Socialism Betrayed: Behind the Collapse of the Soviet Union

Socialism Betrayed: Behind the Collapse of the Soviet Union

by Roger Keeran, Thomas Kenny
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Socialism Betrayed 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
willyvan More than 1 year ago
This is the best book yet on the Soviet Union's collapse. Roger Keeran is a professor at SUNY/Empire State College and Thomas Kenny is an economist. Between 1975 and 1985, the Soviet economy was still growing, if at a slower rate. The US war build-up strained the Soviet Union, it did not crush it. In 1985 and 1986, production rose by 2 per cent and consumption by 10 per cent. Economic decline started in 1987. In 1986, Gorbachev turned to the right, first in ideology, politics and foreign policy, then in economic policy, weakening central planning and state ownership. He and his supporters attacked the CPSU as neo-Stalinist, anti-Semitic and nationalist; they proposed 'new thinking', 'universal human values' and 'market socialism'. Keeran and Kenny write, "By weakening the CPSU, he relatively strengthened the Yeltsin camp, the separatists, the second economy, corrupt elements in the Party, the Russian mob and Western imperialism." Gorbachev's 1987 Law on Individual Labour Activity legitimised co-operatives that were really private enterprises. In 1988, these crime-infested fake co-operatives employed a million workers, a year later, five million. By 1991, 60 per cent of the co-operatives were run by former or active criminals. A new law allowed co-operatives to lease industrial property - a way of privatising state assets while keeping the pretence of public ownership. In December 1987, Gorbachev cut the state purchase of industrial output from 100 per cent to 50, so half of industry could buy and sell in a new wholesale market. This caused chaos: production fell, shortages grew, wages were not paid, and prices inflated for the first time since 1945. Keeran and Kenny write, "the key events of 1989-91 - the overthrow of socialist governments in Eastern Europe, the Party's destruction, the rise of the 'democrat' opposition, the deepening economic crisis, and the USSR's dismemberment. They were interacting processes. In the final analysis one process drove them all: the leadership's determination to end the dominant role of the CPSU which, even at this late date, remained a latent obstacle to Gorbachev's policies." Gorbachev opened the door for Boris Yeltsin who in 1992 imposed the infamous 'shock therapy' on the economy. By 1994, industrial production was down to half 1991's already disastrous level. Historian Stephen Cohen noted 'the unprecedented demodernisation of a twentieth century country'. Gorbachev's 'Third Way' had led straight to robber baron capitalism. The authors show that the Soviet Union's collapse was not due to any inherent flaw, nor to any internal economic crisis, nor to popular discontent, nor to lack of democracy, nor to US pressure. The collapse was not inevitable. As Fidel Castro observed, "Socialism did not die of natural causes: it was a suicide." As they sum up, "the Soviet collapse occurred in the main because of the policies that Mikhail Gorbachev pursued after 1986."