Communist Party’s Monopoly Broken in Soviet Union
A dizzying series of events from late 1989 to 1991 marked the collapse of the Soviet Union as a unified power. In six months, from August 1989 to January 1990, six Warsaw Pact countries embraced a multi-party system of government, abandoning the monopolistic Communist one-party control: Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. The Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989.
Then on Feb. 7, 1990, after a tense and divisive three-day meeting, the 250-member Central Committee of the Communist Party decided to give up its constitutionally-guaranteed monopoly of power in the Soviet Union, agreeing to Mikhail Gorbachev’s reform proposals of a Western-style government consisting of a strong presidency and a cabinet, with a representative parliament and multi-party elections. During the next several weeks following this decision, all 15 constituent republics of the U.S.S.R. held competitive elections for the first time. The Soviet Union dissolved on Dec. 8, 1991. It was a stunningly swift end to the Cold War after decades of costly and deadly conflict.
The leader of the changes in the Soviet Union was Mikhail Gorbachev, a man regarded as a hero by most Soviets. However, not all Westerners were overwhelmed by Gorbachev or the Central Committee’s Feb. 7, 1990, announced relinquishment of monopoly power. This copyrighted editorial was published by the Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia) on Feb. 10, 1990:
The Communist Party plenum’s decision to surrender monopoly power in the Soviet Union is, as you’ve no doubt heard, a historic development.
Its significance, though, must be put in perspective.
Rival parties aren’t going to push the Communists out of power any time soon—if ever. As the Wall Street Journal reports, communism’s value system is deeply embedded in the Soviet people. Aside from czarism, it is about all they know or ever had any experience with.
Most people do not blame the party for the nation’s manifest ills, as they do in the East European countries. They don’t want the party ousted; they want it to manage things better.
Mikhail Gorbachev convinced them the party could do better if power was transferred from Old Guard party bureaucrats, represented by the traditionally powerful Central Committee, to the elected Soviet parliament, where Gorbachev and his reformers hold full sway.
So basically this was another triumph of “Gorbachevism” over Stalinism—and on that level it should be applauded. And by allowing a multi-party system, Gorbachev enhances his “democratic” image at home and abroad, thereby firming his grip on power even more.
Perhaps this is all a good thing. Optimists think it is, and we don’t want to put ourselves in the pessimists’ camp at this point. But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that Gorbachev is mid-wifing a true, Western-style pluralistic democratic system.
He is trying to open the party up, not shut it down. He seems to have the strong support of most of the Soviet people, even those marching in the streets. But the central tenets of communism, particularly the odious ban on private ownership of property, remain intact.
Without a change in fundamental Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy—indeed, a total reseeding of the nation’s ideological roots—U.S.S.R. “democracy” will simply mean the people will be freely choosing the brand of socialism they prefer to starve under.