The Soviet System: From Crisis to Collapse

By Alexander Dallin; Gail W. Lapidus | Go to book overview
46.
Milovan Djilas and George Urban, "Djilas on Gorbachev," Encounter 71 (September‐ October 1987): 3-19.

58 Causes of the Collapse
of the USSR
ALEXANDER DALLIN In awe, amazement, and disbelief, the world witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union, which swept away the Soviet system of government, the erstwhile superpower, the communist belief system, and the ruling party.Why did the Soviet system disintegrate? In the first year since its collapse, several conflicting and controversial "theories" have been proposed in explanation. A sharp line may be drawn between explanations that focus on particular aspects of the Soviet system—operations (as indicated by the slowdown of the economy, for example), institutions or personalities—and those which find the cause of the collapse in the essence of the Soviet regime.
ESSENTIALIST ARGUMENTS
The "essentialists," whose moral absolutism was at the root of the famous identification of the Soviet Union, barely ten years ago, as the "evil empire," make three claims regarding the origins of Soviet collapse:
1. The original seizure of power by the Leninists in 1917 was illegitimate, and this illegitimacy and a peculiar "genetic code" remained attached to the ruling party and the regime. And much as a form of original sin, they could not be shed or overcome; thus, the system was in some sense doomed from the start.
2. Throughout its history, the Soviet system was essentially unchangeable; whatever the alterations in institutions, policies, and personalities, these were relatively trivial, as throughout it was and remained an "ideocracy" and a "partocracy."
3. The Soviet system was "intrinsically unreformable": efforts to tinker with it, including those of the Gorbachev era, were intended only to rescue and

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