I remember that in due time, almost through the same 25 years, the Soviet authorities also suddenly began to look at different eyes history Russian Empire. In 1943, we returned to the old officer ranks, shoulder straps, otherwise we began to evaluate the commanders, and indeed the kings themselves; reconciled with the Orthodox Church, etc. Wiser, matured. The Internet publication Centenary did the right thing by initiating a round table on the theme “The USSR: Victory and Defeat”, inviting a wide range of scientists and experts to participate. I also received such an invitation, but since I am temporarily not in Moscow, I will try to present my view of this superteme in writing.
So, to the point: can the Soviet system be considered a dead-end path of social development? To pose the question in this way is incorrect neither in scientific, nor in practical terms. Dead End is a bad propaganda term. He stops the idea of how the brick sign requires pressing the brakes urgently. The socialist model in the USSR is one of the varieties of the teachings of Marxism, with Asian deviations away from democracy. Soon, a hundred years ago, the world here and there encounters variants of social democracy in theory and in the flesh (the dogmas of the Second, Third, and even Fourth Internationals; Austrian, Swedish, and other living models). And do not turn a blind eye to the PRC and other types of this doctrine.
Socialism can not be deleted from the menu of public dishes of mankind. It should be "brought to mind", as engineers do with a good idea, but an imperfect machine.
The key drawback of the Soviet system was the disastrous for it hypertrophy of the role of the party leader in the fate of the country. The secretaries-general possessed such complete power that even the emperors could not even dream of. They could form the socio-economic model of the country. In their hands were the most powerful management tools in the person of the party and power structures, plus various public organizations (they were called “driving belts” from party to people). From war communism to the NEP, from him to the five-year plans, to the "great construction projects of communism" ... What just was not there! There was cost accounting and Kosygin reform projects to which L. Brezhnev responded: “Everything is correct, but it is premature ...”. After all this, talking about a “dead end”, about a “non-reforming system” is taking a big sin for one’s soul. One N. Khrushchev for ten years started so many reforms that it captures the spirit of one of their enumeration. The party-state elite most often simply assented to the “leader” instead of participating in the constructive spirit in making serious decisions. Khrushchev himself said that he sent the idea of dividing the regional party committees into urban and rural in writing, he sent to all members of the Politburo, asking them to honestly express their opinions. All responded in writing in the spirit of “Approve!”, And after removing Nikita Sergeevich they publicly stated that it was “whim and chimera”.
Any system (by the way, not only a socialist one) needs to be improved as the world develops. Monarchies, dictatorial regimes, democratic republics and so on. constantly changing in form and substance. Talented political leaders and sensitive national elites with timely reforms maintained the stability of their systems and ensured their development. In the USSR, alas, this did not happen. With each successive turn of leadership change, the qualities of the first person deteriorated: Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko and, finally, Gorbachev. This happened because the real choice of the leader of the country was made by a narrow group of people (the Politburo), whose members were guided by personal interests, and not by the fate of the USSR. We chose not the most talented, but the most comfortable. Veterans of the security service recall that Brezhnev intended to nominate Scherbitsky as his successor, but who arrived first to the deceased Leonid Ilyich D.F. Ustinov took the "atomic suitcase" in his hands, handed it to Andropov, who was standing next to him, and said: "Well, Yura, take things now!". That was all said. Andropov was already fatally ill by that time, but with Ustinov he was linked by a long-term friendship ...
With such a monstrous concentration of power in the hands of one person and such an absurd system of “succession to the throne,” the state and the people could not count on sustainable, prosperous development.
It remained only to hope that, perhaps by chance, according to the law of roulette, we would get a “lucky ticket”, and the country would be headed by a sensible, strong-willed politician who has a clear plan for the development of society.
We, the then intelligence officers, often among themselves discussed whether the difficulties of socialist construction in the USSR stem from objective reasons inherent in the doctrine itself, or are due to subjective factors, i.e. man-made. And each time we came to the conclusion that the human factor was to blame. After all, it was not without reason that even then we gave unflattering names to historical segments associated with specific leaders. The Stalinist "personality cult" replaced Khrushchev's "voluntarism", Brezhnev's "stagnation period" replaced it, then the "five years of the funeral" came and finally, Gorbachev's "perestroika" came, the meaning of which, apparently, the inventor of this word did not understand, and failed to explain it to the people. Remember the phrase of the writer Yuri Bondarev, who said that perestroika is a plane that knows where it came from, but does not know where it will fly and where it will land !. The Communist Party itself at each change of the leader publicly or through clenched teeth condemned its own recent policy, but it did not manage to change the technology of power formation and the decision-making process. This was the root cause of her misfortunes and, eventually, death.
