We Can’t go on Like This


No this was not a lover’s warning, this was rather Gorbachev’s assertion, on the eve of taking power, that something was fundamentally wrong.  He believe change had to come, and it came, but not in ways he could have predicted.  In 1988 the state history exams were cancelled because as “glasnost” unrolled, the lies of the soviet textbooks became more and more evident.

Singled out as one of the most oppressive regimes by White, Honecker’s GDR, being depicted in our movie, was a place where Gorby had to muscle in and force some change.  Some of the claims in the film, problems of corruption, prostitution, are supported by White here, as are the existences of the subversive authors and artists who, in White, want to push harder and harder for reforms.

I think its in Pipes, but it might be in Kissinger to come, someone makes the claim the regimes are at their most vulnerable when they begin to institute reforms.  Reforms begin to trickle in and they’re like “salted peanuts” to use Kissinger’s analogy from before.  People want more and more.

Why did change come in the way that it did?  White has some musings on possible answers.  What do you think?

9 Responses to “We Can’t go on Like This”

  1. Olivia Martinez says:

    One part of the reading that I found really interesting in this reading was the section about the growing rate of elderly people in the USSR. I didn’t really understand why the rate was growing so rapidly, from 7% – 14% in like 48 years. I thought it was interesting that this was one of the factors that are blamed for the economic downfall. Another thing I found interesting was the section of low literacy in the USSR and the low standards of living. It was like the opposite of the effect of communism in China after there revolution.

  2. John Harris says:

    What struck me about this reading was the commitment of the smaller states in the soviet sphere of influence to implement their own version of the reform. For Russia, this meant the loss of what had been fought so hard for during the period immediately after the Second World War. But nothing could be done without taking a step back to handle Russia’s own internal problems. The main part of Russia’s problems came from the very problems Communism worked to abolish. The class system that emerged and the movement towards cooperate exportation undid many years of reform that had been put in place to prevent these actions. Alas, order could not be restored and the path of Communism took a sharp turn in the wrong direction.

  3. Noah says:

    After reading these chapters, I thought it was intriguing how White included Trotsky’s argument that Russia was still a proletarian/socialist state due to the public ownership of industry and other sources of production. White devotes a chapter to how Communism changed either because of overthrows by popular action or the regime independently transformed.

  4. Noah says:

    accidentally hit the submit comment button… So, I also wanted to note that as changes took place in the “communist world”, public life changed too. To be specific, a typical police force became more common and other security-related groups sprouted. Those were some of the changes that people of society faced.

  5. Jesus Ayala says:

    Since he started getting into population demographics, I wondered why he didn’t mention the “brain drain,” which describes the migration of the most intelligent to the West. Michio Kaku (physicist) claims the brain drain as the biggest factor of western domination in the sciences. Immigration in its most basic form, is trading labor between countries. All developed countries are at risk of having a dependency ratio that’s too high. Japan and Russia are the best examples of this inequality in age and their economies are struggling. It’s baffling how a problem that’s so dire can be put off by Congress for so long.

    Although some Communist countries looked at the “Chinese model,” I believe it could’ve only worked in China due to their organization and their reliable results.

  6. Trystan Colburn says:

    The one thing that really stood out to me in this reading was White’s elaboration on the growing societal differents in the East European countries and the West European countries. White mentions that the “significant differences in income meant real and observable differences in life style.” I find it interesting this repeating pattern of a vast difference of lifestyle with regards to income, because the 1% of today is basically the 1% 20, 30, or even 40 years ago! (Maybe just a bit less severe, but still!) Also, the striking difference is obvious in education as well, making the rich richer/smarter and the poor poorer/less educated, given that “only 15 percent of the children of unskilled workers” stayed in school. I have to agree with the opinions on the undoubted similarities between socialmism and capitalism that were made; no equilibrium, even 40 years later.

  7. Elias Atienza says:

    He highlights that Eastern European economic growth was faster than the West. However, it is important to note it was not sustainable. The economic and environmental damage that countries such as Poland and the Baltic States faced due to this economic growth. He also shows that reforms started from the bottom; such as East Germany essentially throwing in the towel with the government allowing the East Germans to escape to the west.

    The collapse of the Soviet Union and communism in East Europe seemed sudden to the common eye, but I think White shows how it was built up from the lack of economic growth to the attempts at limited reform that showed how limited the system was and then when Gorbachev, the leader of the most powerful communist country in the world decided to do his programs, it let open a floodgate that he couldn’t control. And thus, communism was swept away in a sea of anger and democracy.

  8. Nicolas says:

    I have to say that although i can barely read the sub titles i do like this movie. I found it interesting that white chose to focus on how the East grew so fast it kinda screwed itself. After reading Elias’s post it made even more sense to me. Since the East grew so fast economically, it just collapsed. I just find it funny that the soviet union, or at least part of it, destroyed itself because it grew too fast. WTF? who knew growth could just slaughter something as powerful and scary as the soviet union.

  9. Ida Khachaturyants says:

    I really enjoy the movie, it’s really grim with some hilarious moments. Also is it just me, or did our latest reading not include the last page of chapter six? Maybe it’s just my packet.

    Anyway, I really like how White broke up the various reforms by area, and also how he listed them from least to most clear, and from least to most interesting. It’s definitely a strange style to read. I have to say, i strongly dislike the lack of chronological order, though. Nevertheless, I see that it is important to refer to the distant past in order to characterize how an event was built up. By its very conception, the USSR was destined to fail. I find it interesting that despite asserting that Communism never existed, White continues to refer to whatever the USSR system was as “Communism.”

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