Updating Old Socialism

by Maria Suarez


During the 1970' economic growth in the Soviet Union slowed dramatically. When Mikahil Gorbachev came to power, the economy was stagnating and the standard of living was nearly compared to Western Europe and the United States. Gorbachev and a group scholars saw the necessity to update the old socialist view. They developed a body of thought which was given the name of perestroika.


During the 19th Party conference in 1988, Gorbachev described a new vision of the Soviet society. The new socialism should be one that combined the best elements of the ideas of its founders together with the new improvements of other social systems. " Such a socialism, Gorbachev explained, would be a system of true and tangible humanism in which man is really the measure of all things". For instance, the economy should be dynamic, modern and with high labor productivity in which there would be worker participation and different types of property. The new system (developing communism) would combine central planning with autonomy for individual enterprises. In the other hand, the idea of satisfying the basic needs for all its citizens was curtail. Gorbachev thought that by satisfying the basic needs for everyone, the society would achieve high levels of culture and moral values as well as a true people's rule, a true democracy. He also thought of a society of free working people. This society would be built on the principles of humanism, socialist democracy and social justice. The economic system would be self-regulated, therefore, the state would only play a coordinating role in the economy. People would have a whole range or rights and power. All Ethnic groups would have equal rights, free choice and equality.


    This theoretical body was developed by a group of scholars including Fedor Burlatsky, Boris Kurashvili and Anatolii Butenko. They had different conceptions, for instance, Burlatsky supported decentralization and self-managed socialism. In order to achieve this, he proposed property reforms, decentralization of power. In the other hand, Kurashvili proposed that the future socialist society should be one in which state planning remained only for certain sectors. It would include property reforms and a considerable reduction of the size of the state. He shared Gorbachev's idea of a socialism that included the best of both capitalism and socialism. His ideas also included minority rights, separation of powers and a socialist multi-party system. Butenko's vision of the soviet's future was one of socialist popular self management. He saw the emancipation of labor as the main goal of socialism. What these ideas, wrapped up under the name of perestroika, liberated what had been caged under the strong government of the Soviet Union for years.



Colton, Timothy and Legvold, Robert. " After the Soviet Union: From Empire to Nations". W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 1992.

Fazio, Hugo. " Despues del Comunismo: La dificil transicion en Europa Central y Oriental". TM Editores, 1994.

Perestroika. www. perestroika.com












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