Political Pluralism Is Here to Stay in the Soviet Union

By Marvin Kalb and Madeleine G. Kalb. Marvin Kalb is director of Harvard's Shorenstein Barone Center on the Press and Politics. Madeleine G. Kalb is a fellow Center. | The Christian Science Monitor, April 3, 1991 | Go to article overview
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Political Pluralism Is Here to Stay in the Soviet Union


Marvin Kalb and Madeleine G. Kalb. Marvin Kalb is director of Harvard's Shorenstein Barone Center on the Press and Politics. Madeleine G. Kalb is a fellow Center., The Christian Science Monitor


AT the same time that Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is increasingly relying on KGB, Red Army, and Communist Party conservatives to retain his grip on power, there is an unmistakable countercurrent of political activity that embraces every viewpoint from communist to monarchist, from social democratic to fascist. In the resulting chaos, the process of democratization associated with the "old Gorbachev" has spawned a fragile system of political pluralism that, with all its problems, is certain to outlast him and shape the future of the country.

Events have moved with bewildering speed. It was only a little over a year ago that Gorbachev abolished the Communist Party's monopoly of power and established a presidency. Then, in relatively free elections, the communists were discredited, and reform-minded mayors took the reins of power in many key cities, including Moscow and Leningrad. Republican parliaments, notably the Russian Parliament, led by Boris Yeltsin, suddenly blossomed into institutional bases of power for delegates with little practical experience but much enthusiasm for challenging communist perks and positions.

Alarmed by the collapse of the economy and the possible breakup of the Union, however, Gorbachev veered to the right six months ago, replacing his original team of reformers with colorless communist bureaucrats.

Under Gorbachev's benign cover, the communists staged a comeback. Despite their election defeat, they kept their wealth, their infrastructure, and their entrenched positions in the still bloated bureaucracy. But because political power is now fragmented, they have had to share it with other groups.

On the right are the "black colonels." They are constantly blasting government policy and bellowing for a return to "law and order." (The liberal pollster Tatyana Zaslavskaya, after addressing the Congress of Peoples Deputies not too long ago, heard a colonel sitting behind her whisper to another officer: "How many of them do you think we'll have to kill?") Top generals openly criticize Gorbachev's decisions in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, especially his policy toward the Iraq war.

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