Endowed with a Sense of History

Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 3, 1999-2000 - Pages 85-100

"Communism, begun in 1917, could maintain itself approximately 60 years and reach its peak. So 1978 is the borderline and afterward communism will decline; in the 70th year it will be altogether ruined. This is true. Therefore now is the time for people who are studying communism to abandon it."

Rev. Sun Myung Moon, Paris, April 1972

Did Reverend Moon accurately predict the demise of communism? The many thousands who attended American Leadership Conference programs in the 1980s may recollect a final Conference presentation that predicted that soon the Conference’s message would reach the Soviet Union. This prognosis did not originate with me, nor with any of the other lecturers at the Conference. It originated with Rev. Moon. Having heard him persuasively insist on the imminence of communism’s demise, those around him gained confidence in repeating it. I, for one, wagered that the person who had identified the foundational errors of Marxism could also anticipate its collapse.

Reverend Moon’s views on the inevitable downfall of communism remained consistent for the four decades prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. These views were articulated, for example, in the 1966 text Wolli Kangron (Exposition of the Divine Principle). The 1973 English language translation of Wolli Kangron explains the downfall of communism as follows:

Those powers that persecuted religion all perished while those that protected and fostered religion prospered… the history of religion teaches us that the day will come, without fail, when the world of communism, which persecutes religion, will perish.[1]

Rev. Moon also made a chronologically precise prophecy on the downfall of communism in a speech entitled “The Way of Restoration” delivered in Paris in April 1972:

Communism will fall in its 70th year. Here is the meaning of the year 1978. Communism, begun in 1917, could maintain itself approximately 60 years and reach its peak. So 1978 is the borderline and afterward communism will decline; in the 70th year it will be altogether ruined. This is true. Therefore, now is the time for people who are studying communism to abandon it.[2]

I was among the handful of Unification Church members who sat in a third story flat on Rue LeSueur in the 16th District of Paris when Rev. Moon delivered this speech. The thirty or forty of us in the room all heard Rev. Moon predict that communism would reach its high point in 1978 and then begin a process of decline until 1988, when it would be “altogether ruined.” Rev. Moon’s words proved accurate, despite the seemingly unstoppable élan of Marxism throughout the mid- and late 1970’s.


Communism at its Zenith

The 1970s were indeed a highpoint for communism. Following the 1975 collapse of the pro-American South Vietnamese regime in Saigon, communism quickly gained control in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Through cutting off all military aid and effecting a hasty, humiliating evacuation from Saigon, America had signaled that she was no longer willing to be the “policeman” to the world. The Soviets took advantage of American neo-isolationism to establish strong, pro-Soviet networks of influence in Southeast Asia and in the African states of Mozambique, Angola, South Yemen, and Ethiopia. In the Western hemisphere, Grenada was brought into the Soviet sphere of influence and a radical, pro-communist regime assumed power in Surinam. The anti-American Khomeini government assumed power in Iran, and Marxist guerrillas gained an ascendant role in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

Under President Jimmy Carter’s well-intentioned but unbalanced human rights-driven foreign policy of the late 1970’s, the United States State Department attacked right wing governments for failing to govern based upon the principles of modern democracy. Typically, when such nations balked at U.S. proposals for reform, they lost all or part of the U.S. foreign aid or trade privileges that they had received in the past. Yet the United States often did not apply the same scale of sanctions in dealing with many Leftist authoritarian or totalitarian states. We did little more than issue a communiqué expressing regret or “outrage,” when the Soviet Union, East Germany, and Cuba squelched the rights of their citizens, resorting to outrages such as shooting their own nationals who dared to scale their walls in a desperate attempt to escape and sentencing internal dissidents to long and unbearable terms in an unsanitary, glacial or an insect-infested, tropical Gulag.

1978 as the High Mark of Communism

With hindsight, we can recognize that Rev. Moon was correct in foreseeing that 1978 marked the highpoint of communism. By 1978 the United States military had been severely debilitated. The United States military had suffered humiliation and defeat in Southeast Asia. “Vietnam syndrome” had emaciated American morale and her will to fight. The United States did not even “rattle sabers” when Soviet proxies established themselves in former anticommunist strongholds such as Angola, Mozambique, and Ethiopia.

