Advertisement

Transition and the Collapse of Communism

  • Graeme Gill

Abstract

The literature on transition to and consolidation of democracy emerged as an attempt to explain developments in Latin America and Southern Europe in the 1970s and 1980s. Most of the case studies come from these two regions, and most exponents of this literature, if they had a regional specialism, were specialists in one or a number of countries of these regions. However, the most spectacular, because of its range, unexpectedness and geopolitical power of the subjects, instance of democratization occurred in neither of these two regions, but in the former Communist world of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The issue this raised was whether the sorts of explanations that had come out of the transition literature could usefully be applied to the Communist-post-Communist situation. Some sought to use this literature in their analyses of communist transitions1 while others believed that the Southern European and Latin American experiences were so different that they could not spawn a useful explanatory literature for these other cases.

Keywords

Civil Society Middle Class Regime Change Party Leader Communist Regime 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes and References

  1. 1.
    For example, Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation. Southern Europe, South America and Post-Communist Europe (Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996); Russell Bova, ‘Political Dynamics of the Post-Communist Transition. A Comparative Perspective’, World Politics 44, 1, October 1991, pp. 113–138. For an explicit argument about both the validity and value of applying the transition methodology to the post-Communist transition, see Philippe C. Schmitter with Terry Lynn Karl, ‘The Conceptual Travels of Transitologists and Consolidologists: How Far to the East Should They Attempt to Go?’, Slavic Review 53, 1, Spring 1994, pp. 173–185. This prompted a vigorous, if not very satisfying, exchange: Valerie Bunce,’ should Transitologists Be Grounded?’, Slavic Review 54, 1, Spring 1995, pp. 111–127; Terry Lynn Karl and Philippe C. Schmitter, ‘From an Iron Curtain to a Paper Curtain: Grounding Transitologists or Students of Postcommunism?’, Slavic Review 54, 4, Winter 1995, pp. 965–978 and Valerie Bunce, ‘Paper Curtains and Paper Tigers’, Slavic Review 54, 4, Winter 1995, pp. 979–987.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    This list is my own rendering of similar points made by other authors. See Bunce, ‘Transitologists...’, pp. 119–123; Sarah Meiklejohn Terry, ‘Thinking About Post-communist Transitions: How Different Are They?’, Slavic Review 52, 2, Summer 1993, pp. 333–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    In addition, for the Slovaks the Czechs may have appeared as oppressors while in the former Yugoslavia it was the Serbs who were given this guise.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Terry, p. 334.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For a discussion of the nature, importance and role of Round Table talks in Eastern Europe generally, see Helga A. Welsh, ‘Political Transition Processes in Central and Eastern Europe’, Comparative Politics 26, 4, July 1994, pp. 383–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    For details of the agreements, see Keith Crawford, East Central European Politics Today (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1996), p. 60.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    In contrast to Poland where the Round Table resulted in an agreement on power sharing, in Hungary the opposition eschewed this course and went straight to competitive elections.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Crawford, pp. 63–64.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Developments in the republican capitals were crucial for structuring the overall course of events in Yugoslavia, but they will not be discussed in detail here. However, in some areas, in particular Slovenia, autonomous popular forces played a major role in shaping developments. For studies which pay attention to republican developments, see Misha Glenny, The Rebirth of History. Eastern Europe in the Age of Democracy (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1990) and Laura Silber and Allan Little, The Death of Yugoslavia (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1995).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    For one discussion of developments in Slovenia, see Tomaz Mastnak, ‘Civil Society in Slovenia: From Opposition to Power’, Studies in Comparative Communism XXIII, 3/4, Autumn/Winter 1990, pp. 305–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    McSweeney and Tempest argue that there was a distinctive East European path of transition characterized by dependence on the relaxation of foreign control and the opposition of crowds on the streets, but this level of generality obscures the important differences that did exist between countries. Dean McSweeney and Clive Tempest, ‘The Political Science of Democratic Transition in Eastern Europe’, Political Studies xli, 3, September 1993, p. 417.