The Road to 1989

  • Thomas W. SimonsJr.


Stalinism had tried to atomize society, to force each individual to face the state alone. In the same way, Stalin had separated the states of Eastern Europe, discouraging intraregional cooperation and forcing the Soviet policy line upon each country. Though much had changed in the meantime, the understanding that Soviet policy was to serve as a model for Eastern Europe and the backup threat of Soviet intervention remained in force well into the 1980s. As the Romanian joke went, the Moscow phone number for fraternal assistance was 56–68–80. In 1987 Gorbachev had acknowledged the value of free political choice for individuals, if only to facilitate economic reform. It was at first unclear whether this endorsement of pluralism extended to international socialist relations. The Soviet model now called for political reform, but the Soviets were also saying that their example was no longer obligatory for other socialists. As he traveled around Eastern Europe, Gorbachev was at pains to describe Soviet reform plans and the new political reform line, but also not to impose it. Still, the Soviets continued to speak of the superior interests of socialism and refused to take the steps, such as explicitly renouncing the Brezhnev Doctrine, that would have helped convince the world that they had really given up their claims to hegemony.


Economic Reform Political Reform Military Spending Free Election Polish Party 
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  1. 1.
    On “Deutschmark Diplomacy and Its Limits,” see Josef Joffe, “The View from Bonn,” in William E. Griffith, ed., Central and Eastern Europe: The Opening Curtain? (Boulder: Westview, 1989), 154–159,Google Scholar
  2. and Hanns-Dieter Jacobsen, “The Foreign Trade and Payments of the GDR in a Changing World Economy,” in Ian Jeffries and Manfred Melzer, The East German Economy (London: Croom Helm, 1987), 235–260. On prisoner buyouts, see Craig R. Whitney, “East Germans Tell How Bonn Paid for Prisoners,” New York Times, 1 August 1990: 33,000 between 1964 and 1989, with prices rising from the equivalent of $10,000 to $60,000 per head. On Hungary’s debt crisis and entry into the IMF in 1982 (without Western objection but also without Western sacrifice of principle, if it is accepted that Hungary was already relatively very liberal),Google Scholar
  3. see Paul Marer, “Hungary’s Balance of Payments Crisis and Response, 1978–1984,” in East European Economies: Slow Growth in the 1980s, Vol. 3: Country Studies on Eastern Europe and Yugoslavia, Selected Papers Submitted to the Joint Economic Committee, Congress of the United States (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1986), 298–321.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Rakowski’s memo is cited and used extensively in Timothy Garton Ash, The Uses of Adversity (New York: Random House, 1989), 264ff. The background was the degenerating social and political atmosphere in Poland during these years.Google Scholar
  5. Something of the flavor of the lived experience can be tasted in Michael T. Kaufman, Mad Dreams, Saving Graces: Poland—a Nation in Conspiracy (New York: Random House, 1989).Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    See Timothy Garton Ash, The Magic Lantern (New York: Random House, 1990), 16–17 and 42, and, on the impact of the strikes of April-May 1988 and the beginning and course of the round-table talks,Google Scholar
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  8. 5.
    This leapfrogging effect is clearest in the fine account of 1989 developments in the two countries in Ronald D. Asmus, J.F. Brown, Keith Crane, Soviet Foreign Policy and the Revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1991), “Poland and Hungary,” 32–84.Google Scholar
  9. 6.
    The basic accounts are Georges Schöpflin, Rudolf Tökés and Ivan Völgyes, “Leadership Change and Crisis in Hungary,” Problems of Communism, 37, no. 5 (September–October 1988) (through May 1988, based on insider evidence) and László Bruszt and David Stark, “Remaking the Political Field in Hungary: From the Politics of Confrontation to the Politics of Competition,” in Ivo Banac, ed., Eastern Europe in Revolution (Ithaca, N.Y. and London: Cornell University Press, 1992), 13–55 (from mid-1988 through late 1989). For a vivid evocation of the mood leading to the crisis, written in 1985, see Garton Ash, Uses of Adversity, 143–156. On how Kádár’s “hybrid society” (and economy) degenerated into crisis,Google Scholar
