Soviet Politics in Perspective

Soviet Politics in Perspective

Soviet Politics in Perspective

Soviet Politics in Perspective


This indispensable text offers a complete history and politics of the Soviet period in one affordable volume. Thoroughly revised and updated, it builds on the previous edition's comprehensive and accessible exploration of the Soviet system, from its rise in 1919 to its collapse in 1991. The book is divided into five parts, each of which focuses on key aspects of Soviet politics, including: * a new section evaluating Soviet rule, and reasons for its collapse * historical perspectives from the Tsarist regime to Gorbachev's attempts to revive the system * institutions of Government, such as the Communist Party and the military * theoretical approaches to Soviet politics, including class and gender politics, the role of ideology and the shift from dissent to pluralism * key policy areas such as the command economy and reform and foreign and defence policy. This new edition also comes with a complete breakdown of key sources and bibliographies for further reading.


When the first edition of this book was published in 1989 the Soviet Union was engaged in a monumental act of self-discovery and reorganisation. Mikhail Gorbachev had come to power in 1985 and launched a programme of reform under the slogans of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) that promised to renew the Soviet Union by drawing on its economic, social and human potential to create a new, more democratic and dynamic country. This would be a society that remained loyal to the socialist idea but would no longer be in competition with the West but engaged in peaceful development on a parallel track. Coercion would give way to democratic consensus, and the humanistic potential identified in the writings of the young Marx would allow alienation to be overcome and a new society born.

In the event, already by 1989 it was clear that this vision of a renewed socialist society was facing challenges that would ultimately bring it down. the attempt to shift the source of authority away from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) to society in the form of Soviets, and to a renewed non-party executive in the form of a strengthened presidency, had provoked a growing crisis of governance. the old economic and political administrative institutions had been dismantled but no effective and legitimate new ones had been created to replace them. the failure to tackle economic reform in a considered way had brought out all the latent crises within the system. the relaxation of central authority revealed the myriad tensions in the country’s multinational structure. Above all, the revelations of glasnost had revealed Stalin’s crimes in all their awfulness and had begun to chip away at the sacred aura surrounding Lenin, the founder of the Soviet system. the ideological glue of Marxism-Leninism lost its cohesive qualities. Soviet authoritarianism appeared to give way to ‘democratic’ anarchy. By 1991 the communist system of government had dissolved, and in December of that year the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) followed the Soviet communist party into oblivion.

We can now take stock of the whole period of Soviet politics from October 1917, when the Bolsheviks seized power, to the fall of the regime in 1991. Rather than becoming the first step in the world communist revolution that would have put an end to capitalism in its entirety, the Soviet experiment can now be seen to have been no more than an interlude in the larger history of Russia and in the broader pattern of world history. With the benefit of hindsight we can more clearly see the features of the system created by the application of Marxist-Leninist ideas to Russia. the story has an end.

We can now place Soviet politics in perspective, and this is the aim of this book. We can see more clearly what was important, and what was not. the work is designed for the general reader and for students of politics seeking an introduction to the Soviet system. the overall

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