Staunton, January 11 – Mikhail Gorbachev’s current call for the “perestroika” of the international system is just as much a “cynical political scam” as was his original one, something that led many to conclude he wanted something more than just a more effective form of “authoritarian modernization,” according to Yevgeny Ikhlov.
With the passage of time and given what has happened in Russia over the last 15 years, Gorbachev’s reign has been “unusually romanticized” by those who prefer not to notice that “the essence of perestroika was the preservation of monopoly power of the communist nomenclature while seriously broadening the opportunities for consumption for the elite and sub-elites.”
And many still are inclined to forget that the Soviet president did so in order to “enter into the world democratic establishment and re-legitimize his power through a certain ideological maneuver” while avoiding “the danger of revenge from the neo-Stalinist ‘fundamentalist’ win in communist parties.
Whatever democracy Russians received in August 1991 was the result not of Gorbachev’s plans but rather of “the democratic revolution which began two and a half years earlier.” This was the recapitulation of what happened in 1905 when civil society was legalized in the Russian Empire “not because of Witte’s reforms but the October political strike.”
Gorbachev’s much-ballyhooed market reforms, Ikhlov argues, simply “gave the opportunity to directors and minister to privatize profit while leaving the state with the costs.” And his political reforms at bottom represented a chance for people to “freely choose between the first and second secretaries of the region party committees.”
The place where Gorbachev’s perestroika was successful – as Andrey Amalrik anticipated in his writings – was in the non-European republics of the USSR where the regimes were converted from totalitarian to “market-totalitarian” combined with “a geopolitical and foreign economic re-orientation toward the West.”
Ikhlov points out that there have been many examples of liberal and democratic reforms in “despotic non-market societies,” but trying to do what Gorbachev did, “replacing the decorations while preserving the totalitarian and non-market essence” of the state was “a scam” and one destined to fail.
What Gorbachev was trying to do, the Moscow commentator says, was equivalent to what would have been the case if Mussolini had been replaced by “’the young and progressive’” Ciano who would then “begin to speak about excesses in foreign and domestic policy and invoke the words of Gramschi at meetings and erect a statue of him in the Grand Fascist Council.”
As far as Russia is concerned, Ikhlov says, “even Stolypin’s reforms were more radical than perestroika to the extent that they created in the country a new social category – a large class of free land owners.”
Examined “outside of the cascade of democratic and national-democratic revolutions in the republics of the USSR and in Eastern Europe,” he continues, “perestroika was only and exclusively the change of political and ideological decorations significantly less broad in comparison with those which existed than were even the those of Khrushchev’s thaw.”
This should have been clear at the time, but it wasn’t. In October 1987, Boris Yeltsin began to speak out about what he called babbling about perestroika. He was immediately attacked by both conservative and progressive wings of Gorbachev supporters because Yeltsin “did not understand” that this babbling was “not the profanation of perestroika but its essence.”
Now, Gorbachev is doing the same thing in foreign affairs, Ikhlov says. “On what basis should a totalitarian Soviet empire have a voice in the decisions of democratic nations, who defeated communism, on global issues? On what basis should the Putin ‘federation’ … an aggressor country have the right to define the principles of a new world order?
There is of course one way in which Gorbachev is “in principle correct,” Ikhlov concludes. “Only such cynical hypocrisy could deserve to be called ‘the perestroika of international relations.”