Kunaev on Politics

As noted previously, hundreds of people were nominated for majority leadership of the party and Soviet work. One of those nominated was Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Nikolai Bannikov, the secretary of the Regional Council of Karaganda, was transferred to a position in Irkutsk. Vasiliy Akulinsev was brought in as replacement on the recommendation of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan (CPK). A few years later, we were supposed to elect a local comrade as the branch secretary of the regional committee. I gave the corresponding task to the Department of Party Organs of the Central Committee, and soon Nazarbayev, who worked in the Temirtau City Committee of the party and later as secretary of the party committee of the Karaganda Metallurgical Plant, was nominated for this post. In his application it was indicated that he received a university education at Temirtau and studied at the Higher Party School.

Gennady Kolbin and others like him described the December events in Almaty as an offensive of nationalist-minded people. An authoritative commission by Mukhtar Shakhanov came to a completely opposite conclusion: "... this demonstration by the Kazakh youth was not nationalistic. It was their right to freely express their civil and political position.” The commission identified the perpetrators by name who used force to disperse, beat, and arrest hundreds and thousands of young people. It determined that it was impossible to leave these compromised people in their positions, but for some reason this demand was not carried out to its logical conclusion. Until now, the press has been one-sided and narrowly interpreted Gorbachev's involvement in the December events, which consists only of his willful actions related to the removal of the former head of the republic and the appointment of a new one. These actions, as are known, served as a direct impetus and reason for the youth to demonstrate. For this he must be held politically and morally responsible. But in reality, Gorbachev's guilt is much deeper. Only he is at the center of government, and no one else gave the go-ahead for a broadly punitive and repressive campaign to be launched against peaceful demonstrators, during which internal troops, sapper shovels, service dogs, and water cannons were used while military equipment was kept at the ready. The final act of this campaign was widespread purges including the expulsion of students from universities and technical schools, the dismissal of young Kazakhs from work, mass trials without the observation of elementary requirements of the law, the so-called “percentage mania” in personnel policy and, finally, the label of “Kazakh nationalism” in the above-mentioned resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Of course, Mukhtar Shakhanov's deputy commission has done significant work to restore the truth about the December events. However, I dare say that many more facts are hidden by leaders who are not interested in them, facts which have not become public and are waiting for an objective investigation. This is especially true of the involvement of the top leadership of the country and the republic. In light of what has been said, I think it is high time to raise the question of Gorbachev's full responsibility for the December 1986 events in Almaty, as well as for the events in Tibilisi, Baku, Vilnius, etc.
Here are some other considerations I would like to share with my readers. In the first years after retirement, I was hit by a barrage of all kinds of accusations and complaints. Under all the publicity, proclaimed on every street corner, I did not have the slightest opportunity to rebuff these slanderous statements. I was shut out of television and print. Moreover, they did not allow me visitors, including journalists who wanted to find out my point of view on certain publications.
An article was published in the Washington Post in which the journalist recounted the difficulties he faced in order to meet with me. We met nearly outside the city, and the first thing he asked me was: “Are you really a free man?” How could I answer him? Of course I was free, but…
This “but" was not easy to decipher. And an overseas journalist would not have understood my reasoning. Is it possible to explain to him that when you are in power, you are a worthy and respected person, and when you leave office, at best they forget about you the next day, and at worst, as they did to me, by the will of the newly minted leaders you are accused from all sides of various sins and are not given the opportunity to say anything in your own defense.
For the sake of fairness, I note that with Kolbin's departure attitudes towards me have changed dramatically. I receive plenty of letters from various places, from foreign countries, addressed with good wishes to me.
Numerous guests from near and far abroad come to visit. Now I often see compatriots from Turkey, Afghanistan, Iran, China, Mongolia, Jordan, Sweden, the USA, Germany. They are people with varied interests: big businessmen, scientists, journalists, etc.
