By the early 1990s Gorbachevís political reform had
transformed the former party-state monolith into a political
arena with many competing actors, including radical
democrats, hard-line Communist conservatives, nationalist
movements, and even an open anti-Communist opposition. The
power of the CPSU was breaking down, no longer able to
cement the Soviet political system or hold together the
Soviet unitary state.
partyís disintegration was both national and ideological. Its
national breakup began when its branches in the three Baltic
republics of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia announced their decision
to leave the CPSU and become independent Communist parties. Its
ideological division accelerated in 1990 with the appearance of two
large groups within its rank-and-file: hard-line Communists and more
democratically inclined party members.
his speech at the Twenty-Eighth Party Congress of July 1990, which
also turned out to be the CPSUís last congress, Yeltsin, as a
representative of the democratic strand, proposed to rename the
Communist Party as the Party of Democratic Socialism and to repeal
the age-old ban on factions within the party. The conservative
majority at the congress, however, rejected his proposals. This
prompted Yeltsin to take the floor to declare that he was quitting
the party, then to stalk out of the congress hall. His example was
followed by a score of prominent pro-democracy Communists, including
the heads of the city soviets in Moscow and Leningrad.
of the radicals who left the CPSU following its 1990 Congress took
openly anti-Communist and antisocialist stands. The result of the
inability of the Communist Partyís leadership to cast off its
outmoded ideology was that rank-and-file members began leaving the
party in droves and joining new parties, which were beginning to
form and which were soon brought together under the umbrella of the
Democratic Russia movement. The majority of the new political
parties now advocated capitalist reforms.
drastic shift of political orientation was a logical outcome of
Gorbachevís failure to reform socialism. His continued incantations
about the potential of socialism now only irritated in the conditions
of widespread shortages of basic goods and food items, including
soap, salt, bread, milk, shoes, and cigarettes. More and more people
thought that socialism was unreformable and that it was time to
emulate the economic and political patterns of the advanced
countries of the West.