Pressure mounted through the efforts of the influential Minnesota Congressman Donald Fraser to withdraw US troops from South Korea. The United States suffered a special humiliation in the case of Iran where a vehemently anti-American Ayatollah Khomeini violated international law and the sovereignty of the U.S. Embassy by seizing it by force and holding its employees and staff hostage for a total of 444 days. The situation further deteriorated when a rescue attempt for the hostages ended in failure, with United States forces taking significant casualties.


The Beginning of the End

If 1978 was, as Rev. Moon predicted, the highpoint of communism’s political, military and strategic influence, it is equally evident that 1979 marked the beginning of communism’s decline. With the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, international outcry against the Soviet Union erupted. In spite of its cosmetic assertions to the contrary, the Soviet Union had violated the sovereignty of a neighboring country and installed a puppet regime that would further Soviet interests. While some in the Kremlin might have celebrated the Afghan success, the reality was that in 1979 the pro-Soviet bloc had won two pyrrhic victories—Afghanistan and Nicaragua. An armed resistance would emerge in both of these countries that would incrementally win national and international support and embarrass the Soviets.

After almost a decade of fighting, the Soviet Union would be forced to withdraw from Afghanistan; soon after the Soviet-backed communist regime would topple in Kabul. In Nicaragua the Sandinistas would be forced to support free elections that resulted in them being removed from office in February 1990. In hindsight, it is evident that these events of 1979—the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the 1979 communist takeover in Nicaragua—directly contributed to the uncoupling of the pro-Soviet bloc and to the disintegration of the Soviet Union itself.

For France’s usually tolerant intelligentsia, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan evoked memories of Prague ’68 and Budapest ’56. Stirred by Soviet military and political intransigence, a new generation and genre of anticommunists emerged in Paris, the apex of the world’s cultural centers. Former Leftists and communists such as Bernard Henri Levy and Yves Montand would begin to refer to the Soviet Union of the 1980’s as “Stalinist.” Demeaning the Soviet reaction to the 1968 “Prague Spring” (Alexander Dubcek’s “socialism with a human face”), Levy would refer to communism’s political agenda as “barbarism with a human face.” Parisians prided themselves on their new view of “chicl’anticommunisme.

By the 1980s, communism had become the brunt of jokes, not only in the Soviet Union but also in the West. Reflecting on the history of the Soviet Union, Forbes ran a cover story in its December 6, 1982 issue referring to the Soviet experiment as a “long march to nowhere.” Borrowing from the blockbuster Star Wars, U.S. President Ronald Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as “the Evil Empire. ”

President Reagan, who had announced his candidacy in that fateful year 1979, was elected in 1980 with a strong commitment to ending Soviet bids for world hegemony. Following the election he and his staff—including Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and CIA Director William Casey—devised a strategy to confront the Soviet Union and effect a “roll back.” Central to their efforts was the rebuilding of the American military. Reagan was not interested in the U.S. longstanding policy of “parity” with the Soviet Union. He wanted military superiority and achieved it early on in his presidency.

Finally, with the death of Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev in 1982, the Soviet Union began to cultivate a new more gentle and conciliatory identity. Brezhnev’s successor Yuri Andropov did not remain in office for sufficient time to develop that persona, and his successor Yuri Chernenko reverted to Brezhnev-like stagnation. This all changed, however, with Mikhail Gorbachev’s “election” as the Communist Party’s General Secretary in 1985. In a speech to his followers shortly after Gorbachev’s assumption of power, Rev. Moon explained that, regardless of the integrity of Mikhail Gorbachev’s intentions or lack thereof, glasnost would lead to the undoing of the Soviet Union.


