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Eight-Episode TV Documentary Series: Preparing For Danger In Times Of Safety, Episode Three

{Editor’s Note: In June 2006, Beijing released an eight-episode TV documentary series: Preparing For Danger In Times Of Safety – Historic Lessons Learned from the Demise of Soviet Communism. It was a research project conducted by the government think tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Science. Afterwards, the Chinese Communist Party instructed party members across the nation to watch the series and launch serious discussions. The script of the prelude of the documentary quotes Hu Jintao’s words, “There are multiple factors contributing to the disintegration of the Soviet Union, a very important one being Khrushchev throwing away Stalin’s knife and Gorbachev’s open betrayal of Marxism-Leninism.” The full text of the narratives has been translated. What follows is the third episode.}


On March 13, 1988, a letter to the editor from Nina Andreyeva, a Leningrad college lecturer, was published in Sovetskaya Rossiya. Its title was “I Cannot Waive Principles.” The letter raised an intense point that “reckoning of history” had emerged in society. In fact, this was a counter current that advocated total westernization. She went on to point out that recent articles in the press that took the public by storm could only mislead people and smear the socialist Soviet Union. The article mentioned quite a few abnormal phenomena in the media: unprecedented activeness of informal organizations supported by the enemy forces in the country and outside of the country, Western multiparty and parliamentary systems extolled in various media and symposiums, complete repudiation of the leadership role of the working class and the Communist Party, and vicious attacks on the Soviet Union’s history and its socialist system, etc.

This letter immediately created a stir across the entire Soviet Union.

Nina Andreyeva’s letter was promptly reprinted in some state newspapers and magazines. Some party organizations held heated discussions over the phenomena of “reckoning history, re-opening old, historical accounts, and vilifying history.”

So-called “reformers” took this letter as a counter attack by “conservative forces and old forces of the CPSU.”

The CPSU Politburo held a two-day emergency meeting to discuss possible countermeasures in an attempt to put in check and fight back against the so-called “anti-reform forces.” In the end, Gorbachev adjusted the position held by Politburo member Yegor Ligachev, who was in charge of ideology and upheld Marxist principles. Ligachev was assigned to be in charge of agriculture. Alexander Yakovlev, a CPSU Central Committee Secretary, took over Ligachev’s role on ideology.

Under direct instructions from Yakovlev, a refutation was published in Pravda on April 5 under the title “The Principles of Reform – the Revolutionary Nature of Thinking and Action.” It offered a comprehensive refutation to and suppression on Andreyeva.

Pravda called Andreyeva’s letter “a declaration of an anti-reform activist.” It called Andreyeva “an enemy of reform, a Stalinist, a conservative, a bureaucrat, and a representative of the elite party members.”

Thereafter, a torrent of attacking and invective articles against the CPSU and the socialist system came out. Anti-Marxism thoughts were everywhere. The entire Soviet Union’s history was painted pitch dark. At this point, the dam of the CPSU’s work in the area of people’s thoughts and ideology, which had cracks, slipped dramatically to the verge of collapse.

Alexander Yakovlev was born into a farmer’s family in 1923. He was one of the first four students sent to study at Columbia University in the United States after World War II.

In July 1985, Gorbachev nominated Yakovlev as the candidate for heading the CPSU Central Committee’s Department of Propaganda. A few months later, Yakovlev was elected a Politburo member, Central Committee Secretary, and was put in charge of public media.

Yakovlev appeared to bear particular hatred of the phrase “socialism.” He completely negated the October Revolution and negated the accomplishments in the development of the Soviet Union. In his eyes, the Soviet Union was nothing but evil. And it deserved nothing but invectives.

Later, Yakovlev stated in Russia’s Bitter Path to Modernity — a History of the Soviet and Post-Soviet Eras, a book that is representative of his thoughts, that Marxism “has no relevance in real life,” the October Revolution “trampled the democratic movements,” and reform in the Soviet Union is to “revert to the way it was.” [1]

What, then, did Yakovlev want to “revert to”? He glorified and worshipped capitalism. He said, “Capitalism brought pragmatic morals. Lofty idealism is manifested in capitalism’s freedom, equality, and love. Sober and concrete considerations in reality serve as its foundation.”

How could Gorbachev selecting “reformers” like Yakovlev to join CPSU core leadership and placing him in charge of ideological work have been a simple mistake of impropriate choice of personnel?

The gate of ideological supervision was lifted for the anti-Communist and anti-Soviet forces the moment when Gorbachev proposed “openness.”

It was Lenin who put “openness” to use. Its original meaning was to further strengthen the communication channels with the masses so as to stay informed of social opinions and working people’s will in a timely manner. When Gorbachev brought it up, its meaning and nature took a fundamental change.

Early 1986, Gorbachev brought up the slogan of “openness.”

In March 1986, Gorbachev invited mass media to criticize the Soviet Union’s party and government agencies. He told the media, “In today’s stage of social development, our newspapers can be a unique opposition.”

