Staunton, Sept. 21 – Russia’s neo-Stalinists are now condemning Yury Andropov and Mikhail Suslov for promoting both liberal and nativist journals which they believe destroyed Soviet ideology and selecting Mikhail Gorbachev for the party leadership, the man they say destroyed an otherwise functioning USSR, Aleksandr Tsipko says.
But it wasn’t these journals that destroyed communist ideology, the senior Russian commentator says; it was Nikita Khrushchev when he attacked the basis of that system which was to use violence to keep the system working. Without violence, regardless of the leaders, it was doomed to collapse (mk.ru/politics/2021/09/21/stal-izvesten-rasskaz-raisy-maksimovny-o-prichine-vydvizheniya-gorbacheva-andropovym.html).
But one aspect of Andropov’s views did play a fateful role. He came to power committed to fighting the Russian party within the CPSU because he “felt that the ethnic Russian national idea, even if dressed in communist clothing, would lead to the disintegration of the USSR and of historical Russia,” Tsipko says.
That’s what, the commentator continues, Andropov promoted the idea of “a single Soviet people;” and it is why he chose Gorbachev as his successor. Andropov was impressed during his meetings with Gorbachev while visiting Stavropol because the future leader was such a committed internationalist and treated the ethnic minorities there fairly.
Tsipko says he was told that by Gorbachev’s wife, Raisa Gorbacheva, who also said that Andropov liked her husband’s openness in discussing problems. Tsipko says he can confirm this on the basis of his personal experience. Gorbachev always told him that “we are ‘mixed’ people and therefore we don’t need to think about whether we are Russians or Ukrainians.”
“I think,” the commentator continues, “that precisely this concern about the preservation of the USSR as a multi-national state forced Andropov to oppose the ‘mixed’ Gorbachev, as he viewed him, to the Russian nationalist Georgy Romanov,” the Leningrad party chief favored by the Russian Party.
Tsipko continues: “Undoubtedly, a special feature of Gorbachev’s personality was that he had a split personality as was typical of leaders of the USSR after Stalin: On the one hand, he had a fear of going along the path of Stalinist use of force and an unwillingness to create a new
GULAG, and on the other, he sought not to cross a red line or destroy the country.”
Gorbachev was consistent in his pursuit of de-Stalinization, the analyst says. But at the same time, “he believed in the impossible, that it would be possible to combine the Soviet economy with democracy. He didn’t recognize that the entire Soviet system rested on such ties as ‘the iron curtain,’ the leading role of the CPSU, public ownership of the means of production, censorship and much else.”
“And therefore, what happened happened,” Tsipko says. “Democracy which was called forth by perestroika destroyed the Soviet system. And it seems to me that even if Gorbachev had not come to power in the USSR, it would not have been possible” to keep things together for long even under North Korea-style totalitarianism.
Tsipko does not say, but one implication of Gorbachev’s commitment to internationalism is this: because he apparently did not feel the tug of nationalism himself, he did not understand the pull it exerted on others. And thus he was particularly at sea when it came to dealing with those who were animated by such links.
Had he understood nationalism better, he might have navigated more successfully than he did. But Tsipko is clearly right that the USSR would have disintegrated and the Soviet system collapsed even if that had been the case or even more if a Russian nationalist authoritarian had taken the helm instead of him.