Glasnost: Genuine Change or Illusion?

Report Europe

Glasnost: Genuine Change or Illusion?

May 1, 1987 21 min read Download Report
Charles Heatherly
Vice President for Academic Relations at The Heritage Foundation

(Archived document, may contain errors)


b* Vladimir Bukovsky

JULIANA PILON: My name is Juliana Pilon . I am a Senior Policy Analyst with The Heritage Foundation,'and like our guest -today, I was bom behind the Iron Curtain. He is Vladimir Bukovsky, one of the greatest men alive today, and it is our p#vilege to have a man of his courage and modesty, his i n tensity and political acuteness join us. As you p robably know, Vladimir Bukovsky spent twelve years *in pri'sons, labor camps, and sychiatric hospitals. He was expelled from the university and physically attacked by the after organizing readings of unpub l ished poets in Maiakovsky Square in Moscow. Two years later, in 1963, he was sentenced without trial to indefinite detention in the prison hospital at Leningrad. From then on, he was -perpetually in and out of prison, s .truggling to come to terms with hi s persecution, the threats against hisfamily, continued attempts to trap and taint him, and severe physical deprivation of all kinds. Finally in December 1976, Vladimir Bukovsky, along with his mother, sister, and a nephew, was released to the West in exch a nge for the Chilean communist leader Luis Corvalan. He continues his studies in biology and his lifelong anticommunist activities. - VLADIMIR BUKOVSKY: Thank you, Juliana, for that sive introduction. I am not ' I deserve it. I am very sure, however, that y ou 2P(Te about the recent news from sure the Soviet Union. It is very confusing to many people. Even some of our more e erienced compatriots have lost touch, after hearing this campaign of glasnost' , or tural openness, or whatever the current term might b e. Indeed the signals are very contradictory. And it is mainly because so many people want to.see changes in the Soviet Union. A few dozen prisoners get released, and of course it is very pleasant, a very good thought for all of us, but it is important to remember that the main reason that they were released was to get the prisoners to maximize the public impression with immediate concessions. But if we really had a change of heart, because of the way the Soviet Union works, we would not release one by one the most prominent dissidents over the duration of a year, we would simply declare amnesty. And we would not demand that these prisoners sign a statement that they would not continue anti-Soviet activity.

Legalizing Moonlighting. We also hear now and then of Gorbachev speaking, the press tells me, of the'tiecessity for radical economic reforms in the Soviet Union. It is, of course, Yery pleasant to hear. Unfortunately, though it remains onpaper or in words, to date, there are no reforms in the Soviet econ omy. The only reform or law recorded dealt with so-called individual labor activity. And in practice and fact, this simply legalized the

Vladimir Bukovsky is President of Resistance International. He now resides in Cambridge, England.

He spoke at The Heritage Foundation on March 11, 1987.

ISSN OZ72-1155. Copyright 1987 by The Heritage Foundation. '9" B

moonlighting that has existed in the Soviet Union since the 1960s. It was so widespread that nobody even tried to punish for that activity. Now, by introducing double monthly liberations into individual labor activity, the Soviets can hardly expect to enc o urage people to expand these activities. They simply will reduce them. Those people who are already involved in it will continue to be involved, but now they are expected to pay taxes, which the did not do before, and Soviet people by and large do not bel i eve in paying taxes. Be,70re, they could be punished for engaging in these activities, as such, and now they will be punished for not paying taxes for these activities. Now, another question which has attracted a lot of public attention is that of a Sovie t withdrawal from Afghanistan-or their statement of intentions as to the withdrawal from Afghanistan. But even that is not very co . . rather, it is rather confusing too. Because if they really want to stop the wanr,vw%y@Won@rt they just pull out their tro o ps and their collaborators and resettle them in the Soviet Union. Clearly it is easier to resettle six thousand or five thousand Afghan communists than to settle five million Afghan refugees. If they want to leave a stable government behind themselves, as they say in the negotiations, why not allow free and honest genuine elections under strict international supervision as was done in Zimbabwe or in El Salvador, under more or less similar conditions. But if neither condition will satisfy them, what do they want? They want to be viewed as leaving Afghanistan, without doing so. A Lang Line of Dead Writers. But I tell you, the most confusing and the most ?bie@fionable maneuver is the current policy of so-called glasnost'. Indeed, I cannot imagme that many peop l e believe it when they read in the Soviet Union, in Pravda statements and facts that only a few years ago would have been branded as anti-Soviet slander and for which people could have been risoned for -up to several years. However, these policies make vi r tue of necessi ecause the Soviet propaganda machinery is built entirely on lies, it seems to be accepted. At least people have started reading the newspapers in the Soviet Union. Before, they didn't. Nowyou can come across, in one of the articles in TASS o r Pravda facts which previously you had obtained only from Voice of America or Radio Liberty. And a person may be frustrated. It is even dangerous to rely on a huge.Progaganda machine that does not charm anybody any more. more or less could be said a o@t t he so-called cultural show. While a few writers who died long ago have finally beenpublished in the Soviet Union, and they of course, can be read. But we should remember always--be' aware--that they are already dead, and therefore cannot dQ anything unexp ected, and that we have a very. long line of these dead writers who arie waiting for. the next.cultural thaw to come around so they can be legalized.

