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The Reasons For the Fall of Communism and the Troubles With
A Democratic 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. 1989). 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 ma! ny 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 sligh! t 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 p! rotests 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 through 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 to quickly. This was done in the 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 willin! g 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. Bibliography Funk & Wagnalls. "Gorbachev, Mikhail Sergeyevich; Russia; United Soviet Socialist Republic; Yeltsin, Boris Nikolayevich; Communism; Commonwealth of Independent States." Microsoft Encarta Ed. Microsoft Corporation. 1997 Ed. Funk & Wagnalls. "Russia, United Soviet Socialist Republic; Yeltsin, Boris Nikolayevich; Communism; Commonwealth of Independent States." The World Almanac and Book of Facts ed. Funk & Wagnalls Corporation. 1996 Ed. Columbia University Press. "Communism" The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations Ed. Columbia University Press. 1996 Ed. Columbia University Press. "Gorbachev, Mikhail Sergeyevich; Russia; United Soviet Socialist Republic; Yeltsin, Boris Nikolayevich; Communism; Commonwealth of Independent States." The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia Ed. Columbia University Press. 1996 Ed. Internet Web Page. "Everything about Russia (History Section)." Http://WWW.RUSSIA.NET Internet Web Page. "CNN Interactive (Russian Archive)." Http://WWW.CNN.COM M. F. Goldman, Russian and the Eurasian Republics - Building New Political Orders. PP 14-25 and 34-45. H. Brand, Why the Soviet Economy Failed A. B. Ulam, Looking at the Past: The Unraveling of the Soviet Union


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