PART ONE OF THREE: UNWAVERING PRINCIPLES AMIDST A WAVE OF REFORM
PAST AND PRESENT COLLIDE
“If there was no Nina Andreeva, we would have had to invent her.”1 These were the words uttered by Soviet market reformer Anatoly Chernyaev as he recalled the pivotal event of 1988 that would ultimately clear the way for the restoration of capitalism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself—the Nina Andreeva affair. The events which came to comprise the Nina Andreeva affair began to unfold with the publication of a Leningrad chemistry teacher’s letter to the editor in the newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya, scandalously titled “I Cannot Renounce My Principles” in reference to one of General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev’s speeches defending Marxist-Leninist ideology. Andreeva’s letter immediately caught the attention of all spheres of Soviet society as a result of her unyielding criticism of the newly liberalized media’s attacks on Soviet history and its renunciation of the ideological principles upon which the USSR was constructed. Her call for a reform course rooted in economic planning and under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), as opposed to market economics under the guidance of emerging petty capitalists and liberal politicians, immediately received significant support from Gorbachev’s Marxist-Leninist colleagues in the highest organs of the CPSU.
While the liberal media’s attacks on Soviet history were defended as expressions of Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost, so too did Andreeva’s supporters—and even some western historians—rationalize her letter as a legal manifestation of newfound social openness. However, market reformers and media representatives, like Anatoly Chernyaev, immediately labeled Andreeva’s letter an “anti-perestroika manifesto” and accused Andreeva herself of unwavering neo-Stalinism, antisemitism, and political conspiracy for utilizing glasnost to defend the history of the USSR against what she considered unilateral ideological surrender to the west. Party members who supported the letter were not only coerced into later denouncing it, but some were even purged or demoted to superfluous positions as a result of their reluctance to defend liberal policies from the criticism of average people like Nina Andreeva. The severe response of the market reformers—those who were purportedly introducing freedom and democracy to the Soviet people—to a simple newspaper polemic indicates that the political nature of these actions directly contradicted their purported democratic values. Their accusations, particularly of neo-Stalinism decades after Stalin’s policies had been condemned by the CPSU, did not represent an attack on authoritarianism but an opportunistic attempt to discredit an opposition that rejected the establishment of markets and political pluralism as a legitimate Soviet reform path, and indeed, viewed such measures as precursory to the restoration of capitalism.
The political turmoil embodied by the Nina Andreeva affair and the emergence of a market faction within the CPSU were made possible by the political, social, and economic stagnation that pervaded the latter years of Leonid Brezhnev’s eighteen year term (1964-1982) as CPSU General Secretary. The USSR had been the first country to implement national economic planning, an economic system in which production is planned in five year increments according to the nation’s requirements for growth, and despite its development amidst wars, hardship, and political instability, economic planning became a successful mode of economic growth and development in the USSR. The system’s provision of economic benefits such as full employment alongside steady growth and its eradication of business cycle fluctuations comprised an appeal that rivaled that of market economies for citizens of the Eastern Bloc. Likewise, the Soviet one-party system’s parallel development afforded the CPSU the status of leading political organ of the USSR’s development. However, the Brezhnev administration’s pursuit of policies unfavorable to the improvement of planning methods caused economic growth rates to stagnate.2 Roger Keeran & Thomas Kenny’s, Socialism Betrayed: Behind the Collapse of the Soviet Union, provides a thorough analysis of both the black market activity that resulted from the state’s failure to modernize the planning process and the inner Party corruption that developed as a consequence. Concurrent repercussions of outdated planning methods, such as declining labor productivity, a lack of incentive to integrate new technologies into production, and a focus on the production of large quantities of commodities rather than improving their quality, further contributed to the growth of black market activity, Party corruption, and the popularity of market solutions.3
Even the CPSU Politburo fell victim to corruption, as close relatives to Leonid Brezhnev were caught attempting to sell stolen state property on the black market.4 5 The reluctance of economic planners to take risks with new methods combined with growing corruption within the Party further fueled the arguments of Gorbachev and market-oriented Party members like Alexander Yakovlev and Anatoly Chernyayev, that economic planning was a bankrupt system and that the CPSU’s hegemony over political power made corruption inevitable. However, the past accomplishments of the Soviet economy, as well as the fact that inflation and the rapid growth of the Black Market consequences of earlier market reforms, reveal that economic planning required reform rather than replacement.
