GAINS AND LOSSES OF THE TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY / Vol. 63, No. 2 (Summer 1996)
Arien Mack, Editor
It gives me great personal pleasure to introduce this, the sixth in a remarkable series of special issues of Social Research devoted to Central and Eastern Europe… IT is not simply about the “costs of transition.” That phrase contains such large assumptions, already implicit in the teleological paradigm of “transition”: the implication being that, however high the costs, there is clearly a final benefit to justify them, and that the costs are indeed transitional. This is reassuring, but is it true?
What do the events of 1989 mean? What is their significance for the citizens of what used to be called Eastern Europe? What is their significance for democrats at the dawn of the new century? Intellectual history since 1789 proves that it is impossible to arrive at a single interpretation of events of such magnitude.
In the first decade after the Berlin Wall fell, mass political behavior in Europe’s eastern half exhibited discomforting characteristics. Low turnouts have plagued many electoral contests in Hungary, the Czech Republic, referenda in Lithuania, and other public votes. Only a quarter of the eligible voters turned out for June 1994 local elections across Poland. In other countries, where higher proportions voted in the first post-communist elections, the number of people who say they intend to cast ballots has dropped and many predict declining turnout.
Miguel Centeno and Tania Rands The World They Have Lost: An Assessment of Change in Eastern Europe This article assesses the amount of change that has occurred in Eastern Europe since 1989. In order to gauge the extent to which the 1989 revolutions improved the political environment in Eastern Europe, three pre-requisites for democracy were established: possibility of government turnover, existence of a free press, and respect for human rights. Almost all of the other relevant countries have witnessed at least one turnover of power or significant defeat of ruling coalitions since the beginning of the 1989 revolutions. And one of the most widespread political improvements across Eastern Europe has been the growing freedom of the press, particularly an increase in access to foreign media.
Archie Brown The Russian Transition in Comparative And Russian Perspective "It is easier to characterize what Russia has been in transition from than what it is in transition to. The Russian movement away from a Communist system began in the second half of the 1980s. Some of the groundwork for change was laid in 1985-86, shortly after Mikhail Gorbachev (in March 1985) succeeded Konstantin Chernenko as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Part of the Soviet Union."
Spring 1996 may not be the optimal time to assess the gains and losses of the transition to democracy in Russia. Posed in these terms, the question reflects a problematic assumption, which may be proved decisively wrong within a month but would need a period of several decades to be substantiated. Whatever the outcome of the ongoing elections, it is not at all certain that the dissolution of the communist order in 1990-1991 indeed resulted in a transition to democracy (we would not know that for sure until democracy is, in fact, established and proved viable).
Aleksander Smolar Revolutionary Spectacle and Peaceful Transition This article provides information on three characteristic persons that have been visible in the revolutionary movement of Poland in 1989. In all revolutions, three characteristic persons: the moderate, the radical and the counter-revolutionary were always involved. Poland had a great movement with revolutionary potential but without revolutionary consequences. Although its dynamics were broken by the enforcement of martial law in December 1981, the traces of the great movement are still present in the institutions and behaviors, as well as in people's memories and images during the 1989 negotiations.
Andrzej Rychard Beyond Gains and Losses: In Search of "Winning Losers" Presents the reflections of the author on the gains and losses produced by the transformational changes in Eastern Europe since 1989. Assumptions made by the author to consider the sense of gains and losses of the transformation; Ways to analyze the problems of gains and losses brought by transformation; Mechanism of mobilization of political capital.
György Csepeli, Antal Örkény, and Kim Lane Scheppele Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome in Social Science in Eastern Europe: The Colonization of East European Social Science This article highlights the challenges faced by sociological research in the post-socialist Eastern and Central Europe. The revolutionary euphoria and spirit experienced by Eastern and Central Europe is expected to be replaced by a political and social hangover stemming from hardships of the transition from the system of redistribution to a market system. Social inequality, unemployment and poverty were exaggerated by the rise of historical shadows, such as rightwing extremism, crime and dispersion of the social security net. Social research was not immune to these processes of decline.
András Kovács Did the Losers Win? An Analysis of Electoral Behavior in Hungary in 1994 This article presents an analysis of the electoral behavior in Hungary in 1994. The euphoria following the fall of the European communist regimes was replaced by skepticism and a growing sense of disillusionment in the four years following the first free elections. As a consequence of the eruption of national conflicts, the joy at the elimination of the divisions created in Europe by the Cold War began to be replaced by fears. Over the past few years, however, election results in several Central European nations including Hungary have brought doubt into the deep freeze theories. Several contradictory interpretations have arisen to explain the success of communist successor parties.
Jiřina Šiklová What Did We Lose After 1989? Presents the author's views on gains and losses experienced by Eastern Europe after the 1989 revolution. Desires of the people; Barriers of communication; Factors that affect the gains and losses of transformation; Ideology that ruled the transformation in Eastern Europe.
Rumyana Kolarova Bulgaria: Could We Regain What We Have Already Lost? This article analyzes the effect of the Eastern Europe's transition to democracy on Bulgaria. Most Europeans have faced the question about the gains and losses of the transition. The intellectuals prefer to discuss the lost mutual commitment and to express regret for the lost partnership, while politicians rather prefer to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the emerging political alienation of the general public. Looking at the postcommunist history of Bulgaria, one might say that there has been one recurring attitude that has affected everybody: the nostalgic rediscovery of the past and the attempt to revive what has already gone. Bulgaria hardly ever had a truly democratic government.
Andrei Pleşu Post-Totalitarian Pathology: Notes on Romania, Six Years After December 1989 This article focuses on the condition of post-communist Romania six years after December 1989. The countries that parted from totalitarianism are convalescent countries with different rhythms of recovery. What can be said in general is that experienced from the inside, the tribulations of their cure look very different than seen from the outside. Although Romania ended up with the group of the former communist countries as a symbol of failure, it is also confronted with the same tensions and ambiguities experienced by other countries.
Mauricio Font Friendly Prodding and Other Sources of Change in Cuba This article considers the effect of the post-1989 collapse of communism in Eastern Europe on Cuba. After the onset of a crisis in 1990-1993, the Cuban economy down by at least 35-40 percent. This trend has led to the speculations that the need for re-insertion into the capitalist international economy would induce reformist to lead a transformation of the island's traditional state socialism. But events in early 1996 belied this prediction. When the Cuban government attacked two aircraft flown by Cuban-American opponents on February 24, 1996, the US has further strengthen its embargo on the country.