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    For other discussions, see Welsh, pp. 379–394; Ekiert offers a tripartite analysis: (a) where political society is stronger and pragmatic/reformist elements in the party-state are more influential, the result will be negotiated openings, as in Poland and Hungary; (b where political society is weaker and pragmatic/reformist elements in the party-state are ineffective, the result will be popular upsurge, as in the GDR and Czechoslovakia; (c) where political society and pragmatic/reformist elements are both absent, the result is revolutionary upheaval, as in Rumania. Grzegorz Ekiert, ‘Democratization Processes in East Central Europe: A Theoretical Reconsideration’, British Journal of Political Science 21, 3, 1991, p. 307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    There is an immense amount of material on each of these regimes. The references cited in the following footnotes are only a very few of these which have been particularly useful.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    On Ceausescu’s power and the regime he ran, see Edward Behr, ‘Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite’. The Rise and Fall of the Ceausescus (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1991) and Michael Shafir, Romania. Politics, Economics and Society (London, Frances Pinter, 1985), esp. Chapter 6.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    On the Czechoslovak party, see Zdenek Suda, Zealots and Rebels. A History of the Ruling Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (Stanford, Hoover Institution Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    On the policy of ‘normalization’ see Milan Simechka, The Restoration of Order. The Normalization of Czechoslovakia 1969–1976 (London, Verso, 1984).Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    For a survey of the GDR, see David Childs, The GDR: Moscow’s German Ally (London, Allen and Unwin, 1983).Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    See Nicholas C. Pano, ‘Albania’, Teresa Rakowska-Harmstone (ed.), Communism in Eastern Europe (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Joseph Rothschild, Return to Diversity. A Political History of East Central Europe Since World War II (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 254.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    On Hungary, see Rudolf L. Tokes, Hungary’s Negotiated Revolution. Economic Reform, Social Change and Political Succession, 1957–1990 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996); Bennett Kovrig, Communism in Hungary. From Kun to Kadar (Stanford, Hoover Institution Press, 1979).Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    For studies of Yugoslav reformism, see Paul Shoup, ‘Crisis and Reform in Yugoslavia’, Daedalus 79, Spring 1989, pp. 129–145; Denison Rusinow, The Yugoslav Experiment 1948–1974 (Berkeley, University of California, 1977); April Carter, Democratic Reform in Yugoslavia: The Changing Role of the Party (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    See the survey of the Polish experience in Andrzej Korbonski, ‘Poland’, Rakowska-Harmstone.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    For a paper which addresses this theme, see Stephen F. Cohen, ‘The Friends and Foes of Change: Reformism and Conservatism in the Soviet Union’, and comments by T. H. Rigby, S. Frederick Starr, Frederick Barghoorn and George Breslauer, and Cohen’s response, Slavic Review 38, 2, June 1979, pp. 187–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    For a history of the Bulgarian Communist Party, see John D. Bekk, The Bulgarian Communist Party from Blagoev to Zhivkov (Stanford, Hoover Institution Press, 1986).Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    This distinction is similar to that drawn by Marcia A. Weigle and Jim Butterfield, ‘Civil Society in Reforming Communist Regimes. The Logic of Emergence’, Comparative Politics 25, 1, October 1992, p. 1. Also see the discussion by Ekiert which distinguishes between ‘domestic society’ which is ‘the domain of purposeful action restricted to the private sphere and organized in terms of material needs and self-interests’ and ‘political society’ which ‘embraces the entirety of voluntary associations and social movements in an active political community.’ Ekiert, p. 300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    For characterizations of these regimes, see Hugh Seton-Watson, Eastern Europe Between the Wars, 1918–1941 (London, Cambridge University Press, 1945); Antony Polonsky, The Little Dictators. The History of Eastern Europe since 1918 (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975); Joseph Rothschild, East Central Europe between the Two World Wars (Seattle, University of Washington Press, 1974); Gregory M. Luebbert, Liberalism, Fascism, or Social Democracy. Social Classes and the Political Origins of Regimes in Interwar Europe (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1991), pp. 260–263.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Politically this was often manifested through a government party operating in a pseudo—parliamentary system.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    On state primacy, see the classic Perry Anderson, Lineages of the Absolutist State (London, New Left Books, 1974); also the stimulating George Schopflin, ‘The Political Traditions of Eastern Europe’, Daedalus 119, Winter 1990, esp. pp. 61–65.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Crawford, p. 17.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Schopflin, p. 65.