The Collapse of the Soviet Union Reconsidered by Roger Keeran and Thomas Kenny (May 10, 2014)

We argued that the Soviet Union did not collapse because socialism failed. Rather, the system of socialism based on collective or state ownership of property and state planning proved a remarkable success, particularly from the point of view of working people.

What brought down Soviet socialism were the policies pursued by Mikhail Gorbachev. These policies emanated from a belief that the problems of socialism could be solved by making unilateral concessions to imperialism and by incorporating into socialism certain ideas and policies of capitalism. Gorbachev’s ideas had roots in Soviet political discourse, but they had never triumphed so completely as they did under Gorbachev.

Why anti-Stalinism remains such a touchstone deserves more attention than it has received. Recently, such scholars as Domenico Losurdo and Grover Furr have shed light on this question. One factor, surely, is that the Stalin demonization has the support from the “Left,” a “Left” cover, thanks to Trotsky and Khrushchev. Another reason is that Stalin serves as a handy personal symbol of the USSR in 1924-53, the time of its successful construction and also the time when the Soviet state was the main enemy of imperialism. Whatever the reason, for Marxists, like some of our critics, to indulge in anti-Stalin stereotypes and to press them into polemical service, is best understood as an opportunist concession to the pressure of ruling class ideology. Of course, the undoing of anti-Stalinism will not come about by beatifying Stalin, by heaping praise on him, or still less by ignoring the problems associated with his leadership. It will come about, rather, by patient scholarly work that uses the same standards to evaluate him as would be used to evaluate any 20th century leader.


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