In an attempt to revolutionize Soviet society and revitalize its stagnating economy, CPSU members embarked upon a massive reform project initiated with the election of Yuri Andropov as General Secretary in 1982. Despite his death a year later, Andropov led the CPSU along a path focused on the modernization and democratization of economic planning, largely through the transfer of economic agency from bureaucratic organs to localized workers’ councils. He called for a system of decentralized economic planning that would solidify economic power in the hands of average workers, incentivize technological integration into the production process, and crack down on corruption in the Party.6 Andropov’s proposed policies rejected the expansion of market forces in the Soviet economy and prioritized planning in a way distinctly different from both the policy suggestions of Brezhnevites and market-oriented Party members, leading many to observe that Andropov was “not on the side of Khrushchev nor on the side of Brezhnev.”7
Out of this revolutionary reform tendency and after the quick death of Andropov’s successor Konstantin Chernenko, emerged one of Andropov’s closest comrades, Mikhail Gorbachev, as General Secretary of the CPSU at the 27th Party Congress of 1986. Following Andropov’s reform legacy, Gorbachev quickly took initiative on several reform projects cut short by the untimely death of his mentor, such as a social campaign against alcoholism, an economic project to reduce workplace absenteeism, and an internal political crusade against corruption. Gorbachev’s initial reluctance to consider the market as a viable solution to economic problems convinced most Party members, regardless of their own inclinations, that the Soviet Union would continue to reform within the framework of economic planning.
However, market-oriented Party members like Anatoly Chernyaev and Alexander Yakovlev exerted progressively greater influence over Gorbachev and official policy throughout the course of perestroika and would eventually force the Party to decisively determine whether the future of socialist reform would rely on market mechanisms or economic planning. Numerous ideologically motivated western scholars have attempted to portray the evolution of perestroika as an inevitable trajectory toward liberal capitalism, resulting from deficiencies inherent to the theoretical framework of socialist development, and frame those who opposed market reforms as detractors from perestroika itself. Robert Kaiser, correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and author of Why Gorbachev Happened, forms a narrative of perestroika with his journalistic experiences in the USSR of the late 1980s, arguing that the “Party conservatives” were lead by “a straight-laced Communist puritan, a believer in the contributions of earlier leaders from Stalin to Brezhnev” and were incapable of working toward reform in any capacity.8 Secondary source accounts of perestroika and the Nina Andreeva affair, such as Archie Brown’sThe Gorbachev Factor, Ben Eklof’s Soviet Briefing: Gorbachev and the Reform Period, and Joseph Gibbs’ Gorbachev’s Glasnost: The Soviet Media in the First Phase of Perestroika in particular, echo the sentiment that perestroika belonged solely to those Party members whose market-oriented policies would eventually lead to the restoration of capitalism. Unfortunately, both primary and secondary western sources have generally recreated one sided narratives of perestroika that rely on recollections from market-oriented reformers and reject their opposition as neo-Stalinists, echoing the claims of Party members like Chernyaev and Yakovlev. In spite of the lack of thorough analysis surrounding planning-oriented reformers’ historical contributions to perestroika, their stories, when put in conversation through the recollections of Party members as commonly explored in western scholarship, provide vital insight into the forces which brought about the demise of the Soviet Union and create the necessity for radically new historical interpretations of perestroika and its consequences.
Sovetskaya Rossiya’s publication of the controversial Andreeva letter in March 1988 ignited a political struggle between two emerging rival factions within the CPSU over the nature of Soviet reform—the supporters of the Andreeva letter led by Yegor Ligachev and its opponents led by Mikhail Gorbachev. The Andreeva letter’s instant popularity within the Party and throughout Soviet society indicated that its arguments voiced the concern of many planning-oriented reformers and their sympathizers. Contrary to the claims of western historians and market-oriented reformers, Andreeva’s letter reiterated the necessity of reform in the USSR but did so while bringing attention to the contemporary media’s liberal attacks on the historical achievements of Soviet culture and economy, the west’s exploitation of these attacks for propagandistic purposes, and the ideological confusion that had resulted throughout the younger generations as a result. For Andreeva and her sympathisers, the letter’s publication represented nothing more than a free political expression protected by the perestroika policy of glasnost.
