Union Essay, Research Paper
Three equally powerful and great forces eroded at the Soviet Union and created a sense of desperation that eventually brought the country to the knees of capitalism. The economic dire straits that plagued the country for so may years, the innate failure of Communism as a political idea for the twentieth century and a weak central government, amalgamated to create an atmosphere of nervousness and uncertainty which eventually led to the fall of Communism.
By the middle of 1991 the Soviet Union s economy had plummeted drastically. Foreign trade was down 32 per cent. The 1991 budget deficit planned to be 26 billion rubles was now estimated at 125 billion. GNP in the first quarter of 1991 was down by 10 per cent. Living standards were estimated to have fallen by between 15 and 20 percent.
On July 22 1987 The Guardian, a British newspaper, published a document secretly circulated amongst some of the elite in November 1986:
The Soviet Union lags 10 to 15 years behind the capitalist countries in its economic development and this lag is growing…the Soviet people s standard of living is one of the lowest in the industrially developed world…Low pay is vitiated by difficult living conditions. Chronic shortages of basic foodstuffs like meat, milk and butter in a number of areas, and frequent stoppages of products all together in others have a bad effect on people s health, especially children s, and create an atmosphere of nervousness and uncertainty with people wasting their free time, and taking time off work to search for food…the USSR is now on the path of becoming an underdeveloped nation.
In 1987-88, the Reagan administration in the US launched a massive escalation in the arms race known as Star Wars . This policy aimed to put weapons into orbit which would provide an effective shield against an attack by intercontinental missiles. In reality, even for the USA this was a prohibitively expensive strategy. For the USSR it meant that if its nuclear arsenal was to maintain even the appearance of being an effective deterrent, there would have to be an increase in investment. The military and weapons sector of the economy was however already absorbing a crippling portion of the country s resources.
By the mid-1980s, it had become painfully obvious – not just to the Soviet leadership but to the average citizen – that the Soviet Union could no longer postpone the choice between guns and butter. That is to say, the Soviet Union could no longer pursue an approach of increasing defense spending while also indulging consumers through an extensive social support network. In trying to satisfy these two conflicting and increasingly urgent demands, investment in infrastructure outside the military-industrial complex was neglected and the economy was left anemic and brittle.
The Soviet economy failed to satisfy the basic needs of the Soviet people, and fell behind the productivity of labor in the rest of the world. Because of this, an illegal economy grew in weight and social influence. Inevitably, the growth of the black market actually undermined and corrupted the official economy.
The bureaucratic command economy failed to deliver for the USSR, and it inevitably opened the door to the growth of capitalism in the form of illicit commodity trade, which in turn opened the way to the growth of organized crime – soviet capitalism .
The immunity of the bureaucracy from any kind of political or economic control and their privileged lifestyle, inherited from one generation to the next – all contributed to a bureaucratic culture utterly remote from the conditions of the masses, arrogant and deeply cynical. The working class meanwhile saw its living standards decline while isolated from workers in the developed capitalist counties whom they saw enjoying better living standards. This social gap called for change.
Here journalist Peter Pringle interviewed a Ukrainian miner, Igar, in Donbass:
The average life expectancy at the Oktyabrakaya mine is 38 years, and each miner who has worked more than 10 has lung disease. Igor s flat was two small rooms and a tiny kitchen and bathroom for himself, his wife and two children. His boy, 10, dreams of being a pilot or an astronaut says Igor, But its hopeless. To enter an institute of higher learning you have to bribe a party official and I don t have the money.
The Soviet Union has never spent excessive amounts of money on the military because it always promoted the fight for universal disarmament of arms, for the banning of nuclear weapons forever, and for every partial step in this direction. In the Soviet Union, the class gap never existed because the workers had always been satisfied with their conditions. The workers in the USSR had industrial freedom, which meant they had a share in the ownership of the industry and a share in the determination of their working conditions.
The foreign policy of the Soviet Union, together with that of other socialist countries, was aimed at securing favorable international conditions…firmly repelling the aggressive forces of imperialism and delivering mankind from the threat of a new world war.
This is an incorrect assessment of Soviet policy. Marxist regimes pursue military might as an expression of their basic character, not in response to a particular foreign or domestic policy or aim.
As for freedom for the workers, this is also an unrealistic goal for communists. Wage and price controls are at the very heart of Communism. You can t have a totalitarian government without wage and price controls and you can t have a free country with them. Why? You cannot impose slavery upon people who have economic freedom. As long as people have economic freedom they will be free. As soon as they loose it they inevitably become slaves to the government and the political machinery that is suppose to feed them.
Marxist-Leninist policies were derived from a basic misjudgment of history and from a fatal misconception of human nature. Communism failed to take into account the basic human craving for individual freedom, for artistic or spiritual self-expression.
The Communist operational style helped to produce political systems that contained no safety valves or early warning mechanisms. Signs of disquiet were inherently delayed in reaching the top of the political ladder. A leader held on to political power as long as he could physically and politically survive, and his replacement emerged normally through political conflict. The absence of mechanisms for changing rulers who performed poorly made the effective control of power, and not the success of failure of policy, the key measure for enduring leadership.
Communism misread the appeal of religion and was thus unprepared for the revival of Islam within the Soviet Union itself. The Communists incorrectly believed that religion would disappear as socialist society developed.
Karl Marx wrote in his infamous Manifesto:
Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions…a kind of spiritual vodka in which the slaves of capitalism drown their human shape and their claims to a decent life.
Marxist-Leninism did not anticipate or comprehend the basic forces that have shaped twentieth century s international affairs. Conflicts, were intensified by the resulting inclination of the Communist sides to view each other as doctrinal skeptics.
Anatoly Kuznetsov, a dissident Soviet author wrote:
Freedom in the Soviet Union has been reduced to the freedom to praise the Soviet system and the Communist Party and to urge people to fight for Communism.
The Soviet Union never promoted oppression or denounced expression of thought or belief. The Soviet constitution provided for the equality of the rights of citizens regardless of their nationality or race, and accorded all rights to women on equal footing with men. Freedom of the press found itself in the fact that the Communist Party, the Soviets, trade unions and other public organizations and professional unions had their own publications. Along with atheistic journals there were journals issued by the church of various religions. The rights and freedoms validated by the Soviet Constitution and ensured by social and economic conditions have become part and parcel of the life of the citizens of the Soviet state.
The constitution of the USSR stated that the Supreme Soviet of the USSR was to exercise supreme power in the country: to issue laws and to form and dissolve government, to be responsible to the people and to see to it that everyone s constitutional laws are protected. But in real life the Supreme Soviet of the USSR merely rubber stamped the decisions of the top Communist party organs. It was purely decorative to give the Soviet state a resemblance of democracy. Communism has never concealed the fact that it rejects all absolute concepts of morality. It considers morality to be too relative to be a class matter. Depending on the circumstances and the political situation, any act, including murder even the killing of thousands, could be good or bad. In theory the constitution promoted and protected individual freedoms, in practice it was quite a different story.