Communism In Russia Essay Research Paper Communism

Communism In Russia Essay, Research Paper

Communism in Russia

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.


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 a

strong sexist attitude and women found it hard to find decent

employment, and most women were expected to also take care of

household duties as well. Women were also very scarce in government.

Relations among the different ethic grouped which lived within

the Soviet Union were very tense and sometimes openly hostile.

The fact that the Russian language was the language in which all

political transactions had to occur in and it was encouraged to

be learnt, with the purpose of trying to make a single Soviet culture

made this tension even stronger. The education system in the Soviet

Union also caused tension because it was set up around a motive to

teach students to be obedient to the Communist Party and to be Atheist

among other things. Also students were assigned jobs when they

graduated and this caused considerable stress on them because they had

to take the job assigned to them, and if it was an undesirable one it

could ruin their chances for advancement in the future. This was such

a tense issue that graduates were sometimes prone to commit suicide.

The health care system was under funded. Most hospitals were under

staffed and the equipment was outdated, medical supplies were also

scarce. This lead to the gradual decrease of the life expectancy of a

citizen. Poor standards of sanitation and public hygiene lead to an

increased annual death rate and a drop in the birth rate. All of these

factors in a way, lead to the disintegration of the Communist Regime,

taking into account all of the social problems and the years of

mismanagement of the countries resources, we can see why the economy

slowed and citizen support for the government diminished.

Boris Yeltsin was named President of Russia by the Russian

Republic’s Supreme Soviet in 1990. He immediately resigned from

the Communist party and declared Russia’s independence. In 1991 he

became the first President of the Russian Republic by popular vote. He

helped found the Commonwealth of Independent States, which ended any

attempts to preserve the USSR. He moved to end state control of the

economy, privatized most industries and among other things outlawed

the Communist Party.

Beginning in 1992 the conflict between Yeltsin and his political

opponents intensified. Yeltsin suffered a series of defeats at the

hands of the Russian Constitutional Court, chaired by Valeriy Zorkin.

The court overturned Yeltsin’s decree creating a Russian ministry of

security and internal affairs and lifted portions of Yeltsin’s ban on

the Soviet Communist party. In 1993 the court repealed his ban on the

National Salvation Front, a communist-nationalist organization that

had called for Yeltsin’s removal. In 1993 Yeltsin announced on

television that he had issued a decree declaring special presidential

rule. But when the decree was published there was no mention of

special presidential powers. Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoy sharply

criticized Yeltsin for issuing the decree and for using a referendum

to gain popular approval of reform policies. Yeltsin asked Rutskoy to

resign as vice president, and when Rutskoy refused, Yeltsin removed

Rutskoy’s powers of office, despite protests by the Supreme Soviet.

Yeltsin won the support of the majority of Russian voters who

participated in the April 1993 referendum, but the referendum did

little to end his power struggle with parliament. In September,

Yeltsin attempted to break the power deadlock by dissolving parliament

and calling for new parliamentary elections. “In turn, parliament

voted to impeach Yeltsin and swore in Rutskoy as acting president. Led

by Rutskoy and chairman of the Supreme Soviet Ruslan Khasbulatov,

hundreds of legislators and anti-Yeltsin demonstrators occupied the

parliament building in Moscow. On September 28 Yeltsin ordered troops

to barricade the parliament building, and in the following week

security forces, acting in support of Yeltsin, clashed with

pro-parliamentary demonstrators, who were mainly hard-line Communists

and nationalists. On October 4 Rutskoy and Khasbulatov surrendered. In

February 1994 they were granted amnesty by the lower house of

parliament, despite Yeltsin’s opposition.” In December 1994 Yeltsin

sent Russian military forces into the region of Chechnya, which had

declared its independence from Russia in 1991. Since that time Russia

had made only minor military efforts to reclaim Chechnya. This use

of military force is an example of the fact that true democracy can

not exist in Russia, these tactics are Soviet-era coercive measures.

During the bombing of Grozny Russian-speaking suffered as much as the

natives. This was demonstrated the worst of the Yeltsin Regime.

Yeltsin was using the war to expand his political base and appear as a

strong leader. Over 20,000 civilians died during this conflict, which

in a sense achieved nothing.

The Russian economy has been put through sweeping reforms which

have only proved to throw it into disarray. This mainly due to the

fact that because the Soviet government has no experience in

Democratic/Capitalist styles of governing, and the 70 plus years of

Communist rule has left a huge dent in the Russian economy. The old

style of government has left behind a legacy of corruption, price

distortions, inefficient public industries and financial instability.

This, combined with the need for much more extensive political reform

makes this task almost impossible. The process of democratization of

Russia occurred too quickly. This was done in hopes that the fast

privatization of industry would hinder any chance of re-nationalizing

the economy, and basically forcing this new change. At the same time

privatization has contributed greatly to the popular belief that this

new system is unjust. State assets were distributed disproportionately

to insiders, to people willing to circumvent the law, and in

some case to criminals. Official corruption and the lack of enforced

laws and clearly defined property laws has lead to public dissension.

One of Yeltsin’s greatest mistakes was moving economic reform ahead so

quickly while not addressing the need for immense political reform at

the same time.

The Russian economy is in disarray, and the standard of living

for the average citizen is as low if not lower than during the

Communist rule. This had bred many social problems which, in effect,

mirror those of the Communist administration. Religious and ethnic

animosity and the lack of proper education in this new political and

economic system has lead to public discontent and a rise in the

alcoholism problem. There has been recent improvements in the

distribution of wealth. There have been improvements in the

privatization process, especially in the building sector, this could

bring the expansion of small-scale property ownership, which is also

an important step towards private ownership. There is also a stronger

entrepreneurial spirit among lower class society. Yet with the lack of

any experience in private proprietorship and private business

practices the population of the Russian Federation is still not taking

to the new system. For too many years it was imprinted on them that

everything must be publicly owned. Much of this can to attributed to

the Communist tradition of not communicating with the public, which is

a core part of any democratic system, the public participation and

communication in and with government. With the apparent lack of public

participation in government, and in turn the lack of communication by

the government with the people we can see that the Russian Federation

is far from being democratic. The government acted too quickly in it’s

economic reforms with not enough practical experience in

Democratic/Capitalistic to pull it off. We saw that some of the major

contributing factors in the fall of communism was the dissension of

the citizens due to the fact that the government did not live up to

it’s promise of a better life and the failure of the government to

properly deal with social problems. The other factors were economic,

many of which we can see are apparent in the new system. In it’s

current situation we are seeing the same factors. Unless these

problems are addressed quickly and resolved effectively we will see

the decline of yet another Russian governmental system. On looking at

the past we can see that the Russian public must overcome many hurdles

in order for them to truly embrace Democracy and enjoy the promises of

a better life that it has made. The government must promote the

education of it’s citizens and communicate more efficiently with them.

There is a long road ahead for the Russian Federation in this enormous

task, and at this time it almost seems impossible.


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