After Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985, the art of Sovietology was thrown into turmoil as Western analysts attempted to divine what this unusual communist leader, with his liberal-sounding promises of glasnost and perestroika, might portend for the future. Brzezinski argues that the Gorbachev phenomenon is merely one phase of the agonizing a reassessment of communist ideology throughput the world, a reassessment which has been spurred by both the worsening performance of communist economies and the fading appeal of communism outside the lands under its rule. This process of reassessment, Brzezinski suggests, could conceivably lead to the overthrow of communism even within the Soviet Union itself.
Although some Sovietologists are optimistic about Gorbachev’s chances of creating a politically freer and economically more progressive Soviet Union, Brzezinski is not. In the Soviet Union, Brzezinski argues, economic renewal can be achieved only at the price of political instability, while political stability can be purchased only at the price of economic stagnation. Brzezinski contends that Gorbachev, a professed Leninist, is undermining that Leninist faith in the infallibility of the all-powerful Party upon which the regime is based. Growing inter-ethnic rivalry at home, in Brzezinski’s view, further clouds the prospects for Soviet reform, as does acute discontent with communism in Eastern Europe.
By ably mining the freer Soviet press of the Gorbachev years, and by comparing statistics for communist and non-communist states at roughly similar levels of industrial development, Brzezinski does an excellent job of showing just how poorly communist economies have performed recently. Brzezinski sees real economic progress in post-Mao China; such progress, he points out, has been achieved only by diluting communist economic dogma even more than Gorbachev has done. The failure of the Soviet economy to keep pace with the West, the author argues, has produced disillusionment with the Soviet model...
(The entire section is 444 words.)