I ask myself: What was that single decisive event which catalysed the unexpected developments of the last seven years of history. That history has certainly set in motion a whole new series of processes, the overthrow of old rivalries and strongly held ideological positions. The formation of new power configurations and new ideological formulations takes time, and the air has to clear before humanity gets back its basic orientation.

We have been so dazzled by the upheavals of history that we remain unable to arrive at any conclusive assessment of what has really happened in our country as well as globally. India herself has entered a new period of history, where her own capitulation to the world market economy system has become more total and less hesitant. What has happened in India is not unconnected with the global turn of history.

Most people would agree that Mikhail Gorbachev, the General secretary of the now defunct CPU, played a key roll in inducing the big changes in the world picture. What exactly did he do? On that there is considerable disagreement.

I was privileged, a few months ago to attend a conference of 75 ex-presidents and former prime ministers from about 40 of the nations of the world held in Seoul, Korea, without attracting too much attention from the media. I was invited as a sort of chaplain. For me, it was a fascinating experience to look at a fair sample of the sort of people who ran our world.

Ideologically most of these politicians were either centre or right of centre. So their keynote speaker was General Alexander Haig, former commander of NATO and former US secretary of State. Haig still very much of an unreconstructed hawk, proved nevertheless an eloquent and persuasive speaker. In his keynote address Haig acknowledged the place of Gorbechev in history, but suggested that we err grievously in giving him credit for promoting democracy or for his perestroika-glasnost. Gorbachav's great contribution was, according to Heig, military-strategic. He had the courage to realize the evident fact that the soviet military machine was no match for western military might. It took a lot of courage and sagacity, not just to realize this fact, but also to take steps to work out its consequences. This is what Gorbecbev did, and this is what history will eventually recognize him for, Heig thinks.

Could Haig be right? Up to a point, yes. I would of course put it differently. Gorbachev, along with the CPSU which be led, gave up the costly stance of confrontation against an exploitative and hegemonistic world market economy system, capitulated and made peace with the enemy admitting discomfiture. Gorbachev did this with the support of a few in the top leadership of the CPSU like Yakovlev and Shevernadze, but against the position of others like Ligachev, Kryutchkov, Marshall Akhromyov and General Yavoz. Ligachov got thrown out and Akhromyov committed suicide(?). Yazov and Kryutchkov met their destiny in the aborted and disastrous coup, which tolled also the end of Gorbachev's leadership.

The Gorbacbov strategy was noble and well-intentioned based on a vision that failed to come true. The basic Philosophy was something like this. Under conditions of military confrontation, the market economy has always the edge over a socialist economy; but under conditions of peaceful competition between the two systems, the socialist system would forge ahead leaving the market economy system obsolete and unattractive, doomed to disappearance. The reason why the socialist system cannot provide sufficient consumer comforts to its people, is primarily that it spends disproportionately too much of its social production on defense and military confrontation. Once that burden is taken off the socialist system, it will blossom out, while without defence budgets and the armaments race, the market economy system would not be able to keep expanding its markets perennially, for constant expansion is essential for the system's survival.

We cannot really say that Gorbachev's ideological position has been proved untrue by history. To say so is to ignore other significant variables in the equation. The kind of command economy developed in the Soviet Union was not viable at all, under conditions of war or peace. Nor was the internal disintegration compatible with a viable society-- the erosion of mutual trust among people, by a process of relentless invigilation into private lives through a colossal system of espionage which was both inhuman and soul-destroying and the dampening of creativity by a totalitarian system which left little room for personal freedom and initiative. A huge and largely corrupt bureaucratic edifice of officialdom managed the economy-- production and distribution alike in all three sectors of the economy (agriculture, industry and services. In that kind of democratic centralism, there is little room for exercise of honest democracy or for people's training in it.

The confrontationist, closed systems sought to be justified on account of a powerful, hostile and armed market economy system, was the prop for the disintegrating social-economic structure. The prop was taken away when the confrontationist stance was abandoned, and when glasnost or openness was introduced into a closed society. No amount of perestroika could restore health to a rotten socioeconomic structure.

