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New Left Review I/169, May-June 1988


Boris Kagarlitsky

Perestroika: The Dialectic of Change

To Western observers, Soviet society at the end of the 1970s seemed hopelessly conservative and arguments over the ‘unreformability of Communism’ became commonplace among dissidents and the liberal intellectuals who sympathized with them. Pessimism reigned even among official experts, many of whom, on their own admissiom, ‘had fallen into the depths of despair’. [1] See the very candid interview with Nikolai Shmelev in Knizhnoe Obozrenie, 1988, No. 1. There seemed no prospects for the future of the country other than an expectation of slow decay. However, with the coming to power of Mikhail Gorbachev, the general mood rapidly changed. People who, until recently, had had no faith in even the possibility of reform, began to speak confidently of its irreversibility. The experts were gripped by reformist euphoria and the western press, of both left and right, began to write of the success of the changes in the ussr with unprecedented enthusiasm. Although nobody denied the difficulties being encountered by perestroika—particularly the opposition of the bureaucratic apparatus and the complex economic situation of the country—nothing was capable of shifting the general mood of triumph.

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