1988 and the Demise of the Soviet Union

Reverend Moon had indicated that communism would fall in its 70th year, yet the Soviet Union did not collapse until December 25, 1991. Was his 1972 prediction accurate? If so, what constituted communism’s “fall” or being “altogether ruined”? There are clearly two ways to interpret Rev. Moon’s prediction. One would be to assert that it meant the eradication of the Soviet state, as transpired with Nazism in 1945. Clearly communism as a political reality did not totally topple in 1988, and communism even continues to exist in 2000 in various East Asian countries including China, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, and Vietnam. Nevertheless, there is another way to interpret this prediction, which is very much in line with Rev. Moon’s ideas about the collapse of communism as expressed in Exposition of the Divine Principle. It maintains that communism can be defeated either militarily or it can be defeated internally or ideologically, but promotes the desirability of an ideological rather than a military victory for the obvious reason that all people, regardless of faith, are God’s children.[3]

Indeed, a series of changes in Soviet policy and circumstances had transpired by 1988, which did sound the death knell to Marxism-Leninism as a leading world political philosophy. These included:

1. A change of attitude toward Marxism-Leninism in the Soviet bloc

2. The demythologizing of Soviet leadership

3. The undermining of the Marxist view of political economy

4. A new view towards religion and spiritual questions

5. Freedom of the press

6. Nascent political freedom

7. Changes in Soviet views on the arms race and approaches to the cold war

8. Abandonment of the Brezhnev doctrine

9. Abandonment of Soviet support for wars of national liberation

10. Soviet troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

11. The uncoupling of the Warsaw pact and the re-emergence of the nationality question inside the U.S.S.R.

In what follows here I would like to elaborate on how each of these changes in Soviet policy irreparably compromised the viability of the Marxism-Leninism by 1988.

1. A Change of Attitude toward Marxism-Leninism in the Soviet Bloc

The Soviet Union was long guided by ideological purists who maintained that their decisions and actions were extensions of Marxist ideology. Communism’s leaders were either portrayed or portrayed themselves as master exegetes of the ideology. Lenin’s Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism served as a rationale for preservation of Marx’s view of political economy. Lenin’s State and Democracy (1917) demonstrated the ideological correctness of Lenin’s opting for a dictatorship of the proletariat rather than the institutionalization of democracy in the USSR (as had been supported by the Mensheviks including his mentor George Plekhanov and fellow Marxists George Martov and Karl Kautsky). Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Kim Il Sung all dedicated tomes to their interpretation of Marxism’s views on history and social progress. Nikita Khrushchev had denounced Stalin’s “terror” on ideological rather than humanitarian grounds. His criticism was not that Stalin had committed genocide, but that Stalin had eliminated people whose social background and lineage, according to Marxist genetics, would cause them to be classified as workers rather than as people of bourgeois or capitalist stock. Indeed, Khrushchev’s fervent ideological commitment to Marxism led him to set dates for the emergence of a “Workers’ Paradise” inside the U.S.S.R.; he had predicted that real communism would arrive by 1980.

Early in his presidency, Mikhail Gorbachev began to make statements that challenged the centrality of the Marxist dogma. Gorbachev openly questioned the view that Marxism-Leninism constituted all of the truth. By 1986 he opened the door for dissent when he contended that it was not normal that the communist movement “be unanimous on all the issues it confronted.” By the 27th Congress, which took place in 1987, Gorbachev took the position that no single party could have a “monopoly of the truth.” The evolution of Gorbachev’s thinking had sufficiently advanced that when he met with Pope John Paul II in the Spring of 1989, he made the revolutionary assertion, “We no longer think that those who don't agree with us are enemies.”[4] By 1988 the official attitude toward Marxism-Leninism had changed. The Communist leadership had concluded that communism alone would not resolve their problems.

When he assumed power in 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev established policies that were meant to mark a new starting point for Soviet communism. The most significant of these were glasnost, perestroika, and uskorenye. Glasnost related to political openness. Glasnost made it possible for Soviet citizenry to share openly their views on existing government practices and even certain Marxist ideological principles. Perestroika was a restructuring of Soviet political and social institutions. Such reforms resulted in Mikhail Gorbachev being “elected” President of the Soviet Union;[5] they resulted in genuine reliance on a written constitution rather than the Soviet leadership’s decision du moment. Perestroika also facilitated election reform, allowing for more than one candidate to run for seats in the Peoples Congress.

