Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR, died in Moscow aged 91 on Tuesday.
His death was greeted with an outpouring of fulsome tributes and praise from the leaders of the imperialist nations who hailed him as a hero in the fight to restore capitalism in the Soviet Union.
This popularity was not shared by the Russian working class who loathed and reviled him for his attempt to smash the gains of the Russian revolution.
Gorbachev came to power as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1985, representing an openly restorationist trend within the Stalinist bureaucracy driven by an emerging world capitalist crisis that caused massive shortages in the USSR which led to a wave of strikes and demonstrations by workers.
Faced with a rebellious working class Gorbachev implemented his plans for ‘restructuring’ the Soviet economy (perestroika), opening it up to world capitalism by permitting the direct intervention of foreign capital through the surrender of the state monopoly on foreign trade.
Concessions to imperialism in terms of defence and foreign policies were made.
The armed forces were run down as Gorbachev accepted without question the assurances given by the US and NATO that the armies of imperialism would be withdrawn from Soviet borders and peace would be guaranteed. Gorbachev’s belief in imperialist lies paved the way for the war being waged against Russia today.
In foreign policy, the Palestinian struggle was betrayed when he acquiesced to the demand by the US to allow unlimited immigration of Soviet Jews to Israel, permitting hundreds of thousands to descend on Palestine to bolster the rapidly diminishing Jewish population of the Zionist state in preparation for a war to drive the Palestinian majority out of their homeland.
Gorbachev supported Tory PM Margaret Thatcher in her war to destroy the miners in the year-long strike in 1985.
At her bidding he prevented the large amount of money raised by Soviet workers to support the National Union of Mineworkers (whose funds had been seized by the Tories) ever reaching them.
No wonder Thatcher famously proclaimed he was a man she could ‘do business with’.
In the USSR, the stubborn resistance by Soviet workers to having the economic crisis dumped on their backs drove Gorbachev to become increasingly hysterical in his demand for action on ‘perestroika’.
A more timorous section of the Stalinist bureaucracy became nervous that the pro-capitalist policies were provoking such resistance within the working class that it threatened the entire bureaucracy.
In August 1991, an attempt was made by this section to dump Gorbachev. This terrified section of the bureaucracy, led by the head of the KGB and defence ministry, arranged for Gorbachev to be held under virtual arrest while on holiday in the Crimea.
This provided the opportunity for Gorbachev’s arch rival, Boris Yeltsin, to step in as defender of ‘democracy’, calling for the army to repudiate the removal of Gorbachev, and take over and oust the weakened Gorbachev himself.
Yeltsin took Gorbachev’s policy of weakening the USSR through restructuring forward to the point of the counter-revolutionary restoration of capitalism, with his policy of handing over to petty bureaucrats great chunks of the economy, creating billionaire ‘oligarchs’ overnight, and decreeing the dissolution of the USSR on December 8th, 1991.
Yeltsin and his supporters would, in turn, be defeated in parliamentary elections in 1993, defeated by the determination of the working class who fought Yeltsin’s restorationist policies to a standstill.
The successor to Gorbachev and Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin, has been forced by the working class to move to the left, and now balances with one foot on that section of the new bourgeoise that has pledged him their loyalty and the other foot in the working class striving to restore the Soviet Union and rule through workers’ soviets.
In fact, having thwarted all the attempts by the Stalinist bureaucracy to restore capitalism the political revolution by the working class to restore the rule of workers’ soviets by revolutionary means is now on the immediate agenda, as part of the developing world socialist revolution.
What is required is the building of sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International in every country to smash the imperialist powers so that the working class takes the power in the UK, the USA, and throughout the EU.
This will create the conditions where the workers of Russia and China can remove the remnants of the Stalinist bureaucracy in political revolutions, without the threat of imperialist intervention, thus completing the victory of the world socialist revolution.