THE interviews given by Mikhail Gorbachev on the 25th anniversary of the Stalinist bureaucracy overthrowing the USSR show that the question of the restoration of the Soviet Union is rapidly emerging in Russia and in the other soviet states.
The former President of the USSR was the main architect of the process of perestroika in the Soviet Union throughout the 1980s. Now 85, he is driven to try to justify his role in launching the attempt by the Stalinist bureaucracy to completely destroy all the gains of the October revolution, and his refusal to halt their attempt to restore capitalism to the USSR – with shock therapy their main weapon.
The restructuring (perestroika) that Gorbachev implemented in the USSR amounted to nothing more than allowing private ownership of businesses in the services, manufacturing and foreign trade sectors. Foreign money was invited in to invest in joint ventures with state enterprises. Gorbachev pushed open the door to capitalist exploitation. But the pace of pro-capitalist reforms was too slow for those who advocated the complete overthrow of socialist property relations. They coalesced around Boris Yeltsin, a former ally of Gorbachev, who became the main opposition to him.
While these counter-revolutionary Stalinist bureaucrats plotted, the Soviet people were overwhelmingly against the breakup of the USSR and capitalist restoration. A referendum saw over 70% of the Soviet people voting to keep the USSR.
Yeltsin resorted to a coup when in December 1991 the leaders of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, three bureaucrats, met in secret behind Gorbachev’s back and unilaterally decided to dissolve the Soviet Union. ‘Behind our backs there was treachery. Behind my back. They were burning down the whole house just to light a cigarette. Just to get power … It was a coup.’
It was a coup that Gorbachev completely capitulated to. Instead of immediately ordering the arrest of the coup leaders who were defying the will of the Soviet people, Gorbachev meekly resigned, to avoid bloodshed and a ‘civil war’, as he says. There would in fact have been no civil war. These reactionary coupists represented only themselves and the interests of the imperialist powers who were hungry to restore capitalism.
Yeltsin declared the dissolution of the USSR on December 8 1991 and made the Communist Party illegal. He immediately appointed a new government and launched a campaign of ‘shock therapy’ to restore capitalism in 100 days. State industries were looted and privatised by the bureaucrats, now the mega-rich oligarchs whose fortunes were stolen from the working class, while millions of workers got no pay and were simply left to starve.
This led to a revolutionary upsurge amongst workers that found its reflection in splits within the bureaucracy, forcing Yeltsin to order tanks to open fire on the Supreme Soviet building in September 1993 and for troops to storm it to defeat the opposition within.
Although Yeltsin appeared to emerge victorious over the opposition within the ranks of the bureaucracy, he had not succeeded in defeating the working class. In parliamentary elections held in December 1993, Yeltsin’s supporters suffered a huge defeat and became a minority, much weaker than the Communist Party and nationalist groups. The Russian working class had fought Yeltsin and the capitalist restorationists to a standstill.
Yeltsin is long gone, while his heir, Putin, has been forced by the working class to move to the left, with one foot in the working class, which is striving to restore soviet rule, and the other on the oligarchs, who want capitalism restored. Only the Trotskyist movement, the International Committee of the Fourth International, insisted that the gains of the Russian Revolution had not been destroyed by the Stalinist bureaucracy and that the issue then, and even more urgently today, is in the building of revolutionary sections in the former USSR to lead the political revolution.
The issue is a very basic and simple one. In October 1917, world capitalism broke at its weakest link – Russia! Today world capitalism is in an even greater and more desperate crisis, and will break in Europe, and even the USA.
This break, with its new socialist revolutions, will create the conditions for the Soviet workers to push the Stalinist bureaucracy aside with a political revolution, and restore rule through workers’ Soviets.