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The paradox can perhaps be seen through the subsequent career of Alexander Yakovlev.

It was as ambassador in Canada that Yakovlev met Gorbachev in 1983. Gorbachev was at the time a protégé of the General Secretary, ex-KGB head and a particular enemy of Solzhenitsyn's, Yuri Andropov. According to Pipes: 'On May 20th, the two men [Yakovlev and Gorbachev] were scheduled for a joint visit to the farm of the Canadian Minister of Agriculture, Eugene Whelan. Because of bad weather, the minister was late and they had an opportunity to engage in serious conversation ... Yakovlev later asserted that four fifths of what was to become perestroika had been articulated on this occasion. As he recalled: 'in all these conversations the future contours of the reorganisation of the Soviet Union appeared to take shape.'

Gorbachev brought Yakovlev back to the USSR and put him in charge of the influential Institute of World Economy and International Relations. Gorbachev himself became General Secretary in 1985 and in December of that year Yakovlev submitted his memorandum - The Imperative of Political Development - calling for 'the development of the individual as an independent, creative, conscious force, united with others in its thoughts and actions. The transformation of every human into a genuine master of the country ... the transformation of every human being into a personality (lichnost') who stands consciously on the socialist terrain and is in command of at least the rudiments of the dialectical-materialistic method of thinking (the unchaining of thought!) without which the development of his creative character is unattainable.'

One wonders if Pipes (in his extraordinarily thin and superficial book) has rendered Yakovlev a service by reproducing this.

'In a certain sense socialism and democracy are identical because it is precisely under socialism that democracy, in the broad sense of the word, is concurrently the means and the goal of the movement. In fact we are democratic but in form often anti-democratic [one might have thought it was the other way round - PB] [...]

'Socialism is a more diverse system, providing alternative choices and, in particular, for this reason a system that is by its nature profoundly democratic because democracy is above all the freedom (even in the capacity of realised necessity) of choice. But with us there is the absence of alternative, there is centralisation.'

The job, then, is to provide a 'socialist alternative' so that the people will have a choice: 'There should be freedom of choice but exclusively and fully on a socialist basis. [...]'

'The very process should be directed not only from above but also from below, by the hands of the masses, while the party directs and instructs them in democratic as well as consciously socialist forms of existence and thought. "Democracy ought to become a habit" (Lenin)'

He goes on to make a number of practical proposals, including:

'Liquidation of castes; the state bureaucracy, the party machine, the military, intellectuals, technocracy, writers, artists and others [...] It may be that at a certain stage it will be necessary to carry out a purge of the party in order to be rid of elements who compromise it.'

'"We can govern only when we correctly express what the people are conscious of" (Lenin) [...]'

'"More complete democracy by virtue of less formality, greater ease of election and recall" (Lenin) [...]'

'"the state is strong only when the masses know everything, when they can judge everything and are prepared to do everything consciously" (Lenin)'

Hence Glasnost.

In practical terms, he argues for a functioning legislature independent of the executive, an independent judiciary, elections with more than one candidate - 'one can limit the number of nominated candidates (but no fewer than two)' - a law guaranteeing human rights - 'inviolability of persons, property and residence, about the privacy of correspondence, telephone conversations, private life.'

But perhaps most radically, he proposes turning the Communist Party into a 'Communist Union' which would have a united politburo but would be made up of 'two parties: Socialist and National Democratic', thus giving the people a choice. He slips this in at the end of the memo without elaborating on what is distinctive about the 'National Democratic' party. Is it not 'socialist'? is it perhaps the 'Russian Nationalist' tendency which undoubtedly by this time existed in the Communist Party?