The third aspect of reform under Mr. Gorbachev was known as Uskorenye. Uskorenye called for acceleration in the development and production levels of the Soviet economy. While the USSR under Gorbachev did foster political openness and some very significant structural changes in the Soviet Union’s political landscape, Soviet economic growth did not accelerate but languished. This, more than anything else, contributed to a growing sense of disappointment with Gorbachev’s policies.

2. The Demythologizing of Soviet Leadership

Immediately following the death of Lenin, the communist world began to deify its leaders. In the case of Stalin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro and Kim Il Sung, the national communist parties did not even wait for the leader’s death to elevate them to sainthood. When in 1956 Nikita Khrushchev broke communist protocol and delivered a speech to the 20th Party Congress of the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) denouncing Stalin's crimes of mass murder and genocide, he defiled a quasi-religious icon and provoked a split in the communist world. Mao reacted by using the occasion as a pretext to distance himself from the Soviet Union. The communist world’s adverse reaction to Khrushchev’s 1956 speech would eventually undermine the Soviet General Secretary’s rule. The replacing of Khrushchev by Brezhnev and Kosygin in 1964 represented the Soviet Union’s return to a hard line approach to communism and a repudiation of Khrushchev’s attack on Stalin. Nevertheless, this return to “ideological correctness” would only succeed in delaying the inevitable for two more decades.

A reassessment of the myths surrounding Soviet leadership began full force in the 1987 Congress of the CPSU, when the legitimacy of Stalin’s purge trials and acts of genocide were again challenged. In January 1988 Andrei Vyshinsky, the chief prosecutor in Stalin’s show trials of the 1930’s, was denounced in the Soviet publication Literaturnaya Gazeta as “a monster whose claws still defile our criminal procedure and legal system.”[6] Stalin’s image was further undermined when in the summer of 1988 the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 with its secret protocols—which allowed for the Soviet annexation of the Baltic republics and freed Hitler up to attack Britain—was made public.[7] In 1988 a mass grave was discovered in the Kuropaty Forest near Minsk containing the remains of some 30,000 people. Authorities admitted that, under Stalin, a “human slaughterhouse” had operated there.[8]

For years any effort to commemorate the victims of the Soviet Gulag—the communist detention and labor camps where millions of “enemies of the state” had been detained, brutalized, and often killed—was repressed through official crackdowns, arrests, and detentions. However in June 1988 Gorbachev lent the idea of a memorial to the victims of Stalin official legitimacy.[9] On March 6, 1988, despite an official ban, a demonstration was held in Moscow’s October Square to commemorate and mourn the victims of Stalin’s terror. Although many of the demonstrators were detained, unlike in the past they were “speedily released.”[10] In November 1988 dissidents organized a week of conscience regarding “the Terror.” In Moscow a “wall of memory” was erected, where photographs of victims of Soviet repression were exhibited. A huge map of the USSR was also put on display, which indicated the locations of the scores of concentration camps along the Gulag Archipelago.[11]

3. The Undermining of the Marxist View of Political Economy

Central to the Gorbachev revolution was Alexander Yakovlev, who served as Soviet Ambassador to Canada from 1983 to 1985 and then became a key advisor to Mr. Gorbachev. Prior to 1983 Yakovlev had overseen the Institute of the World Economy and International Relations of the USSR Academy of Sciences. In September 1988, soon after he was chosen as Chairman of the Central Committee Commission on International Affairs, he strongly endorsed the implementation of a market economy and democracy in the Soviet system.[12] In Yakovlev’s view, the market was ”not simply the only effective mechanism for the exchange of commodities and services in a large-scale modern society; it was also the foundation of democracy; as it provided the economic independence that made a dictatorship impossible.”[13]

In September 1988 Gorbachev also took the dramatic step of appointing Vadim Medvedev, former rector of the Central Committee’s Academy of Social Sciences, as head of the newly established Ideological Commission of the Central Committee.[14] Medvedev did not see socialist ideology in a monolithic fashion. He contradicted traditional Marxism in his assertion that “lessons could be learned from the capitalist world.” By 1989 Medvedev was quite upfront in his view that the market served as a “flexible instrument for reconciling production and consumption which could be adapted to the purposes of a wide variety of social systems.”[15] Yakovlev and Medvedev thus challenged the very underpinnings of Marxism, which posited that public control of the means of production was essential to assure an accelerated level of social and economic development.

