The Return to Politics, 1980–1987

  • Thomas W. SimonsJr.


After World War I, the new states of Eastern Europe could not be said to contain modern nations in the sense then understood in the West. In a way, the interwar leaders were an ideological vanguard for nations that did not yet exist. Before they could exist, the peasant majorities had to be given a stake in them, had to identify with them, had to believe in them. Nationalism, with its intellectual roots in the West and an uncertain record in liberating the region, had to become real and persuasive to millions rather than just to thousands, through land reform, through economic transformation, through education. Interregional strife, capital shortage, depression, and then war pushed the nation-building process forward even as these same forces set limits to it, and the experience of foreign domination during World War II carried it further still.


Economic Reform Political Reform Polish Party Nuclear Issue Conventional Force 
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  1. 1.
    On the areawide implications of the Polish crisis, see Georges Schöpflin, “Poland and Eastern Europe: The Impact of the Crisis,” in Jean Woodall, ed., Policy and Politics in Contemporary Poland (New York: St. Martin’s, 1982), 23–32.Google Scholar
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    By contrast, Romanian census data for 1966 showed that 50 percent of the Romanian urban population had been born in the countryside, according to sociologist Henri Stahl, cited in Olga A. Narkiewicz, Eastern Europe 1968–1984 (Totowa, N.J.: Barnes and Noble, 1986), 50. On the political effects inGoogle Scholar
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  4. 4.
    Walter D. Connor has been both the historian of these changes and the prophet of their consequences. Writing (before Polish Solidarity) in his Socialism, Politics and Equality: Hierarchy and Change in Eastern Europe (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979) he pointed out (pp. 330–331) how intellectuals in Poland and Hungary had survived from the predemocratic past into the nondemocratic present as “buffers to central power” precisely because equality of condition had not proceeded as far in those countries as elsewhere; and he warned (p. 344) that “There is a risk here that frustrated aspirations will lead to… class politics… a politics of the working class, particularly: the class that has been formed by socialism. Such a politics could be explosive.” He brought the East European story up to the mid-1980s in his “Class, Politics and Economic Stress: Eastern Europe after 1984,” in Jeffrey Simon and Trond Gilberg, eds., Security Implications of Nationalism in Eastern Europe (Boulder, CO.: Westview, 1986), 49–68. And he has now brilliantly documented, up to April 1991, the same trends in the Soviet Union, where they usually take hold a decade or two later than in Eastern Europe: The Accidental Proletariat. Workers, Politics, and Crisis in Gorbachev’s Russia (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991), especially “A New Working Class? Hereditization and Education under Khrushchev and Brezhnev,” 48–72.Google Scholar
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    These data are drawn from Timothy Garton Ash, The Polish Revolution: Solidarity (New York: Scribner’s, 1983), 98 and 171–181. For an extended account of the whole struggle within the party in 1981, albeit without much consideration of ideological issues,Google Scholar
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    The development of Romanian-Hungarian tensions over Transylvania has now been thoroughly documented in Raphael Vago, The Grandchildren of Trianon. Hungary and the Hungarian Minority in the Communist States (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), 201–260.Google Scholar
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    See Milan J. Reban, “Czechoslovakia: The New Federation,” in George Klein and Milan J. Reban, eds., The Politics of Ethnicity in Eastern Europe (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981), 215–246. One of the new Havel government’s early acts was to sign an agreement on mutual respect for minority rights with Hungary: Henry Kamm, “Leaders of 3 East European Nations Seek to Improve Ties with West,” New York Times, 10 April 1990. But nearly three years later the problem had not only not gone away but, with Slovakia independent, was getting worse: Stephen Engelberg (with Judith Ingram), “Now Hungary Adds its Voice to the Ethnic Tumult,” New York Times (25 January 1993).Google Scholar
  21. 13.
    For a careful reconstruction of a delicate process, see Thomas S. Szajna, “Addressing ‘Blank Spots’ Polish-Soviet Relations,” Problems of Communism, 37, no. 6 (November-December 1988): 37–61. Leszek Kolokowski has pointed out that nationalist passions had been asserting themselves in parallel with regime enfeeblement for thirty years before 1989, so that it “was not an explosion blowing up a sound, well-settled building; rather, it was like the breaking up of an egg, from inside the shell, in which an embryo chicken had been maturing for some time… Still, the chicken was frail at the beginning”: “Amidst Moving Ruins,” Daedalus, 121, no. 2 (Spring 1992): 51. I would add only that the passions that were growing went beyond nationalism.Google Scholar
  22. 14.
