What is a “Gorby”? by Dmitry Orlov

Of the dead, the saying goes, speak well or say nothing at all; and while I’d be happy to commit “Gorby” to instant oblivion, my readers have asked for an opinion, so I will oblige with a brief obituary. There may be some residual value to be extracted from the tired old “Gorby” meme. As I will argue here, he is not so much a person as a handy unit of organizational dysfunction within a collapsing empire.
It is rather telling that “Gorby” (which was Margaret Thatcher’s endearment for the General Secretary of the Politburo of the Communist party of the Union Soviet Socialist Republics Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachëv) was celebrated by Russia’s enemies and almost universally reviled by Russians and Russia’s friends and allies. To the Chinese in particular he provided a valuable object lesson in the sort of personality that must not be allowed anywhere near the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese also learned from Stalin how unwise it is to allow your enemies within the party to outlive you, as Nikita Khruschev did, and from Khrushchev how unwise it is to denigrate your predecessors in office unless you want the same done to you. There is no end to Russian lessons for the Chinese, but many Russians wish that there would be an end to them. To be sure, the Chinese have offered some valuable lessons of their own; specifically, that economic liberalization and political liberalization should be kept disjoint, so that economic liberalism can be reigned back in when it comes in conflict with national interests.
It is also notable that Gorby’s greatest lifetime achievement, according to himself, was voluntarily quitting his job as President of the Soviet Union (as it came to be called during his brief reign). He said that he did this in order to avoid great bloodshed; yet great bloodshed is what his hasty departure, and the power vacuum it had created, readily produced, having given free reign to petty nationalists along with their foreign handlers from among Russia’s perennial enemies. In this he failed; he also failed in his glasnost’ campaign (replacing state censorship with a flood of fake news), in his perestroïka campaign (destroying the Soviet economy in just a few short years), in his anti-alcoholism campaign (leading to a historical bout of country-wide alcoholism), in his attempt to reform the Communist Party (replacing people who were actually competent with opportunists, social climbers, careerists and outright criminals) and in negotiating (or capitulating) the end to the Cold War on terms which, over the long term, proved unacceptable to Russia. He failed, and failed, and then he failed some more.
Gorbachëv’s Western counterparts were shocked by his readiness to surrender what millions of Russian soldiers had died to achieve and what his predecessors in office had steadfastly defended. But he is just one man, while Russia is a vast land with a memory that goes back a millennium, and it is only a matter of time before his mistakes are going to be corrected. The current Russian Special Operation in the former Ukraine is but one of such corrections. It is but one of the territories he surrendered to Russia’s enemies; East Germany, which was swiftly occupied by the West, is another one. To this day the people of East Germany are treated as second class citizens by the poorly denazified Wessie invaders who now lord over them in every sphere.
Many Russians called him “Mishka the Marked” after the “mark of the Devil” on his vast bald pate, implying that he is evil. But he falls short even of being evil; rather, he is just not very good, at all. In Goethe’s Faust, Mephistopheles characterizes himself as “of that power that wills forever evil, yet does forever good.” Gorbachev was the opposite of that: he paid lip service to doing good and did evil. As a mini-Mephistopheles, he falls shot; but he is probably undeserving of such gravitas in any case. So, what was he, really?
Many Russians consider him a traitor. In fact, he did give the top secret map of Russia’s nuclear target sites as a good will present to Margaret Thatcher, thus undermining the effectiveness of Russia’s nuclear deterrent. This was an act that should have properly been punished by his execution by a firing squad. But so disordered and weakened was the Soviet power structure at that time that this deed went unpunished. Nevertheless, many Russians, following the old Roman dictum “Roma traditoribus non premia” (Rome does not favor traitors) would prefer to simply cast Gorbachev out of public memory as a particularly shameful bit of trivia. But was he even a traitor, or was he just an idiot? Perhaps he simply had no idea what he was doing—being a provincial simpleton from a village of just over 3000 inhabitants in Stavropol’ region in the south of Russia.
If he was in fact an idiot, then how did he rise to such prominence, coming to rule, for a historically brief moment, the largest country in the world? A simple theory is that he was an idiot savant. Yes, he was an idiot when it came to politics, diplomacy, economics, defense, public health and just about everything else—and this explains the abject failure of his initiatives in every sphere—with one great exception: he was an idiot savant when it came to schmoozing, ingratiating, manipulating with false promises and other manipulative techniques. His rhetorical skill amounted to an ability to deliver an endless stream of vapid, duplicitous blather that beguiled simple minds with false hopes of a bright future. These uncanny abilities, coupled with his boundless desire to be popular, liked and in the limelight, are what allowed him to rocket up through the ranks of the Soviet Communist Party and then to swiftly destroy it from within. His trajectory can be charted by looking at Russian public opinion: in six short years he went from most favored to most hated.
Was Gorbachëv a unique case? Of course not! What allowed for his meteoric rise was the decrepitude of the Soviet regime. He was the only Soviet leader to have been born while the Soviet Union was in existence. The marriage of the thousand-year-old Russian, Eurasian civilization with the Bolshevik interpretation of the political philosophy of the famously Russophobic Karl Marx was sterile as a mule. It simply grew old and decrepit, and then a flawed character like Gorbachev could insinuate himself into the corridors of power and destroy what was left of the system from within. We see similar characters popping up throughout the European Union and the United States today. The idea of the endlessly squabbling Western European nation-states as one happy family ruled by a self-selected commissariat ensconced in Brussels is as preposterous as the USSR and its politbureau were. As for the USA, there is the Second Civil War looming on the horizon… more on that later.
What are the German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock or the putative new British prime minister Liz Truss, with their vague secretarial training, lack of understanding of anything physically real, and inability to achieve anything at all, but more Gorbies? And what is that showman and rabble-rouser Donald Trump, bane of the Deep State, darling of the common redneck and nemesis of the bicoastal liberal elite, but a supersized Gorbie? Is he still planning to make America great again or has he come up with a better ruse? Perhaps a Gorbie is not a person at all but just a handy unit of organizational dysfunction that readily manifests itself in any collapsing empire?
Source: Club Orlov (Subscribe for <2$/mo>)