How Gorbachevs Reforms Ended Communist Rule History Essay
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How Gorbachev's Reforms ended Communist Rule in the Soviet Union and the Cold War. After the Second World War, the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R) and the Unites States (U.S.) emerged as the two superpowers: nations with profound economic and political differences. It was these differences in ideologies and a mutual distrust between the two nations that led to the beginning of the Cold War. Although no "hot" war between the superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union ever occurred, the leaders of the Democratic West and the Communist East faced off against each other in political and military tension between the years 1945 and 1991.
Mikhail S. Gorbachev became general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in March 1985. Much younger than the previous leaders, Gorbachev had fresh, new ideas for addressing the problems facing the Soviet Union after World War II. New reform programs such as Glasnost and Perestroika implemented by Gorbachev set into motion a chain of events that would unintentionally lead to the downfall of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev's reforms were done in hopes of reforming communism, not abolishing it, as many people believe.
After WWII the Soviet Union was in desperate need of change. When Gorbachev came to power, change was necessary to save the system, even if his reforms would unintentionally lead to the nations destruction (Morewood 1998). The rate of economic growth had fallen to zero, corruption was endemic with the black economy growing, worker productivity was falling, the neglected services sector contributed to a shortage of
consumer goods and falling living standards, the social infrastructure was decaying and technological backwardness widened the performance gap with the West (Morewood 1998). In order to eliminate such problems Gorbachev introduced two new reforms, "glasnost" meaning openness and "perestroika" meaning restructuring. These reforms failed in saving communism and instead brought an Eastern version of freedom and Democracy, just like the Western world.
Perestroika literally referred to the "restructuring" of the political and economic system created by the Communist party. It reflected the Democratic practices of Western society and gave the people a slight say in the government. In an attempt to revitalize his nation, Gorbachev decentralized the controls over the economy, effectively lessening the governments role in the decision making process of individual enterprises (www.coldwar.com). Not only was Perestroika created to aid in production levels but also hoped to better the lives of the workers and the conditions in which they worked. Gorbachev felt that this "reconstructing" policy would make the corrupt work place reduce its dishonest working habits and replace them with honest ones. Gorbachev wanted workers to feel like they had the power to increase development in the country and be rewarded for helping to better these production levels. In order for Perestroika to be successful it would take time for the economy to transform. Paired with Glasnost, Perestroika was unable to transform as quickly as the political reform.
Glasnost meaning "openness" was the complete transparency of the operations of all government departments in the Soviet Union. It was a political reform created to give more rights to the people through freedom of expression. It allowed for honesty in
discussing the problems and shortcomings of the country, and for consultation in the governing and leadership of the Soviet Union (www.coldwar.com). Gorbachev hoped to diminish all the censorship that was a known Communist rule. This led to little censoring of the media, which allowed writers and journalists to expose news of government corruption and the poor condition of its people. Gorbachev believed that by informing the Soviet people about the true conditions of their society and its economic failures he would have their support for Perestroika (www.history.com).
One reason this reform led to the downfall of the Soviet Union was due to the fact that the power glasnost gave to the people was far greater than Gorbachev had intended. He had hoped that people would be open about how to rebuild the communist system and make it work better, it however, allowed the people to openly criticize the system and soon they wanted it to be replaced. Glasnost allowed for the first time the facts to be presented. The Soviet society soon realized why so much had been preserved from the ears of their contemporaries. The U.S.S.R was in a dilemma, but for the first time the people knew the truth and were demanding answers. This caused an increase in social protests in a nation used to living under the strictest government control, and ultimately went against the goals of Gorbachev (www.coldwar.com).
Tensions between the Soviet Union and the U.S slowly began to dissolve as their profound economic and political differences began to dissolve as well. Instead of reforming communism, Gorbachev unintentionally allowed the Soviet Union to adapt a Democratic system established in Western civilizations. Glasnost created looser restrictions in all areas of Soviet life. The resulting ties with the Western world were
clear as Soviets began travelling more using American customs, ideas, and politics, and doing business with Western entrepreneurs (Morewood 1998).
The Soviet economic fall forced Gorbachev to modify the Cold War policies of his predecessors and relations with the U.S rapidly improved. Arms reductions agreements were signed to reduce "conventional forces and nuclear stockpiles" (Morewood 1998). Around the world, Gorbachev was called a "dynamic leader", whose reforms were ridding the threat of nuclear war.
Gorbachev gave the people a freedom that they had never had with previous Communist Soviet leaders. They could openly criticize the government and begin speaking out about what they believed was best for their country. He developed a Democratic strategy to reform a Communist nation. Glasnost (the freedom of speech, and openness of the government) did not leave Perestroika (the restructuring of the economy) enough time to begin rebuilding itself. Instead of encouraging people with the right to make a difference in their Communist nation, the combined efforts of Perestroika and Glasnost instead gave the people the right to choose between a Communist or Democratic nation.
In many ways, Gorbachev became the victim of his own reforms as they spiraled out of control. What had held Soviet communism together for so long was its portrayal of the West as the enemy and the leader of internal conflict. Under Gorbachev, these two main pillars of the system crumbled away (Morewood, 1998). Friendship with the West improved, increasing the acceptance of western culture and its different lifestyles. The positive welcoming of debate at home with no consequences was a fundamental break
from the past (www.history.com). Communism fell and tension brought about by the Cold War had diminished simply because the nations had become so similar.
Works Cited Risi 6
Morewood, Steven. "Gorbachev and the Collapse of Communism" History Review. 31
"Glasnost and Perestroika" www.coldwar.org/articles/80s/GlasnostandPerestroika.asp
"Glasnost and Perestroika" http://www.history.com/ topics/perestroika-and-glasnost
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