The real political leader is the one who has a complete program of actions in his head and heart, as they would say now, a “road map”, who brought it to the consciousness of the majority of the nation, received democratically approval and then did everything to implement this program. Unfortunately, in the Soviet Union, the last five leaders did not have anything from this set of requirements. Any attempt to upgrade scared the party-state elite.
For many years, its symbol was M. Suslov - “a man in a case”, who invariably walked in galoshes even in sunny weather. Considered to be the ideologist of the CPSU, he froze every living thought, but he did not have his own thoughts.
Socialism - "forever living teaching", in fact, in the USSR turned into a brake of social thought, ossified dogma. I really liked the expression of one authoritative statesman (foreign), who, discussing with me the question of the state of affairs in our country, said: “The USSR resembles a car, the driver of which fell asleep at the wheel, and instead of waking him up, hold your finger to your lips and say "Hush, hush ... and then wake up!". Very often the question arises of how the collapse of the socialist system and the Soviet state began. First, we say that the Soviet Union reached the top of its development, in my opinion, in 1975. Everything looked quite fine. The country was preparing for the meeting of the 60 anniversary of the October Revolution. 69-year-old Brezhnev looked youthful and healthy and was about to adopt a new, more democratic text of the Constitution. Good prices for oil (the result of the Arab-Israeli conflicts) caressed the heart of the Kremlin sitters.
But our permanent political opponents - the United States and NATO, were going badly. In the 1974 year, as a result of the loud "Watergate" scandal, Richard Nixon resigned from his post as US President. The revolution carnations in Portugal in April 1974 caused a crisis in NATO and led to the collapse of the colonial empire in Africa. The United States suffered a defeat in the dirty war in Vietnam in 1975, and were forced to get out of there in disgrace. And ahead of the Americans, even greater troubles awaited in the form of the Khomeinist 1979 revolution of the year in Iran, the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran and the humiliating failure of Operation Eagle's Claw while trying to force American hostages by force.
I wish I could live to be happy! .. But Soviet intelligence knew about the difficulties that had been brewing, which had to be considered. We were helped by all sorts of Sovietological studies conducted by our opponents and the results of which fell into our hands. It was then that two documents were prepared for the Politburo (through Y. Andropov). One warns of the danger of excessive expansion of the geographical zone of influence in the world due to the USSR’s lack of material and human resources. The second is about the expediency of limiting the quantitative production of all types of weapons and the transition to the principle of “reasonable sufficiency”. Information left without feedback. Attempts to make our recommendations more boldly once received the following answer: “Do not teach us to govern the state!”.
Since 1976, the process of decline of the USSR and the socialist system began, turning into degradation, and then - into the stage of disintegration.
Maybe it all started with a serious illness of L. Brezhnev, who suffered even clinical death and could no longer be considered a full-fledged leader of the party and the state. For the next six years (until L. Brezhnev died in 1982), the country lived on “autopilot”.
It was at that time, in 1978, that Moscow was called and received the post of Secretary of the Central Committee, MS. Gorbachev, who soon became the grave-digger of the socialist system in the USSR. Now the state strategy has ceased to exist. Each influential member of the management team resolved issues from the standpoint of departmental interest.
Brezhnev himself understood his position and more than once raised the question of resignation, but instead he was nearly every next year awarded with another Hero star; in violation of status, they twice made a knight of the Order of the October Revolution, presented the Order of Victory (not at all in the case) and awarded the Marshal's title. The entourage held on to their places at all costs, not thinking about the state.
I remember that during one of the visits of Y. Andropov to the intelligence headquarters, we directly told him about the difficult situation in the USSR, and offered to make L. Brezhnev an honorary chairman of the CPSU, to approve a special distinction and to elect a new Secretary General. The answer was sharp: "Do not quarrel with the party!"
With the introduction of the 40 Army in Afghanistan at the end of 1979, the USSR and the CPSU began to slide into the abyss. The absolute secrecy of the preparation of this war, even within the framework of the party-state elite, did not allow to professionally calculate the consequences of this action. The introduction of troops was an obvious intervention in the internal civil conflict, on the side of one of the opposing forces, with which the Soviet leadership was connected with emotional friendship. All other arguments were purely propandistic. Our people and the Armed Forces of the country did not understand the meaning of this suicidal undertaking.
This senseless war lasted ten years, in which we lost 14 thousand dead and more than 400 thousand (!) Disabled as a result of injuries and illnesses. The losses of equipment are also impressive: about 300 aircraft and helicopters, hundreds tanks and armored vehicles, thousands of cars.