4. A New View towards Religion and Spiritual Questions

Communism teaches that production relations serve as the basis for all social and cultural institutions. Lenin defined morality by explaining that that which advances the objectives of communism is “moral.” However, Gorbachev challenged this utilitarian approach to morality, emphasizing that perestroika “must revive moral norms, honesty, and decency, without which man was merely a consumer of material values rather than a bearer and creator of spiritual values.”[16]

By 1988 the Soviet Union had also taken a drastically different stand on religion. Religion was no longer viewed as an “opiate” as Marx maintained or “spiritual booze” as Lenin had once described it. By 1988 dramatic efforts were underway to arrange a meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev and Pope John Paul II, which would happen in the following year.

5. Freedom of the Press

In accord with the Soviet view of dictatorship of the proletariat, it was important to control the kinds of news and information that reached the Soviet citizenry. For decades, the average Soviet citizen only had access to publications such as Pravda, Izvestia, and news and broadcasting programs from Tass and Novosti. Objective media coverage did not exist inside the U.S.S.R. Soviet dissidents had become skilled in reading between the lines of the official controlled press to know what was actually happening around them. The circulating of other “subversive” materials such as the International Herald Tribune or Time Magazine or listening to Radio Free Europe, the BBC, or Voice of America could result in serious sanctions and detention.

By 1988, because of President Gorbachev’s glasnost policy, changes occurred in this domain as well. Soviet newsstands were given permission to sell the Guardian, The Financial Times, and The International Herald Tribune.[17] The Soviet underground press was also flourishing.

6. Nascent Political freedom

In State and Revolution (1916) Lenin had elaborated on why there could not be democracy in Russia once the Marxist revolution had occurred. However, the year 1988 marked the first time since 1917 that Soviet citizens could choose between two candidates in local elections. British scholar Geoffrey A. Hosking has pointed out that by the autumn of 1988 it had become increasingly evident that a “mass mobilization against the party-state had a chance of success, and some of the country’s leading intellectuals had been drawn into the struggle.”[18] May 1988 marked the founding of the Democratic Union, which would evolve into a political alternative to the Communist Party. By January 1989 the Democratic Union began to describe itself publicly as “a political party in opposition to the totalitarian structure of the USSR, aiming to bring about its non-violent transformation and the construction of law-governed states on the principles of humanism, democracy and pluralism.”[19]

7. Changes in Soviet Views on the Arms Race and Approaches to the Cold War

Peaceful coexistence constituted the official foreign policy of the Soviet Union vis-à-vis the Western powers since Lenin. In the Leninist lexicon, “peaceful coexistence” had two meanings. Publicly the Soviet Union advocated peace, but privately the Soviets promoted an enormous weapons build-up, including a massive deployment of tactical nuclear weapons that targeted Western Europe and East Asia. America’s monitoring of Soviet military and weapon deployments confirmed that in spite of the Soviets signing on to SALT I and SALT II, they had found the means to amass the world’s largest nuclear weapons arsenal. In 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis, the United States had approximately an 11–to–1 nuclear warhead superiority over the Soviet Union. Yet by 1980 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the Soviets had at least a 3–to–1 nuclear warhead superiority over the United States. Ronald Reagan recognized that although the official U.S. and Soviet adherence to the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) may have reduced the immediate threat of nuclear war, it had permitted the Soviet Union to achieve nuclear parity if not superiority over the United States. [20] The Soviets had built such a powerful nuclear arsenal by the end of the 1970’s that this was undoubtedly a contributing factor in the United States opting to accept the 1979 Soviet takeover of Afghanistan and limiting the American response to measured, symbolic expressions of disapproval such as marshalling a Western boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Borrowing terminology from American football, the Reagan administration’s development of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) could be said to be an “end run, ” increasing the odds that, even if the Soviets continued their nuclear build-up, the United States would eventually neutralize their growing nuclear superiority through building a top-of-the-line, space-deployed missile defense system.

