mao was able to breathe some life back into China’s economy. China’s first fews years saw massive aid coming out of Russia which in-turn brought about a tremendous economic growth.
In the early 1960’s, following the failure of his Great Leap Forward (GLF), Moa took a less active role in Party affairs, leaving the major economic decisions up to Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. Both these men called for economic moderation and placed more emphasis on the bureaucracy and the market system when dealing with economic matters. As such it can be noted that that their guidance, the CCP moved from radicalism to moderation. By the mid 1960’s, Moa reinserted himself into the economic affairs of the state. He noted that China and the CCP was once again deviating from the socialist path and was heading down the road to capitalism. In 1966, Mao launched a new campaign designed to reenergize the revolution and destroy any uptake in in the capitalism movement. Like the GLF, the Cultural revolution was a campaign based upon mass mobilization yet this campaign goes beyond the GLF as it was more violent and emphasized political purity rather than an economic development.
By 1969, the CR was getting out of control; this was as Maoist and anti-Maoists began to take their war from speech to the streets. These radical actions cause many persons to leave the CCP and caused economic activities to come to a stand still. The last phase of the CR also represented the end of Mao radical political reign. Yet it must be noted that although many of Mao’s Wartime Policies, Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution were brutal and more political oriented, they did lay the ground work for a strong Chinese political apparatus and a Country ready for an economy revolution.
Upon the death of Mao, the Gang of Four were arrested and sentenced to long prison times which in turn led to the end of the blood stricken Cultural Revolution. During this time of transition, the Leaders of China called Deng Xiaping out of exile to lead the country to economic prosperity. Although economic development was always a goal of the People Republic of China, this time under Deng, it would be implemented without the idealogical constraints of Maoism. Deng was initially faced a dilemma whether to de-emphasise Maoism quickly, as Khrushchev did with Stalin or wait out the transitional period.
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