16.2. Power and governance in the "LI Brezhnev era": from the stagnation of society to a systemic crisis
NS Khrushchev's resignation in October 1964 and the subsequent change of party and state leadership opened a new stage in the development of Soviet society, which is traditionally called the "years of stagnation" (in official propaganda it was called the epoch of "developed socialism"). The main feature of this period was the refusal of the new leadership from the policy of deep reform of society and the consequent further preservation of the political regime, which ultimately led to a short Khrushchev "thaw" the onset of stagnation in all spheres of life. However, after the mid-1950s. transformations, the new government could no longer, without the risk of losing the confidence of the population, return fully to the old system of directive management and abandon Khrushchev's line of raising the standard of living. The logic of the country's development required the holding of urgent economic reforms. It was this attempt to combine political and ideological conservatism, consistently conducted by a group of leaders who came to power, with economic reforms accompanied by the inevitable strengthening of technocratic values, was one of the characteristic features of the first years of Brezhnev's rule.
The change of leadership in the country in the mid-1960s, which meant the victory of conservative forces in the upper echelons of power, led to further strengthening of the positions of the party-state nomenklatura. Khrushchev's reforms, voluntarily or unwittingly, led to a significant weakening of the Party's leading role in various spheres of government, which provoked irritation and legitimate protest from the party nomenclature. Therefore, the party apparatus energetically insisted on stopping the experiments, including, first and foremost, abolishing the interests of Khrushchev's reorganization in the field of party and state management that had affected him. His main requirements were stability and "stability of cadres", a return to collective leadership. The originality of the situation was that it was Khrushchev's reforms, accompanied by de-Stalinization and some democratization of society, that in many ways contributed, if to be objective, to turning the party apparatus from a blind tool of personal power as it was under Stalin to an independent subject of politics , no longer afraid of a repeat of the repressions of the 1930s and 1940s.
However that may be, the first decisions of the new leadership already testified to his intention to restore the party's leading role in full, to strengthen the influence of the party apparatus in all spheres of society's life. The first step in this direction was the abolition of Khrushchev's innovations, which he accepted in the field of party-state construction. A month after Khrushchev's dismissal, at a plenum of the CPSU Central Committee held in November 1964, a decision was taken to liquidate the division of party organizations into "rural" and industrial and the restructuring of their work on the basis of the previous territorial-production principle. Thus, the vertical of the party leadership was restored in its entirety: the Central Committee - the Oblast Committee. Later, at the 26th Congress of the CPSU (1966), the principle of rotation of the party nomenclature introduced by Khrushchev, so hated by the party apparatus, was abolished.
Simultaneously with the restructuring of the party organs, the Soviet, Komsomol and trade union organizations and institutions that were customary for the apparatus were reorganized. Together with the strengthening of the role of the "party vertical" Party control over the economy was restored. In September 1965 the decision of the Central Committee plenum abolished the economic councils and restored the branch ministries. Finally, the Committee for Party and State Control of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the USSR, created in late 1962, was transformed. He was turned into a People's Control Committee, virtually devoid of authority.In parallel with the reorganization of the party and Soviet apparatus, the Brezhnev leadership attempted to carry out economic reforms, which in a sense make it possible to speak of a temporary consensus between the conservatives and technocrats at that time in the country's leadership. This consensus was dictated by what was revealed in the early 1960s. a crisis situation in the country's economy, demanding a transition to new methods of managing the national economy. It was based on comprehension by some of the political leadership of the urgent need to limit the administrative dictates in the sphere of economic relations and to strengthen the economic stimulation of production, which implied the introduction of mechanisms of internal self-regulation, the material interest of the producer in the results of labor. All this did not mean abandoning the directive model of the economy and the underlying central planning. Moreover, with the abolition of the economic councils and the restoration of the central branch ministries, the process of administrative centralization has intensified. A number of central bodies and committees were created: Goskomtsen, Gossnab, State Committee for Science and Technology, etc.
In March 1965, it was announced the beginning of the reform in agriculture. In Leonid Brezhnev's report "On Urgent Measures for the Further Development of Agriculture in the USSR", made at the March Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU, the main reasons for the lag in agriculture were voluntaristic methods of management in the countryside, ignoring the economic stimulation of the development of the industry, price policy, low level of farming culture. In this regard, in order to facilitate the management of the economy, a solid plan (for six years) of state purchases of grain was established, the purchase prices for agricultural products were significantly increased, and a 50% surcharge for the over-sale of products was introduced. At the same time, restrictions were removed for the development of personal subsidiary plots of collective farmers, workers and employees. For the first time in the history of the Soviet village, stable monetary salaries were introduced for collective farmers.
