SAIIA International Affairs Bulletin, vol. 10, no. 1, 1986

This International Affairs Bulletin contains articles by various authors as well as book reviews. The first article by Gail Lapidus describes Soviet society the midst of a major transition whose outcome remains uncertain. It focuses on the social problems which have become a major focus of Gorbachev’s policy initiatives and proposes that although the Soviet system confronts a set of major problems, the danger of destabilization is remote. The second article by Gail Lapidus deals with the problems of ethno-nationalism in the Soviet Union, which is a major challenge for the Soviet system. Over the years, Soviet leadership has managed the nationality problem through rapid modernization, coercion and political co-optation, creating a nominal federal system where the political and administrative boundaries coincide with ethnic boundaries. However, tension remains between the multinational and pluralist aspects of Soviet policy. The nationality problem affects domestic and foreign policy and creates complex challenges, but it seems unlikely to disrupt the stability of the Soviet system. Philip Nel’s article describes South African conceptions of the Soviet system. It discusses the totalitarian, pluralist and corporatist models of Soviet society. South African perceptions seem to be still dominated by the totalitarian model. Continued allegiance to this model has implications for the way the Soviet threat is perceived in Southern Africa, and for policy formulated on this basis. Despite the historical and sociological merits of the totalitarian model, South Africans would be wise to treat it with reservation and to consider the evidence presented. Robert Schrire’s article describes continuity and change in the global system and consists of analyzing the forces of continuity and the forces of change, and pointing out the implications for South Africa. A shift to a co-operative international regime may reduce the attention devoted to Southern African issues, while a competitive international regime may achieve the reverse.