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Gorby on LNL

July 26, 2006

Phillip Adams interviewed Mikhail Gorbachev last night on LNL. It was fascinating to hear him speak on the current state of the world in general – and he’s much more of an optimist than I’d expected him to be. He is now Chairman of Green Cross International, an organisation dedicated to lobbying for a sustainable future in a number of different ways. Gorby was much more sympathetic towards the current leaders of the world than one might expect also – I guess this would come from really knowing what it is like to be under that kind of pressure. He said that policy shapers, think tanks and the public need to take a more active role in guiding our politicians to make more sound decisions in regard to securing our future sustainably instead of just lobbying for a certain position. Easier said than done though.

I would have liked for them to talk about the decline and fall of the Soviet Union a little more, but I guess Gorby is probably well and truly over talking too much about that now. I’ve been reviewing and reading many different interpretations over the last few weeks about the now seemingly inevitable end of the Soviet Union. Next month marks the 15th anniversary of the infamous August 1991 failed coup by the hardliners in the CPSU that effectively sounded the death knell for the Union and eventually led to the official dissolution of the Union on December 8, 1991. I’m preparing to write a piece on some of the main reasons for the fall of the Soviet Union to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the failed coup attempt next month. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 15 years already. I’ve been going over what I think are some of the better histories in relation to this and it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that this slowly rotting, corrupt and effectively un-socialist empire was doomed to fall from the beginning.

Hobsbawm, one of the greatest historians to have graced our presence in my humble opinion (and also a Marxist), sums it up quite succinctly: “The failure of revolution elsewhere left the USSR committed to build socialism alone, in a country in which, by the universal consensus of Marxists in 1917, including Russian ones, the conditions for doing so were simply not present. The attempt to do so produced remarkable achievements – not least the ability to defeat Germany in the Second World War – but at quite enormous and intolerable human cost, and at the cost of what proved eventually to be a dead-end economy and a political system for which there was nothing to be said… A revival or rebirth of this pattern of socialism is neither possible, desirable, nor – even assuming conditions were to favour it – necessary.” (Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century: 1914-1991).

Poor old Gorby. Although his heart was in the right place in his efforts to integrate glasnost and perestroika into the existing Soviet system, in reality, these (particularly Glasnost) were precisely the ingredients needed to bring the rotting Soviet Empire and the Union itself to their knees. More on this next month as the anniversary of the coup nears.

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