Here is my letter:
To the editor:
As a long-time student of the
Gorbachev was striving mightily to deal with what was left of Stalin’s legacy and the stagnation more characteristic of the Brezhnev era, and he is an unfortunate example of the cynical generalization that no good deed goes unpunished.
The most likely explanation for the crackup of the
Remember that this was a country employing 80,000 people in its censorship agency, Glavlit, that nothing could be printed without that agency’s permission, and that people had to have a license from the police to have a typewriter. (Typewriters, to say nothing of copy machines, were considered dangerous weapons.) Dissidents were reduced to typing up forbidden manuscripts with several carbon copies and circulating them to people who might in turn type up more copies.
As Gorbachev’s experts undoubtedly understood, computerization would allow easy dissemination of dissident ideas on floppy disks, even before the internet (which hadn’t happened yet) came in. But I believe Gorbachev decided that the economy absolutely had to have computers, and that his principal successful reform, glasnost (openness, freedom of speech and press) was an effort to get some political credit for what was going to happen anyway when computers came in.
It was free speech that destroyed the “unbreakable union” (as the Soviet national anthem put it). As soon as speech was free, dissidents began demanding that the non-Russian union republics secede from the U.S.S.R. In
Paul deLespinasse, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science
Now living in