Threat of KGB Control. That is, in a way, a sad thing. That is the tragedy of Russian culture, because in order to become known to readers and viewers, Soviet writers, musicians, dancers, or film producers have to become either dead physically or dead SpTtually to become a part of the propaganda machine in order to be allowed to show their art in the Soviet U n ion. We hear, of course, that emigre cultural figures were invited secretly to come back and be pardoned, but that is the most ridiculous proposition. I know most of them, and I can assure you that none of them will go back. They are not that stupid. Afte r living in the West and breathing the air of freedom it wou d be impossible for these people to live under the constant threat of KGB control. That is senseless to them.


If the Soviets really wanted to liberalize the access to their culture, they s hould have started by allowing the works of prominent writers, musicians, and film makers to be available to the Soviet readers, viewers, listeners, and then there Would be no need for these so-called backdoor negotiations. In that case, we would return w i th pleasure. Huge Public Relations Campaign. So, as you can see, all these so-called changes in the Soviet Union are rather contrived and not formal. Ile first impresslon you get from what they are doing today is of a huge propaganda campaign, a huge publ i c relations campaign calculated primarily for the consumption in the West, but partly also to encourage, to @nvigorate people, who stopped paying attention. We simply for et that the Soviet regime is excessively repressive afid' restrictive. And that even with muc bigger changes, its essence, its nature will not change. Indeed they canTelease all the prisoners they have right now, they can allow immigration, they can publish the work of many writers, and they even can gublish The Gulag ArchiRelago by Alexa n der Solzhenitsyn, and the. Soviet system will not e destroyed. lbey.might become free and capitalistic and operate as they did in.Hungary and Poland, but only for a very short duration of time, much shorter than they did in ungary or Poland, 'or even Chin a . Because unlike Hungary and Poland, they do have big brother looking over their shoulders, always ready to come up and pull them b c . And unlike China, there are a host of small brothers to look after.. So, the question right now is not how far these so - called changes of Gorbachev have gone, but how long will they, continue. For instance, if you take the smallest change., and imagine its continuing for five years, you immediately see that it might make some irreversible changes. In five years, those who a re fourteen years old right now will become.nineteen, as we used to be during Khrushchevs time and his efforts at some liberalization. Five years later, the KGB did not know what to do with us. The same with the -liberation of Sakharov and his return to M o scow. Right now, it is probably abig antage to the Soviet leaders, because no matter what he said, 'the impression he roduces is that Gorbachev is really *a liberator, because he has allowed Sakharov to spM. But five years from now, if he were e -*t d cre a te a tremendous problem, because still allowed to speak what he s aks,J woul naturally, a lot of people woulYcome -in contact with him, and a network of contacts and connections would organize itself around him all through the country, as it used to be in the 1960s and 1970s when we had just started the movement for human rights. And then, it would be an alternative structure--something the Soviet Union would not and could not tolerate.

