The Collapse of the Soviet Union

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 3 (May/Jun 2005), Letters, Volume 13

Sir,

—You are to be congratulated on publishing Ron Hill’s article ‘Thecollapse of the Soviet Union’ (HI 13.2, March/April 2005). Not only wasit an informative introduction for the general reader, but also itraises a number of questions. Hill ends his piece with the summary:‘[The Soviet Union] had lost its way sometime in the 1970s, and theevents of 1985–91 proved it to be unredeemable’. This provokes thequestion as to whether he is writing of socialism per se: whether heconsiders the Soviet Union to have ‘actually achieved socialism’, asits uncritical admirers claimed. There is, after all, a respectableschool of thought that would maintain that five decades before ‘LeonidBrezhnev’s finest hour’ the USSR began to lose its way. It wassidetracked by the futile attempt to achieve a socialist societylimited within its boundaries, which produced both the post-civil warbrutality of the regime and its inability to progress as fartechnologically as more open societies, both major factors in itsdownfall, as Professor Hill shows. This was foreshadowed by thewritings of, amongst others, Stalin’s socialist arch-opponent, LeonTrotsky. Though he over-estimated the regime’s immediate weakness, inthat (mercifully) it did not lose the Second World War, his predictionsproved to have a longer-term accuracy.

—Yours etc.,
D.R. O’CONNOR LYSAGHT
Dublin 5

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