Nevertheless, market-oriented Politburo members used the Andreeva letter as an opportunity to disenfranchise those who supported the polemic, accusing the letter, its author, and its supporters of neo-Stalinism, antisemitism, and taking part in a conspiracy to reverse perestroika. Yegor Ligachev recalls the events that lead to his demotion and disenfranchisement, as well as the repressive measures Gorbachev and his comrades utilized, which he describes as elements of a “political witch hunt” in his memoirs, Inside Gorbachev’s Kremlin. Contrarily, Gorbachev and Chernyaev defend the one-sided imposition of “openness” in their memoirs, Memoirs and My Six Years With Gorbachev respectively. These memoirs, when analysed in a manner that does not take for granted the market-oriented interpretation of perestroika, reveal a bleaker side of the reformers’ interpretation of democracy and openness—an interpretation which left little room for disagreement.
Gorbachev, Chernyaev, and other market reformers’ response to Andreeva’s letter manifested itself through two mediums: the Soviet media and the CPSU Politburo. Upon Gorbachev’s return to the USSR from a diplomatic trip to Yugoslavia several days after the Andreeva Letter’s publication, Chernyaev and Yakovlev informed him of the publication of what they termed an “anti-perestroika manifesto” and pushed for a decisive top-down response to the letter and its supporters.9 Yakovlev immediately published a response to the Andreeva letter in Pravda, titled “Pravda Rebuts Antirestructuring Manifesto,” attacking political opponents as perpetrators of stagnation and declaring his assertions to be the true Party line.
The market reformers’ assault extended beyond the pages of Pravda. Following the publication of Yakovlev’s article, Gorbachev had organized three Politburo meetings intended on weeding out support for the Andreeva letter and imposing extrajudicial consequences upon those who dissented. Political opposition to the market reformers virtually ceased to exist by the end of the third Politburo meeting, with Party members like Ligachev having been demoted or fired for failing to reject the Andreeva letter. Gorbachev has published the transcripts for these meetings in his book, Years of Difficult Decisions, providing historians with a primary source account of the meetings as they transpired. Gorbachev’s transcripts, combined with his unapologetic account of the Nina Andreeva affair in Memoirs, reveal that the former General Secretary continued to justify his views as necessary to propel forward his interpretation of perestroika.
NEO-STALINISM AND THE “ANTI-PERESTROIKA MANIFESTO”
Market-oriented Party members’ claim that economic planning was an outdated system allowed them to conflate its supporters with the fabricated camp of neo-Stalinism. Andreeva’s letter suffered some of the earliest attacks meant to silence all resistance to the forces poised to overthrow socialism in the Soviet Union. These market elements in the CPSU and Soviet media, under the direction of Yakovlev, attacked the letter for “white-washing Stalinism” and “trying to revise party decisions” in an attempt to spread the notion that “the rejection of restructuring...is fraught with very serious costs...for the internal development of [their] society.”10 Although there was little doubt in any Soviet citizen’s mind that the USSR required significant political and economic reform, the propagation of the liberal path as the only course perestroika could take necessarily marked the planning-oriented reformers as the conservative opposition, an obvious euphemism for their supposed backwardness. The market reformers’ western sympathisers quickly echoed the same propaganda that accused “conservative” reformers of “fiercely defend[ing] Stalin” and “crediting [him] with ‘bringing our country into the ranks of the great world powers.’”11 Despite the fact that Andreeva mentions one of her relatives who was “repressed and rehabilitated [only] after the 20th Party Congress” and that she stood in solidarity with those who felt “the anger and indignation over the large-scale repressions that took place in the 1930s and 1940s through the fault of the Party and state leadership,” the market reformers declared her an enemy of perestroika and attacked her call for a balanced appraisal of history as a pardon for state repression.12 The cause of such vehement criticism leveled at Andreeva and her likeminded comrades could not, therefore, originate as a response to the reemergence of Stalinist ideas. Rather, the reaction of the market reformers was an opportunistic maneuver in the ongoing process of delegitimation and wholesale rejection of the Soviet historical experience.
