How Important Is Soviet Dissent?
WESTERN experts and journalists have oscillated between two extremes in their estimates of the scope of dissent and of the human-rights movement in the USSR. When that movement first began to assert itself with a voice both loud and clear, there was a tendency to regard it as a powerful social force capable of influencing the development of Soviet policies. This evaluation was perhaps distorted by the bias of many Russian migre experts. All political emigres are prone to hasty judgments, intended to convince the world that their native country’s disagreeable regime is on the verge of collapse.
For that matter, in the early 70′s I was among those who tried to convey to Western corresspondents the false impression that dissent, and the human-rights movement in particular, was already a tangible political force.
Now that the number of activists in the movement has ceased to grow, and, with arrests and expulsions, has actually decreased, Western experts have swung to the opposite extreme. Today they often assume that the dissent movement is simply not a social factor to be given any weight at all in political prognoses.
About the Author