History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2010: Q.5 (c)
Q.5 (c) “The essence of Perestroika is for people to feel they are the country’s master.” — Gorbachev. Critically evaluate.
In the mid-1980s, the new General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the liberalizing reforms of perestroika (“restructuring”) and glasnost (“openness”) to bring long term changes in the administration and the stagnant economy of the erstwhile USSR.
In an speech in Krasnodar on 18 september, 1986, he said that the essence of Perestroika is for people to feel they are the country’s master.
Gorbachev had rejected the notion that the political and economic institutions of state should favour one class over another; rather the state should serve the need of all the people and the institutions of the state should be structured so as to ensure equal access amd representation to every section. He said that the interests of societal development and pan-human values take priority over the interests of any particular class.
Against this backdrop, Perestroika was instituted to restructure Soviet economic and political policy.
Economic restructuring under Perestroika
The economy of the USSR was too much centralized with controlled production and export. The government was involved in every aspect of economy and there were less incentives for any private innovation.
Perestroika relaxed the production quota system, allowed private ownership of businesses and paved the way for foreign investment. These measures were intended to redirect the country’s resources from costly Cold War military commitments to more productive areas in the civilian sector.
Political restructuring under Perestroika
Gorbachev also proposed to reduce the direct involvement of the Communist Party leadership in the country’s governance and increasing the local governments’ authority.
Communist Party Central Committee adopted a number of resolutions calling for ideological and political reform. This led to allow multicandidate elections in the USSR for local and national posts.
In 1988 a new parliament, the Soviet Congress of People’s Deputies, was created. Similar congresses were established in each Soviet republic as well.
For the first time, elections to these bodies presented voters with a choice of candidates, including noncommunists.
Did Perestroika succeed?
However, Perestroika could not succeed to an extent it was envisioned. For radicals, it was too less a reform and for conservatives, it was too much. Hence, it got attacked from both the fronts. The bureaucracy, fearing the loss of its power and privileges, obstructed much of the program.
Public support also lost soon as they did not see any immediate benefit.
Perestroika is often argued to be the cause of the disintegration of the USSR, the revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe, and the end of the Cold War.