What-if: A Soviet Deng Xiaoping

Hello everyone.


I am working on a timeline wherein the Western world faces off with a considerably more dangerous Union of Soviet Socialist Republics than was faced in OTL. After reading quite a bit about the USSR and its development over the course of the Cold War I've come to the conclusion that in order for it to be more dangerous to the West, the centrally-planned, Soviet style Economy must go. Hence:

In 1953, after Stalin's death, there is a coup in Moscow lead by. . .oh, let's call him "Comrade X" for now. Comrade X takes total control as did his predecessor and unleashes a bloody purge so that there is no opposition to his policies. Once secure in his power he takes stock of the situation in the USSR and doesn't quite like what he sees. He won't denounce Stalin or Stalinism--not a good idea to set that precedent among the populace--but he does decide on a course of reform. Unlike Gorbachev, however, Comrade X realizes that loosening Party control in any way, ala Glasnost, is a recipe for disaster so instead he concentrates on Perestroika, "restructuring." At first this takes the form of a revived NEP (Lenin's "New Economic Policy") which allows for a limited private sector. When this proves successful it is gradually expanded to Agriculture.

These reforms are replicated throughout the East Bloc, and an integrated COMECON-wide labour market--a Soviet "Gastarbeiter," if you will--is established. Within 20 years or so we have a situation similar to that of OTL China, a more or less free market economy with the Party retaining a monopoly of political power.

Any ideas how all this will develop? Trade with the West will certainly require some concessions on the diplomatic front at first--perhaps a total pullout of East Germany? There will almost certainly be no shoe-banging tirades in the UN or a Cuban Missile Crisis; Comrade X wants to lull the West to sleep for awhile. Their space program, having more money to play with, will go better than in OTL with a manned landing on the moon by the mid-70's at the latest.


Any thoughts? And any candidates for Comrade X? I have some ideas but I should like to hear some of yours first.
 
Well, if you take J.R. Nyquist and friends seriously, the current Russian government is in Comrade X's "lull the West to sleep" stage, and the hammer will fall soon...

Conspiracy theories aside, an essentially free-market economy with the Party retaining political control probably isn't going to last forever, even with if the KGB "disappears" people who wonder too loudly about why the Communist Party controls everything even if it's a capitalist state. The leadership of the USSR will probably find a less-contradictory ideology like Russian nationalism to provide a fig leaf for State Power.

Does the new less-controlling USSR still promote old-style totalitarian Communist movements in the 3rd World?
 
The leadership of the USSR will probably find a less-contradictory ideology like Russian nationalism to provide a fig leaf for State Power.

Similar to what's currently happening in China. They seem to be slowly evolving into something like Mussolini-era Fascism rather than towards democracy, which Deng may or may not have wanted.

Does the new less-controlling USSR still promote old-style totalitarian Communist movements in the 3rd World?

Not at first, no. As in the PRC in the late 70's-early 80's there is a major cutback in military spending at first with an eye towards having enough money to build up with quality as well as quantity later on. But they WILL want to maintain their grip on Eastern Europe, weather or not they can jettison East Germany as part of some kind of peace deal. And Comrade X may try to get something like "SALT" and/or "START" going early.

There is also a lot less money for foreign adventures; Castro's going to be out in the cold and Uncle Ho down in Vietnam will have a rougher time of it since he'll be getting less goodies from the USSR. Hmmm. . .Mao-era China may be tempted to take up the slack in the "Funding Third World Revolutions" department. This could be interesting.
 
Gwendolyn Ingolfsson said:
Similar to what's currently happening in China. They seem to be slowly evolving into something like Mussolini-era Fascism rather than towards democracy, which Deng may or may not have wanted.
If China and/or Russia go democratic, each would have to be a federation like the USA, because they are much too big for an efficiently-run single central democratic state,
 
How will he deal with various uprisings in E Europe? I don't remember when was GDR labour strike but IIRc it was about then. What about Hungary? I think soemthing like OTL would happen. Waht about Yugoslavia? Would there be more pressures? Khruschev said Tito has right to determine fate of his nation and apologised for Stalin's behaviour. How does this develop?
 
I think "Comrade X" will still be rather vicious with Hungary, and perhaps even Yugoslavia...Tito's a dissident Commie, and perhaps "heretics" are worse than "unbelievers" (if Communism was a religion).