This is not the first year in a row that the media has been sounding the alarm: we are all in a deep crisis. Leaders at various ranks have spoken about this more than once in their speeches and urged everyone to continue their work as soon as possible. But why did it happen? How do we overcome this crisis? There are no clear answers. I will venture to express my point of view. Even before the liquidation of the USSR, we found ourselves in distress as a result of the inept leadership of our country. The leaders of this country, having violated and broken the structure of economic management that had been developed over many years, have not created anything in return. Quite the contrary: they all messed up and brought the economy to disaster. That's when they started talking about “stagnation” in all sorts of ways.
The valuable experience of this country on how to raise the national economy was not utilized. Everyone remembers the post-war period. Hundreds of destroyed cities, thousands of villages, and industrial enterprises were restored in the shortest possible timeline, and the country began to produce new industrial products. Collective and state farms were strengthened and the ration card system for bread, meat, butter, sugar and other products was canceled. Price reductions in state trade were systematically implemented. And now? Now for millions of people it's like a fairy-tale, a magical dream, especially for the older generations, who endured all the hardships and terrible misfortunes of the past.
Brezhnev always stressed during various meetings: “We criticized Stalin and Khrushchev. Let historians write about their activities now, and we must understand our responsibility to the people today.”
It seems to me that Brezhnev was absolutely right. Unfortunately, in the years of so-called perestroika a different picture has been painted of our country.
Perestroika resulted in the general expectation of a miracle, a speedy improvement in the state of affairs in society, but no positive “progress” occurred despite a multitude of solemn promises and incantations. This is understandable, because perestroika was conducted in such a way that neither cross-cutting measures nor final goals were defined, nor were there frameworks and methodologies to achieve these goals or to determine the direction the country was heading in. Hence, there was constant shuffling from one extreme to the other, from stalemates and indecision to haste and impulsiveness. Simply put: A ship without a rudder.
The leadership of the former USSR was constantly busied with the endless top-to-bottom reorganization of state bodies. At the same time, the instruments of economic management and the improvement of living standards were lost.
The countless forces of all administrative bodies in central and local government were mobilized to search for compromising materials on their former leaders. All this often slanderous information was then widely proliferated throughout the media. This was done in order to humiliate and insult their predecessors, thus depicting themselves in the best light and avoiding responsibility for their own major miscalculations and failures. Now the true reasons for this large-scale campaign to denigrate many honored party and Soviet workers of the past are starting to be revealed to the public. It’s been a long time coming to be forthright about who is to blame for the collapse of this country's economy, the huge increase in crime, and the wild bacchanal of prices.
This country's leadership has allowed deviations from the principles on which our state was built and strengthened in the sphere of national policy. As a result of their rash decisions, the mutual friendship of peoples inhabiting the USSR, which was secure for many decades, was violated. In many regions, bloody ethnic conflicts have resulted in large numbers of innocent victims. This has happened in Nagorno-Karabakh, Baku, Ferghana, Osh, South Ossetia, Tajikistan, and other regions. The central government’s inconsistent and ill-conceived policies in these matters ultimately led to the collapse of the USSR. And here's the paradox: they all seem to understand that they cannot survive alone, and at the same time, with a kind of bitterness, they set about destroying already broken ties.
In my view, the massive change of local leaders significantly contributed to these issues. In the former Soviet Union there was not, I believe, any oblast or region that did not experience a change of leadership. Under the guise of perestroika, intelligent organizers, who were well experienced with the economy and political work and were able to professionally and competently solve any task, were dismissed. Moreover, in many places the leadership was replaced for the second and even third time. And in what state did our scientific community find itself? To put it briefly, but clearly; in the most deplorable condition.
During the years of perestroika, there have been no significant economic changes for the better. Established structures are collapsing everywhere to the accompaniment of fruitless and tedious speeches by high-ranking officials, who zealously vilify the entire historical path of our people since the October revolution. Practically nothing new has been created in any branch of the national economy, whether by changing production technology or producing high-quality products. Hundreds of millions of dollars have simply been “eaten away." Economic ties between different regions of the country have collapsed. The logistics system is dead.
