POLI 212 Lecture Notes - Mikhail Gorbachev, Glasnost, Planned Economy
APRIL 11, 2012: Topic 7
East vs. Western models of change:
The East has long periods of stasis punctuated by deep periods of rupture
The continuing importance of imperial structure in Eastern political development-
the East is organized into Czarist, Ottoman and Hapsburg empires until the end of
WW1. The states in play in 1945 in Eastern-Central Europe are relatively newly
formed, and they are states with relatively short experiences of democratic
Czarist Empire is replaced by a political structure organized around the party state.
The party state is embedded in the political structure- there is a core to the USSR (a
Russian core), and the USSR is a hegemon in East and Central Europe, especially
after it consolidates over the East in 1945.
Eastern Europe is a society organized around the imperatives of the imperial core
(the USSR), and the states that make up Eastern Central Europe after 1945 don’t
have the attributes of a Westphalian state, and have limits to their external and
internal sovereignty. Their foreign policies are subordinated to the foreign policy
interests of the USSR, which continued to maintain the military prerogative to
intervene in the satellite state’s affairs.
Transition and consolidation of democracy is going to come much later than it does
in Western Europe.
1917: A political mould is set as a consequence of the Russia Revolution
The Russian revolution was both local and universal, and it was designed to remake
state and regime in Russia, and it was predicated on a position with universal
implications. The Revolution is local, but also to be exported, which shows an
ambitious foreign policy. This means the Soviet Union will be surrounded by hostile
1945: The mould is confirmed/entrenched as the Soviet Union extends its sway
1989: The Breaking of the Mould and Collapse of the Soviet Union
o This is a particular type of democratic transition. Democratic transition issued
in new states, and borders were not held constant in important cases
(particularly the USSR, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia). New state formation is
relatively peaceful in the Czech-Slovak case, and in general, the formation of new
states out of the collapse of the USSR is a non-violent transition to new states
and new regimes. Yugoslavia’s breakup leads to ethnic war. At the limit, wars
between ethnic groups and peoples where militaries are fielded. In these multi-
national societies, in a democratic transition is also new state formation, which
is a specific feature of democratic consolidation in the East.
o Of transition in the Soviet Union and bloc, they are “last-class dual transitions”
because they were a change of political regime as well as a change in economic
structure. The economy is embedded in a political structure and does not have
the autonomy associated with a market in a capitalist economy, which means a
transition from the planned economy to a market economy free from party
control. A dual transition implies that those in transition have much more to
manage, and if the economic transition doesn’t go well then that may cause
problems in the political transition.
o How do civil power and military authority/capacity in democratic consolidation
connect? In other cases, it can be the case that the military resists transition or
will attempt to roll it back. How do they manage the military in these cases? The
military will often be the ringleader in the backlash against democratization.
The military is much more subordinated to civilian authority in the communist
The democratic transition cannot be thought of as a consequence of bottom-up
grassroots mobilization. The transition is initiated by elite- an “elite-led democratic
transition.” In the first instance, democratic transition is not aimed at
democratization. One part of the Soviet Union’s elite attempts to initiate political
and economic reform. The goal was to reform the structures of the Soviet Union to
increase its competitiveness internationally without losing control of the process of
reform. The goal was to hold constant the basic parameters of the Soviet Party state
while introducing enough change for international competitiveness.
It is elements of the old regime that initiate change: a negotiated transition. A
negotiated transition has a certain kind of structure:
1. There is an opening (a “decompression”) or opportunity for change. There
are initial attempts at reform (ex. Glasnost, Perestroika)
2. A split in the old regime- a split between hard-liners and soft-liners. Soft-
liners are seeking reform from within and want reform. Elite division
becomes apparent. Politicization of civil society- the process of reform will
become much harder to control. The movement towards regime change
3. Increasing polarization between soft-liners and hardliners. Hardliners start
to worry about the pace of transition, and the two groups start moving
further and further apart so there is not much of a centre anymore.
4. Backlash from hardliners- this introduces the possibility of civil war.
Hardliners start sensing they are losing control and try to regain it, often by
force (ex. An attempted coup against Gorbachev). If the hardliners can be
beaten down and civil war can be avoided, there is negotiated transition.
Dilemma inherent to life as a communist: They must be both modern and a
communist. There is a tension between competing militarily and maintaining
domestic stability. There is tension between innovating and maintaining the
fundamentals of the USSR. These are not new dilemmas in Western history. In the
late Czarist Empire, the elite had an interest in maintaining military competitiveness
and had incentive to modernize.