Gorbachev’sPolicies and the Fall of the Soviet Union
Gorbachev’sPolicies and the Fall of the Soviet Union
MikhailGorbachev played a major role in bringing down the Soviet Union. Inthe 1980s, the Soviet Union was faced with a myriad of challenges onthe economy as well as the leadership. The economy was deterioratingrapidly, with the agricultural sector facing significant declines inproduction. The country lagged behind in technological advancement,putting its manufacturing sector in jeopardy (Kotzet al., 51).Gorbachev took over the Soviet Union’s leadership at the time whenthe Union needed radical changes in political, economic and socialreforms.
BeforeGorbachev’s reign, previous Soviet leaders led to the stall of theSoviet economy, while at the same time wielding oppressive policieson the people, which was a significant defection from the Marxistroots (Kotzet al., 53).To re-energize the party’s doctrine and to fix the deterioratingeconomy, Gorbachev introduced the Perestroika philosophy. ThePerestroika philosophy provided more market freedoms, leading to theintroduction of market economy mechanisms. Moreover, the philosophydealt with political reforms in the economy leading to theintroduction of the multi-candidate reorganization (Kotzet al., 54).
Theintroduction of Perestroika was meant to return the regime toLeninist thinking, hence diverging from Stalin’s policies (Kotzet al., 56).However, Stalin acted with caution in distancing himself from Stalinand ensured that he had the support of the central committee. Peoplerecognized the need for drastic changes, therefore earning Gorbachevthe support of the citizens and the politicians. Some of the policiesintroduced under Perestroika did not go well with Soviet workers. Thewage reform, introduced in 1985 was one such reform that agitated theSoviet workers. The wage reform sought to discredit the basis for theshop and section-level informal bargaining between the linemanagement and workers. This led to the limiting of output quotas,widening disparities between workers from different categories aswell as well as placing thousands of workers into lower skill andwage grades.
Gorbachevintroduced the self-financing approach, which advocated forenterprises to become less dependent on parent industrial ministriesto be provided with funds for their operation as well as marketpenetration. Theoretically, Gorbachev’s policy would require Sovietcompanies to become more efficient and modernize their plants. Thiswould inevitably lead to the trimming of the Soviet labor forceleading to millions of job losses. The wage reform providedincentives for managers to launch frontal assaults on Soviet workersas well as take control over the labor processes.
Inmy observation, I think Gorbachev’s economic policies brought theUSSR to its knees towards the end of the 1980s. The USSR faced severeshortages in basic supplies such as food and medication (Kotzet al., 76).This brought about the re-introduction of food cards designed torestrict each citizen to a pre-determined amount of supplies permonth. The economy moved from stagnation to deterioration asGorbachev’s policies failed to achieve the desired changes. Theineffective reforms gave Gorbachev a negative reputation as incapableof making major decisions and an inept planner.
Ibelieve Gorbachev’s political reforms had a positive impactregarding democracy and freedom in the Soviet Union. Glasnostprovided the people with more freedom and enabled them to learn aboutthe atrocities committed by previous Soviet regimes during Stalin’sreign (Kotzet al., 52).The reforms provided the foundation for the Baltic States to demandthe right to protect their historical monuments as well as theirenvironment. Later, the Baltic States used the democratizationfreedoms to demand independence and sovereignty. Democratization inthe USSR led to the rise of nationalism, which exacerbated ethnictensions in the Union.
Inmy opinion, Gorbachev’s policies played a significant role in theproblems that Yeltsin faced as president. These problems could onlybe eliminated in long-term because they were deeply rooted in thesystem. Gorbachev’s policies led to high unemployment rates becauseof low production rates and high inflation. Gorbachev introduced wagereforms, which increased the gaps between the rich and the poor. WhenYeltsin came into power, he introduced privatization, which againincreased the economic gaps among Russians. Despite being a differentaction, the economic environment created under Gorbachev influencedthe direction of any reforms that Yeltsin attempted to implement.
Gorbachevleft behind a failing state. Under the prevailing conditions, it wasdifficult for the economy to respond to Yeltsin policies. The countrycould no longer provide assured employment, state-funded healthservices and controlled prices. Despite the fact that the peoplewanted to enjoy the freedom of capitalism, they did not anticipatethe difficulties of capitalism. Yeltsin inherited significanteconomic challenges that could have been traced to Gorbachev and theStalin regime. Therefore, these challenges compounded thedifficulties of Yeltsin’s reign (Kotzet al., 132).However, I do not believe that Gorbachev was wholly responsible forthe difficulties that Yeltsin faced because the two were closefriends during Gorbachev’s regime.
Kotz,David M., and Fred Weir. Russia`sPath from Gorbachev to Putin: the demise of the Soviet system and thenew Russia.London New York: Rutledge, 2007. Print.