The Soviet Communist Party's fall from power, just short of its 74th anniversary as the ruling force in the Soviet Union, is strangely like its rise to dominance in the October Revolution of 1917. It comes about in a tumultuous atmosphere of popular revulsion against the old order and euphoric expectations of the new. There is a near-certainty of upheaval, hardship and struggle in days to come.
Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's resignation as secretary general of the party, his dissolution of its ruling committee, his confiscation of its vast properties and his denial of any essential party role in the future governance of the country has a finality akin to the Bolshevik seizure of ultimate authority from the czarist system in 1917.
Mr. Gorbachev's abandonment of the party he was still defending even after its top officials had betrayed him was an attempt to deny Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin complete control over the headlong march of events. His appointment of the Russian prime minister, Ivan Silayev, a Yeltsin ally, to push for fast reform of the economy shows how much his political clout is on the wane. Nevertheless, Mr. Gorbachev may yet be useful to Mr. Yeltsin as a respected world figure who can deal with foreign governments and as a symbol for reassuring other republics that Russian domination is not still to be their fate.
Like the fall of czardom, the fall of Communism creates a very dangerous situation. The economy is in chaos as winter approaches. The military with its vast nuclear arsenal is divided and discredited. The KGB is being dismantled. The party is over. Yet any nation needs a government, a military establishment, an intelligence service and a bureaucracy. The euphoria of the August revolution may swiftly give way to disillusion unless the old order gives way to something demonstrably better.
This newspaper, in commenting on the Bolshevik triumph in 1917, said Lenin and his Maximalists were appealing to "a rankling sense of injustice" among the the Russian peasantry, who yearned for land (long denied by the czars) and peace (in the cruel war with Germany). "The most pathetic thing of all will probably be the situation of those peasants when they awake from their unrealistic dream," The Sun commented at the time.
The situation in the Soviet Union is still pathetic, but the dreams of the August Revolution of 1991 could yet prove realistic. It is, after all, the achievement of peoples who for the first time in all their history have had a taste of liberty.