Economic reform has been the central issue on the political agenda of European communist regimes since the death of Stalin, yet it remains an item of ‘unfinished business’. Accumulated evidence on the long-term unviability of the centralistic—directive economic model, manifested periodically in profound economic tensions or even crisis, has at various times driven communist leaderships to search for a way out, and economic experts have duly come forward with comprehensive proposals for a solution. Yet the problem was never merely technical—economic, but also had underlying political dimensions. Successive reform waves have been interrupted by political crises, or the fear of them. The first wave of economic reform, emerging most strongly in Hungary and Poland after Stalin’s death, was strangled by the political impact of 1956; the second wave, unfolding across the Soviet bloc in the 1960s, was undermined by 1968. Economic reforms became dangerously associated with intolerable political tensions, threatening to sweep away the Party and the foundations of the political system itself. As a result, the 1970s saw the avoidance of the question of reform.
KeywordsEurope Recombination Coherence Expense Defend
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