Gorbachev: I should have quit the communist party earlier

Asked to name the things he most regretted, he replied without hesitation: “The fact that I went on too long in trying to reform the Communist party.” He should have resigned in April 1991, he said, and formed a democratic party of reform since the Communists were putting the brakes on all the necessary changes.

This judgement will be of particular interest to historians since it is Gorbachev’s first public admission that he should have left the Communist party several months before the coup of August 1991. In the memoirs he published in 1995 he did not go so far.

By the spring of 1991 Gorbachev was caught between two powerful trends which were narrowing his room for manoeuvre. On one side conservatives and reactionaries in the party were trying to reverse his policies; on the other were progressives who wanted to establish a full multi-party system and take the country towards market reforms.

Things came to a head at a session of the Communist party’s central committee in April 1991. At a Communist party central committee meeting, several speakers called for the declaration of a state of emergency and the re-imposition of censorship. According to his memoirs, Gorbachev reacted sharply: “I’ve had enough of demagoguery. I am resigning.”