Essay:Reform issues

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This page is an essay, and may not meet the Common Point of View standards for articles. Some leftists may disagree with the statements expressed here (which do not necessarily reflect the views of Communpedia).

Experience has shown certain recurrent issues which arise when an existing socialist government attempts reform as was attempted in the Soviet Union under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev.


If there are unsettled nationalist issues, introduction of democracy and a multi-party system, especially one that is ethnically based, will result in their aggressive expression. In the case of the Soviet Union these issues surfaced in a number of places including Georgia, Lithuania, Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast Wp→, and Western Ukraine. Minor instances of ethnic conflict emerged in a number of other places, often involving populations which have moved or had immigrated to areas where other populations had ownership issues. In some cases the current leaders of the state may not fully appreciate or have accurate information about prior history of the nations or ethnic groups involved. This was almost surely true of Gorbachev who seemed unaware of basis and nature of resentments of nationalists in the Baltic states which resulted from actions taken under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.

Similar, even more difficult, issues arose when Yugoslavia broke into its constituent parts.

Restoration of capitalism

Obviously, if a popular opponent of socialism like Boris Yeltsin is given access to the ballot they are free to identify freedom and progress with restoration of capitalism and may be elected. That they are unable to deliver on such promises matters little after the country and its socialist constitution have been destroyed.

Profit taking

There are vast amounts of money to be made and power to be gained if party functionaries, fixers, or organized criminal elements are given public property or are able obtain it cheaply. In Russia worthless stock, actually "vouchers" for the purchase of stock, were issued to the population which when bought up for next to nothing proved the basis for the great fortunes of the oligarchs. One presumes money obtained from the "vouchers" was needed for food and other necessities of life.

Conflation of reform with restoration

Reformist organizations operating in socialist countries commonly advance a program of human rights and democracy while also attempting to restore capitalist and authoritarian religious institutions.[1] Genuine efforts at reform must include effective mechanisms which preserve the socialist constitution.

Conflict of interest

In the People's Republic of China reform efforts are complicated by the business interests of party and government leaders and their families:
They drag their feet on reforms that would benefit the people and nation, but become champions of reform when it comes to change that would line their pockets and increase their rent-seeking opportunities."[2]


  1. Seth Mydans. "Activists Convicted in Vietnam Crackdown on Dissent", January 9, 2013. Retrieved on January 10, 2013. 
  2. "Constitution is Key Component of Reform" (Editorial), January 9, 2013. Retrieved on January 10, 2013.