The Soviet Union and the Challenge of the Future - Vol. 1

By Alexander Shromas; Morton A. Kaplan | Go to book overview

grant the reconciliation of the non-Muslim Soviet minorities. Just as shortages of food within the U.S.S.R. may serve to trigger internal disorders widespread and serious enough to set off the systemic crisis which is the subject of this paper, so either the ongoing tide of Polish dissidence or the long-continuing trickle of Soviet casualties from Afghanistan could serve in the same way.

Communist Moscow's dilemma may be formulated as follows: it probably cannot bring to an end the present perilous economic stagnation without marketizing the Soviet economy, yet it cannot tolerate stagnation indefinitely. But if it does undertake marketization, and is able to overcome the stubborn resistance of major elements of the new class thereto, it risks the loss of central control and must in any case accept an automatic shift in priorities from the military-industrial complex to popular consumption. It begins to look as though the tour de force we call Stalinist forced-draft industrialization has only temporarily created a superpower.

In my view, to repeat the principal theme of this essay, the chances of a political landslide in the Soviet Union within the next five to ten years are better than even. Let us hope that the Soviet new class and the Great Russian people can accept a reduction to mere great power status without involving themselves, and the rest of the world, in a nuclear crisis.


NOTES
1.
In the beginning I envisioned the possibility of a system breakdown as being better than even within five years. See my "Die nahende Krise in der Sowjetunion", Osteuropa XXXIII ( 1983): 449-462, 555-568, 705-723. After the selection of Mikhail Gorbachev as secretary general I lengthened the period by five years on the ground that he would probably make a serious effort at economic reform and thus lengthen the time in which my percentages (say 60-40) were at work. Marshall I. Goldman, U.S.S.R. in Crisis. The Failure of an Economic System ( New York: W.W. Norton, 1983), xiv, takes a position similar to my own. He argues that the Soviet economy is already in crisis in the sense that it can only recover the power of growth if it is marketized and such a change may be impossible politically.

For contrary views see Robert F. Byrnes, ed., After Brezhnev. Sources of Soviet Conduct in the 1980s. ( Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1983), xviii, and Timothy J. Colton, The Dilemma of Reform in the Soviet Union ( New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1984). My review of Byrnes is to be found at pp. 380-381 of Osteuropa (Stuttgart), XXIV ( 1984), and of Colton pp. 177-181 of The Washington Quarterly (Winter 1985).

2.
Henry Rowan, "Central Intelligence Agency Briefing on the Soviet Economy", Before the Subcommittee on International Trade, Finance and Security Economics, 1 December 1982

-158-

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