Several weeks after the publication of the Andreeva letter, a chorus of condemnation aimed at the “anti-perestroika manifesto” resounded across Soviet televisions and periodicals. Yakovlev’s comrades—determined to frame those who disagreed with the course of perestroika as a hostile political conspiracy—intensified the defamation of the achievements of socialism in the media and dramatically increased political pressure on the letter’s supporters. At an emergency Politburo meeting organized for March 24–25th, Gorbachev, after many months of neutrality regarding the escalating tension between Yakovlev and Ligachev, accused Andreeva of organizing an “anti-perestroika platform” and claimed that she publicized information that was “known only by a small circle of people.”13 Yakovlev was able to convince Gorbachev of the supposed anti-perestroika narrative on account of the letter’s publication being a day before Gorbachev’s diplomatic mission to Yugoslavia and Yakovlev’s mission to Mongolia on March 14, 1988. Suspicions against Andreeva, Ligachev, and others further intensified when Ligachev held a meeting with Soviet newspaper editors on March 15, at which the attendees discussed the Andreeva letter and—according to western and dubious Soviet sources—Ligachev advocated for its reprinting in other Soviet media outlets.14 These suspicions and accusations ultimately amounted to a campaign of repression which attempted to silence the majority opinion of the Party as well as the concerns of thousands of workers who identified with Andreeva’s message.
While Yakovlev’s manipulation of Gorbachev and the market reformers’ attack on their political opposition were ultimately successful, closer examination suggests that their claim that Andreeva’s letter comprised a premeditated, conspiratorial call to action against perestroika was unsound.
Firstly, Sovetskaya Rossiya initially published Andreeva’s letter in the polemics section of their periodical, a section unfit for political manifestos or Party declarations of any sort. It is unlikely any Soviet citizen listening to the state media, a forum in which the CPSU explicitly labels its statements as the Party line, would have thought such a polemical letter could represent an official shift in the reform policy of the Party. Yakovlev, nevertheless, publicly attacked the article as an attempt to confuse the masses and assert a new Party policy of reversing perestroika in his Pravda article “Pravda Rebuts ‘Anti-Perestroika Manifesto.’”15 According to Ligachev, many Party members—those who would soon face sanctions or dismissal as a result of Yakovlev’s fear-mongering—actually thought the letter “was a manifestation of glasnost, of democratism” and that such trends should be encouraged alongside healthy self-criticism in the newly emerging Soviet society.16 Indeed, the letter’s informal prose and historical inaccuracies suggest it was a manifestation of unabated speech rather than a coordinated attack on perestroika. For one, Andreeva incorrectly attributes a statement about Stalin, uttered by Polish writer and political activist Isaac Deutscher, to Winston Churchill:
“He was a man of outstanding personality who left an impression on our harsh times, the period in which his life ran its course. Stalin was a man of extraordinary energy, erudition and inflexible will, blunt, tough and merciless in both action and conversation, whom even I, reared in the British Parliament, was at a loss to counter.” 17
No carefully written and revised political manifesto would contain such a mistake, and it would be quite difficult to convincingly suggest that such mistakes could serve an ulterior motive. Moreover, nowhere in the letter does Andreeva call for the return of old societal norms or for opposition to perestroika, only for a reevaluation of how to best carry out reform policies without undermining socialism and the historical experience of the Soviet Union. The fact that Andreeva’s letter merely outlined what she saw as the contemporary problems of perestroika and hinted at how to overcome them, therefore, contradicts the assertion that it attempted to encourage opposition to reform in general.
