Current events in the Soviet Union cannot be understood without comprehending the nature of Soviet communism. Begins with a description of the system singlehandedly imposed on the Soviet Union by Lenin and Stalin, focusing on the key elements of Marxist‐Leninist ideology and the nomenklatura. Brings to light a seldom‐recognized characteristic of communist governments, which is obscured by official propaganda, that Marxism‐Leninism is firmly grounded on “science”. It involves the rejection, by communist policy makers, of any coherent intellectual framework which would guide and also explain their actions. This, however, is not surprising, because any theoretical blueprint would force these leaders to spell out the precise goals they are pursuing, as well as the costs (to whom?) and the benefits (also to whom?) of their actions. It would, additionally, make the communist party accountable for its policies, a fact that would represent an intolerable restriction of its practically unlimited power. Perestroika has not changed this situation. The absence of a programme or of a priori guidelines allows Gorbachev to declare his willingness to introduce market processes, while, at the same time, emphasizing that all his reforms are made “in accordance with the socialist choice”. A case study of the recently legalized Soviet “co‐operative” sector confirms this lack of commitment to unambiguous policies. The prerequisites for a transition from a centrally planned to a market economy are therefore developed by Western, not Soviet, experts. They invariably call for the abandonment of the communist system and the demise of its beneficiary, the nomenklatura. Gorbachev, who has risen to power as an exponent of the “new class” (Milovan Djilas) is unwilling to accept this trade‐off. He can therefore be expected to continue his policy of vacillation, while his country′s economic, political, and social problems remain unresolved.
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