Gorbachov was not, however, the only actor on the scene. Others were waiting in the wings to take over the action. Since there was no script, those waiting in the wings could not be certain whether the taking away of the confrontationist prop was real or just a trick to trap them. They made every possible test from 1985 to 1989. Gorbachov had given his pledge to all that mattered -- Bush, Thatcher, The Pope, Kohl, Mitterand and all the main players of the western alliance. Jim Baker was assured that all international conflicts (South Africa, Middle East, Indo-China and so on) could be handled by the western alliance in a conciliatory way, in consultation with, but without interference from, the Soviet Union.

The first test was to heighten the pace and intensity of the ongoing destabilization programme within socialist countries. Occasionally there was a murmur of protest, from people like Akhromyov, Yazov and Kcyutchkov, but no threat or use of force from the Soviet Union.

The second test was a series of visits from established hawks from the west to the Soviet Union. Towards the culmination of the process came U S defence Secretary and Superhawk Frank Carelcci''s Fourth military Summit with defense minister general Yazov in Moscow in 1988. Ex-CIA Deputy Director Carlucci was a hardnosed businessman (chairman of Sears Roebuck. 1982-86), and confidante of the right wing. Yazov was able to give Canrlucci conclusive and indubitable evidence that the soviet Union had given up his stance of confrontation, and wanted to cc-operate fully with the west. (See New Times June 1988). Once Carlucci was convinced the whole clandestine machinery of the west acted, an enormous programme of destabilization, long on the boards, quickly went into operation all over central and eastern Europe.

The polish elections in 1989 was entirely managed and financed from the west. Solidarity on its own could not have defeated the Polish United Workers' Party however corrupt and unpopular the latter was. As the US congress financed bodies like National Foundation for Democracy openly organized the polish election, neither the USSR nor Jaruzelski raised any objection. Soviet Foreign minister Shevernadze had no hesitation in yielding to the pressure from the west -- yet another test demanding that the USSR apologize for the intervention in Afghanistan.

The Berlin wall drama was quickly orchestrated and efficiently carried out, USA and FRG being the main actors. Once Poland fell, the other five could easily be manipulated -- Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Bulgaria. and GDR. The whole operation could be completed by December 1989 because the plans had been well laid by the west. If there was the slightest possibility that the Soviet Union would interfere an any act of this drama, the west could not have dared execute it. Gorbachov had effectively removed all doubts in the west, and so the west could act without risk. There was some hope that the Soviet Union would try to intervene; this would have been partly welcomed; because that would have changed history by making USSR rather than Iraq the object upon which the western military technological prowess could have been demonstrated; and an 1989 western military technology had not yet receded the stage which it had obviously reached in January 1991. The Gulf War was simply the capstone of a long programme for establishing western hegemony over the entire globe, though China and Japan remain issues to be settled

Despite all that, the world is by no means unipolar. Germany has her own ideas, about which she thinks the less said the better, but she has given to understand that she is not a permanent member of the American team. Japan is growing increasingly resentful about US pressure, and could one day react quite precipitately, were at not for the fact that Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Pearl harbour are still fresh in the world's memory. The European Community is no pole, since his internal dissensions are two strong to let at act with a single will. The debt-ridden American economy is in bad shape and one of these days a persistent recession might bring on the final collapse, which even decisive control of world finance (which America does not have) cannot prevent.

What about India? In a desperate foreign Exchange and Balance of Trade crunch induced be three irresponsible and uninformed prime ministers (Rajiv. VP and Chandrasekhar) lavishly spending what we did not have, we have taken the easy way out. Just as Gorbachov's CPSU did. There is no way we can get out of a debt and inflation crunch. By the end of this year, we may want to try the hard way out, but it will no doubt be too late to get out of the bondage into which we have already gotten ourselves entangled.

Where then is hope? Is it too idle to expect history to spring a few more surprises on us?