Yakovlev’s comrades in the Party and media not only claimed that Andreeva’s polemic was a premeditated attempt to overthrow perestroika, but even more fantastically, that there existed an anti-perestroika conspiracy led by Andreeva and Ligachev, aided by Valentin Chikin and Victor Afanasiev, the editors of Sovetskaya Rossiya and Pravda, respectively. Most suspicion of such a conspiracy materialized out of Ligachev’s meeting with Chikin and other media officials following the departure of Gorbachev and Yakovlev on political missions. However suspicious this meeting may have appeared at the time, Ligachev, in his memoirs, explains that “in general, such meetings were planned in advance, and Central Committee divisions prepared for them by studying publications...so it was in this case...it had been scheduled a week before the publication of Andreeva’s letter.”18 This meeting’s discussion did not even focus on the Andreeva letter, but briefly touched upon its publication amidst a number of other pressing media subjects that comprised the agenda. Every Party member was, therefore, informed in advance of Ligachev’s apparently insidious meeting which comprised part of his duties as Secretary of Ideology, making it very unlikely to have been a springboard for a political conspiracy. Afanasiev, who was later condemned by the Politburo for being complicit in what Yakovlev saw as political conspiracy, even demonstrated his political neutrality by later publishing Yakovlev’s article in Pravda attacking the Andreeva letter. If Chikin, Afanasiev, and Ligachev had truly conspired with Andreeva against perestroika policies, why should their purportedly suspicious activities be the very duties that the reforming Party itself had delegated to them?
Many market-oriented Party members and onlookers who believed the rumors of political conspiracy further asserted that the conspirators had planned for the letter’s publication and reprinting in other major Soviet periodicals at Ligachev’s meeting with media officials. Yakovlev and western historians assert that “although he was later to deny that he [Ligachev] had anything to do with the Andreeva letter until after it had appeared, the weight of evidence suggests that he was involved both before and after.”19 While Ligachev did praise the article as a manifestation of a previously unvoiced popular opinion, no meeting transcripts or Party members who worked closely with the Secretary of Ideology have verified this accusation as anything more than hearsay. In fact, Gorbachev, who at this point retained a deep distrust for Ligachev and supporters of the Andreeva letter, claimed to have thought rumors of Ligachev’s intent to reprint the letter to be ludicrous, stating “there will be no need for any investigation” when Ligachev himself insisted on one.20 Perhaps, in typical obscurantist fashion, Gorbachev’s refusal to call for an investigation was but another means to legitimize, or prevent the delegitimation of, the claim to conspiracy.
Further, it is possible, but unverifiable, that more liberal periodical editors were determined to attack Ligachev with accusations they knew to be false. The first and most significant hysteria surrounding the claim that Ligachev published and reprinted the polemic occurred after one of the consultants who prepared the Andreeva letter for publication, Valery Denisov, wrote an article in the magazine publication Rodina titled “Backing Perestroika with Stalin.” In his article, Denisov accused Ligachev of having Chikin provide him with a photocopy of Andreeva’s letter, via a telephone conversation “with Ligachev [which] had only just taken place.”21 Denisov later in the article claimed that Ligachev underlined sections of the letter which he deemed most important, consequently accusing Ligachev of having something to do with the letter’s publication. If Chikin had truly brought Denisov the letter directly after a telephone conversation with Ligachev, then it would have been impossible for Ligachev to have handwritten the underlines in his copy of the letter. This logical inconsistency, among others in the article, suggest that Denisov may have been echoing a fabricated story provided to him by one or more of Ligachev’s political opponents rather than inaccuracies derived from a poor memory. At any rate, Denisov’s recollections, as well as other sources based on hearsay, fail to comprise the “weight of evidence” that Brown claims incriminates Ligachev in a political conspiracy.
Although Andreeva’s letter appeared in Sovetskaya Rossiya’s polemical section and hardly gives precedent to accusations of political conspiracy, the memoirs of Yakovlev’s constituency continue to maintain that Ligachev attempted to obscure the Party line, providing factually unsound primary sources for ideologically anti-Soviet historians. In agreement with Denisov’s contradictory article, Anatoly Chernyaev claims that Ligachev did not merely edit the letter, as Denisov states, but that he sent “a team to Leningrad, where she lived, to turn the letter into an article taking up a whole newspaper column.”22 There is no documentary evidence or consistent verbal source to confirm that Ligachev and Andreeva had any interaction before or after the letter’s publication. Transcripts of later Politburo meetings illustrate a hostile Party atmosphere in which Ligachev and other planning-oriented reformers were ostracised for simply voicing their support for the letter’s ideological content. And yet, Chernyaev further accuses Ligachev of having “trumpeted the article at a Central Committee meeting with newspaper editors, in effect saying ‘This is the new Party Line.’”23 As Secretary of Ideology, Ligachev had no authority to make arbitrary declarations on Party lines that were traditionally formed collectively, and Party members must have been aware of the protocols surrounding this practice. Consequently, Politburo members who supported the letter democratically voiced their opinions at routine meetings that soon became arenas of denunciation and purges. The market reformers’ accusations regarding the distortion of the Party line amounted to nothing more than a fear that their conception of perestroika would come under popular criticism from all levels of the CPSU.
