Chapter

Gorbachev and Political Transformation

Archie Brown

in The Gorbachev Factor

Published in print August 1997 | ISBN: 9780192880529
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598876 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0192880527.003.0006
Gorbachev and Political Transformation

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A central thesis of the book, elaborated especially in this chapter, is that from the outset of his General Secretaryship, Gorbachev was seriously interested in political change as well as in economic reform, but that in the course of the struggle to introduce it, he came to the realization that reform was not enough and that the political system had to be comprehensively transformed. The chapter discusses six stages of transformation between March 1985 and December 1991 as well as the fourfold nature of the transformation that was required: first, the movement from authoritarianism to political pluralism; second, the need to move from a command economy with virtually 100% state ownership of the means of production to a market economy with a substantial private sector; third, the need to create a genuine federation or a looser confederation in place of the pseudo‐federalism in which the aspirations of the more self‐conscious nations within the Soviet borders had been ruthlessly suppressed; and, fourth, the need to transform foreign policy. The dilemma for Gorbachev was that the fourfold transformation was an interlinked process: any three of these basic changes were likely to be undermined by the absence of a fourth; yet, as each was implemented to a greater or lesser degree, its side effects produced complications in the other spheres. Among the political changes analysed are the breakthrough represented by the Nineteenth Party Conference of 1988, the movement from party to state power, the advent of contested elections for a new legislature, the indirect election by that legislature of Gorbachev as President, and the failure to split the Communist Party.

Keywords: authoritarianism; Communist Party; federation; foreign policy; Mikhail Gorbachev; legislature; market economy; Nineteenth Party Conference; pluralism; presidency

Chapter.  33941 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Politics

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