In January 1987, in the plenary session, Gorbachev proposed an approach to reform the old system of the CPSU Central Committee, that is “openness” in ideology and “democratization” in social reform.

So-called “openness” as well as the so-called “democratization” served as a mobilizing order to instigate various opponents in the Soviet Union to denounce the CPSU.

As the gate was lifted, all kinds of anti-CPSU and anti-socialism thoughts gushed forward as a flood.

The nature of Gorbachev’s so-called “openness” and “democratization” was to be “open” and “democratic” to the anti-Soviet, anti-communism, anti-socialism and anti-Marxism pro-Western forces and thoughts. At the same time, it was to apply dictatorship and deliver a destructive blow to talks and thoughts safeguarding the CPSU, the Soviet socialism, and Marxism such as expressed by Andreyeva.

The primary thoughts triggered by “openness” initially were the so-called “reckoning of history.”

In January 1987, Gorbachev proposed that “there should be no one and no blind spot left forgotten” in the Soviet Union’s history.

As a result, a storm of new reckoning and complete criticism of the CPSU and the socialist Soviet history swept across the country.

The thoughts of complete negation of Stalin gained momentum. They wildly exaggerated the number of people killed in Stalin’s purges of counter-revolutionaries. The number was exaggerated several dozen times to reach 10 million or tens of millions. They belittled Stalin’s national industrialization till it was worthless. They arbitrarily distorted and exaggerated Stalin’s mistakes during the early stages of the Great Patriotic War. Even the success of the Great Patriotic War was denied as the result of the leadership of the CPSU and Stalin. [3]

These reckoning thoughts started by the end of 1987 and peaked in 1988. The target changed from Stalin, as an individual, to the Soviet Union’s social system from the 1920s to the 1950s. The socialist system of the entire country, which brought about the Soviet Union’s historic glory, was painted as “totalitarian” and the source of all evils. [4]

After 1989, the criticism over Stalin gradually changed into a criticism and repudiation of Leninism and Lenin himself. In 1989, the Soviet Union authorities ordered the cancellation of the teaching of Marxism and Leninism in high schools. They replaced the course with one named “Society and Man.” Some articles explicitly or implicitly contributed Stalin’s mistakes to the October Revolution or even Leninism, or even directly associated them with Lenin himself.

With official encouragement, this criticism in the ideological field swept the entire society as a tornado, which gained further momentum.

Some extremist newspapers and magazines in “reckoning history,” such as the Ogonyok (Little Fire) pictorial and the Moskovskiye Novosti (Moscow News) newspaper, gradually showed their true face: under the excuse of repudiating the past, repudiating CPSU history, and repudiating socialism, they openly promoted “reform” toward capitalism.

Some publications managed to increase circulation significantly by publishing materials exposing history, exposing “secrets,” or printing so-called reckoning novels.

In 1985, Friendship among Nationalities had a circulation under 120,000. It stayed at that level for several years. In 1987, it carried a novel Sons and Daughters of Arbat Street that vilified Stalin. By 1989, its circulation broke 1 million.

Novy Mir (New World) expanded its readership from 420,000 to over 2.5 million in 1989 by publishing Arkhipelag Gulag (The Gulag Archipelago) by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, describing the labor camps and exile destinations.

After that, various informal publications came out. They encroached on the propaganda field that the CPSU had dominated.

In the first half of 1990, various “informal” publications along the Soviet Union’s border reached over 1,000.

On June 12, 1990, the Soviet Union Press Law was enacted, which legalized publication of newspapers by the opposition and private citizens.

The loss of the CPSU’s guidance in the ideological field had serious consequences:

CPSU’s thoughts were in chaos. The Soviet Union people’s thoughts were in chaos. Stalin was turned into a devil. Lenin was turned into a rogue. The entire history of the CPSU and Soviet Union turned into nothing but evil. The October Revolution brought about only disasters. On the other hand, capitalism had become a paradise cherished among people. Some wanted to revert further back, to the old days of the Russian monarchy of the Czar era.

In 1994, famous Russian author Bondarev commented when reviewing the situation in this period, “In six years, newspapers and magazines accomplished what the best-equipped European army at the time was not able to do when invading our country with fire and sword in the 1940s. That army had top notch equipment. However, they lacked one thing – hundreds of thousands of publications with germs. [5]

Not only newspapers and magazines became the frontline opposing Marxism and socialism. Television stations were also following their lead. The Opponents tried everything they could to take hold of television broadcasting. They demanded live broadcasts in order to bypass control and editing. A few young journalists started live political and commentary programs, “Perspectives” and “the Fifth Wheel”, publicly criticizing the CPSU.

In the spring of 1989, the Soviet Union’s people elected people’s representatives according to the amended Constitution. The opposition took opportunity of to televise campaign activities live and to legally broadcast to the entire nation all kinds of anti-Soviet and anti-Communist voices.

