The victory of counter-revolution cannot be explained without approaching the study of what was happening in the Soviet Union. The International Communist Review, and especially issues 2 and 7 —devoted to the discussion on socialism and the 100th anniversary of the Great Socialist October Revolution— has taken on such task.
In the Editorial article of issue 7, published in 2017, we stated:
“Today the communist and workers parties ought to better study the contemporary elaborations of the parties that support the effort of the ICR and draw useful conclusions for the future regarding the economic changes that were implemented in the USSR and the other socialist states, mainly after the 20th and 22nd Congresses of the CPSU, with the return of market 'tools', like profit, and the more general strengthening of commodity-money relations in the conditions of the socialist economy. The changes that took place in the political superstructure of the USSR need to be studied, such as, e.g. the political line regarding an 'All- people's State', as well as the strategy of the USSR in international relations (e.g. the 'peaceful coexistence' and 'competition' of the two socio-economic systems) as well as the strategy of the international communist movement (e.g. dissolution of the 3rd International, strategy of stages to socialism). More generally, the causes of the overthrow of the socialist system must be more deeply studied. This was a counterrevolution because it brought social regression. The absolute domination of capitalism has piled up great sufferings for millions of people, inside and outside the socialist countries that we knew.”
Indeed, after the 20th Congress of the CPSU, the gradual strengthening of market mechanisms of production (market-money relations) and the changes in the superstructure of the USSR —quite significantly the rejection of the dictatorship of the proletariat in 1961 and its replacement by the All-people's State— eroded the workers' power and strengthened the capitalist forces.
The so-called “shadow capital”, which tried to legally operate as productive capital and pressed on the CPSU and the Socialist State to restore capitalism, gradually emerged. Market relations were reinforced instead of strengthening the socialist productive relations.
The outcomes of such a revisionist policy were soon felt at all levels. In the economic sphere, “brake mechanism” started to be used as a reference to the decline of growth rates in the Soviet economy in the 70's, a decline that would turn into stagnation in the mid-80's.
The negative changes in the economic base of society were projected over the other spheres of social life. Problems that had been almost eradicated during the socialist construction began to increase. Crime rates and alcoholism also increased, prostitution was a phenomenon that reappeared and new social scourges —like drug addiction— arose.
The socialist values were eroded and social unrest increased among a population that witnessed how many corporate officers, officials and politicians became wealthier and increased their power outside the socialist legality. Growing sections of the people began to show signs of disaffection and question the official information, the CPSU slogans, and the Soviet institutions. They were increasingly exposed to the capitalist “mass culture” because of the lack of revolutionary proposals to face the workers' and people's problems.
In April 1985, a plenary session of the Central Committee of the CPSU would be called. Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary since March 1984, would advertise the basic principles of the Perestroika (restructuring) strategy.
In the economic sphere, the Perestroika meant a spectacular increase of independence for companies and associations by prioritizing their own accountability and funding, justified by the effectiveness in management. It busted central planning of economy regarding price fixing, financial and credit mechanisms, the net of technological supplies and productive materials and the organization of the scientific-technical development, all of it on behalf of “self-management”, later promoted to a higher degree in the plenary session of the Central Committee of the CPSU held in June 1987, when the “Foundations of a radical restructuring of the economic direction” were approved. The “brake mechanism” they allegedly fought against —which actually expressed the clash between the development of productive forces and the productive relations— was used to justify new reforms in a capitalist sense.
In the political sphere, it was claimed that the Perestroika could be conducted only through democracy. The replacement of the dictatorship of the proletariat by the so-called “All-people's State” reached a new dimension. The Marxist-Leninist principles on the Theory of the State and Law were completely replaced by a bourgeois understanding of democracy complemented by the Glasnost (transparency) policies, thus contributing to the weakening of Soviet power from within and to the creation of the political conditions for the victory of counter-revolution in the following years.
The Perestroika, far from what some trends have stated, was not detached from the erroneous measures launched after the right-wing theses approved in the 20th Congress of the CPSU. Mikhail Gorbachev wrote in the book that explained the restructuring policy the following passage:
“An important milestone of our history was the 20th Congress of the CPSU, as it decisively contributed to the theory and practice of socialist construction. Following this Congress, a great effort was made in order to realign the advance of the country and fulfill the overcome of the negative features of the social and political life bred by the personality cult to Stalin.
