Political reform under Gorbachev

Political reform under Gorbachev

Gorbachev’s Path to Power

  • Transition: Gorbachev took on the role of General Secretary in 1985, inheriting an economy in crisis and a political establishment resistant to change.
  • Political Career: Gorbachev distanced himself from his predecessors, showing himself as a breath of fresh air in Soviet politics, which aided his rise to power.

Economic Reforms (Perestroika)

  • Perestroika: Gorbachev initiated perestroika (restructuring) in 1985, a policy aiming to reform the centrally planned economy which hindered the growth of the USSR.
  • Industrial Autonomy: Perestroika gave greater autonomy to state enterprises, shifting toward a more market-oriented economic model.
  • Joint Ventures: For the first time, Soviet firms were allowed to form joint ventures with foreign companies, opening up opportunities for investment and modernisation.

Political Reforms (Glasnost and Democratisation)

  • Glasnost: In 1986, Gorbachev implemented glasnost (openness), a policy to promote transparency and freedom of speech in the USSR, remarkably different from past policies.
  • Democratisation: As part of his political reform, Gorbachev introduced competitive elections in 1989. Although limited, these were the first free elections since the 1917 revolution.
  • Reducing Party Control: Gorbachev aimed to reduce the CPSU’s grip on the political system. New political groups and multiple candidates were allowed in local elections.
  • Foreign Policy Shift: Gorbachev shifted away from the Brezhnev Doctrine, pledging to respect other nations’ rights to choose their own path.

Impact of Reforms

  • Unleashing Nationalism: Gorbachev’s policies unintentionally stirred nationalist sentiments in many republics that had been suppressed by past regimes.
  • Internal Resistance: Gorbachev faced resistance from hardline communists, resulting in an attempted coup in 1991.
  • Dismantling of USSR: Despite Gorbachev’s best intentions, the reforms led to an increase in democratic ideas, ultimately contributing to the dissolution of the USSR in 1991.

Gorbachev’s rule witnessed significant political and economic reforms which dramatically changed the face of the USSR. It’s important to remember that while these changes introduced a level of freedom and democracy, they also contributed to the end of the Soviet Union. As such, Gorbachev’s impact is still a topic of much debate.