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Totalitarianism with Subsystems

"Gorbachev Factor"

Thus, as a result of the postwar evolution of the relations between rising interests and the party-state authorities, the Soviet regime took on a more elaborate configuration. The new setup diluted and modified certain features of Stalin’s totalitarianism but did not transform its essence. The most significant change was the evolvement of the corporatist and pluralist elements within the regime. In the post-Stalin Soviet Union corporatism and pluralism were implicitly permitted by the authorities and functioned not as an antithesis to totalitarianism but as its integral parts, or subsystems.  

Corporatist and pluralist interaction helped to resolve or alleviate economic and social problems. However, no pluralism was allowed at the level of formulating the regime’s political priorities and strategies of sociopolitical development. This was the exclusive preserve and absolute monopoly of the party-administrative apparatus, and here all differences of interests or opinion were reined in and tamed, both institutionally and politically, to serve the regime’s objectives.

The development of corporatist and pluralist subsystems under Khrushchev and Brezhnev led to a social modification of totalitarianism, while its political structures remained relatively intact. The dismantling of the totalitarian political system began only in the 1980s as a result of Gorbachev’s political reforms. As Soviet totalitarianism crumbled, two deformed siblings rose from its rubble—anarchic pluralism and oligarchic corporatism—both of which bore the distinctive birthmarks of their deceased totalitarian parent.

One of the siblings in particular—oligarchic corporatism—appeared to develop into a full-blown system or regime in the early 1990s under President Boris Yeltsin. It remains to be seen whether Russia can evolve in the direction of a more mature pluralism or some form of liberal corporatism.

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Models of Soviet Power


Soviet Russia

Understanding the Soviet Period
Russian Political Culture
Soviet Ideology
The Soviet System
Soviet Nationalities
The Economic Structure
The Socialist Experiment
"Great Leap" to Socialism
The USSR in World War II
Stalin's Legacy
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The Economy in Crisis
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Models of Soviet Power

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