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Perestroika Essay, Research Paper

Emergence of the Modern World

Gorbachev and Perestroika

In 1985, Soviet leader and Communist Party General Secretary Mikhail S.

Gorbachev announced perhaps the most far-reaching plan for his country’s

economic restructuring. This plan, called “Perestroika”, was a set of

strategies aimed at resolving the gap in scientific and technological

development with the West by initiating economic reform in the Soviet

Union. The meaning of Perestroika was best defined by the Party Plenum

of January 1987:

“Perestroika is the decisive defeat of the processes of stagnation, the

destruction of the braking mechanism, the creation of a reliable

and effective mechanism for increasing the pace of the social-economic

development of society. The main idea of our strategy is to unite the

achievements of the scientific-technical revolution with a planned

economy and to bring into action the entire potential of socialism.”

What this means is that Perestroika was an effort to keep up with the

Western world by initiating what was to them drastic economic reform.

They tried to implement basic capitalist structures and means of

production. However, it couldn’t reconcile itself with the power

structures of Soviet Communism.

The whole idea of Communism is all people are equal and all needs are

taken care of. It did not work that way. Under Soviet Communism, all

are poor, and there are a privileged and rich few that call the shots

and keep the opposition under its thumb. The economy was failing and

people were unhappy.

Perestroika would try to change that. According to Gorbachev in his 1987

book Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World, “In the

past 15 years, the [Soviet] economy had declined by more than

one-half…and had fallen to a level close to economic stagnation.”

There were two main reasons why the Soviet economy was doing so poorly.

First, there was the chronic overspending on the military-over 18

percent of the GNP by 1980! This was partially due to the Cold War’s

arms escalations, but also to quell any potential opposition. Second,

the Soviets could not keep up with the widening technological gap with

the West, due to the fact that they never did adopt modern production


These strategies, known as Toyotism, provides for a profit oriented

economy where things are only produced when they are needed and there

was to be no stock reserves. It is a production system dictated by

demand. It went against the basic tenets of the Soviet political

economy, which involved mass stockpiling of such things as arms to

protect against potential enemies. It failed, not surprisingly, because

you can’t completely change the main tenets of the old system and yet

try to keep the skeleton of it still in place.

Traditional Russians today who look back on the ‘good old days’ blame

Gorbachev and Perestroika for his part in the collapse of the Soviet

Union. They think him as sort of a villain who reversed seventy or so

years of hard work and started the dismantling of the

Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist totalitarian state. But looking back, it was

doomed to fail anyway.

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