Despite a number of measures taken by the government to revive the economic activities of the collective farms, the methods of managing agriculture as a whole have not undergone major changes. The very economic reform in the countryside was carried out with the help of traditional means, relied exclusively on administrative levers. The main emphasis of the authorities was on increasing the role of the Ministry of Agriculture, writing off the debts of collective farms, increasing investment in the agricultural sector of the economy, the amount of which amounted to about 400 billion rubles only 15 years after the start of the reform.
In September 1965, the next Plenum of the CPSU Central Committee announced the beginning of a reform in industry, which is rightly considered to be the most radical of all reforms conducted in the Soviet period. Its main provisions were formulated in the report of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, AN Kosygin, "Improving the management of industry, improving planning and economic incentives for industrial enterprises." In addition to the need to maintain centralized planning, the restoration of industrial management through branch ministries, which were to replace the former economic councils, emphasis was placed on expanding the operational and economic autonomy of industrial enterprises. To this end, the number of set targets was reduced to a minimum. The main indicators in the activity of industrial enterprises were to be the volume of output, all qualitative characteristics and cost. For the first time, the concept of profit was introduced, emphasis was placed on the effectiveness of capital investments, self-sufficiency and self-financing of enterprises (self-financing).
For the economic stimulation of producers, it was allowed to keep at the disposal of enterprises a portion of the revenues received, of which three foundations were created at each enterprise: a material incentive fund (to encourage employees of the enterprise), the expenditure of which was to be controlled by the general meeting of the labor collective, fund of social and cultural and domestic development (construction of housing, clubs, boarding houses, etc.), fund for the development of production (self-financing of enterprises). It was also envisaged a combination of unified state planning with the right of enterprises to correct top-down plans.In contrast to the similar transformation in those countries of Eastern Europe belonging to the "socialist camp", the Kosygin economic reform, which provided for the transfer of industrial enterprises to self-financing conditions, did not at all mean the rehabilitation of market relations or the transition to the "socialist market" , defended by Czech and Hungarian economists. Strict regulations on the gross volume of production were still established, and the state retained a monopoly in setting prices for manufactured products. The expansion of the nature of the ministries also did not contribute to the proclaimed course on the development of "independence" enterprises. A major problem, which remained important until the mid-1980s, was the one that arose in the 1930s. departmental as a result of the approval of the principle of vertical submission and the associated lack of horizontal links in the system of economic management.
Despite all this, the economic reform of 1965 produced a noticeable economic result, shifting the national economy from a dead center. Only during the years of the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1966-1970) the volume of industrial production grew by 1.5 times, about 1900 large enterprises were built, the growth rates of consumer goods for the first time equaled the growth rates of the means of production. Significant progress was made in agriculture, where the installation for stimulating production also manifested itself.
However, by the end of the 1960s, the most far-sighted politicians realized that economic reforms would not go further than this. Technocratic trends emerging in the course of reforms in the management of the economy and the state were, from the very beginning, limited by the logic of a planned economy, and secondly, they inevitably had to face the dominant ideological doctrine of "partisanship" government controlled. This was the main reason why the economic reforms were never completed.
L. I. Brezhnev and his conservative environment, who feared serious changes, were not interested in the development of economic reform. From the very beginning, the reform processes were hampered by bureaucratic, conservative forces that saw in economic reforms as a threat to political stability. Events in Czechoslovakia, which went down in history as the "Prague Spring" 1968, as well as the sweeping reformist tendencies in other socialist countries (Poland, Romania, Hungary) intensified conservative sentiments in the upper echelon of the Soviet leadership, forced to abandon even the timid and inconsistent steps to democratize governance that had been undertaken before.
By the mid-1970's. economic reforms were finally curtailed. Conservative tendencies took precedence over "reformist liberalism". Presented in the mid-1960's. a small group of economists-technocrats united around Kosygin, he turned out to be, "not to the court" gaining the power of partyocracy.
The results of such a policy have not slowed down in all spheres of society. The average annual growth rate of the national income from 7.7% in the years of the Eighth Five-Year Plan fell to 3.5% during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan (1981-1985), the rate of growth in labor productivity in the same period declined from 6.8 to 3%. Another consequence of the rejection of primarily economic methods of managing the national economy and returning to the command and administrative system was the rapid growth of the administrative apparatus. Only for 1976-1983. its number increased by 3 million and reached 18 million people. The maintenance of such an army of officials annually cost up to 40 billion rubles. But even in these conditions, the party leadership continued to develop and improve the one created in the 1930s. system of privileges and privileges, designed to ensure the material well-being of the party-state apparatus.
