Chapter 9 – The Strategy Gains Force: The Second Term

Gorbachev’s Rise. In contrast with the constant fluctuations in the Kremlin’s top leadership during Reagan’s first term, his second term coincided with the selection of Mikhail Gorbachev as Soviet leader by the Party’s Central Committee on March 11, 1985. The new General Secretary and Premier was a proven Marxist-Leninist, a university-trained intellectual and apparatchik. He appeared confident, even brash, about the Communist ideology’s supposedly “scientific” doctrinal basis and the historically-determined inevitability of the global expansion of the Kremlin’s “Socialist Camp” of Communist nations. Still in his mid-fifties, he was not shy about showing off his presumed intellect, historical understanding, and leadership abilities. A long-time Party operative and a reported favorite of Yuri Andropov, Gorbachev presented himself as a new type of Soviet leader: youthful, energetic, charismatic, and capable of utilizing Communist principles to achieve substantial reforms at home and new respect for the Soviet Union abroad. While Reagan’s opponents in politics, the media, etc. continued to give Reagan no credit for his far-reaching first-term domestic successes of his arms control and democratic regional proposals and actions, and to view him simplistically as a Cold War provocateur, but they generally welcomed Gorbachev as a benign “true” reformer who could bring a measure of progress and stability to Moscow and the world.

Gorbachev’s Fatal Leninist Foundations and Limitations. Gorbachev came to power with high expectations, exceptional self-confidence, and overt, if unwarranted, Marxist-Leninist intellectual pride. He long held on to the fatal illusion that he could successfully modernize a Communist regime through perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness) without violating the foundations and framework of the totalitarian ideology and system. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher thought they could “do business” with Gorbachev as a new type of Soviet leader different from his thuggish predecessors and thought he might actually undertake (and risk) real reforms. At the same time, as Churchillian conservatives, they appeared to understand far better than their diplomats or political opponents at home, and than Gorbachev himself, that if he actually opened the Communist minds, ideology, regime, and empire to genuine reforms, he would risk fundamental regime changes that could collapse the central totalitarian dogma and authority that the system required. Without quite realizing what he was risking, Gorbachev would open new paths to forms of domestic and international peace and freedom that would undermine and potentially destroy the Soviet Union and its Moscow-dominated Socialist camp.

Perestroika? Readers are referred to Gorbachev’s book Perestroika—New Thinking for Our Country and the World, published in English in 1987, and his (mostly propagandistic) exchanges of letters with Reagan in Reagan’s Correspondence with Soviet Leaders. These texts and Gorbachev’s and other subsequent Soviet views, demonstrate that while Gorbachev attempted substantial Soviet structural and policy changes, he appears never to have realized, or done so far too late, the fatal issues inherent in any such reform efforts to open the totalitarian Soviet Union’s political faith, regime, and imperial system. The history of Communist ideology and regimes (see Chapter 2, 3, and 4) demonstrates that, for a Communist Party’s survival, all such reform efforts would inevitably have to be crushed, as had Lenin’s “new economic policy” (NEP) efforts and all “springs” and other political and social efforts to “put a human face on communism” in East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, China, and elsewhere. Real openness would require an explicitly anti-Communist freedom revolution that altogether rejected Communist doctrine and practice.

Citations from Gorbachev’s Leninist Perestroika: “More Socialism.” Excerpted citations from Gorbachev’s Perestroika text, a book formally subtitled Turning to Lenin: an Ideological Source of Perestroika, reflect the fundamental contradiction between Gorbachev’s analysis of severe Soviet problems and his intellectual illusions about the validity of Marxist-Leninist dialectics. As a Communist intellectual, Gorbachev could not understand the reality that the Kremlin’s so-called “collective leadership,” “peoples’ democracy,” “planned economy,” and the larger “Socialist Camp” of Communist nations that he faithfully supported were all elements of a corrupt, wasteful and long obsolete statist totalitarian system. Administered as a “dictatorship of the proletariat” by Communist Party “vanguards” of central planners, it had to enforce monopoly control of all aspects of a “socialist” society’s economic, political, and cultural life. Gorbachev’s obsolete intellectual framework attempted to make his proclaimed objectives of perestroika and glasnost somehow compatible with the Marxist-Leninist insistence on Communist Party-run dictatorial “socialist” regimes energized by what Gorbachev still believed to be “life-giving Leninist principles.” Thus, according to Gorbachev.

[Book pg. 192]