October 8, 1989
Reprinted from The Worthington News
As anyone paying the most cursory attention to recent international news should know, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is rumored to be stepping down as head of the Russian Communist Party. Unbelievable as this idea may sound, it is a real possibility, one that could turn the situation in Eastern Europe and the entire world upside-down.
For the majority of his term in power, Gorbachev has preached the gospel of Perestroika, but now that the people have followed his lead, the man who started the freedom ball rolling may find himself crushed by an avalanche of humanity eager to distance itself from the Communist Party he leads.
If Gorbachev does decide to step down as party leader, he will not be relinquishing power altogether, as he would still be the leader of the Soviet Parliament, to which many members were selected in partially free elections last year.
Experts appear undecided whether the Soviet president would lose the majority of his power in such a move, or actually strengthen his future position by distancing himself now from an ever-weakening party. Even with the risks involved in such a step, it’s likely to be a solid gamble if Gorbachev plans to remain in power for an extended period of time.
As is evident throughout most of the former Soviet Block, the theories of Leninist revolution have failed. Imploding from the absence of personal freedoms and a ridiculously inept economic system, modern communism has managed to wear out its welcome on the international landscape in less than 75 years.
In the end it wasn’t bombs and tanks that put an end to European Marxism. The communist system killed itself. Like a drunk who destroys his own liver, the communists oppressed and suppressed their own people to such an extent that they ravaged themselves from the inside out.
Gorbachev started this struggle for freedom years ago because he realized the inevitable fact that eventually the masses, no matter how repressed, would demand change. Now the Perestroika program has taken a strange twist on its founder. The nations he allowed to pursue freedoms are moving far beyond his initial goals of mere "openness." New democracies are forming seemingly overnight, as former police states seize their first chance at liberty in half-a-century as quickly as possible.
The path to freedom and prosperity will be tougher in the large, culturally and politically divided USSR. The Soviet Union is accustomed to being a powerful nation. In order to develop a stable free market economy, the country will face some hard transitional times that will test the resolve of its people and put Gorbachev on the political hot seat.
His decisions over the next few months will continue to change the course of modern history, but how long will Mikhail Gorbachev remain the most important voice in Soviet politics? Keep a close watch on the news, the way things have progressed recently, he could be gone in the blink of an eye.
Scott Cavanagh is Assistant Editor of The Worthington News.
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