The decisions adopted in the Congress contributed to the implementation of decisive political, economic, social, and ideological measures, but the possibilities arising from it were not fully used (…).
This is precisely why in the following period —whose most characteristic fact was the plenary session of the Central Committee of the CPSU held in October 1964— the first measure taken was the correction of such extremes, adopting a stance trending towards stabilization. It was a well justified stance that received the support of the people and the Party. Soon some positive results were witnessed. The decisions made and adopted were better thought and substantiated. The beginning of the 1965 economic reform and the plenary session of the Central Committee held in March 1965 devoted to agriculture were two important initiatives addressed to the introduction positive changes in the economy.”
Hence, the Perestroika did not mean a rupture with the previous policies, but it was their deepening. Mikhail Gorbachev himself, by criticizing the opposition within the CPSU to such policies, proves to be fully aware of the basic features of the discussion, as he shows in this passage:
“Under such conditions, a prejudiced attitude on the role of the market-money relations and the law of value in a socialist system soon arouse, which frequently stated that they were alien and even against socialism.”
Far from what the bourgeois historiography has stated, despite the growth in the 80's of social forces that supported the restoration of capitalism, the Soviet working class and the popular masses did not reject socialism. Actually, it should be remembered that the policies that led to counter-revolution were justified precisely on behalf of socialism under a huge effort of diversionism and ideological manipulation.
In the work “I, Mikhail Gorbachev. Perestroika. My Message to the World”, widely spread in the capitalist countries through massive free-of-charge deliveries to the main newspapers, the then General Secretary of the CPSU attempts to present the Perestroika as “the return to Lenin, an ideological source of the Perestroika”, making a biased interpretation of the works written by Lenin in his last years of life and the NEP and justifying his positions under slogans such as “more socialism and more democracy” or “the Perestroika is a revolution”. He even claims that “we will not attempt to walk away from socialism, but advance towards a better socialism. We sincerely say so, without the slightest intention to deceive our own people or the world”.
Evidently, the subsequent events refuted Gorbachev. Several years after the victory of counter-revolution, he was willing to participate in an advertising spot in which several customers in a Pizza Hut restaurant were discussing in front of him about the legacy of his policies and eventually an old woman stated that “thanks to Gorbachev, Russians have Pizza Hut” while the customers show their pizza portions and toast with Gorbachev. He also participated in advertising spots for the well-known French luxury brand Louis Vuitton, and several years later he recognized that “had I proclaimed then the final goal, I would have been immediately overthrown”.
Gorbachev was not overthrown in the confusing events of August 1991, which opened the door to his resignation and the dismantling of the Soviet Union. It was workers' power and socialism what was really overthrown in the USSR and other socialist countries, being the results of it for the working class and the popular masses quite different to those claimed in advertising spots. Let us see just a few data:
- State expenditures went from 47.9% of the 1991 GDP to 26.9% in the first half of 1995, below the USA.
- On January 2, 1992 practically all the prices were opened up.
- Since January 1992 Russia endured the most severe and long-lasting economic decline of all the powers in the 20th century in times of peace. Between 1991 and 1996, real GDP and industry production dropped to almost a half, investment dropped more than 70% and agricultural production to a third.
- By the end of 1994, 78.5% of industry production was coming from non-State companies. A regime of free import, free movement of capital and free foreign exchange was quickly established.
- In September 1996, estimations claimed that the unpaid wages summed US$6.8 millions, which was approximately 64% of the monthly wage mass in the country.
- The death rate in Russia increased from 11.4 per mille in 1991 to 15.5 per mille in 1994, and to 14.3 per mille in 1996. The high rate was caused by sharp increases in the number of deaths related to alcohol, suicides, murders, circulatory and respiratory problems, infections and parasites, connected to the economic policies and decline. The higher mortality rate in the '92-'96 period caused 2.1 millions of premature deaths in that term in Russia.
These were some of the results of the overthrow and the policies of liberalization and privatization implemented according to the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund and based on the complete legalization of private property, free trade within the country, removal of obstacles in the foreign trade, liberalization of prices and transfer of socialist property to private hands.
The CPSU was banned, just like other Communist Parties in the Soviet Republics and other socialist countries. The working class lost power and was again expropriated.