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6 E. Eur. Const. Rev. 43 (1997)
Really Imaginary Socialism

handle is hein.journals/eeurcr6 and id is 147 raw text is: SPING/SUMMER 1997

Special Reports

Explaining the end of Soviet power

Really Imaginary Socialism
Referring to 1989, Adam Przeworski has pointed to
what he considers the dismal failure of the predic-
tive power of political science., Timur Kuran
reminds us, however, that the revolution of 1989
was not the      first  to  surprise  us. Time
and again [from the French Revolution to the
Bolshevik, Nazi, and      Iranian  revolutions]
entrenched authority has vanished suddenly, leav-
ing the victors astonished at their triumph and the
vanquished at their defeat.2 Of course, one might
say that this simply makes Przeworski's indictment
all the more damning.
I don't think so. A much neglected, but in my
mind superior theorist, Leon Trotsky, responding to
the 1905 revolution, pointedly noted that the ques-
tion was not the date of the revolution but the anal-
ysis of its inner forces and of foreseeing the progress
as a whole.3 In fact, one group of analysts studying
the Soviet Union did have a correct grasp of its inner
forces, but no one foresaw the progress as a whole.
Why should they have? After all, there was no
immediate crisis that caused the Leninist
Extinction. In one far from frivolous respect the fail-
ure to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union was
more a failure of dialysis than of analysis. Had Yuri
Andropov lived, the Soviet Union would still be in
its corrupt Ottoman incarnation, not its
current weak (Russian) Ataturk one. Vladimir
Kontorovich quite reasonably observes that, in the
mid-1980s the [Soviet Union] was at the height of

its military power, enjoying its newly acquired
strategic parity. Dissidents were suppressed and the
population subdued. And, he adds, to the best of
our knowledge the majority of the population was
satisfied with its economic situation., In the case of
Soviet collapse, it wasn't the economy, stupid. A
quick comparison of the Soviet situation in 1945
and 1985 should make that clear to anyone.
Devastated by war with more than twenty-five mil-
lion dead, the collective farm system in tatters, need-
ing to absorb a huge military, and come to grips with
a new capitalist foe possessing atomic weapons
and the most powerful economy in world history,
the Soviet Union did not collapse. Stalin did not
have second thoughts about Nikolai Bukharin or
start reading Eduard Bernstein. Stalin approached
his task in the Leninist spirit of what is to be re-done.
In contrast, Mikhail Gorbachev approached his task
in the spirit of what is to be un-done, in spite of hav-
ing the world's third largest economy. Something
more important than the economy was involved.5
Writing in the same excellent issue of The
National Interest as Kontorovich, Myron Rush
argued that Gorbachev's reforms were not the
result of necessity imposed on the Soviet leadership
by the threat of the regime's imminent collapse, nor
to pressures emerging from society-neither the
working class nor the intelligentsia. Rather, accord-
ing to Rush, the Soviet Union succumbed to ill con-
ceived reforms originating in the leadership, to poor

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