Perestroika Emergence of the Modern World Gorbachev and Perestroika In 1985, Soviet leader and Communist Party General Secretary Mikhail S. Gorbachev announced perhaps the most far-reaching plan for his country’s economic restructuring. This plan, called Perestroika, was a set of strategies aimed at resolving the gap in scientific and technological development with the West by initiating economic reform in the Soviet Union. The meaning of Perestroika was best defined by the Party Plenum of January 1987: Perestroika is the decisive defeat of the processes of stagnation, the destruction of the braking mechanism, the creation of a reliable and effective mechanism for increasing the pace of the social-economic development of society. The main idea of our strategy is to unite the achievements of the scientific-technical revolution with a planned economy and to bring into action the entire potential of socialism. What this means is that Perestroika was an effort to keep up with the Western world by initiating what was to them drastic economic reform. They tried to implement basic capitalist structures and means of production.
However, it couldn’t reconcile itself with the power structures of Soviet Communism. The whole idea of Communism is all people are equal and all needs are taken care of. It did not work that way. Under Soviet Communism, all are poor, and there are a privileged and rich few that call the shots and keep the opposition under its thumb. The economy was failing and people were unhappy. Perestroika would try to change that. According to Gorbachev in his 1987 book Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World, In the past 15 years, the [Soviet] economy had declined by more than one-half..and had fallen to a level close to economic stagnation.
There were two main reasons why the Soviet economy was doing so poorly. First, there was the chronic overspending on the military-over 18 percent of the GNP by 1980! This was partially due to the Cold War’s arms escalations, but also to quell any potential opposition. Second, the Soviets could not keep up with the widening technological gap with the West, due to the fact that they never did adopt modern production strategies. These strategies, known as Toyotism, provides for a profit oriented economy where things are only produced when they are needed and there was to be no stock reserves. It is a production system dictated by demand.
It went against the basic tenets of the Soviet political economy, which involved mass stockpiling of such things as arms to protect against potential enemies. It failed, not surprisingly, because you can’t completely change the main tenets of the old system and yet try to keep the skeleton of it still in place. Traditional Russians today who look back on the ‘good old days’ blame Gorbachev and Perestroika for his part in the collapse of the Soviet Union. They think him as sort of a villain who reversed seventy or so years of hard work and started the dismantling of the Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist totalitarian state. But looking back, it was doomed to fail anyway.