Post by Bruce Munro
Is the Soviet government by 1984 _capable_ of exerting enough force to
keep control in the face of collapsing living standards, food
shortages, etc? (It may be noted that in the case of OTL, severe drops
in living standard have not led to rebellion within Russia. But
post-1991, what would they revolt _against_ and _for_? Communism if
restored doesn't work: and disasters brought about by screwups of
capitalism in the post-Socialist era have sort of a "it's just natural
forces, nobody's at fault" aura about thing which leads to a certain
degree of helplessness. At least people living under a decaying
communism have a clear notion of what they're rebelling in favor of.)
To put it another way: for any likely post-1984 Soviet leadership, is
the present outcome about as good as we were likely to get? (I mean
_economically_ here. Having an autocratic, nuclear-armed USSR still in
being probably is an inferior income in many ways even if they _have_
managed to keep ahead of the Mexicans economically.)
I think there's no way to avert dropping living standards from the
1980s until at least 1994. What Gorby could have done is pull a
Jiang Zemin play and try to translate some free market concepts into
commie-speak (along with appropriate euphemisms). After all, he wanted
to reform the Communist system, rather than permit its collapse.
Countermeasures to OTL's collapse that would have to be implemented
no later than 1987:
1) Rouble auctions (to control the supply of Soviet exports which will
be mostly branded consumer goods like vodka, and tv sets.
2) Increase domestic reserves of foreign currency to supplement gold
and gems reserves.
3) Permit private enterprise. "The worker has the right to his own
or some such crap. Just something to permit private enterprise. The
will then become an issue of getting licenses. I'd assume at least 21
different signatures are necessary, so one would have to stand in lots
of lines for at least a year to even have the _chance_ of one's business
being registered. Thus the black market is going to grow no matter what.
This will also coincide with a rise in crime, sharper than OTL.
4) Reduce military spending.
5) Reduction in the apparatus of the government. Even today Russia has
the highest staff to assets managed ratio in the world. What waste! If
Russia started copying American, Japanese, or European underwriting
methods the way they copied the designs of any foreign machine they
get their hands on, there would be undoubted improvements. How could
be more waste by lending to private borrowers than investing in
power plants that ran at a loss?
There will still be problems and resistance, but if Gorby had done
these reforms first, rather than glasnost and peristroika, I think
he could have had a shot at keeping the creaking beast alive.
POD: No peristroika and glasnost reforms. Instead, Gorby spends his
first years in office finding allies who will support what he has
(Some copies of Deng's Chinese reforms, with the key ones being the
1987: Gorby has his allies each introduce new reforms. He gives a speech
about the power of the Soviet state, with hints that if reforms aren't
quickly, it'll collapse.
The spy game will probably last a few months with departments on both
sides of the reforms fence arresting each other. Finally, the KGB
decides that it's with the reformers. The alliance of military and KGB
forces decide the conflict with Gorby winning the day by Christmas
and starting in 1988 starts forcing through reforms. The KGB and Gorby's
reformers write the bulk of the streamlined legal code. It preserves
the KGB's role (in fact, who do you think is going to implement them?).
It preserves the core reforms Gorby seeks. And while Gorby fights for
and gets increased civil rights, political speech and organization
is seen by the KGB as a direct threat. I know Gorby hated the KGB IOTL,
but from what I understand about the old USSR, there were three forces
at play: Security forces, the Military, and the Politburo. An alliance
of any two could defeat the third. IOTL, the Politburo and the Military
left the KGB out to dry. I think that's where today's siloviki get
their drive to reform Russia- they felt left out of the process as the
USSR collapsed and felt they were the only ones with the knowhow to
the system (regardless of whether it's true or not).
1988-1989: Same as OTL. PCGDP drops 2% when calculating for inflation.
1989: When the Berlin wall falls, Gorby announces a new set of reforms,
mostly civil rights similar to OTL's peristroika and glasnost.
1989-1991: This is a rocky period for the USSR. It sits out the gulf
In seeking to end the cold war, they withdraw from E. Europe, much as
OTL (much to the KGB and Military's objections). PCGDP drops 5% total
in these two years. The birth rate plummets and the death rate climbs.
1991: Frustrated at Gorby's unilateral concessions to the west, and
blaming the economic weakness of the USSR on his reforms, the
security forces brutally crush the Baltic states sucession from the
USSR. Only two years after Tiannenmen (sp?) Square, it's a reminder
to many in the west that while "we can do business with these commies,
never forget they're commies."
1991-1993: The power struggle that went on behind the scenes IOTL
is played out in the Politburo. Gorby is trying to force through the
Politburo, to strip it of many powers and hand them to the general
assembly, including the power to appoint the Secretary General, head
of KGB, and other prized Politburo powers. PCGDP declines another 5%.
Crime is on the rise. Needing the military, Gorby dares not cut its
1994: Gorby is victorious, and announces a new package of reforms.
Small businesses (legally 'communes') are legalized, along with
capital (From state run banks of course. Underwriting will become
the hot job for the rest of the 90s.). With reforms in the Judicial
System, the USSR becomes more conservative than Putin's Russia, but
more liberal than the old USSR.
1994-2004: GDP grows from $1.4tril in 1994 to $2.5trl in 2004. Its
population stays flat during this period, at 285m.
The USSR is still considered a 'superpower' though its military spending
hasn't increased in 20 years. As Chechen, and other internal ethnic
increase, the Soviet military is forced to shift from a conscript
army to a professional one. The army drops from 2.5m in 1994, to 1.0m
in 2004. As military spending stayed flat, it has fully converted to
a professional army.
The USSR trades with China, Europe, Japan, Korea, and the USA. It
cheap electronics, generic drugs, and has started to become a hot
outsourcing spot since 1998. Since 9-11 it has been a key partner with
the USA combatting international terrorism. The photograph of Afganistan
war veterens returning to Kabul, this time victorious, is one of the
famous images of the war.
Soviet cities in 2004 seem fairly modern. But there's a reason
won't let foreigners tour the countryside- rural poverty is rampant.
Especially in Siberia, and the central Asian SSRs. Terrorism in the
south is a huge problem and while crime in Moscow is bad, it's not OTL's
scary 10k murders a year.
Gorby was voted out of office in 1995. Today, there are soviet citizens
who feel that Gorby screwed things up. Pensions are smaller, people
can get fired now- the old days were better. Still, the birth rate
started climbing in 2002, and the death rate seems to have stablized.
The Red Army redeemed itself in Afganistan, and has soldiers in Iraq.
At least, that's what I wished happened,
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