No one believed in what a lot of money this war flew into our people. Afghan adventure led to a sharp isolation of the Soviet Union in the world. The very Non-Aligned Movement for those times, which was chaired, on a rotational basis, by Fidel Castro, was stunned by the actions of the Soviet leadership. Before 1979, the members of this movement rather sympathized with the Soviet Union than the USA, and now the situation has changed before our eyes.
The propaganda machine of the West has earned at maximum speed. In the eyes of US public opinion, we became an “evil empire.” In the 1980 election of the year, Ronald Reagan won, distinguished by a highly anti-Soviet attitude. He put forward the idea of creating a strategic defense system for the United States against a threat from space (the so-called Strategic Defense Initiative (SOI) is a strategic defense initiative). The cold war went beyond any reasonable framework. The COCOM system was created, i.e. approved lists of goods prohibited for delivery to the USSR.
For the United States, a convenient situation has been created in which they could exhaust the Soviet Union with someone else’s hands and someone else’s blood, making wide use of the banner of Islam.
Soviet difficulties could be minimized in the eyes of the population through tight control over the media, but they could not be hidden from the foreign public. Finally, the moment came when it became possible to throw the gauntlet to the socialist system as such. This happened a year after the start of the Afghan war, when in Poland, in Gdansk, the independent trade union Solidarity, under the leadership of the electrician Lech Walesa, was formed in 1980. He began to play the role of a political party, which eventually turned into the grave-digger of socialism in Poland.
If the Afghan war can be considered the beginning of a slide into the abyss, then we must agree that its multi-vector destructive effect was multiplied by a factor of ten due to the exhausting arms race, into which we inadvertently got involved with the start of the Cold War. The security of the Fatherland is sacred, but we must reasonably weigh how much and which weapons enough for her guarantee. The USSR squeezed the last out of itself to be on a par with potential adversaries. At the “zenith” of the USSR arms race, there were more than 50 thousand nuclear weapons and more than 10 thousand launches, hundreds of submarines, tens of thousands of aircraft.
Y. Andropov, when he became General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, once said that the USSR should have an arsenal of weapons equal to the combined arsenal of the United States, NATO and the People's Republic of China.
This is the level of paranoid thinking. Western experts believed that 40% of the USSR’s GDP went to an arms race. It is quite obvious that it was beyond the power of our economy. Military expenditures had the most disastrous effect on our civilian industries, on the well-being of the population. They lay heavy on our allies in the Warsaw Pact, creating and strengthening anti-Soviet sentiment.
The saddest thing is that the piles of accumulated weapons turned out to be completely unnecessary, and they had to be destroyed in accordance with the signed agreements. Bearing huge costs, we got rid of chemical, bacteriological, nuclear missile weapons, cut tanks, airplanes, etc. And at the same time they believed that the remaining weapons were quite enough to guarantee the security of the Fatherland. In 1994, Russia sold US 500 tons of Soviet weapons-grade uranium and plutonium, which also turned out to be “redundant”. There was no objective need for this fatal self-torture.
Dozens of times Soviet leaders have declared that we will respond with “asymmetric measures”, but in fact they continued to “rivet” everything, copying our opponents. For some reason, the Chinese, having become an atomic power, did not begin to overtake quantitatively their possible adversaries, and saved money to develop the economy and raise the standard of living of the population.
Fascinated by problems of a politico-military and international character, Soviet leaders stubbornly did not want to see crisis phenomena that were brewing in the economy. Please note that in the Politburo the overwhelming majority of members were not engaged in economics at all. There were always presented the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the KGB, the Ministry of Defense, the CPSU itself, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, i.e. those who knew how to spend the funds of the state. And only one lonely Pre-Council (A. Kosygin) was obliged to earn these funds. Nobody wanted to do agriculture at all. Even Gorbachev, brought specially from Stavropol to revive agriculture, "faded" from this post at the first opportunity. And over the shadow of Khrushchev who just did not mock, calling him "kukuruznik". These curvatures have nothing to do with the objective defects of the Soviet system, which we discussed above.
For many years we have read that, say, the industrial basis of the USSR for 1991 was hopelessly outdated, was technically backward, it was not possible to reform it, and it was subject to breaking. Actually, this is what happened, unfortunately for the state. However, such statements have nothing to do with reality. This is nothing more than propaganda spells for political purposes.
The USSR, for all its shortcomings, was one of the foremost powers of the world, having developed nuclear, aerospace, engineering, chemical and other industries. There was no catastrophic lag behind world progress.
Small percentages of GDP growth are not yet a sign of the economic crisis, although the signal for the authorities is rather serious.