As a result of such restructuring, hard-won positions in all sectors of the national economy have been lost. Uncontrollability and chaotic behavior has prevailed in the economy. According to experts, we’ve turned out to be bankrupt, unable to pay for international supplies of industrial products and food. In short, the crisis has been getting worse.
Being a supporter of perestroika, as I said both at the 27th Congress of the CPSU and at the plenum of the Central Committee, I already stressed at that time that it was being carried out in an unplanned and chaotic manner. From this arose widespread laxity, irresponsibility, and the collapse of governmental and labor discipline. The achievement of goals was hardly facilitated by the chosen policy, in which the indisputable successes of the people and the party were ruthlessly erased from the biography of the country, and all shortcomings were totally attributed to a period of “stagnation.” This was blasphemous and unfair to the extent that it was confirmed at the First Congress of People's Deputies, where Gorbachev said: “But it is also true that the economic situation is largely related to our own actions, and sometimes our inaction, during the years of perestroika.”
As a communist who retired from active work, but closely followed the work of higher party and Soviet bodies, especially after the 27th Congress of the CPSU, I stated that the decision taken on Gorbachev's initiative to combine the posts of General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee with the President of the country was not justifiable.
Due to the fact that Gorbachev occupied two chairs, the newly created governing bodies, for example the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU or the presidential Council (which, by the way, was liquidated), could not function purposefully and intensively. Collaboration in important decision making completely disappeared. All this further aggravated and complicated the intricate work of these bodies, and achievements were lost in many sectors of the national economy. This affected the activities of the grassroots party and Soviet bodies.
The principles of national economic leadership that had been developing for years were completely rejected, considered to be dangerous. Why? Every period, every epoch had its own levers of control. And these levers worked. Let's leave aside the loud phrases and admit that there was not a single most difficult or marginal area in the pre-perestroika period where the party organization did not give the final word.
It is also important that the party pointed out its mistakes and miscalculations. Even more importantly, it took responsibility for all its mistakes. And all was to each according to their work: offenders were held strictly responsible, while proactive party members were encouraged and supported.
We had one party and it was responsible for everything. There are a lot of parties now and no one is responsible for anything. Likely, the time will come when each party takes its worthy and useful place in society. But it will be tomorrow, or rather, the day after tomorrow. True, if only it would be so...
In the meantime, our situation hopes for the better. People are simply tired of reading about and listening to references to the administrative system and criticisms of the activities of past leaders. The major mistakes and miscalculations made by this country's leaders during perestroika should have been immediately resolved. It was necessary to resolve without delay the issues raised by the Soviet republics in connection with their declared paths to sovereignty and to endow them with the appropriate rights.
Many reorganizations of the economic system were carried out, but all of them ultimately turned out to be unnecessary and fruitless. Left to themselves without real help from the state, collective farms, state farms and other agricultural enterprises began to wither before our eyes, and the exponential increase in prices for agricultural machinery put them on the brink of disaster and adversely affected their productivity. How it ended is known: The State Agro-Industrial Committee of the USSR had to be hastily abolished and most of its republican and local bodies were transformed. The given situation has not progressed a single step towards its solution.
In itself, the legitimate mantra to concentrate full power in the hands of the Councils of People's Deputies was also carried out without proper consistency and perseverance.
It is also necessary to recognize that the practice of combining into one person all levels of party and Soviet leadership from bottom to top, is completely illogical. Incidentally, Gorbachev borrowed this method from Ceausescu.
Supporting in principle the presidential form of government, I have already noticed that it encompasses not only the majority of the Soviet republics, but also individual autonomies. It’s a paradox, but in terms of the number of presidents, we have overtaken all the states of the world and taken first place. Unfortunately, this has not led to an improvement in socio-economic and other indicators of quality of life of the people. In my opinion, the practice of granting extraordinary powers to presidents remains completely unacceptable, because it damages the sovereignty of the highest state authorities.


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