Despite the various contradictions connected to the claim that Andreeva’s letter constituted a premeditated political conspiracy, western historians continue to echo the market reformers’ narrative of the Andreeva letter. Archie Brown, prominent British anti-Soviet Cold War historian, continues to defend the claim that the Andreeva letter was “professionally rewritten...in consultation with officials in the Central Committee apparatus” and “was an attack on the main thrust of Gorbachev’s reforms.”24 Seeing as most of Brown’s work was published before the end of the 1990s and, therefore, remains firmly within the backdrop of Cold War ideology, it is not surprising to find such claims, unsubstantiated by primary source evidence, presented as fact. Indeed, it is true that Andreeva sent her letter to be edited by members of the Party Central Committee, as was typical for citizens who hoped to publish extensive treatises in Party newspapers. However, the duty of shortening and editing the letter fell to unnamed bureaucrats who were employed to prepare polemics for mass consumption in newspapers—articles that “members of the Politburo and Central Committee...[were] in no position to study.”25
Robert Kaiser, a western historian who travelled to the Soviet Union in the 1980s and saw these events transpire firsthand, also reinforces the claim that “Ligachev had used the occasion of Gorbachev and Yakovlev’s absence from Moscow to launch what one Soviet official later called “an uprising against Gorbachev and perestroika.”26 Shockingly, Kaiser follows these statements by stating, “my sources were not the key participants, but people with access to some of them. Their information was incomplete, and could have been wrong in some details.”27 With numerous contradictions between these rumor-based assertions regarding political conspiracy and the fact that Ligachev, Chikin, and Andreeva’s activities represented nothing out of the ordinary in the Soviet media, it is not surprising, though telling, that Kaiser would admit to the lack of reliable evidence supporting the claim that these communists were trying to overthrow perestroika.
Western scholarship also claimed Andreeva’s letter had antisemitic undertones that reflected the entire “political conspiracy’s” political disposition. Scholars like Brown and Kaiser viewed the letter as an echo of ideological tendencies prevalent during the Cosmopolitan Campaigns of the early 1950’s. Whether these campaigns were in fact facilitated by antisemitic policies or not, as most western historians claim, the term cosmopolitan to most Soviet citizens was not simply a codeword for a citizen of Jewish descent and Soviet law punished Antisemitism with imprisonment. Andreeva is no different than most Soviet citizens in this respect, as she criticized the “cosmopolitan tendency...held by the ‘left-liberals’” to deny the significance of one’s nationality on the stage of historical development.28 Andreeva anecdotally targeted Leon Trotsky in her denunciation of cosmopolitanism not on account of his Jewish descent, but because he was someone who was denounced by the CPSU on grounds unrelated to his nationality. She, immediately following her attacks on cosmopolitanism, denounced “neo-Slavophiles” and “traditionalists” who defend nationalist conceptions of “peasant socialism”—a historically antisemitic and anti Bolshevik political tendency.29 Andreeva clearly believed that it was important to not engage in “any disparagement of the historical contribution of other nations and nationalities,” articulating her anti-cosmopolitan position from the perspective of a planning-oriented reformer, not as a Russian nationalist.30
Nevertheless, Brown accuses Andreeva of blaming “Jews for most of Russia’s troubles” based on his observation that “of the several people of Jewish origin mentioned in her article, the only one to escape criticism was Karl Marx.”31 Sovietologist Ben Eklof likewise charges the Andreeva letter with being “packed with anti-semitism” and “patriotic xenophobia” without elaboration or even citing the letter’s content.32 For the analyses of historians such as Brown and Eklof, anti-Soviet Cold War ideology had sabotaged any vestige of the letter’s fair appraisal and continued to perpetuate anticommunism without sufficient research into what had actually transpired.