The live television broadcast of the full sessions of the CPSU Congress and People’s Congress also served as a primary stage for the opposition.

The so-called campaign on opening up the media and free elections played a dominating role in escalating the crisis in the trust of the CPSU. It set off a full-scale repudiation of the CPSU politically and organizationally.

The Soviet Union’s intellectual community also turned chaotic.

Formerly so-called “resolute Leninists” turned overnight into fighters against “authoritarianism.” The “extremist thoughts” among Soviet intellectuals spread rampantly. College Marxist philosophy courses became a laughing stock. Numerous teaching and research institutes of scientific communism appeared to turn into bases for disseminating Western political science. A significant number of intellectuals worshipped the West. They harbored dissatisfaction with history and the status quo in Russia. Some elite among the intellectuals became the “trumpeters” and “pioneers” in disintegrating the CPSU and the Soviet Union’s socialist system.

In mid-1988, No Choice, a collection of political commentaries and research papers compiled by historian Yuri Afanasiev, was published. It promoted the Western political and economic systems. It was claimed in the then Soviet Union as a “manifesto of reforming forces.” Authors of this popular collection were all well-known figures in the then Soviet Union, including economist Garvril Popov, politics expert Pulaski, and philosopher Florov, among others.

These well-known figures in the intellectual community criticized Stalin, and criticized the Soviet system and structure. They copied over “panacea recipes” from the West and pushed the Soviet Union farther and farther along the wrong track, at an accelerated pace.

Some were able to speak broken English or drop a couple of obscure Western phrases. Yet they were glorified as experts with profound knowledge. Not only did the media chase after them, but quite a few even became people’s representatives, Ministers or Vice Premiers from being heads of a research office, a teaching office, or a laboratory.

Popov, an economist at Moscow State University, made his name by vehemently attacking “the CPSU bureaucracy” and completely repudiating Soviet-style old systems. He was later elected the People’s Representative of the first People’s Congress of the USSR and became the first chairman of the Moscow Council of People’s Representative. He, Yeltsin, and Sakharov, among others, became leaders of the “democratic faction,” and were lauded Russia’s “fathers of democracy” along with Yakovlev.

Yegor Gaidar is a core player among the market reformists. A graduate from the graduate school of the Moscow State University, he worshipped the capitalist system. In 1986, in the suburbs of Leningrad, he organized an economics symposium with a group of economists sharing similar thoughts. He further went ahead and formed a political organization – the Young Reformers. This is a group of young scholars who accepted Western political and economical theory wholesale.

The theoretical team and ideological elite nurtured by the CPSU over the years made a 180 degree turn and pointed their guns in the opposite direction. They, together with some party and government officials, economic and managerial cadres, gray-area market forces, and criminal elements, became the CPSU and Soviet Union socialism’s gravediggers.

The causes of these situations in the Soviet Union ideological front were complex. However, the most fundamental cause and a defining moment was the CPSU’s removal of the seal of Marxism and Leninism in the ideological field. It set free the demon, which destroyed itself.

The collapse of thoughts brought the collapse of the CPSU.

In the revolution eras of overtaking and consolidating power, Bolshevik and revolutionary workers and soldiers joined the struggle of blood and fire without personal consideration. They were inspired by the revolutionary ideals of creating a new world and were full of trust in the Communist Party’s leaders.

During the years of the Great Patriotic War, many courageous CPSU members, Red Army soldiers, and the Soviet Union people, shed their last drop of blood running against showers of Fascists’ bullets, shouting “for Stalin” and “for the fatherland.”

By 1991, when the mainstream media repeated tens of thousands times that the CPSU and Soviet Union’s socialist practice was a failure, when various media painted Communist Party leaders pitch black, when the majority of Communist Party members and the masses mistakenly took these lies and fallacies as truth, at the moment when the enemy forces declared the dissolution of the Communist Party and overthrew the socialist system, who was to stand up to uphold socialism and communism?

For a ruling Marxist and Leninist party, forceful work in the area of people’s thoughts and ideology is the ideal, resolve and bugle in leading its party and the people to stride forward in lockstep by maintaining the party and the people cohesively. When its bugle was taken away, when its ideal and resolve were destroyed, how could the party continue to exist?

[1] [Russia] A. N. Yakovlev, Russia’s Bitter Path to Modernity – Russia’s Bolshevism and Reform Movements, Xinhua Press, 1999 edition, page 286.
[2] Ibid, page 339.
[3] Б.Г.Соловьев,В.В.Суходеев:ПОЛКОВОДЕЦСТАЛИН)ЭКСМО,2002г.
[4] Collection of the XXVIII CPSU Congress Documents, Moscow, 1990 edition, page 88.
[5] Cao Changsheng and others, The Studies of Ideologies during the Process of Soviet Union’s Evolution, People’s Publishing House, 2004 edition, page 273.