But the Soviet Empire gave way almost entirely peacefully and without a fight. How did that happened?
.. The key conclusion of Suraska, enounced in italics in the last chapter, is that the break up is due to “the general failure of communist regimes–their inability to build a modern state” (p. 134). It is “the state weakness, rather than its omnipotence [that] stalled communist project of modernization and, most notably, Gorbachev’s perestroika”
.. the arbitrary nature of Communist state, overseen by the Communist party, prevented it from ever developing a responsible and impersonal machinery of Weberian bureaucracy. Such a machinery that follows well-known and rational rules cannot be established if the power is arbitrary. And without such a machinery, the project of modernization is doomed.
.. When Gorbachev tried to recentralize decision-making in order to promote his reforms, he was obstructed at all levels and eventually figured out that without the republican support he could accomplish nothing. This is why, as Suraska writes, at the last Party congress in 1991, he outbid his competitors (Yegor Ligachev) by formally bringing all regional party bosses into the Politburo and thus effectively confederalizing the Party and the country. But even that proved too little too late as the largest unit, Russia under Yeltsin, became, together with the Baltic republics, the most secessionist.
.. Suraska rightly adds to this vertical de-concentration of power the ever-present wariness and competition between the Party, the secret services (KGB) and the Army. The triangular relationship where two actors try to weaken and control the third contributed to the collapse.
.. Andropov’s positon (according to the transcripts of the Politburo meetings) that “even if Poland falls under the control of “Solidarity” …[non-intervention] will be” (p. 70) was grounded in the belief that every Soviet foreign intervention (Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968) reinforced the power of the Army and thus, if KGB were ever come on top, Army must not be in the driver’s seat.
.. In perhaps the most original insight, Suraska deals with the ideology of Gorbachev and the first entirely Soviet-raised and bred generation that came to power in the mid-1980s. They were influenced by post-Marxist thinking where democracy or its absence were simple external (or non-essential) features: democracy was a sham since the “real power” resides elsewhere. “Armed” with this belief and the 1970 ideas of convergence of the two systems plus (in my opinion) millenarian Marxist view that Communism represents the future of mankind, they began to see no significant contradictions between the two systems and trusted that even the introduction of democracy would not affect their positions. Thus, in an ironic twist, Suraska, who is thoroughly critical of both Marxist and post-Marxist theories, credits the latter (p. 147) for bringing to an end the Marxist-based regimes.
.. Suraska discusses Communist rejection of the state and its rules-bound procedures (which make Communists ideological brethrens of anarchists) and compellingly argues for the complementarity of “council (“soviet”) democracy and central planning. Both eviscerate the state, take over its functions, impose arbitrary decision-making, and do away with the division of powers. Anarchic and despotic features are thus shown to go together, moreover to be in need of each other.
It has become accepted wisdom that Russia’s interference in the presidential campaign represents a fundamentally new sort of intrusion into a modern democracy’s inner workings.
But the Kremlin’s efforts—designed to help elect Donald Trump, according to the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community—aren’t so new. In fact, they are a revival of Soviet covert behavior that dates back to the Cold War.
.. The Soviets and their partners, including East Germany’s Stasi secret police, understood that such operations could effectively exploit the openness of Western democracies.
.. The Soviets did everything they could to encourage and manipulate the grass-roots European peace movement that had risen up in opposition to the new weapons.
According to declassified CIA reports, Moscow used a web of front groups, secret payments to activists and articles placed in the press. The Russians also carefully conveyed propaganda themes to sympathetic media outlets, peddled disinformation and produced damaging forgeries of official U.S. and NATO documents.
.. In the mid-1980s, the Soviets circulated a fake National Security Council directive purporting to show the Reagan administration’s hope to develop a nuclear first-strike capability. In the pre-internet age, such disinformation could circulate in many places for years.
.. Soviet fake-news specialists also concocted reports that Pentagon bioweapons scientists had created HIV, that wealthy Americans were secretly importing children from Latin America for use in organ transplants and that the CIA was responsible for the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II.
.. In France, Emmanuel Macron, who hopes to defeat Kremlin favorite Marine Le Pen in May’s presidential election, has endured a whispering campaign claiming that he is secretly gay, fanned in part by online trolls and outlets close to Ms. Le Pen’s xenophobic National Front. The “story” went viral this month after it ran on Sputnik, a Kremlin-controlled news agency, which asserted that Mr. Macron has a “very wealthy gay lobby behind him.”
.. In the 1960s and ’70s, the KGB spread similar rumors about two of the Soviet Union’s legendary nemeses, FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover and Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson. As Mitrokhin, the KGB defector, later wrote, the KGB tried to spread rumors in the U.S. media that Hoover had promoted “homosexuals from whom he expected sexual favors.”
.. In a 1976 operation against Jackson, the KGB forged a memo in which Hoover “reported” in 1940 that the senator was gay and sent it to newspapers and Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign.
.. In Germany, for instance, a high-profile January 2016 fake-news story about an attempted sexual assault on a Russian-German teenager by Middle Eastern refugees, which was also spread by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, stoked popular anger toward Chancellor Angela Merkel—probably Mr. Putin’s most prominent foreign foe.
The Kremlin is conspicuously unembarrassed about its handiwork, as seen in Mr. Putin’s smirking, I-know-that-you-know-that-I’m-lying handling of questions about the hacking of the DNC and Clinton campaign emails. “Listen, does it even matter who hacked this data?” he said last September. “The important thing is the content that was given to the public.”