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  12. 8.
    “Police Attack Protesters at Prague Demonstration,” New York Times, 29 October 1988. For figures on the extent of the post-1969 purges, see Peter Hruby, Fools and Heroes. The Changing Role of Communist Intellectuals in Czechoslovakia (Oxford: Pergamon, 1980), 146–149.Google Scholar
  13. 9.
    On the evolution of GDR trade, visits, and contacts in the 1980s, see David Childs, “The SED Faces the Challenges of Ostpolitik and glasnost,” in David Childs, Thomas A. Baylis, and Marilyn Rueschmeyer, eds., East Germany in Comparative Perspective (London: Routledge, 1989), 3–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 10.
    For this phase of the Ceauşescu regime, which turned out to be the last, see J.F. Brown, “Conservatism and Nationalism in the Balkans,” in Griffith, ed., Central and Eastern Europe, 293–300, Daniel N. Nelson, Romanian Politics in the Ceauşescu Era (New York: Gordon and Beach, 1988),Google Scholar
  15. and Trond Gilberg, Nationalism and Communism in Romania. The Rise and Fall of Ceauşescu’s Personal Dictatorship (Boulder: Westview, 1990).Google Scholar
  16. 11.
    Charles Gati, The Bloc that Failed (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), gives a useful country-by-country summary in almost reverse order. See also J.F. Brown’s remarks on what he calls the “laissez-faire,” or Mark II, period in the Gorbachev leadership’s approach to Eastern Europe, from 1989, in Surge to Freedom, 60–70.Google Scholar
  17. 16.
    See Bernard Gwertzman and Michael T. Kaufman, eds., The Collapse of Communism (New York: Times Books, 1990), 25–30, 33–36. See also Jan T. Gross’s analytic retrospective, “Poland: From Civil Society to Political Nation,” in Ivo Banac, ed., Eastern Europe in Revolution, 56–71. Brown gives an extremely useful chronology of 1989 events in the area as a whole, with added sections on Yugoslavia and Albania, in Surge to Freedom, 271–302.Google Scholar
  18. 19.
    Beyond the works cited in notes 5 and 16 above, there is accessible material on these events in Garton Ash, The Magic Lantern, 25–46 (“Warsaw: The First Election”), and Maya Latynski, “Poland,” in Larry Garber and Eric Bjornlund, eds., The New Democratic Frontier. A Country-hy-Country Report on Elections in Central and Eastern Europe (Washington, D.C.: The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, 1992), 98–104.Google Scholar
  19. 22.
    The shape and content of this Hungarian dilemma are identified by Jon Elster, “Constitutionalism in Eastern Europe: An Introduction,” The University of Chicago Law Review, 58, no. 2 (Spring 1991), 454–455, and later in the same issue by Wiktor Osiatyński, “Revolutions in Eastern Europe,” 838–839.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 24.
    On the antecedents of the East German revolution, see Vladimir Tismaneanu, “Nascent Civil Society in the German Democratic Republic,” Problems of Communism, 38, nos. 2 and 3 (March–June 1989), 90–111, and on emigration as political dissent, Norman M. Naimark, “Ich will hier raus’: Emigration and the Collapse of the German Democratic Republic,” in Ivo Banac, ed., Eastern Europe in Revolution, 72–95.Google Scholar
  21. There is a convenient record of the revolution itself in Elizabeth Pond, After the Wall. American Policy toward Germany (New York: Priority Press Publications, 1990), 7–19, and an exciting insider’s account is evidently in press: G. Jonathan Greenwald, Berlin Witness: An American Diplomat’s Chronicle of East Germany’s Revolution (Penn State Press, forthcoming).Google Scholar
  22. 27.
    For chilling commentary on the process by one of its Slovak victims, see Milan Šimečka, The Restoration of Order. The Normalization of Czechoslovakia 1969–1976 (London: Verso, 1984).Google Scholar

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© Thomas W. Simons, Jr. 1993

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