Many states experienced periods of stagnation, especially during periods of major changes in production technology. In the USA, for example, entire regions of previously thriving industries have degraded. Where are now Detroit, Buffalo, Chicago and others? But new technologies gave birth to California, Texas, etc. In Germany, instead of the dilapidated Ruhr, agricultural Bavaria began to grow. Tax policy in the hands of the state is the most effective tool to facilitate the flow of capital in the right direction. Breaking or calling for breaking the country's production base is a crime. At one time, the super-Communists called for the break-up of bourgeois railways, their spiritual followers acted in a different way at another time.
The cold war and sanctions measures against the USSR did not play a decisive role in the death of the socialist Titanic, although American authors often exaggerate the merits of the CIA or the US propaganda agencies in this area. The cold war was fought against the USSR from 1946, from Fulton's speech of W. Churchill, and its effect was insignificant for 40 years. China after the events on Tiananmen Square in 1989 was subjected to sanctions and propaganda storming. For several years, the PRC almost disappeared from the sight of the world, silently doing its work, until all the attacks on it were resolved. Cuba lived for more than half a century in the position of a besieged fortress, under fierce propaganda fire of the United States. The result is in front of everyone.
Sometimes they talk about the "Westernization" of Soviet society as a prerequisite for the collapse of the Soviet system and state. It is unlikely that this argument can be taken seriously. “Westernization” is essentially one of the trends of “globalization”, i.e. universalization of morals, customs, elements of culture, clothing, etc. This is a consequence of a revolution in the media, greater mobility of the population of our planet, the transformation of English into a means of international communication. Globalization has captured the whole world, even such traditionally conservative societies as Japan and China, but to believe that “Westernization” is capable of causing the death of the state and the system, this will be, as they say, “brute force”.
The USSR with its 74-year history will be for the foreseeable times the subject of study of both its achievements and failures. But the study will be fruitful only if its authors are objective and free from any national, social, party or clan preferences. The author is a child of that time and of that state, but he has the right, at least in mean strokes, to give his picture of a bygone era. The main achievement of the USSR was the elimination of not only the estate, but also, most importantly, property inequality of citizens, which automatically created equal starting opportunities for any person born in the USSR. The principle of socialism "From each according to his ability, to each according to his work" is absolutely invulnerable to criticism, because it is fair. The ancestors of the socialist doctrines of the nineteenth century dreamed about it, putting forward the principle of the elimination of property right. A talented person can even drown in luxury, if he earned it (like, say, Bill Gates), but his children must start from the same trait as all his other peers. This will be the triumph of the principle of "equal opportunities". Triumph of justice. Any other interpretation of this formula would be a scam.
In the USSR, the social elevator worked properly, i.e. transfer of a person from one social level to another. Education, attitude to work, public reputation were the wings on which people flew from one position of life to another.
Reception of education was encouraged and supported by the state, which made it possible to quickly restore the intellectual potential that had suffered greatly during the years of the revolution and the Civil War.
The official doctrine of comprehensive equality gradually entered the personality mentality, citizens in everyday life ceased to feel themselves as people of different nationalities, and the atheism that was planted removed religious differences. Multinationality was replaced by the word "Soviet people", the bearer of "Soviet patriotism." It was somewhat similar to the “American cauldron” theory, in which a new nation with its patriotism is digested from the motley immigrants.
On this human foundation, industrialization, victory in the Great Patriotic War, great construction projects, the flourishing of science and much more became available. This should be written in multi-volume works, and not in journalistic articles. The state had the opportunity to mobilize all the resources of the country to solve the tasks that were put forward by life. In the popular song "March of Enthusiasts" it was sung: "We have no barriers either at sea or on land, we are not afraid of ice or clouds ...". This spirit of confidence in the future, to one degree or another, held our hearts almost to the very end of the “period of stagnation,” after which we began to deflate, like a punctured soccer ball.
The history of the Soviet Union radically changed the history of mankind. Its improved edition in the world is the People’s Republic of China, created with the help of the USSR and taking much of the positive from its experience.
Left-wing political scientists and other scientists in the 50 – 60-ies of the last century developed the theory of the so-called “convergence” i.e. building a society based on the best, proven by life, the principles of capitalism and the best features of the socialist system. Now, it seems, the closest thing in practice to this theory is China, which could not have been born without the USSR.
The merits of the USSR are exceptionally great in the evolution of the capitalist system towards its humanization, taking into account the social needs of the working people. Under the pressure of his example, there was a gradual reduction in the length of the working day, paid vacations and many other gains of the working class arose.
The heroism and steadfastness of the peoples of the Soviet Union in the war against German fascism, which the countries of Western Europe could not resist, will forever go down in world history.
Even the self-destruction of the Soviet Union will be a warning to mankind about the inadmissibility of the curvatures and mistakes that ultimately destroyed the socialist experiment in our country.