PragmaticStalinism. We are so used to the.Soviet system being absolute ly unmovable and unchangeable that the smallest deviation is considered radical and almost revolutionary. Let us consider the most daring, the most courageous of Gorbachev's suggestions today--namely, to liberEilize the election rules within the party. No w if that were allowed to happen, the people, of the Soviet Union would get somewhat closer to the situation that black people havd in South Africa, with our "whites" being only 7 percent of the population: having free elections for themselves. But if that continued for more than five or.ten years, it would be very'serious, and maybe it would lead to irreversible changes. It might actually lead to a split in the ruling party and that would be serious.

-3- H not a k

Now the impression that I get is that t he current campaign is not calculated to continue very long, and the Soviet rulers know it very well. It is just a short and very intensive effort. Another confusing part of what is happening right now, which is co primarily in the West, among the special i sts, the Kremlinologists or whatever, is how Treenne this new Soviet leadership. Some assessments call them the new Stalinists, others have called them liberal and pragmatic. And frankly, I do not see much of a contradiction in these, if there is such a t h ing. Because, after all, Stalin could be very pragmatic and liberal when he needed. For example, when he wanted, very quickly, to have nuclear weapons created in the Soviet Union, he allowed the scientific community in the Soviet Union much more freedom t h an anybody else enjoyed. And was very pragmatic about that. Or during WorldWar H, in the most difficult times, the most dark times when the Germans were advancing to Moscow, Stalin was pragmatic and liberal enough to address his nation as brothers and sis t ers, and not as comrades. And throughout the duration of World War H, he never mentioned socialism or communism, he just mentioned the re t Russian tradition. And a lot of uXt baly this change in S i 1i Some people at that time and after the war, were bo o viet po i old emigres from Paris went back to the Soviet Union believing that the system7a*d changed, siffmly because Stalin had opened the churches, only to find themselves very quiddy in j in the Soviet Union. iffing and Torturing. So, what we are deali n g with is these typic@ oal-oniented people, people who are revolutionaries. I have recently been reading gook about- economic policy, and I discovered, among the memoirs of some communist people of that time, a very interesting detail, a very interesting f act. Apparentl even Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Cheka, the ori&inal KGB, became incredibly K-11beral and pragmatic when he was appointed by Lenin to chair the group directing Soviet industry, while, at the same time, remaining at the head of the secret police. Now, those who worked with Dzerzhinsky at that time sayv at he was incredibly libeial with the so-called- bourgeois specialists, the scientists, and e ineers, who were working in Soviet industry. As long as he remained in charge of Soviet d u stry, none of them was arrested or harassed by the secret police. He was a great liberal figure to them, so much so that they would exchange anti-Soviet jokes while working and he would not as much as notice it. He would be embarrassed wfien he came into a room and a number of professors would rise. He wouldbe$ them not to rise, to remain seated. But at the same time, at exactly the same time, working for the secret police, he would be killing and torturing virtually millions of people. How can one explain ? It is a very simple scenario of goal-oriented people. If they need, in order to reach their goals, to kill millions of people, they will do that. If they need, to reach their goals, to ecome very liberal and pragmatic, they will do exactly that--as long a s they can achieve their purpose. Current Soviet leaders are direct descendants of Lenin; they are his peers and students. Not only because the proportion of KGB in the Politburo right now is probably higher than at any time in Soviet History, and not onl y because it was the chief objective of Andropov himself as the head of the KGB for fifteen years, but mostly because psychologically they are goal-oriented. They will do anything to reach their goals.

Making.the West Pay. And it just so happens that you c annot improve economic performance or force development of high tech by repressive measures at home. I do not think there is any need here to go into the details or reasons for this policy to give a detailed analysis of the failure of the Soviet economy. I think most of you know about that, and the figures are available and equally well known that real economic reforms are not possible without some dis antling of party control over the country.

