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38 Probs. Communism 34 (1989)
Power to the Soviets

handle is hein.journals/probscmu38 and id is 38 raw text is: 





Power to the Soviets?






Jeffrey  W.  Hahn


AS  general secretary, MikhaiL Gorbachev was quick to
propose  a major  restructuring (perestroyka) of the
Soviet system. At the April 1985 plenum of the Central
Committee  of the Communist  Party of the Soviet Union
(CPSU),  and then at the 27th CPSU Congress  in early
1986, he tabled a dazzing program of reforms ranging
from civil rights and glasnost to the anti-alcoholsm
campaign   and  economic   self-sufficiency for enter-
prises. Like the early Bo sheviks, Gorbachev seemed
so certain of the rectitude of his views that he expected
no resistance. Yet by the beginning of 1988, it had be-
come  clear to him that although a number of measures
had already been adopted, the reconstruction of Soviet
society was  falling far short of his goals. And after
the economic  reforms had been  approved, it became
evident that their successful imp ementation depended
on the introduction of a program of political reforms
as well.
  The Genera  Secretary addressed  these matters in a
speech  to the Centra Committee on February 18, 1988,
in which he expressed impatience with the pace of re-
form, attacked those in state and party administration
who refused to accept change, and called for accelera-
tion of the 'process of democratization. He also ex-
plicitly caled for politica reform:

Comrades!  Our economic  reforms, the development of
the processes of democracy,  the renewal of the spiri-


Jeffrey W. Hahn  is Professor of Political cience at
Villanova University and in the spring of 1987 was a
Fulbright Exchange  Scholar on  the Juridical Faculty
of Moscow  State University. Among his many writings
on Soviet domestic politics is Soviet Grassroots: Citi-
zen Participaton in Local Soviet Government (1988).
The author wishes to thank the International Research
Exchanges   Board and  the Carnegie  Corporation for
funding of travel to the Soviet Union in July 1988 and
February 1989  respectively.,


tual-moral sphere, that is, everything connected with
the concept of revolutionary restructuring-all are links
of a single chain. They are closely interrelated and in-
terdependent, and it is necessary that if you begin to re-
structure one of them, then you must continue with the
others. . Therefore, it is fully nafural, and, I would say,
logical to turn to the necessary restructuring of our polit-
ical system.

Looking  ahead to the 19th Party Conference  in June
1988, Gorbachev  defined political reform as that gath-
ering's top priority, and sIng ed out the soviets for par-
ticular attention:

Above  all, discussion should proceed about  how  to
raise the role of the soviets as the core of he political
system  of our society, as its governmental embodi-
ment.  It is precisely here, in the formation and the
functioning of the soviets, that we must first realize the
demnocra tic principles of socialism.'

  The soviets might have seemed  an unlikely focus of
political reform. Although, in theory, deputies elected to
these legislative councis by all Sov et citizens choose
the members   of the executive and administrative de-
partments and hold them accountable, in reai ty it is the
administrators who have dominated the deputies. Over
the years, the authority of the deputies has been largely
reduced  to ritualistic ratification of decis ions that have
already been prepared  in advance by members  of the
state and party apparatuses. Virtuall yal decisions are
taken unanimously, and what little participation by dep-
uties does take place is carefully choreographed by the
organizational-instructional department of the local so-


  'The Report of CC CPSU General Secretary M. S (
Revolutionary Perfestroyka.The Ideoiogy of Renewa.
TsK KPSS. 18 tev 1988 (Materis of the CPSU Centr
Plenum, Feb. 18 1988, Moscow, Politizdat, 1988. pp


rn0


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