Against this background, there is a process of degeneration of the ruling elite. The dethronement of the Khrushchev party reform, which was aimed at renewing and rejuvenating the party's leadership, and replacing it with the slogan "stability of cadres", which in effect meant the lifetime of the nomenklatura posts, eventually turned into an aging of cadres. Suffice it to say that the average age of members of the Politburo in 1980 was 71, and the average age of local leading party cadres in the same year reached 59 years compared with 49 in 1971.In parallel with the rejection of economic reforms, ideological control in the political life of the country was strengthened, the policy of persecuting dissent was gaining momentum, the role of the State Security Committee significantly increased. Against the backdrop of the strengthening of the positions of the party-state bureaucracy, a gradual refusal to criticize the cult of the individual has become dangerous for the ruling elite, which allows a number of scientists to talk about the beginning of the period "neo-Stalinism". In the official propaganda, literature and art begins an inconspicuous rehabilitation of the name of Stalin. From the textbooks on history, sections that contain criticism of Stalin's cult of personality and its crimes are removed. At the same time, there is a tendency to personify the power of the ruling elite, which finds expression in the beginning of the 1960s. campaign to exalt Brezhnev himself. Relationships of personal devotion, family and planning in the selection and placement of personnel are introduced, as a result, not all the most capable people were appointed to all important posts in the state, but people or relatives most comfortable to Brezhnev's environment (Brezhnev's son and son-in-law were included in the CPSU Central Committee).
In 1977, a new, fourth-in-time Constitution of the USSR was adopted. The idea of a rapid transition to communism was replaced by new formulations that justified the construction of the "developed socialist society" in the USSR. and "nation-wide state". These new concepts were designed to reduce the gap between theory and life, in a sense, devaluating the idea of the withering away of the state. At the same time, emphasis was placed on the idea of achieving social and national homogeneity of society, the provision was declared that a "new social and international community" was formed in the USSR " - the Soviet people.
In the Constitution, new forms of "direct democracy" were fixed: nationwide discussions and referenda. A number of new civil rights were introduced, including the right to appeal against the actions of officials, to judicial protection from attacks on the honor and dignity of the individual. For the first time, the rights to health protection, housing, free education, pensions, freedom of creativity were secured. A number of provisions of the Constitution were devoted to the expansion of the rights of public organizations (in particular, the right to legislative initiative, the nomination of candidates for deputies, etc.).
At the same time, in the new Constitution of the USSR, the leading role of the Communist Party in Soviet society was emphasized more than in all previous ones. Article 6 of the Constitution officially legitimized the special position of the CPSU as the guiding and guiding force of Soviet society, the core of its political system, which in itself testified to the intention of the leadership to keep the practice of duplicating the system of state administration of the party apparatus unchanged. The direct intervention of the party apparatus into the activities of all organs and branches of state power was legislatively fixed.
The state structure of the USSR under the new Constitution remained without any change. The rights of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR were significantly expanded, which was endowed with the character of the highest control over the activities of the state apparatus. In 1978, a new Law on Elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR was adopted on the basis of the new Constitution, which was supplemented in April 1979 with the new Law "On the Procedure for Revoking Deputies of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR" and the Law "On the Status of People's Deputies of the USSR". In the 1970s. the role of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR has significantly increased. Since 1977, the General Secretary of the CPSU, Leonid Brezhnev, became simultaneously Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Council, replacing NV Podgorny, who was in office since 1965. The post of Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR continued to occupy A. N. Kosygin, the post of chairman of the KGB from 1967 to 1982 was occupied by Yu. V. Andropov.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, despite loud government announcements and new slogans ("The Five-Year Performance and Quality - Shock Work", "The Economy Must Be Economical"), which soon became a society subject ridicule, the economy continued to trample on the spot. The international situation of the country worsened. In December 1979, Soviet troops were introduced into Afghanistan (a decision was taken at a dacha by Brezhnev with a narrow circle of high-ranking officials), which led to a further increase in crisis phenomena in Soviet society.
It was not possible to change the situation of Brezhnev, who succeeded after his death at the end of 1982, to the former KGB chief, Yu. V. Andropov, who tried to find a way out in a combination of a tough struggle against the corrupt bureaucracy and the establishment of order in labor collectives with a number of economic measures character, suggesting some easing of centralized management and distribution.
Strengthened in the late 1970's - early 1980's. the preservation of political and state structures made evident the inability of the country's leadership to bring society out of the crisis, which acquired a systemic character. Negative phenomena in all spheres of society's life were accompanied by an increase in indifference, social apathy of citizens. One of the main reasons for the growing political alienation was the command-administrative style of the leadership reasserted in the Stalin era and reanimated during the years of stagnation. In this situation, the change of the obsolete economic mechanism, the very methods of governing the country and society became urgent. At the same time, fewer and fewer people believed in the truth of communist values declared by the authorities. Thus, there was an ideological and political crisis of Soviet communism. The emergence and development of the dissident movement in all regions of the USSR, in fact, representing the beginning of the formation of the elements of the "antisystem" within the existing political system.
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