Staunton, March 2 – The main charge opponents of Mikhail Gorbachev make against him is that his policies led to the demise of the Soviet system and the USSR, a complaint based on the assumption that both would have survived largely unchanged had someone else been elevated to lead the USSR.
But in fact, Leonid Gozman, head of the All-Russian Union of Right Forces, makes clear, both the Soviet system and the USSR were headed toward collapse, something Gorbachev by his policies was trying to avoid but could not (gordonua.com/blogs/gozman/a-ved-gorbachev-mog-povernut-v-storonu-lagerey-i-zapretov-sssr-by-eshche-neskolko-let-proderzhalsya-no-ruhnul-by-potom-s-zhutkim-grohotom-1542157.html).
Had Gorbachev’s efforts not been a rescue operation, he would never have been allowed to undertake many of the steps he did, the opposition politician says. Other senior CPSU leaders would have blocked him, but the situation had become so dire that even those who opposed him recognized that radical steps were needed if the country was to continue largely unchanged.
The country Gorbachev was elevated by the Politburo to lead “could no longer exist in its Brezhnevite form. Everything was falling apart, money had run out, and the mass terror machine had decayed. The system no longer could count on either fear or respect.” Consequently, even if an alternative to Gorbachev had come to power, he wouldn’t have been able to prevent collapse.
It is of course possible that someone prepared to use massive force against the population might have held things together for several years, Gozman continues; but if a leader had chosen that path, he would have failed and worse he would have made the disintegration a bloody mess rather than the remarkably violence-free event that it proved to be.
Some in the CPSU leadership would have preferred the delay even at that cost, but most of those below the aging leadership left over from the period of stagnation weren’t prepared to pay the costs that such an approach would have entailed. Gorbachev counted on them, and that is why he succeeded in bringing positive changes even if the system around him collapsed.
On Gorbachev’s 90th birthday, Gozman expressed the hope that the former Soviet president “will live until a time when the majority of our fellow citizens understand the greatness of what he carried out and to live still longer after this until [he] receives the honor and respect of those to whom you gave freedom.”