Reformers From Within?

Sunday, May 17, 2009
The Financial Times' review of The Rise and Fall of Communism by Archie Brown, one of Britain's foremost experts on communism for the past 40 years, raises some interesting questions about the need for a combination of both reformers from within a regime and a civil society movement for the system's collapse.  If such an argument holds true, only time will tell who the Cuban regime's reformers will be, as the Cuban civil society steadily grows.  One thing is for sure, history has proven it is not Fidel or Raul Castro.   
 
From the FT's review:
 
Although Brown covers the communist experience in China, south-east Asia and Cuba, he is at his most fluent and convincing when he analyses the Soviet Union and eastern Europe between 1945 and 1989. He contends that, no matter how economically inefficient and politically unpopular the Soviet and eastern European regimes were, it required reformers from within – above all, Mikhail Gorbachev – to make the moves that would prompt the system's collapse.

"There is no automatic link between economic failure and collapse of a communist regime if all the resources of an oppressive state are brought to bear to keep its rulers in office," Brown writes. The tight grip on power held in North Korea by Kim Jong-il and, before him, by his father Kim Il-sung support Brown's argument.

Even Poland's Solidarity free trade union, a mass anti-communist movement if ever there was one, stood no chance in December 1981 when the Polish communist party and armed forces imposed martial law. Brown's chapter on the Prague spring, meanwhile, shows how easy it was for the Soviet Union to crush a reform movement whose origins lay largely in the ruling party itself.