If the USSR invades and conquers Yugoslavia, that could very well be a Trojan Horse. If ethnic tensions go as OTL, unrest in Yugoslavia could trigger a wider conflagration in the entire Soviet Empire.

Will Comrade X's regime eventually start eying the Middle East (warm water ports, oil supplies, Muslim groups that are an alleged threat and need to be put in their place, etc)? Will there be an Afghanistan?
 
I doubt they will invade Yugoslavia; remember they want to ramp down tensions for now. Afghanistan will be butter-flied away. Even 'Nam will likely not go quite as in OTL; after the French pull out and Comrade X starts his arms reduction talks with the U.S. the Americans may just limit their aid to the South to arms and advisors. As for Eastern Europe, yes, the Soviets will maintain the iron grip there but they may be willing to dump East Germany as part of a trade/arms reduction deal. Before the Wall it was just a sinkhole and bad propaganda for them anyway, what with people escaping all the time and whatnot.
 
Couldnt Malenkov be Comrade X?

Deng didnt want democracy. He wanted China to modernize so that China could attain status as a super-power capable of affecting the world over. A state controlled economy wasnt doing this for them. So they tried capitalism. Deng had no plans to liberalize politics at all if need be. And he was supported by most of the communist party.
 
Beria. He was planning wide reforms, but probably wouldn't reveal stalinist's crimes, as he was one of the leaders a this time.
And he SHOULD make a bloody purge.
 
Malenkov could be a decent contender for the post, Mr. Green; however he seemed to be opposed to the Soviet Union building a nuclear deterrent (!), believing that nuclear weapons would destroy the planet. Perhaps I could have him moderate his views to the point where he is willing to contemplate a limited nuclear deterrent for both sides - say, 500 warheads each with bomber delivery only. It could play nicely into the arms-reduction needs of the reform era’s early years. Interesting man, in any case.

I thought I read something once where Deng indicated that we wanted to liberalize politics on a very gradual basis over a number of decades, but perhaps I may have been mistaken.

Beria, Mr. Tarda, is right on out. He was very deeply hated and feared; I can't see the others just standing by and letting him get control. There would be a coup in short order if he shot his way into power, and as the fate of Ceausescu showed, in a battle of Armed Forces vs. Secret Police the latter gets smacked around pretty badly.

Hmm. I may have to consider Malenkov. He lived until 1988, I believe, and with a little tweaking may be just the man for my Soviet Deng. My original idea was more out of left field: I wanted General Andrei Andreyevich Vlasov to avoid capture by the Germans during the war, rise through the ranks to Marshal and then lead an army coup after Stalin's death. I might have an attempted power-grab by Beria be the trigger.
 
Matt Quinn said:
Vlasov might work. Nazi collaborator or not, I think him respectable and sane.
No Slav who thought he could successfully collapborate with the nazis was could be both respectable and sane.
 
I heard Vlasov ultimately planned on screwing over both Hitler and Stalin; remember, he fought Hitler until it looked like Stalin was going to purge him (secret police invading his house and hassling his wife, that sort of thing).

That sort of thing smacks of delusions of grandeur, but I'm not going to assume just b/c he dealt with the Fuhrer that he is irredeemably evil.
 
Matt Quinn said:
I heard Vlasov ultimately planned on screwing over both Hitler and Stalin; remember, he fought Hitler until it looked like Stalin was going to purge him (secret police invading his house and hassling his wife, that sort of thing).

That sort of thing smacks of delusions of grandeur, but I'm not going to assume just b/c he dealt with the Fuhrer that he is irredeemably evil.
maybe just naive, which in itself would tend to disqualify him from becoming a Soviet deng Xiaphong. Especially since he had no political power or support.
 
Hmm...perhaps Vlasov survives in this TL as part of the Soviet hierarchy, then makes his move against Beria when the latter tries shenanigans. However, he's not very politically astute ("naive" like you said) and doesn't last long.

Does that work?

However, judging from Vlasov's behavior, he doesn't seem like the kind to try a "fake Thermidor." Someone really Machiavellian might--Beria perhaps, but I think he's out.
 
I could have Vlassov make his move, whack Beria, get taken out himself and then Malenkov steps in with the remainder of the Party hierarchy to restore order. The more I think about it the more I believe that Georgi Maksimilianovich is the man I'm looking for: Beria has all the popularity of a slug, Suslov is too much the party intellectual and Khrushchev. . .well, we all know how *that* turned out. Vlassov is a little too much the left-field dark horse candidate to really take over himself.

