October 24, 2005
TOO LATE THE LENINIST:
Aleksandr Yakovlev (Daily Telegraph, 19/10/2005)
Aleksandr Yakovlev, who died yesterday aged 81, was a driving force behind Mikhail Gorbachev's policy on glasnost and democratisation, playing a critical role in the formulation and implementation of the new openness in Soviet domestic and foreign affairs.
Yakovlev supervised the demolition of the Stalinist model of economic development and destroyed the last remnants of Stalin's reputation. Although physically damaged by the war, he had an incisive mind which was devoted to introducing democracy to Russia. Even so, he strongly disliked the United States and its society.
Yakovlev was widely travelled, and accompanied Gorbachev to all his summit meetings with President Reagan. His knowledge of the Western world and Western public opinion meant that he knew which Soviet initiatives were necessary to achieve maximum impact.
The rise of Solidarity in Poland from 1980 came as a shock, and the self-confident premisses of developed socialism were abandoned. This permitted Yakovlev to question all the tenets of the ideology except the central one of the leading role of the party. Of particular concern was to establish that a viable alternative to Stalinism had existed in 1929 - a more human, gentler route to socialism.
This was to cut the ground from beneath those who maintained that glasnost and democratisation were undermining the stability of the Soviet state. Yakovlev wanted to demonstrate that the bureaucratic model - with the centrally planned economy at its core - bequeathed by Stalin was a brake on Soviet development and needed to be dismantled.
Aware of the depths of social apathy which existed throughout the country, he knew that the Party would increasingly be ignored if it did not develop a new language of communication. His task was to coin new words and phrases so as to cause people to think anew, and this new vocabulary had to be Leninist in order to outflank opposition. Perestroika, glasnost and demokratizatsiya were only a few examples. Other terms, such as pluralism, were rescued from opprobrium by prefacing them with the epithet "socialist". Parliamentarianism, once dismissed by Lenin as "cretinous", was given a new lease of life when applied to the new Supreme Soviet.
What he and Gorbachev could not grasp was that the rot began with Lenin--the Revolution had been poisonous from the start. As soon as they started to loosen the dissidents made this case and the last prop was gone. Posted by Orrin Judd at October 24, 2005 5:44 PM