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Masterpieces of History

Svetlana Savranskaya
Thomas Blanton
Vladislav Zubok


Document No. 75: Notes of Meeting of Warsaw Treaty Member-States, July 8, 1989

Traduction de Anna Melyakova

Texte intégral

1These notes of Gorbachev’s meeting with the “fraternal” party leaders in Warsaw present an extraordinary contrast—in their shallowness, superficiality, and lack of specifics—with the candor seen earlier in his talks with Kohl and Mitterrand. Gorbachev cannot seem to stop talking, and his remarks are filled with generalities about perestroika in the USSR with almost no attention paid to the crises in Eastern Europe. There is only a single paragraph in which the Soviet leader comments that “[a] number of countries are experiencing crises” and “[o]nly an objective, precise analysis of the causes will allow us to map out a way to overcome them. We have come to the conclusion that deep reforms are necessary.” But what reforms? This is what Grósz described to Yakovlev as the “dialogue of the deaf.” Here, Gorbachev appears to be just as hard of hearing as his colleagues, perhaps having been “deafened” by the quadruple shock of the Soviet elections, Tbilisi violence, Baltic vote, and the ongoing Polish transition.


2(Record of main content of conversation)


4Gorbachev remarked in his speech that the conversation about topical problems of socialist construction had already begun at the PCC conference. Gorbachev joked: N. Ceauşescu spoke especially prolifically about this—he may have even exhausted his time limit for today.

5It is evident that the need to exchange information and opinions on internal development issues in the socialist countries is great for everybody. However, right now we cannot explore this subject in depth because of time restrictions.

6A detailed conversation can take place at the general secretaries’ and fraternal parties’ working meeting, which was prearranged to be held in Czechoslovakia. That meeting is being prepared; M. Jakeš will be the team leader. Although questions of economic collaboration were to be at the center of attention, everything is concentrated in this realm of cooperation. In a word, the most important conversation is still ahead of us.

7Today I will only touch upon what concerns us all the most. The interest in questions of domestic policy development in our countries is natural. No one is indifferent to each other’s state of affairs, because this is our fate. And considering socialism’s international role, the fate of the entire world is concerned.

8We are hearing about our friends’ concerns in relation to the processes of socialist renewal in the Soviet Union.

9The changes taking place are neither of a tactical nor opportunistic nature. It is not some kind of short-term election campaign that aims only at temporarily relieving the acuteness of the situation. It is a process of deep, fundamental changes.

10Our friends’ wish to comprehend what is going on in the Soviet Union is understandable. Regrettably, in some of the concerns that arise in this connection a note can be heard that is not in proportion to the problem. Sometimes not only anxiety crops up, but fear, even with a trace of panic. It is in consideration of these kinds of attitudes that I would like to speak about our affairs right now.

11Every day life presents problems that acutely concern the broadest social spheres. It is as if we are under their press. Because of routine it is not always possible to evaluate the stage and context in which events develop. But without understanding this, one can only get tangled in details.

12That is why when evaluating what is happening in the Soviet Union it is necessary to get up from our familiar seats and look at events from higher historical and philosophical positions.

13It is very important to approach reality from this point of view—then the theory and policies of the changes can be understood.

14For a long time we have been thinking carefully about the processes going on in the world. And we came to the conclusion that it is time to shift from the international order that has taken shape over the decades to a new one. And the nature of this new order largely depends on the process of development in the socialist countries.

15The context of our internal development is also essential. We feel acutely that the goal of advancing to new boundaries requires an elevation of the productivity of social labor by the strictest standards. That is why we believe that in all areas of our collaboration—in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, in the Warsaw Treaty Organization, and at the general secretaries’ meetings—it is necessary to assist the adaptation of socialism to the demands of the time and the current stage of the STR. Without this we will not accomplish the historic task of uncovering the potential of the socialist system.

16Of course, we must sensibly evaluate socialism’s services to humanity. Capitalism and the entire world would be different without socialism. And the future of the world depends on the future of socialism.

17But a realistic approach does not allow us to close our eyes to the problems and shortcomings present in all socialist countries. Of course each country has its own, some more and some less. A number of countries are experiencing crises. Only an objective, precise analysis of the causes will allow us to map out a way to overcome them. We have come to the conclusion that deep reforms are necessary.

18New impulses and stimuli, new dynamics of development will not appear without changing the relationships of production. We came to a new reading of the content of socialist property, to the diversity of its forms.

19After all, the main goal of October 1917 was to overcome the alienation between working people and property. Here is the source for another motivation for labor and human behavior. Regrettably, this did not happen. Decades of a command-administrative system separated the person from property and from developing his inner creative potential.

20According to Lenin, socialism presupposes the closest ties with democracy. The development of democracy prepares socialism, and socialism develops democracy. This goal was not achieved. From here stems the second goal that stands before us—overcoming the alienation of the people from power. From there we moved on to the necessity of policy reform and democratization.

21Finally, a very relevant problem is to overcome the alienation of the person from culture. We will have to include him in all cultural processes, and wake up the individual in each one.

22In short, such is the philosophy of perestroika; it is based on a critical analysis of experience. In the four years since we took the course for perestroika, there has been no alternative and there is none [today].

23The discussions are mainly only about the pace of reforms. Mostly, two extremes emerge.

24Some are afraid that perestroika will infringe upon their interests and therefore avoid the changes and hinder the perestroika processes.

25Others would like to solve all problems in one big sweep, to jump over the abyss in two leaps, so to speak. These radicals speculate on the natural expectations of the masses.

26We have to implement perestroika within the framework of these complicated processes. You must consider this when you evaluate the flow of information you receive about the progress of perestroika in the Soviet Union. In a word, we understand: this is not maintenance, not some kind of whitewashing, but a deep transformation. And it is taking place in a multinational country, which leaves a special imprint on all processes.

27That is why it is important to have an idea about how difficult and complicated our path is. But we cannot conceive it without socialism. […]

28Of course, in a specific interpretation of the goals of perestroika not everything is sufficiently clear yet. There have already been blunders during the perestroika processes, especially in the sphere of economics. The old forms are taken down decisively, while the new ones have not been developed yet. The market is out of balance, which causes natural discontent. We are forced to try quickly to remedy the situation.

29It seems that at the forthcoming meeting of general secretaries, which could last perhaps for 2-3 days, we will try to present more detailed material on our affairs. But now we can already say that we have the main guarantee of perestroika’s success—the people have joined it. The Congress of People’s Deputies has shown this conclusively. There were, of course, elements of naïvete, illusions, and even demagoguery. But on the whole, these are different people now who are ready for active participation in the affairs of government and society. Thirteen days of the Congress’ work had a deep impact on all of society. Perestroika is acquiring an irreversible character. But if we are asked where we are right now, there will be one reply: in the most difficult period, accompanied by confused minds and conflicting interests.

30The party’s lagging behind the processes of change is also part of our current reality. We seek answers to demands of these new times.

31As has happened in some other fraternal parties, we are thinking about moving forward the date of the next Party Conference; perhaps it will be convened in fall 1990. We will have to consolidate the present stage of perestroika and build a way toward its next stage. New changes in the party and in the economy are needed. A further rotation of the staff is also forthcoming. Even V.I. Lenin said that new policies need new people. And this does not depend only on subjective wishes anymore. The very process of democratization demands it. […]

32[Source: Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Fond 2. Opis 1. On file at the National Security Archive. Translated by Anna Melyakova.]

© Central European University Press, 2010

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