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Figures for agriculture (which include significant numbers of landless rural labourers in Hungary and Poland) come from Joni Lovenduski and Jean Woodall, Politics and Society in Eastern Europe (London, Macmillan, 1987), p. 32. The average in Western Europe at this time was about 20 per cent. For industry they come from Polonsky, p. 175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    As Lovenduski and Woodall argue, many areas lacked ‘an enterprising middle class of townspeople anxious for economic progress. The peasantry, overwhelmingly the largest class, lacked the skills, capital and legal freedoms to become entrepreneurs, whilst the landowning aristocracy saw no need to augment or risk its wealth.’ p. 29.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    The broader ethnic divisions were also a major handicap to such a sense of society developing.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    For an argument applied to most of the region which explains this urban migration of the gentry in terms of their inability to prosper in international competition, see Andrew C. Janos, ‘The Politics of Backwardness in Continental Europe, 1780–1945’, World Politics xli, 3, April 1989, pp. 331–335.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Rothschild, East Central Europe..., p. 28.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Lovenduski and Woodall, p. 34. Although there were regional variations within Poland. See Rothschild, pp. 29–31.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    In Schopflin’s term, state administration was subject to ‘colonization’ by the gentry. Schopflin, p. 70.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Rothschild, East Central Europe..., pp. 190–191.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    This was a long-term process, being based on a textile industry which went back to the sixteenth century.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    For some details, see Gale Stokes, ‘The Social Origins of East European Politics’, Daniel Chirot (ed.), The Origins of Backwardness in Eastern Europe. Economics and Politics from the Middle Ages Until the Early Twentieth Century (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1989), pp. 217–218.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Luebbert, p. 291. On the divisions within the working class based on ethnicity, region and political outlook, see Luebbert, pp. 293–294.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Cited in Lovenduski and Woodall, p. 36.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    There is a good discussion of some of this in Rothschild, East Central Europe...Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    As a class these had been destroyed by the Turks.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Rothschild, East Central Europe..., p. 289.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Rothschild, East Central Europe..., p. 321.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    As in Serbia, this had been destroyed by the Turks.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Rothschild, East Central Europe..., p. 323.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Rothschild, East Central Europe..., p. 359.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Rothschild, East Central Europe..., p. 360.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    The sketches are incomplete in the sense that they downplay two extremely important types of division in this region, ethnic identification and religion. If anyone were seeking to understand the course of development in this region in the inter-war period, due concern would need to be paid to these two dimensions of social structure. However, the present analysis seeks not to explain that course of development, but to identify the existence or otherwise of the sort of bourgeois arena of organizations and ideas essential to the generation of the sort of autonomous social activity with which we are concerned. For some figures on ethnic minorities, see Luebbert, p. 260.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Although the Polish political and intellectual élite and bourgeoisie were decimated during World War II to a far greater extent than anywhere else in the region. Ekiert, p. 302.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    For a discussion of this in relation to political parties, see Karen L. Remmer, ‘Redemocratization and the Impact of Authoritarian Rule in Latin America’, Comparative Politics 17, 3, April 1985, pp. 253–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    This is linked to the earlier discussion of the levels of control the different regimes exercised. But whereas the former discussion focused upon regime capacity, this one concerns the capacity of the society to throw up autonomous social organizations in spite of regime pressure. For some discussions of the development of civil society under Communism, see for example, Zbigniew Rau (ed.), The Reemergence of Civil Society in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union (Boulder, Westview Press, 1991); Chandran Kukathas, David W. Lovell and William Maley (eds.), The Transition from Socialism. State and Civil Society in the USSR (Melbourne, Longman Cheshire, 1991); Robert F. Miller (ed.), The Developments of Civil Society in Communist Systems (Sydney, Allen and Unwin, 1992).Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    For the argument that this was related to the twin crises of Communist regimes, their inability to inculcate the population with Communist values and modes of participation, and the inability to meet popular material expectations, see Weigle and Butterfield.