The death of the USSR and the rebirth of socialism

A collection of articles

Stalin's system collapses (August 1991)
Why the workers want to restore capitalism: the legacy of Stalinism (August 1991)
Why we should support the banning of the CPSU (October 1991)
Market madness in the ex-USSR: the triumph of unreason (January 1992)
The end of the USSR: in the beginning was the critique of capitalism (February 1992)
The left's verdict on the USSR: was August 1991 a capitalist counter-revolution against a workers' state? (March 1992)
The SWP and the collapse of the USSR: Sectarian lessons from afar (March 1992)
Download whole collection as pdf
The fate of the Russian Revolution: an introduction to Trotsky's "Three Conceptions" (1990)
Glossary for Trotsky's "Three Conceptions"
Three conceptions of the Russian Revolution, by Leon Trotsky

INTRODUCTION
Within the space of a few months, in 1989, the Russian domination of nearly half a century collapsed all over Eastern Europe. The old regimes were ousted, and new leaders - of different sorts, but all more or less pro-capitalist - took over.

That happened because the USSR had been weakened. In that same year, 1989, the last Russian troops withdrew from Afghanistan, admitting defeat in a ten-year war to subjugate the country.

Since 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev had been engaged in an increasingly desperate attempt to reform the USSR's lumbering economy.

Yet the USSR's bureaucracy seemed a formidable force, even in retreat. The sudden collapse of the USSR in summer 1991 was still a surprise.

On 19 August a group of top bureaucrats, including the Defence Minister, the Vice-President, and the heads of the Interior Ministry and the KGB, detained Gorbachev at his holiday villa in Crimea, and attempted a coup.

After three days of turmoil, strikes, and demonstrations, they were themselves arrested on 21 April. Boris Yeltsin, who had been elected president of Russia (Russia proper, rather than the USSR) in June 1991, took power.

Yeltsin banned the Soviet Communist Party in Russia; seized its assets; and recognised the independence of the Baltic republics. Ukraine, followed by other republics, declared itself independent. By September the USSR had been formally dissolved. Soon Russia was hurtling into huge economic chaos caused by Yeltin's drive to hand out state assets to the new "oligarchs" and unleash market forces at top speed.

The articles collected here document the attempts of ourselves (then grouped around Socialist Organiser) and the other currents of the left to understand those epoch-defining events as they happened.