To what extent was Mikhail Gorbachev responsible for the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union?

Topics: Soviet Union, Cold War, Mikhail Gorbachev Pages: 5 (2018 words) Published: March 27, 2014
 Many Historians contributed the fall of Soviet Union directly to Mikhail Gorbachev and his reforms. They argued that Gorbachev’s Glasnost, (openness) and Perestroika, (restructuring) directly led to uprisings within the Soviet Union, and its Soviet republics that brought the downfall of Soviet Union. This is however a very shallow analysis of the downfall of the Soviet Union. For one to truly understand the fall of the Soviet Union one must understand the history of The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and the political and economic situation of the former empire when Gorbachev took reign. For example the USSR’s stagnating economy compounded with the arms race, ethnic tensions, war in Afghanistan, as well as the communism ideology itself, all played great roles in the downfall of USSR. Gorbachev’s reforms merely torpedoed an already sinking ship, as the Soviet Union was doomed to fail at the moment Stalin took over. Gorbachev’s reforms also played a part in the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He tried to combat all these problems with glasnost and perestroika, however it was too radical at the time and was too little too late. The reforms themselves were flawed, as they were too radical and not properly implemented. Gorbachev’s reforms were literally the polar opposite of the policies of his predecessors. This radical change plunged the USSR into chaos and eventually the fall of the Soviet Union. If one were to truly comprehend the cause of the Soviet Union’s downfall one needs to understand the economic and political situation of USSR before Gorbachev came into power. One may argue that the Soviet Union was doomed to fail from the moment Stalin took power. The command economy under Stalin took the capitalist world by surprise. Large scales of industrialization, and economic growth had many critical flaws as one Polish economist states, “state socialism was not a good idea badly implemented, but a bad idea which was implemented surprisingly well” (Mazower, 329). The command economy model produced a ratchet effect: over production by an institution in a given plan cycle, causing even more over production in the next plan cycle to match the new expected standard (Jefferies, 15). This is very problematic as it reduced the quality of Soviet goods as workers were rushed to complete the plan at the end of a planning cycle. This in turn had two detrimental effects. First Soviet goods were shielded from the world economy, as the quality was too poor. Second, when Soviet goods were rejected from the world market, citizens of the Soviet Union were targeted as consumers (Jefferies, 22). This meant that the consumers were neglected, and as information technology progressed the people of USSR began to see the gap between their standard of living, and that of the West. This caused citizens to become disgruntled. Another critical flaw that command economy possessed was its inability to adapt to the dynamic world economy as it was run according to state plan not to the market as it was supposed to. This can be seen very clearly in the Soviet Union’s economy. A prominent example to illustrate this point is the effect of the arms race on the Soviet economy. By 1980 Soviet Union’s defense budget raised from an already horrifying 22 percent to 27 percent its GDP compared to 7% of the U.S. (Hilton). The United Stated solved its problem by amalgamating a unique relation with its private defense sectors. The Soviet Union however did not have such option as everything was run by the state, and the defense budget continued to sap an already crumpling economy, eventually to its grave. The political situation of the Soviet Union when Gorbachev came to power in 1982 was dire. There had been much history of tension between the people of the satellite states, and the installed governments of the Soviet satellite states. A prime example of this was the failed Hungarian revolution. In October 1956 hundreds of...
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