-4- th ngi in

The choices the Soviet leadership faces right now, seventy years after the creation of the Soviet state, are very painful. Either they have to lose their advantage in the correlation of forces, that is the foreign policy, the external achievements, the ex p ansion of their empire, and the achievements in strategic forces, or they have to lose control over their country. And neither proposition is attractive or acceptable to the Soviet ruling elite. The solution is to make the West pay for their economic solu t ions, and to somehow elicit massive economic assistance by offering concessions and joint ventures as Gorbachev calls them, to get credits and transfers of technology, and above all, to freeze the current balance--the current correlation of forces-to main t ain this advantage while they are trying to improve their economic position. That is the main reason, the main goal, of current policy in the Soviet Union. Lenin's Detente. This is what Lenin tried in 1921, before going into a new ecbnomic @olicy and a te m porary retreat before the next onslaught. It later became known as etente. At this time, detente will be conducted and or ,ed differently from what it was in 1970. Ile Soviets, after all, have learned something VOMM their mistakes in 1970. Their main mist a ke at that time concerning detente was a lack of public sources. These Marxists believe that capitalist societies have to be run by capitalists. So they made their detente with big business and enterprises by impressing on them the huge potential of the S o viet market and by the possible governmental guarantees and duties in the Soviet Union. They made a great effort to achieve detente with the government, -but in pursuing -the goal, the Marxists did not believe in the true, natural demociacy of the West. T h ey underestimated it. As a result of this, detente appeared to be unsuccessful. Since they could not believe and because of a campaign of some Jewish organizations and human rights organizations, the government in the Kremlin, and all the present leadersh i p, and all their effort, huge as it was, were frustrated by one Senator who stood up in the Senate'and said "No," he would not go with that. And he finally prevailed. Learning to Speak to the West. That might be a shortened blow to the Marxist leadership. The current leadership is much wiser. They started their detente with public organizations. As you may remember, a few years ago, they started to move toward- some American public institutions and some European too: the American Bar Association, the Physi c ians for Social Responsibility, the'National Academy of Sciences. With all these bridge builders and individual citizens this time, they reckon that the very same forces that opposed the- first detente in the 1970s will actually lobby for it. Today, a law y er will -overlook his impressions of the Soviet Union, physicians will advise us not to pay attention to psychiatric torture, scientists will say that the execution of scientists by the Soviets in the Soviet Union bears no relationship to arms control, an d r anik, hi Jewish orginizations will start advocating the suspension of Jackson-V w ch ties emigration to most favored nation status. 'That is exactly what they are doing. The next move was,. of course, a masterpiece. When they went into a campaign of re l easing a few prisoners wit@ great publicity, they therefore pulled the rug out from under the people who would otherwise oppose it. I myself find it bizarre to talk about the current campaign of glasnost'. I was imprisoned in 1965 for demanding glasnost' and in 1967 for the review of the articles of the penal code,


whidi used to ninpriison people on political grounds, Articles 17 and 190. And now Gorbachev says that he is going to review them. What Gorbachev did was quite skillful. He actually hijack ed our slogans. But he still does what he wants to. For example, I believe that glasnost', and we believed this at the time that we were speaking about it, when it was the slogan of our movement--that glasnost' is somethin that the public does, not the go v ernment. Now, in my view, the interests of glasnost'woull be much better served if the Soviets were to allow free access to Xerok machines rather than to conduct all this criticism of operations directed from the top. The Party still maintains a monopoly o n the truth. And tomorrow, after all, the truth might be different. I Know What the Soviets Want. Now, the question that is important for the West to decide, to dwell upon all this campaign with all its changes and semi-changes: Do they make the Soviet Un i on more dangerous or less dangerous? I can perceive this question occurs to many people. I believe that the Soviets become more dangerous, not because I believe 'that the danger of the Soviet Union is in their huge accumulation of weapons or their desire t o launch mobile -and sea-based weapons, because they'do not have such good weapons. The danger of the Soviet Union always is that it is so skillful in manipulating public opinion: in morally disarming the people of the West and in eroding the defense mech a nisms of the West by selling battle images of the past, and therefore recruiting a lot of people into actions and po "d `s' that might help or support them. That has been true from Lenin's time onward. Take the recent position, which you have already obse r ved, all . -skepti6sm of e public. With all the conserv4tive'.govemments there are right now, t iey are alre t king seriously about arms reductions. They are already talking about t. ie elimina ' n of termediate missiles in Europe. And I know that is exac t ly what the Soviets want. They do noi want the process of rearmament in the Western world to -deprive them of their advantage in the correlation of forces. It is very easy to predict what will happen if. these misgiles are to be eliminated on both sides. I n reality, they will be eliminated only on one side.. There are no mechanisms for the verification of. this. And what, in reality, will happen is that the West will destroy its part of the weapons, while the Soviets will'withdraw these mobile missiles to s ome other location and keep them there for a while') 'till the time.comes when they need once again to be stronger than others--when they need to increase their'blackmail. Then suddenly we will have all these S@-20s, which were supposed to be destroyed, s u rfacing a ai In Czechoslovakia and Poland and East Germany and the Western part of the Soviet VnioT4 placing the West, once again, under the threat, forcing the West once again to rearm itself, creating once again the struggle for peace and massive peace m ovements andbeadifig it all back to square one of 1980. That is what they do. That is their' guaranteed method. Accusations of Cold War. But even more dangerou .s is the current trend to discuss the possibility of East-West trade as somethmig very promisi n g, as something very positive. There are many voices already heard, in the newspapers, and the other media, in discussions.) that Gorbachev is a true reformer, and therefore, we have to help him. I always love it when somebody wants to help the General Se c retary of the Communist Party, because he has the power to do whatever he wants. But that seems to be the reality in the West. Already, once again, as in the 1970s, we hear this discussion of doves and hawks in the Kremlin who fight each other, and that G orbachev must be supported against his own hawks. This is very dangerous, because as I described, the current opening is going to be very shortand not terribly deep. And certainly, not irreversible. Put what the U.S.

