]]]]]]]]]]]]]]] GLASNOST [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[ (7/4/88) Is GLASNOST the end of communism, or is it a staged ploy of no consequence? Neither. Although it is difficult to appreciate for Westerners who have never lived under Communism, some of the things happening now in Mos- cow were unthinkable a few years ago. Bukharin, Kamenev, Zinoviev meant Satan, Lucifer, Manson, Dillinger, Anti-Christ. Now they are declared innocent victims of Stalin's terror. But never mind my musings, for there is a brilliant and deeply revealing article available: Walter Laqueur's "GLASNOST and Its Li- mits" in the July 1988 Commentary. (Laqueur is always good, and some- times brilliant. This is one of his brilliant pieces.) He notes that GLASNOST, a term difficult to translate, is one of long standing. Lenin said, and his words are frequently quoted by Gorbachev, that GLASNOST means "letting the party know everything." Apart from analyzing the Soviet aspects of GLASNOST, he also spends some thought on the US Sovietologist (and apologist) establishment. In history, for example, he comes to the conclusion that "The ironic result is that, thanks to GLASNOST, it is now safer to trust Soviet sources than to rely on the work of some `major' Western scholars." Let me just add a few points to Laqueur's truly profound analysis. First, the word GLASNOST. It is derived from GOLOS, voice: if there were such an English word, it would be "voicefulness:" letting people use their voices and listening to their voices. "Openness" is close, but it is NOT freedom of speech, merely disapproval of enforc- ing total silence. And what next? Trivial as Gorbachev's reforms are by Western standards, he is unlikely to get away with them. Khruschev's reforms were nowhere near as far-reaching, and he did not make it; he got kicked out by the aparatchik-military alliance (in his case, repre- sented by Brezhnev). That same alliance of ossified hardliners ("conservatives" the Western press loves to call them) may well be Gorbachev's downfall. Not necessarily by an outright sudden coup, although that is a dis- tinct possibility, but by stymieing his reforms "in the field." That not only thwarts the reforms themselves, but also makes him the the originator of reforms that do not work and inevitably causes his down- fall. It takes longer, but makes the take-over by the hardliners more "legitimate." It is also possible that, as in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslo- vakia in 1968, reforms will get out of control, and the Soviet army will have to step in to save the Purity of the Faith. I do not consi- der that very likely, because unlike Czechoslovakia or Hungary, the active yearning for freedom is, in the Soviet Union, confined to a subclass of intellectuals; except for its military machine and a few industrial fields, the Soviet Union is a backward country, ages behind its Central European colonies. Moreover, the nationalist, anti-Russian element is absent -- except in the non-Russian Soviet Republics, where, however, it most often has a purely national, and sometimes religious, character without substantial pressure for democratic free- doms. That is the case in the Ukraine, Azerbeidjan, Armenia, and the Mohammedan regions of Asia, though NOT in the Baltic republics. But whatever happens, Gorbachev is neither aiming to change the essence of Communism, nor will he succeed in doing so. We may wait for three signs before we begin to wonder whether the stripes or the leopard have changed. First, when Soviet armed forces have withdrawn from all countries that they have invaded by force and in contempt of international law. Second, when they USSR grants its citizens the unconditional right to leave their country. Third, when the Soviet judiciary can, and often does, overrule the government in civil-rights or other disputes. Among the countries that satisfy all three criteria is the Repu- blic of South Africa. Thus, we may safely say that the Soviet Union will begin to ap- proach the standards of a civilized country when its freedoms and human rights approach the level of South Africa.
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