If there are no other suggestions I think I’ll post a preliminary timeline this coming Friday and let you guys have at it. This is fun! :D
 
How about Kosygin?

Gwendolyn Ingolfsson said:
I could have Vlassov make his move, whack Beria, get taken out himself and then Malenkov steps in with the remainder of the Party hierarchy to restore order. The more I think about it the more I believe that Georgi Maksimilianovich is the man I'm looking for: Beria has all the popularity of a slug, Suslov is too much the party intellectual and Khrushchev. . .well, we all know how *that* turned out. Vlassov is a little too much the left-field dark horse candidate to really take over himself.

If there are no other suggestions I think I’ll post a preliminary timeline this coming Friday and let you guys have at it. This is fun! :D
Yeah you are probably going to say he is too Blah (but is he really or was it just because the Powers That Be fell in love with the Stasis that was Brezhnev) I am thinking your scenario requires a duo -- A Good Cop for interfacing with the West and working out economic details and a Bad Cop partner for smashing domestic dissent.

Tom
 
Hmmm. . .so Tom B, would you have Alexei Kosygin be the "Good Cop" to Malenkov's "Bad" or vice-versa? They both seem to have wanted economic reform in varying degrees, and I think either one of them had it in them to roll the tanks on dissidents if it became necessary. I could have Kosygin be Communist Party General Secretary while Malenkov remains as Premier. Rather than having Vlasov take over outright, I'll just have him (and to a lesser extent, Beria) be the destabilizing factor which shuffles the Soviet leadership cards in the immediate aftermath of Stalin's death, forcing Malenkov and Kosygin to take decisive action to secure their leadership positions. This places the reform group firmly in power. Note, however, that there will be *no* Secret Speech denouncing Stalin at the Twentieth Party Congress in 1956 - they may think it too risky in terms of undermining the Party's legitimacy and hence it's control. Instead they will just let the cult of Stalin wither and die over the natural course of time, to be replaced with an elevated adoration of the Party as a whole. Some numbers of GULAG inmates will be freed as well, especially Red Army soldiers who had had the misfortune to be captured by the Germans in World War II (in Stalin's eyes, being captured by the enemy was tantamount to treason).
 
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Consider the following point. A Soviet "Deng Xiaoping" would certainly be a problem in regards to the ATL's Sino-Soviet affairs. Consider that during the Brezhnev/Mao years of the Cold War the Sino-Soviet border erupted in fighting several times (1968, 1969, 1972, 1976). Also consider the situation wherein the People's Republic of China invaded Vietnam over differences in party manifesto leanings. In this situation, the danger lies in the possible installation of martial law over Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Romania government civil unrest and political leadership...
 
Good Cop/Bad Cop

Gwendolyn Ingolfsson said:
Hmmm. . .so Tom B, would you have Alexei Kosygin be the "Good Cop" to Malenkov's "Bad" or vice-versa? They both seem to have wanted economic reform in varying degrees, and I think either one of them had it in them to roll the tanks on dissidents if it became necessary. I could have Kosygin be Communist Party General Secretary while Malenkov remains as Premier. Rather than having Vlasov take over outright, I'll just have him (and to a lesser extent, Beria) be the destabilizing factor which shuffles the Soviet leadership cards in the immediate aftermath of Stalin's death, forcing Malenkov and Kosygin to take decisive action to secure their leadership positions. This places the reform group firmly in power. Note, however, that there will be *no* Secret Speech denouncing Stalin at the Twentieth Party Congress in 1956 - they may think it too risky in terms of undermining the Party's legitimacy and hence it's control. Instead they will just let the cult of Stalin wither and die over the natural course of time, to be replaced with an elevated adoration of the Party as a whole. Some numbers of GULAG inmates will be freed as well, especially Red Army soldiers who had had the misfortune to be captured by the Germans in World War II (in Stalin's eyes, being captured by the enemy was tantamount to treason).
In part the Good Cop/Bad Cop ploy is a subtle form of disinformation. The Western press runs stories periodically about an imagined split between the two that doesn't really exist. I think Kosygin as Good Cop and Malenkov as Bad works better. The real differenes in policies between the two men is fairly small and they work those things out in private. Kosygin is not as impetuous as Khruschev and would be more incrementalist. The K+M regime is not as bloodthirsty and paranoid as it was under Stalin but it is thoroughly authoritarian.

This is one of the more interesting ideas I've seen here of late. I encourage you to pursue it further.

Tom
 
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