-6- th al in

will do will become per manent. Consider, for example the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. It is easier not to give the Soviets the most favored nation status, than to take it back. Once that is given to the Soviet Union it will become a "process," as so many things in this situation. L i ke the Helsinki Accords, which might be completely bad, yet impossible to cancel, like SALT H which does not exist actually, yet we cannot cancel it. Like most favorable status to Romania, which everybody thinks should be cancelled, but nobody can do it. B ecause if that were done, it would mean that the U.S. would be immediatel accused of cold war, of hostility toward the Soviet Union. And it would be painful 7or the great constituency of Jews in the Soviet Union because if somebody tried to reverse, tried to suspend most favorable status after giving it, indeed the Soviets would use the Jews as hostages. Yes they would feel the pain. So. it is much better not to give it than to try to suspend it later. Criteria of Real Soviet Change. If the UPS. does that, the Soviets will decide how many Jews to- allow, under what conditions and what transportation and what the destination will be. If the U.S. does not, it will still have some. influence in that. The danger indeed is increased, because the Soviet campaign h as been successful. Not many people say it right now but one old journalist told me, the reason people are so quiet about their believing Gorbachev right now is that they do not want to be a laughingstock as they were just a few years ago with Andropov. T h e memory is too fresh, a lot.of journalists are holding back, but, as soon as it becomes kosher to say that Gorbachev is a good guy and shouid-Se supported, they all will jump on it. The success of the Soviet campaign, started with the public force's and w orking through the Kublic: forces to the government, is artly caused by the different interests of different -pub ic groups. What the Soviets acthul do is offer criteria--they offer deals to different public groups that, theoretically; should satisfy them . Ilerefore, in my view, one of the most important things we have to do right now is to formulate the criteria of real changes in the Soviet Union. Unless we do that, each group, or each individual will come up with its own criteria of what is real irrever s ible change in the Soviet Union, according ;o personal conformism, and we will buy it. Suing Moscow for Damages. We will have a fragmented front of our own effort, while the Soviets will look monolithic in their peace offensive-. And'we have to ht least t r y to generate a public debate about the criteria for irreversible change in the Soviet Union. What are the criteria for us for having some trade with them. Speaking of trade, I can tell you immediately, I do not think emigration is a sufficient criterion f or trade with the Soviet Union, even -for the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. Tlat would not create real partners in. trade. I believe'that one of the things that is important is for the Soviet Union to recognize their liability in i ernational. courts. We had j u st observed the spectacular situation of the Soviets poisoning alf of the world with Chernobyl, yet nobody could really sue them for damages. And no ody actually tried to. What kind of reliable partner in trade is that--which canno be sued for damages? So that might be one of the criteria. Ile second criterion of trade with them, in my view, is that they should convert their currency. Why should anybody trad6 with a country that is completely closed, that has three types of currency, all called ruble with t otally different values. Nobody knows which one is applied in a given case or what kind of trade there might be. After all, such huge debtor nations as Mexico, Brazil, and others have convertible currencies. They are open to the money market. Why cannot t he Soviets do this? And unless they do, why should anyone trade with them?