    See Keith Crane’s fine survey of Soviet-East European economic relations and dilemmas to 1987: “Soviet Economic Policy toward Eastern Europe,” in Mario Carnavale and William E. Porter, eds., Continuity and Change in Soviet-East European Relations. Implications for the West (Boulder, CO.: Westview, 1989), 75–134; at greater length,Google Scholar
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  24. 15.
    Ivan Szélényi in Rudolph L. Tökés, ed., Opposition in Eastern Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979), 188. At more length, see “Some Notes on the Relationship Between the Working Class and the Intellectual Class,” in Konrád and Szélényi, Intellectuals on the Road to Class Power, 220–233. Wałęsa’s response to the arriving intellectuals is cited in Garton Ash, Polish Revolution, 51.Google Scholar
  25. 17.
    See also Christopher Cviic, “The Church,” in Abraham Brumberg, ed., Poland. Genesis of a Revolution (New York: Random House, 1983), 92–10,Google Scholar
  26. and Vincent C. Chrypinski’s essay on Poland in Pedro Ramet, ed., Catholicism and Politics in Communist Societies (Durham: Duke University, 1990). The importance of the church in and for the Polish movement aroused tension with Western intellectuals, who were usually leftist. Garton Ash, Polish Revolution, 304–41 and especially 308–312 (“Embarrassment on the Left”) is a good introduction, but see alsoGoogle Scholar
  27. Ferenc Fehér and Agnes Heller, Eastern Left, Western Left: Totalitarianism, Freedom and Democracy (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press International, 1987),Google Scholar
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    On this aspect of Havel’s thought, see Judt, “Dilemmas of Dissidence,” 233–238; on the parallel with the wretched of the earth under the old regime, see Schöpflin, “The Political Traditions of Eastern Europe,” Daedalus, 116, no. 1 (Winter 1990): 78–79. And since 1989, Havel in power has continued to worry the problem of relations between politics and morality like a terrier. As examples, see “Paradise Lost,” New York Review of Books (9 April 1992), 6–8, reprinting an address he gave at New York University in October 1991, and “My Dream for Czechoslovakia,” New York Review of Books (25 June 1992), 8–13.Google Scholar
  30. 22.
    The best overall accounts of 1980–81 in Poland remain Garton Ash, Polish Revolution, and Neal Ascherson, The Polish August: The Self-Limiting Revolution (New York: Viking, 1982), but see also the analysis of a diplomatic eyewitness:Google Scholar
  31. Nicholas G. Andrews, Poland, 1980–81: Solidarity Versus the Party (Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, 1985). On what a huge surprise the worker-intellectual alliance was to an intellectual participant,Google Scholar
  32. see Wiktor Osiatyński, “Revolutions in Eastern Europe,” University of Chicago Law Review, 58, no. 2 (Spring 1991), 832–837.Google Scholar
  33. 23.
    On Solidarity under martial law, see Ost, Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics, 149ff. On the areawide implications, see “Reform or Revolution?” in Garton Ash, Uses of Adversity, 288; Brus, “The Political Economy of Reform,” in Paul Marer and Włodzimierz Śliwiński, eds., Creditworthiness and Reform in Poland (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), 77;Google Scholar
  34. and Stanislaw Gomułka, “The Polish Crisis,” in Jan Drewnowski, ed., Crisis in the East European Economy The Spread of the Polish Disease (London: Croom Helm, 1982), 65–71. As Gomułka put it, “The Polish crisis suggests that the pressure is probably building up either to broaden the narrow political base of present governments, so that their decisions concerning prices and wages, as well as other matters, may be seen by individual workers to command legitimacy or, alternatively, to replace command central planning by a competitive market mechanism so that the responsibility for price and wage reforms is defused”: 70.Google Scholar
  35. 28.
    For a fine account of the origins by a U.S. participant, see John J. Maresca, To Helsinki. The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe 1973–1975, new ed., (Durham: Duke University Press, 1987). The story is carried forward, if less analytically,Google Scholar
  36. in Nils Andrén and Karl E. Birnbaum, Belgrade and Beyond: The CSCE Process in Perspective (Alphen aan den Rijn: Sijthoff & Noordhoff, 1980)Google Scholar
  37. and Jan Sizoo and Rudolf Th. Jurrjens, CSCE Decision-Making: The Madrid Experience (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1984).Google Scholar
  38. 30.
    For a convenient summary of these developments, see Jonathan Dean, Watershed in Europe. Dismantling the East-West Military Confrontation (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1987), 185–190.Google Scholar
  39. 31.
    On the “Chernenko interlude” and the Gorbachev succession, see Dusko Doder, Shadows and Whispers. Power Politics Inside the Kremlin (London: Harrap, 1987), 206–289,Google Scholar
  40. and Christian Schmidt-Häuer, Gorbachev. The Path to Power (Topsfield, Mass.: Salem House, 1986), 96–111.Google Scholar
  41. 35.
    For a convenient summary through middecade of the area’s economic problems and the tightening of the iron ring, see Roger Kanet, “East European Trade in the 1980s: Reorientation in International Economic Relations,” in Philip Joseph, ed., The Economies of Eastern Europe and Their Foreign Economic Relations (Brussels: NATO, 1986), 291–310.Google Scholar

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© Thomas W. Simons, Jr. 1993

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