Following the Soviet Union’s controversial apprehension and subsequent release of American citizen and Newsweek journalist Nicholas Danilov, Ronald Reagan agreed to a summit meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland on October 11-12, 1986. At that time Gorbachev proposed that America continue with laboratory research on SDI, but he adamantly opposed testing and the eventual deployment of the SDI system. Reagan refused to agree to Gorbachev’s terms on testing and deployment in spite of Gorbachev’s proposal to begin a massive, unilateral reduction of the Soviet nuclear arsenal. Stephen White has described the Soviets’ response to Reagan’s hard-line stance:

It was at this point that the discussions broke down, as Gorbachev was unwilling to allow any element in his package to be agreed upon without agreement on all the others. The Politburo, at its meeting on 14 October, blamed the breakdown of negotiations on the Americans, but called for further meetings and discussions on the basis of the proposals that the Soviet side had put forward.[21]

In his memoirs, Ronald Reagan described his meeting with Gorbachev following the breakdown of the Reykjavik talks caused by Reagan’s ongoing commitment to SDI. Reagan recounts that Gorbachev said to him, “I don’t know what else I could have done.” Reagan responded, “You could have said ‘Yes.’”

Reagan’s final words at Reykjavik may have had an impact upon President Gorbachev’s thinking. Sarah E. Mendelson points out that when the third summit took place in Washington in December 1987, the conference “made no direct reference to SDI.” In abandoning its resistance to SDI, the Soviet Union had thrown away the bargaining chip it needed to maintain military parity with the United States. Mendelson also observes, “Some of Reagan’s advisors appeared to be recommending SDI precisely because they thought the Soviet economy would collapse under the strain of attempting to emulate it.”[22]

8. Abandonment of the Brezhnev Doctrine

In 1988 the Soviet Union abandoned the Brezhnev Doctrine, which held that it was the responsibility of all socialist countries to “support” any one country that might wander from the socialist path. The Brezhnev Doctrine had first been utilized to justify the Warsaw Pact’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The Soviet Union also utilized this doctrine to justify the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. During the Gorbachev presidency, steps were taken to re-examine the validity of the Brezhnev doctrine. This was done both through official and unofficial channels, with Soviet dissidents strongly pressing the issue. During the summer and autumn of 1988 the Democratic Union demonstrated its opposition to totalitarian rule by a number of demonstrations, particularly one on August 21that took place near Pushkin Square in Moscow. This demonstration was held to mourn the victims of the Warsaw Pact’s 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, which that had taken place on that date twenty years earlier. [23] Prior to this, Mikhail Gorbachev had already stated in Prague in April 1987:

The entire framework of political relations between the socialist countries must be based on absolute independence. Every nation is entitled to choose its path of development, to decide its own fate, to dispose of its territory, and its natural and human resources.[24]

In 1988 there was vigorous debate in the Soviet Union on the Brezhnev doctrine and proletarian internationalism concerning the precedence of “international”—i.e., socialist bloc or Soviet—interests over national interests.[25] The reformulation of Soviet foreign policy was described as follows: “Many prominent theorists and policymakers now believe that national interests must take precedence and that non-interference and respect for national sovereignty are essential principles in the relations between socialist states to which insufficient attention has been paid in the past.”[26] By 1988 Gorbachev himself maintained that every socialist state “has the sovereign right to resolve its own problems, to seek its own answers.”[27] In a speech delivered at the UN in 1988, Gorbachev announced the withdrawal of 500,000 Soviet troops from Warsaw Pact nations and the removal of weapons and units capable of launching a surprise attack on neighboring NATO countries from the front line.[28]

9. Abandonment of Soviet Support for Wars of National Liberation

By early 1988 the Soviet Union had also taken the first steps towards disengaging from a global policy of supporting Marxist-Leninist insurgencies in developing countries in the name of “national liberation.” Lenin’s view of imperialism, as outlined in Imperialism—The Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916) and his Notes on Imperialism (1916), maintained that the reason capitalism had not been overthrown in the most industrialized countries, as Marx had predicted, was because capitalists had found new ways to maintain the capitalist system and thus continue to enrich themselves. They had done this, Lenin posited, through establishing political or economic colonies in the less developed world. Leninism teaches that the only manner to assure the overthrow of developed capitalism is to cut off capitalism’s markets in the less developed world through supporting wars of national liberation. The Soviet Union and its proxy nations such as Cuba were deeply involved in the national liberation movements that emerged in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America.