-7- int h b t

There is another point, which I think very important as a criterion for trade. Gorbachev tells us right now that his intention is to decentralize the economy to th e level of individual enterprises. Such enter . prise will be self-sufficient, self-budgeted, and independent in its decisions. Let us take him at his word. Let him do that. And let the Soviets allow enterprises and trade amongst themselves. I do not have objections to American enterprises trading with Soviet enterprises and eliminating in the process the whole superstructure of the Soviet government.' That would be what Lenin could not allow in 1,22. It would mean destruction of the monopoly on foreign tr a de, and it would go directly to the people instead of to the government. I Army of Communists. There are many criteria which we simply have to buy. When we speak about politics, surely whatever is picked up on the things they are doing right now is only s k in deep. What they should allow is alternative structures, noncontrolled structures, structures that are not controlled @y the Communist Party to appear in the Soviet Union. Let there be publications and public institutions. These are the most important c r iteria for us at the moment. But if we speak ibout the real changes in the Soviet system, if the Soviet leaders are really interested in doing that, then of course we* are speaking about ideology. Unless and until the Soviet Union reconsiders the main pos i tions of communist ideology, challenges them openly, preferably in the party congress, and acknowledges that there is no historic struggle between two worlds and no class struggle ra Rig anymore--unless and until they do that, the Soviet system will remai n exactly as it is, because ideology is exactly the hard-core of the Soviet system, which does not allow it to go too far or too long. There is always a fallback position. There is a huge army of professional communists, . professional revolutionaries draw i ng their salaries and privileges for spreading ideology and maintaining @he purity. They are those who are responsible for bringing up generation after generation in the Soviet Union. With all these people whose vested interest is with the ideology there i s no such thing as a trade. You cannot expect any relaxation within the Soviet Union. It would be physically impossible. There cannot be a detente- or peaceful coexistence with the West as long as the objective of the Soviet sygtdm as such is tobury the W e st or as long as they maintain that detente, as Brezhnev said in 1975, in no way rescinds or can rescind the laws of class struggle. Emigration Is Treason. Equally there cannot be a peaceful coexistence within the Soviet Union between the population and t h e system as long as the people are drafted into a huge army of ideological warriors. Even in peacetime, an attempt to defect to the West for a civilian is regarded by law as high treason and equated with e defection of a soldier to the enemy lines during a war. When the desire to emigrate is regarded as treason, as long as that remains and is' imbued in the ideology, there can be no relaxation within the country or without. If they really want to turn a ne@ . history, as they say right now, they should sta r t by .Eage in cancelling the massive .tarization of the Soviet society. They should close. down the military patriotic education program, which is obligatory in every Soviet school, and which I can compare ordy with the training of the Hitler youth. That should be stopped first and foremost. And they should disclose the truth about the crimes of the regime in the past. Otherwise nobody can trust their intentions.


Consider just two examples. How can people trust their desire to encourage individual l abor activity, as they call it, when the collectivization and murder of about ten million peasants is still not branded as a crime--is still not condemned by the ruling party. How can anybody be encouraged bK any of their promises, if that is still an opt i on before the people. How can anybody be ieve in so-called glasnost' if the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968 is still not regarded as an international crime. After all, the Prague Spring was just a genuine campaign of glasnost' in Czechoslovaki a . If you look at all these facts, you understand that the change in the Soviet Union has to be much more fundamental in order to make it irreversible. As long as it is not, the West should. not commit itself to anything irreversible in its Soviet relation s.

- 9-



Charles Heatherly

Vice President for Academic Relations at The Heritage Foundation