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    For an argument that the West, especially through the CSCE process, helped stimulate the development of civil society forces, see Laurence Whitehead, ‘Democracy and Decolonization: East-Central Europe’, Laurence Whitehead (ed.), The International Dimensions of Democratization. Europe and the Americas (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996) pp. 376–379. For a discussion of what is termed ‘weak society’ in Bulgaria and’ strong society’ in Hungary, Poland and Yugoslavia, see Sabrina P. Ramet, Social Currents in Eastern Europe. The Sources and Meaning of the Great Transformation (Durham, Duke University Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    On Polish intellectuals in politics, see Jacques Rupnik, ‘Dissent in Poland, 1968–78: the End of Revisionism and the Rebirth of Civil Society’, Rudolf L. Tokes (ed.), Opposition in Eastern Europe (London, Macmillan, 1979).Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Michael Bernhard, ‘Civil Society and Democratic Transition in East Central Europe’, Political Science Quarterly 108, 2, Summer 1993, p. 313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    See Michael Bernhard, The Origins of Democratization in Poland: Workers, Intellectuals, and Oppositional Politics, 1976–1980 (New York, Columbia University Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    On worker organization, see Jadwiga Staniszkis, Poland’s Self-Limiting Revolution (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1984); Neal Ascherson, The Polish August. What Happened in Poland (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1981).Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    On the church, see Suzanne Hruby, ‘The Church in Poland and its Political Influence’, Journal of International Affairs 36, 2, 1982–83, pp. 317–328.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    On the ‘Prague Spring’ see H. G. Skilling, Czechoslovakia’s Interrupted Revolution (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1976).Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    On Charter 77 and VONS see H. G. Skilling, ‘Independent Currents in Czechoslovakia’, Problems of Communism 34, 1, January–February 1985, pp. 32–49; H. G. Skilling, Charter 77 and Human Rights in Czechoslovakia (London, Allen and Unwin, 1981); and H. G. Skilling, Samizdat and an Independent Society in Central and Eastern Europe (Columbus, Ohio State University Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    On these intellectuals, see Rudolf L. Tokes, ‘Hungarian Reform Imperatives’, Problems of Communism 33, 5, September-October 1984, pp. 1–23;. Tokes, Negotiated Revolution, Chapter 4; and George Schopflin, ‘Opposition and Para-Opposition: Critical Currents in Hungary, 1968–1978’, in Tokes, Opposition.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    See the quotation from Poszgay cited in M. Huber and H-G. Heinrich, ‘Hungary — Quiet Progress?’, Leslie Holmes (ed.), The Withering Away of the State? (London, Sage, 1981), p. 154.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    For a discussion of this intellectual dissent, see Leslie Holmes, Politics in the Communist World (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1986) pp. 258–262 and Pedro Ramet, ‘Disaffection and Dissent in East Germany’, World Politics 35, 1, October 1984, pp. 85–111; also see Vladimir Tismaneanu, ‘Nascent Civil Society in the German Democratic Republic’, Problems of Communism 38, 2/3, March/ June 1989, pp. 90–111; and Werner Volkmer, ‘East Germany: Dissenting Views during the Last Decade’, in Tokes, Opposition.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    On the church, see Pedro Ramet, ‘Church and Peace in the GDR’, Problems of Communism 33, 4, July–August 1984, pp. 44–57; and Stephen Bowers, ‘Private Institutions in Service to the State: The German Democratic Republic’s Church in Socialism’, East European Quarterly xvi, 1, 1982; and Joyce Marie Mushaben,’ swords to Plowshares: The Church, The State, and the East German Peace Movement’, Studies in Comparative Communism XVII, 2, Summer 1984, pp. 123–135.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Shoup, pp. 137–138.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Shoup, p. 141. Also see Mastnak.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    This activity in Czechoslovakia was not sustained over a long continuous period either, but the scale of organization especially in 1968 outweighs this objection.Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    Some might object that this is wrong because of the dissident movement which emerged in the 1960s and was stamped out at the beginning of the 1980s. But this was always very restricted in the numbers of people it embraced, it had few links into the society at large, and unlike the Hungarian, German and Yugoslav cases discussed above, it was not accompanied by any other organized manifestation of a potential civil society. For arguments about civil society in the Soviet Union, see S. Frederick Starr, ‘Soviet Union: A Civil Society’, Foreign Policy 70, Spring 1988, pp. 26–41; T. H. Rigby, ‘The USSR: End of a Long, Dark Night?’, Miller; Geoffrey Hosking, The Awakening of the Soviet Union (London, Heinemann, 1990), Chapter 4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. 72.
    For a similar point, see Baohui Zhang, ‘Corporatism, Totalitarianism, and Transitions to Democracy’, Comparative Political Studies, 27, 1, April 1994, pp. 108–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Graeme Gill 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Graeme Gill

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations