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EAST EUROPE: Where From, Where To? / Vol. 57, No. 2 (Summer 1990)

Arien Mack, Editor

"The papers collected in this second East European issue of Social Research were written in the midst of that rush of events which is usually called in academic circles, with a somewhat feigned neutrality, the process of transition. However, if these paper have anything in common, it is a lack of neutrality."

This article attempts to reconstruct the perception of politics predominant in Polish society as an area of social life which affects individuals and offers grounds for their potential actions. Politics is perceived as the art of managing rather than governing society, with all domains of social life subject to political decisions. The fact that politics is perceived as a tool of the authorities for running society results in cumulation of responsibility on the side of authorities. Since each detail in the organization of social life is a product of politics, by the same token it is a product of actions conducted by authorities which are responsible for its shape. They are responsible not only in, so to say, causative terms but also in moral ones—for example, in case of social discontent the authorities are to blame for it.

This article examines the day-to-day activities of the Stalinist party in Hungary as a means of investigating the construction and structure of the party. The relationship of the party to everyday life is based on the strange duality of destruction and repression on the one hand and construction and assistance on the other. These two modalities can neither be explained nor reduced to the other. The repressive organizations are not just executing orders and liquidating enemies, but helping to realize the truth of history, the elimination of the enemies of progress and the future. Thus the real world becomes a mere phenomenon, the manifestation of underlying essences. The harmonization of common and individual interest is a concrete task; the true reality, the goal of history, must become part and parcel of everyday life; potential must actually be pried from its inner recesses; the perfect fit between the individual and the social must be realized at the level of activity, behavior, attitudes, and values. Thus it follows that politics cannot be restricted to the top level of central decision-makers. In this case, the loftiest goals would remain hollow; daily activities must be permeated, potentials revealed.

This article discusses how the events and processes which have occurred in Poland in the late 1980s have shifted the relationship between economy and polity from political to economic dominance. Empirical data would suggest that, in 1988, before the political breakthrough of 1989-90, social consciousness already reflected some changes in the political domination over the economy. This was the effect of some reform moves made by the communists and the "prerevolutionary" climate in Polish society. For example, the preference for a market-based economy was no longer as strongly correlated with support for policentrism on one hand, and, on the other, favoring a planned economy did not necessarily imply the acceptance of political monocentrism. Less defined relationships between economy and polity might mean that interest groups could emerge which might wish to introduce market laws within the framework of political monocentrism, or which would support both democracy and a market-based economy. Actions of such groups can become another, self-generating factor that will be conducive to the evolution of interrelations between the economy and the polity.

This article describes the structure of relationships among decision-makers within the party and the mechanism of the structure in the Hungarian state-socialist system. When examining the empirical relationships among decision-makers, one should consider five elements simultaneously: property rights, the role of the Communist party, the kind of dependencies linking decision-makers within party and nonparty institutions and those linking decision-makers between party and nonparty institutions as well as the interest-enforcement possibilities, and the inequalities built into the structure while enforcing interests. These elements form a working power structure which broadly explains past and present strategies and behaviors within the Hungary state-socialist system. A political monopolized system produces conditions in which political rationality in nonpolitical spheres provides the system-conforming behavior. Behaviors are inspired by interests which are structurally tied to the maintenance of this very structure. These interests reproduce the structure and foster its cohesive power. Interests are based on the drive for resources, on the drive for their extraction, and on their selective distribution. All these are monopolized by the structure. As long as the system possesses some resources to distribute, the structure will keep its cohesive power.

This article focuses on the class of people in Czechoslovakia in the so-called "gray zone." People in the gray zone are, and can be, partners to the dissidents, but also, they are the ones who will take over the leadership of this society. The gray zone consists for the most part of good workers, qualified, professionally erudite people. That is precisely why they perceived the errors of the socialist system early on, and also why they did not have to buttress their careers by means of a party card or by taking on political functions. Today, Czechoslovakia's very best experts in their fields fall inside the gray zone. For many dissidents, their greatest competition will be from the gray zone. Its members are not as compromised, and besides, they have had far better conditions all along to nurture their own professional growth, to improve their qualifications, to gain experience in day-to-day, nondissident life. The dissidents may have moral superiority, but they must also realize that they have lived, or survived, for twenty years outside "the structure," for the most part in isolation, out of touch with scientific institutions and institutes. By their enforced exclusion, they also lost—at least in part—their continuity in the context of "civil" life as well as up-to- date expertise in their original professions.

This article focuses on the negotiations involved in the 1989 Hungarian peaceful revolution. The rifts within the various elites prepared the ground for the democratic transition, notably for the establishment of an informal alliance between reform communists and the organized forces of civil society. A meeting of forces that were to play a fundamental role in subsequent changes took place as early as 1987. From early 1988, small groups of intellectuals established an increasingly large number of autonomous political organizations. In a majority of cases the emergence of these groups meant no more than taking seriously political rights which existed already on paper, assuming the existential risks that came along with taking human rights seriously in East Europe. These autonomous political groups organized the struggle against a new deprivation of political rights, and in the course of struggling against repeatedly renewed restrictive legislative proposals there came about informal relationships which enabled the opposition to take a joint stand in March 1989: the establishment of the Opposition Roundtable. In contrast to the rest of the East European countries, mass movements did not topple the old system in Hungary, and in the course of the Hungarian transition it was not so much the mass support enjoyed by the opposition but rather the passive rejection of the old system that played the decisive role.

This article examines the problem of nationalism in the Soviet Union. The contradictory character of the Soviet national-administrative edifice and the disruptive effect of migrations which by turn depress the quality of life of entire social strata still permit one to discern a general picture of the national orientation of various ethnic and other groups. In the current Soviet situation of proclaimed transition from totalitarianism and authoritarianism to democracy, two democratic movements have taken center stage: the cooperative movement and the national movement. The ideal goal of social evolution is the union of sovereign individuals, joined by their responsibility for their common future and habitat. Like any ideal, this vision may not be fully attainable, but it guides and blesses the voyage to the point where national self-awareness becomes but one of the attributes of a social individual who is concerned for the well-being of his neighbors regardless of their ethnic origins. This evolutionary voyage will transform the Soviet Union from a federation of unequal ethno-administrative formations into a federation of equal peoples.

This article analyzes Poland's transition from authoritarianism to democracy. Totalitarianism was imposed upon Poland by the Soviet army. This is why it could never be completely assimilated and did not develop its specific traits to the fullest scale. Many Poles perceived the system as oppressive as early as 1945, but they were muted and their influence was limited, especially on the young. The postwar generations recognize the system's real traits in their own experiences. On the surface, authoritarianism remained strong until 1988. After that time, the official political elite started issuing signals of reconciliation, because it knew that the system was getting weaker and weaker. The withdrawal of authoritarianism must then have a basis other than complete inability to act. One could hypothesize that the basis is the great political and moral attractiveness of the alternative solution: democracy. Its attractiveness captivates even those who held positions of power in the authoritarian system. They accept the democratization process, which deprives them of power.

This article focuses on liberalism in Poland. Present-day Eastern European liberalism has developed spontaneously as a result of the crisis of the communist system in the endeavor to disclose the essential defects of that system and to find a way of eliminating them. Viewing liberalism as the most natural, so to say, contraposition of communism seems the best introduction to the earlier-mentioned reflection on its growing popularity in Eastern Europe, popularity which astonishes newcomers from the West even if they are adherents of that philosophy. The revival of liberalism is both inevitable and impossible. It is inevitable because under the crisis of totalitarianism the basic elements of liberal thought become of topical interest, and liberalism is again one of the most important systems of reference for social thought. It is impossible because as such it does not offer the solution of many problems created by that crisis. Thus, for instance, it does not appear that in Poland the multiplying manifestations of liberalism predicted anything else than a certain animation of discussions.

This article explores the struggle for the transformation perestroika and the social-democratic alternative in the Soviet Union. In the confused period during which new cultural and political forces are entering the social and legal arena, it is essential that practical action be guided by a definite system of values and principles. This value system should lie at the heart of the constructive alternative. Obviously the alternatives should be concrete enough to carry a palpable social charge. An understanding of democratic socialism should fall back on the concept of humanism as the guiding spirit of political ideology and social psychology aimed at liberating the personality from totalitarian stagnation. Movement in this direction is powered by the notions of personal sovereignty and self-awareness, and the freedom to determine one's role in society. Democratic socialism is the strategy of societal development based on a coherent and conscious attainment of the totality of political and economic rights that guarantees an improving quality of life.


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