Twenty years ago yesterday, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned his position as head of the Soviet Union. It was a momentous occasion. It was also slightly comic, since he was resigning from a government that didn’t quite exist any longer.
December 25, 1991, was the last day of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
It was the end of an age. The republics that had allied to form the original empire withdrew their support and formed a new union, the Commonwealth of Independent States.
This was one of history’s most momentous developments — or “undevelopments”?
The abandonment of Marxian communism — indeed, of state socialism — marked a turning point in ideological thought, too. Total government control of economic life had been a joke — a miserable, bitter joke — within the Soviet Union during its heyday. The news of its demonstrated unfeasibility shocked the protected sensibilities of the West’s intelligentsia, even eliciting startling confessions from professional socialist rah-rah boys like Robert Heilbroner, who publicly admitted that “Mises was right” about the unworkability of socialism.
For my first 30 years of life, the Cold War with the Soviet Union dominated the newspapers and our imaginations. And then it collapsed. Surprisingly quickly.
As Russians take to the streets to protest Putin’s revealed corruption, and as the United States of America itself buckles under the weight of its own “internal contradictions” — that is, the attempt to live on debt alone — the lesson becomes clear: The mighty can fall.
Radical change becomes possible, even where impregnability was previously assumed.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.