Mikhail Gorbachev Is Dead: Let the Gorbasm Begin
A few years ago in Grace Canceled, I wrote that Christianity is the enemy of Marxism. People aren’t individuals, they’re instruments, God is a threat to the state and must be hidden. When Mikhail Gorbachev, whose passing at age 91 is making news this evening, was photographed meditating at the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi and quoted as saying "It was through St Francis that I arrived at the church, so it was important that I came to visit,” it was quickly downplayed by a spokesperson. Gorbachev wasn’t a “regular church-goer,” was the statement. Ronald Reagan once told the press that he thought Mikhail Gorbachev was a closet believer. I think Reagan was being charitable.
The Soviet Union ended on Christmas Day, 1991.
Having dispensed with God, however, Soviet communism destroyed the “sacred principle” of private property. By treating individuals as means to an end—a workers’ paradise of equal social outcomes—the Politburo rationalized the systemic repression of human rights. Censorship, surveillance, show trials, purges, and reeducation camps became the norm. The result was economic stagnation and the collapse of civil society.
Ronald Reagan, whose deep Christian beliefs are often overlooked, discerned a religious dimension to the Cold War. “I believe that communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written,” he said in 1983. “I believe this because our source of strength in the quest for human freedom is not material, but spiritual,” and “it must terrify and ultimately triumph over those who would enslave their fellow man.”
I was in seventh grade when the USSR collapsed. I didn’t pay much attention to the politics that colorized the culture of the times, but I enjoyed the rock anthems and news reels of punks sitting on the graffitied Berlin Wall. I never accepted the media’s portrayal of Gorbachev as a quiet hero through the years. He was a communist, which is incompatible with Christianity. God gives free will but communism doesn’t.
In his later years, Gorbachev said the west should have supported his perestroika because Putin was dragging Russia into the past. His reforms weren’t freedom, his refain was “More socialism means more democracy.” Gorbachev myopically thought he could mollify the people by offering just enough freedom, some communism-lite, while maintaining a communist structure, but he underestimated the appeal of freedom: when people get a taste of it, they want more of it. His failure is romanticized today as his virtue.
I’ll give him some credit for unintentionally killing Soviet Marxist-Leninism. It may be dead but versions of it have cropped up elsewhere, like in China, and in Putin’s head. Yes, the Iron Curtain is gone. The Berlin Wall fell.
Whether you like NATO or not, former communist countries now want to join it. Ukraine’s ongoing corruption aside, the strength and zeal with which the former cornerstone republic of the USSR has humbled Putin’s war machine is pretty remarkable. All of this grew to be in spite of, not because of, Gorbachev.
Gorbachev reportedly lamented to friends that Putin destroyed much of his reforms and legacy. Some say Gorbachev was less brutal, but I’m not sure Lithuania and Latvia would agree. He received a Nobel Prize in 1990 for “helping to end the Cold War” after the bloodshed in Latvia, a consolation prize for not going full-Mao, just a little Mao. He helped to end nothing. He stood by as Reagan, Thatcher, the Pope, and others ended the Cold War.
I don’t lionize communists. The media will commence with their necromantic fawning and espouse rewritten history but just remember: the west won the Cold War and the last leader of the USSR, an avowed communist, caved to capitalism and did a Pizza Hut commercial: