From dissent to pluralism
The emergence of overt dissent following Stalin’s death revealed that the Soviet Union was no longer an oppositionless state, even though it remained a one-party state. Political life was dominated by a single party which monopolised institutional and ideological life, and yet the view of the Soviet Union as a sea of grey immobility and passivity was clearly mistaken. Soviet society was marked by many currents of autonomous activity, including those in favour of continuing destalinisation, various trends of intellectual dissent and elements of working-class resistance. The Soviet regime, as much as those in Eastern Europe, was faced with economic and social challenges which could less and less be contained within the bounds of economic reform alone. Dissent acted as a litmus test of the degree to which the Soviet Union had changed since the death of Stalin. Unfortunately for the regime itself, the failure to integrate some of the ideas bubbling beneath the country’s placid surface into the regime’s social and intellectual operation left it increasingly isolated and exposed, and ultimately reduced its evolutionary potential.