This article was written in 1986. A year earlier Mikhail Gorbachev acceded to power in the Soviet Union. Three months earlier, at the 27th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, he announced a sensational program of reforms. For growing sectors of the left in the world it augured or at least promised a rebirth of socialism in the USSR. My point of view was completely different.
Events at the top of the Soviet power pyramid confirmed that the bureaucratic rule entered a phase of irremediable crisis. On the horizon there was the capitalist restoration and the breakup of the USSR along national lines. What became very probable was a mass upsurge of the oppressed nationalities against Russian imperialism.
It posed the crucial problem: if national revolutions broke out there, how they would be able to combine with sociopolitical revolutions against both the bureaucratic rule and the capitalist restoration?
But at the same time it was very probable that the fall of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Bloc would be accompanied by an enormous political confusion, crisis and fall of the radical left on the world scale. This is why I wrote:
“I read recently that Reagan has declared himself a supporter of Solidarność’s program. How could he say that he is a supporter of a program that calls for building a self-governed republic based on social ownership of the means of production and on workers’ self-management? Why not? If American workers and unionists do not know much more about it than American Blacks and Chicanos used to know about the program of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army? We should realize the kind of world we are living in. The Kremlin satraps lay claim to the tradition of the Russian revolution and declare their support for the Third World liberation movements. The man who led the victorious revolution against American imperialism in Cuba goes to Moscow to proclaim there that ‘you can’t shut out the sun with a finger’. The sun in question is the USSR, which other revolutionists, the Ukrainians, have excoriated as a giant prison house of nations. Some leaders of the Polish revolution, crushed by the totalitarian bureaucracy, have sent the chiefs of US imperialism, which exploits the workers and oppresses the peoples of a good part of the planet, expressions of gratitude for the latters’ intransigent defence of democracy. We have to recognize the devastating consequences these paradoxes have for the consciousness of the workers and peoples throughout the world, in whatever camp they live, whatever immediate enemy they face. You could get the impression that we have set one foot into the Orwellian world in which ‘freedom is slavery and ignorance is power’. But we should not give way to impressions. We should assume our responsibilities.”
Today the challenge is still essentially the same.
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