Cultural Revolutions

Setting the Stage

The Bolshevik Revolution's 73rd anniversary set the stage for an angry dissident's attempt to assassinate Mikhail Gorbachev at an outdoor rally. It would have been the first shot of the coming Russian revolution, which may be peaceful, but more likely not.

Time is running out for peaceful change. Gorbachev's new Treaty of the Union is supposed to create a federation government with the republics. To the republics' leaders, it represents the return of Soviet imperialism. The republics don't want power sharing; they want an end to Moscow-run socialism. And they won't accept compromise, despite Mr. Gorbachev's promise of "massive bloodshed" if they don't.

The official "economy" is in uncontrollable free fall. A team of Soviet bureaucrats recently surveyed state stores to see how many goods out of one thousand were available. The result: four. A famine seems inevitable, especially if Mr. Gorbachev cracks down further on the underground economy. A growing number of dissidents say they cannot contain their rage against a system that has driven the country into the ground.

When the present reforms began, I was working in the Soviet Academy of Sciences, later serving as an adviser to the Gorbachev reform team. I was part of a small cadre of economists who saw firsthand that Gorbachev knew nothing about economics. The only market he understood, or would tolerate, was...

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