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Gorbachev(TM)s reforms and policies, which were intended originally to strengthen the Soviet system, eventually killed it. How far do you agree with this statement?

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Introduction

When Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party in March 1985, his efforts to streamline the Communist system offered promise, but ultimately proved uncontrollable and resulted in a cascade of events that eventually concluded with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Initially intended as tools to bolster the Soviet economy and solve the Soviet Union's long term problems, Gorbachev's policies and reforms soon led to unintended negative consequences. This was a result of the long term economic, social and political weaknesses of the Soviet Union which simply could not sustain the impact of Gorbachev's reforms, hence I agree only with the statement to a small extent as the Soviet system was already "dead" when Gorbachev assumed office, and his policies merely "hit the last nails on the coffin of communism", in the words of Lech Walesa. Firstly, among the most consequential and bitter disappointments of the Gorbachev reforms was its almost total economic failure. That failure was rooted in the long term imbalances and irrationalities of the Soviet economy and Perestroika, the attempted cure, turned mere stagnation into outright decline. Gorbachev's policy of Perestroika (economic restructuring) intended at improving efficiency through the introduction of competition, dismissing unproductive workers and giving the local regions more authority to plan local economies according to their needs. This would be achieved by ending the command economy which had existed since Stalin's time and replace it with a demand economy. He had hoped that this would encourage enterprise and boost Soviet economy. Although Gorbachev's economic reforms were bold in Soviet historical context, they were not sufficiently radical enough to restart the country's sluggish economy in the late 1980s. Under Perestroika, the economy would no longer be controlled by the government but by the market. Perestroika also aimed at improving efficiency through the introduction of competition, dismissing unproductive workers and giving the local regions more authority to plan local economies according to their needs. ...read more.

Middle

Even if their opposition did not derive from selfish motives, others (such as Ligachev) opposed too much reform on grounds of principle and ideology since it would destroy the Soviet system in which they believed. For example, Gorbachev's democratization, in particular the striking out of Article 6 in the Soviet Constitution, resulted in the formation of a multiparty system where all the newly emerged opposition groups posed a huge challenge to the CPSU leadership. Gorbachev had in many senses diminished the authority of the CPSU and thus, the party had been separated from the government and stripped of its leading role in society and its function in overseeing the national economy. For seventy years, the CPSU had been the cohesive force that kept the Soviet Union together, without the authority of the party in the Soviet center, the nationalities of the constituent republics pulled harder than ever to break away from the union. Furthermore, Gorbachev's 'new thinking' de-ideologised Soviet foreign policy. Unlike previous political leaders like Andropov and Chernenko before him, he was determined achieve his goal of peaceful coexistence and d�tente with the west and was willing to give up what had previously been considered as vital foreign policy interest. He ended the arms race with the West and restored diplomatic relations with the West. Gorbachev also set out to adopt a new relationship between the USSR and Eastern Europe. By 1989, he repudiated the Brezhnev doctrine and adopted the "Sinatra Doctrine", in favour of non-intervention in the internal affairs of its Warsaw Pact Allies. Gorbachev also made it clear to the communist leaders in Eastern Europe that they would no longer have the support form the Red Army to put down protests and demonstrations and that they would have to listen to their own people. In the past these governments had relied on Soviet support. Without this help they had to deal with the protests on their own. ...read more.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the August coup was the short term factor which led to the fall of communism in the USSR as the failed coup merely sped up the collapse of the USSR. The coup was a result of Gorbachev's policies which worsened the economic conditions which he had inherited initially. The Soviet economy was not on the point of collapse when Gorbachev came into power. The catastrophic economic collapse of the late 1980s was a direct result of failure of Gorbachev's policies of Perestroika and Glasnost, but obviously, the collapse would not have taken place had not the serious economic weaknesses already existed. Even without Gorbachev's policies, communism would have bound to fail eventually due to the poor economy and corrupt communist system which had already existed since Stalin's time. Gorbachev's policies merely acted as a catalyst which speeded up the collapse of communism in the USSR. Furthermore, Gorbachev's unprecedented move to adopt the Sinatra Doctrine stemmed from the economic realities of the USSR - the Eastern European states were more of economic liabilities than assets and its bankrupt economy could no longer finance the Red Army to maintain tight control over the republics. Essentially, the inheritance of a troubled Soviet Union was the main reason for the collapse of communism in USSR. The prolonged economy and the rigid and corrupt communist system which Gorbachev inherited was simply unable to support his polices and also unable to cope with the internal as well as external pressures threatening the USSR. Not only did Perestroika and Glasnost fail in objectives, communism in USSR came to an end due to this long term pre-existing inherent economic weakness which rendered the USSR an incomplete superpower to begin with and thus contributing to its eventual demise. "Gorbachev's reforms and policies, which were intended originally to strengthen the Soviet system, eventually killed it." How far do you agree with this statement? ...read more.

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