Monday, May 13, 2024

Two Lessons of Soviet Collapse Russian Elites Must Learn to Avoid a Repetition, Delyagin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 11 – Most Russians now recognize that the Soviet system collapsed for political rather than economic reasons, Mikhail Delyagin says; but many of the latter remain unexamined, a pattern that if it continues could threaten the current Russian political system in the future.

            Two are particularly important now given the challenges the Russian Federation currently faces, the Moscow commentator and Duma deputy says, the Soviet Union’s lack of a mechanism for the renewal of elites and the regime’s increasingly out-of-date view of the working class (

            According to Delyagin, the lack of a mechanism for the renewal of elites is the more often cited of these, even though most Russians fail to recognize that Stalin sought to introduce competition via the 1936 constitution and that the nomenklatura responded by a fratricidal struggle known to history as “the Great Terror.”

            The failure of the Soviet elite to understand that the working class had fundamentally changed led to a conflict between the Kremlin and the creative class is less often referred to but may be even more critical for what happens in the future given that many at the top of the Russian political spectrum still do not understand the changes in the working class.

            As several commentators have noted, Delyagin says, in Soviet times, “the party apparatus knew that it had to serve the working class but did not see the fundamental change in the nature of that class as a result of the scientific and technological revolutions.” Instead, it continued to base itself on the older industrial image of the working class, a group that was ever smaller.

            The nomenklatura’s focus on the industrial portion of the working class kept the leadership from recognizing that that group had changed “from a progressive force into a reactionary one” and meant that Moscow came in conflict with the state and “the advanced part of society,” the technical intelligentsia, and made it “an involuntary enemy of the state.”

            At the end of Soviet times, he continues, “the hostility of the party nomenklatura toward the technical intelligentsia was also caused by a reorientation of the economy from cost reduction toward income growth” as “inflating costs turned out to be a simpler and more natural way for monopolies to increase income.”

            “That in turn,” Delyagin writes, “reduced the interest of the powers to implement new technologies … Indeed, the very term ‘implementation’ expressed with a discouraging frankness the unnaturalness of any progress for the ossified management system.”  Unfortunately, that lesson has not yet been learned, and the disasters of the past could thus be repeated.

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