By 1988 Gorbachev questioned the Soviet Union’s continued involvement in such efforts. Wars of national liberation had proven to be expensive, and the propping up of governments after communist takeovers was even more costly. There was a growing awareness in the Soviet Union that Third World conflicts would not easily be resolved by military means. There was also an inevitable loss of prestige when Soviet client states such as Afghanistan maintained political viability only through massive Soviet military and economic assistance.[29]

Beginning in 1988, Soviet policy makers and theorists adopted an official position stressing that regional conflict can be resolved through dialogue, national reconciliation, and a demonstrated willingness to share political power rather than through endless and ubiquitous wars of national liberation. The Soviets maintained, “Resolution will be effective as long as arms are not supplied to the conflicting parties and there is no external intervention.”[30] When President Gorbachev spoke at the United Nations in December 1988, he outlined a new Soviet view on Third World regional conflicts, stressing that the United Nations rather than the Soviet Union should play the central role in resolving them.[31]

10. Soviet Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan

In 1988 the Soviet Union took the unprecedented step of withdrawing its troops from a client state. It took place in Afghanistan when in April 1988, accords were signed for the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from that embattled land. This was the first concrete manifestation of change in Soviet policy vis-à-vis Socialist allies or client states since the Soviet Union was founded in 1917. As per the accords, half of the Soviet forces were withdrawn between May and August 1988, with the remainder leaving within the following nine months. Withdrawals began on May 15, 1988 and were completed on schedule February 15, 1989.[32] Afghanistan thus marked the first Soviet retreat since the period immediately following World War II. The uncoupling of the Warsaw Pact in 1989, and the uncoupling of member republics from the Soviet Union in 1991, would follow in short order.

11. The Collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Re-Emergence of the Nationality Question inside the U.S.S.R.

The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1988 opened the way to a general defection from the Soviet sphere of influence. This occurred in places such as Eastern Europe where even a few years earlier such a step would have defied common sense. For example, by the mid-1980’s Poland’s communist leader General Wojciech Jaruzelski operated under the assumption that due to threatened and real government crackdowns, Lech Walesa’s Catholic Church-inspired Workers Union, known as Solidarity, was no longer a player in Poland’s politics. However, when worker strikes broke out in April and May 1988, Jaruselski soon realized that it was impossible to address this problem through existing channels. Jaruzelski was forced to solicit the assistance, counsel, and mediation of Lech Walesa.

These exchanges consummated in a reopening of negotiations between Jaruzelski and Walesa on August 31, 1988.[33] Those negotiations led to the official reinstatement of Solidarity as a political party inside Poland. Solidarity was publicly legalized on January 18, 1989, with Walesa and Solidarity actually assuming power in Poland six months later on June 4, 1989. Ironically, this had a “domino” effect. In Hungary the prescribed leading role of the Communist Party was removed from the constitution by the start of 1989. After a year of grave instability, the communist-ruled German Democratic Republic collapsed. The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989. Bulgaria's communist government gave up power one day later. The ending of communist rule in Czechoslovakia and Romania followed within about one month’s time.

The seeds for the splintering of the Soviet Union itself had also been sown by 1988. Early that year Gorbachev spoke of reopening discussion on the nationality question.[34] A working group on constitutional reform began in September 1988 to develop the notion of “republican precedence,” by which the fifteen Soviet republics would assume authority over matters that had not been specifically transferred to the USSR government.[35] The Soviet Union had let “the cat out of the bag.”[36] By 1988 there was growing pressure by the Soviet Republic of Georgia to obtain greater autonomy. By the summer of 1989 there were displays of the proposed flag for an independent, non-communist Georgia.[37]



In 1978, just three years after the fall of Vietnam, the Soviet Union enjoyed its apogee of influence and power in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. It seemed realistic that communism would remain a long-term fixture in the developing world. It was a realistic scenario to conceive of the United States one day reduced to a hemispheric power threatened by a communist Mexico to the south. The potential urgency of protecting U.S. borders from a hostile and pro-Soviet Central America and Mexico would have provoked a partial or eventually a complete withdrawal of U.S. ground troops from NATO. With the weakening of NATO and Pacific alliances with the United States, Western Europe and Japan would have had no choice but to come to an “understanding” with the Soviet Union.

