The Soviet System: From Crisis to Collapse

By Alexander Dallin; Gail W. Lapidus | Go to book overview
59.
Ibid., No. 8,1988, pp. 143-50; Druzhba Narodov, No. 12, 1988, pp. 186-89.
60.
Druzhba Narodov, No. 8, 1988, pp. 226-36; Novyy Mir, No. 12, 1987; Neva (Leningrad), No. 3, 1988; Raduga (Tallinn); No. 2, 1988; Literaturnoye Obozreniye, No. 8, 1988.
61.
Zverev's comments are part of a survey of literary critics in "Lessons for Tomorrow," Literaturnoye Obozreniye, No. 1, 1989, p. 7.

17 Politics and History
Under Gorbachev

THOMAS SHERLOCK

The use of Soviet history as a tool of reform has emerged over the past two years as an essential element of Mikhail Gorbachev's political strategy.' At first unwilling to address divisive historical issues, particularly those of the Stalin years, the General Secretary has come to countenance and even encourage wide-ranging de‐ Stalinization and a search for reformist predecessors and precedents in early Soviet history. Although the phenomenon still has an instrumental cast to it, political leaders, writers, social scientists, and other commentators have reopened a number of pages of Soviet history and subjected them to a more objective reading. There is considerable hesitancy in some circles, however, to advance a process that ultimately runs the risk of placing in question the legitimacy of the October Revolution and rule by the communist party.

Gorbachev's own initial caution was evidenced in the new party program approved at the 27th CPSU Congress in early 1986, which devoted only part of a single line to criticism of the Stalin period. 2 When asked, in an interview with L'Humanité on February 4, 1986 (shortly before the congress), whether "various circles in the West" were correct in doubting that the "vestiges of Stalinism" had been overcome in the Soviet Union, Gorbachev replied that "Stalinism" was a concept invented by the opponents of socialism to discredit the Soviet Union and socialism as a whole. The USSR, he asserted, had already applied the lessons learned at the 20th Party Congress (where Khrushchev launched his de‐ Stalinization campaign). 3

Yet, already, prominent voices were being raised rejecting a cautious approach to the past. In September 1985, the historian Yuriy Afanas'yev, then head of the history section of the party's theoretical journal, Kommunist, published an article entitled "The Past and Ourselves." He said that an inadequate understanding of

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