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Gorbachev and the Market

No doubt Gorbachev has been entirely misunderstood in the West, and continues to be. The primary myth is that glasnost and perestroika represented fundamental change from the Soviet past. They did not establish Western-style economic or political freedom, as the media led Americans to believe. Instead, each was designed to "improve and perfect" the workings of socialism. "I've been told more than once that it is time to stop swearing allegiance to socialism," Gorbachev said recently. "Why should I? Socialism is my deep conviction, and I will promote it as long as I can talk and work."

Gorbachev has always been an adherent of communist ideology. Despite seeing firsthand the malnutrition and even starvation caused by socialism, and despite the murder of his grandfather by Stalin's men, he chose politics as his life's work.

In the Communist Party, as in a mafia family, clawing your way to the top requires many demonstrations of loyalty, sometimes involving murder, and Gorbachev performed well. He thinks like a Communist: issue orders and demand obedience. The only sense in which Gorbachev is different from his predecessors is that he is smoother.

Contrary to myth, Gorbachev has systematically demolished what little market activity existed in the Soviet Union. First he waged an anti-alcohol campaign, where everybody with alcohol on his breath was taken to...

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