Amazingly, one year later, that scenario began to lose credibility. In 1979 the world felt betrayed by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. There was also outrage when the democratically inspired revolution against Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza was “stolen” by pro-Soviet communists. In both of these countries a military resistance emerged that would wear down the Soviet supported military machines.

Ten years later, in 1988, Soviet troops began to withdraw from Afghanistan. In that same year alternative political parties became part of the political landscape in the USSR and in the Soviet satellites of Poland and Hungary. A free alternative press began to compete with Pravda and Izvestia. The Soviet Union renounced its support of the Brezhnev doctrine and its support of national liberation movements. A new Soviet leadership was calling for adoption of a free market economy and freedom of religion. Such Soviet icons as Stalin and even Lenin were being openly criticized, for the first time, by Soviet citizens for the atrocities that they had perpetrated against their fellow citizens and the international community.

After seventy years of astounding growth and ubiquitous havoc, the Soviet dream had indeed been “altogether ruined.” Rev. Moon’s 1972 prognosis that in 1978 communism would reach its high point and that in 1988 communism would be “altogether ruined” proved to be astonishingly accurate.



[1]Divine Principle (New York: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1973), p. 107.

[2] Sun Myung Moon, God's Will and the World (New York: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1985), p. 77. [The author was in Paris in attendance at this speech and was immediately impressed by it. The speech appeared first in 1972 in the Unification Church magazine The Way of the World.]

[3]Exposition of the Divine Principle (New York: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1996), p. 376.

[4] Carl Bernstein and Marco Politi, His Holiness (New York: Doubleday, 1996), p. 473.

[5] Prior to Mikhail Gorbachev, the most important position in the Soviet Union was that of Secretary General of the Communist Party.

[6] Stephen White, Gorbachev and After (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 78.

[7] Ibid., p. 79.

[8] Ibid., p. 79.

[9] Geoffrey A. Hosking, Jonathan Aves and Peter J. S. Duncan, The Road to Post-Communism (London: Pinter Publishers, 1992), p. 17.

[10] Ibid., p. 17.

[11] Ibid., p. 18.

[12] White, Gorbachev and After, p. 225.

[13] Ibid., p. 226.

[14]Ibid., p. 224.

[15]Ibid., p. 225.

[16]Ibid., p. 226.

[17] Ibid., p. 90.

[18]Hosking, Aves and Duncan, The Road to Post-Communism, p. 24.

[19] Ibid., p. 19.

[20] The policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.) maintained that because both the United States and the Soviet Union understood that an unleashing of a nuclear attack by one of the two sides would result in an immediate response by the other side, neither side would resort to atomic warfare. This was one of the reasons used to dismiss the need for the building of an anti-missile defense system. The SALT accords signed by the United States and the Soviet Union put strict limits on the testing and deployment of anti-missile systems.

[21] Stephen White, Gorbachev in Power (New York: Cambridge University Press), p. 165.

[22]Ibid., p. 164.

[23] Hosking, Aves and Duncan, The Road to Post-Communism, p. 19.

[24] Bernstein and Politi, His Holiness, p. 460.

[25] Reviewed in Problems of Communism, March and April 1988.

[26] Bovin, MEMO no. 7/1988.

[27] Martin McCauley, ed., Gorbachev and Perestroika, (New York: St. Martins Press, 1990), pp. 177-178.

[28] Ibid., p. 187.

[29] Ibid., p. 183.

[30] Ibid., p. 184.

[31]Pravda, December 8, 1988, in McCauley, Gorbachev and Perestroika, p. 185.

[32] White, Gorbachev in Power, p. 175.

[33] Bernstein and Politi, His Holiness, p. 469.

[34] White, Gorbachev in Power, p. 143.

[35] Ibid., p. 144.

[36] Ibid., p. 144.

[37] Ibid., p. 138.