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Eastern European Politics - Essay Example

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At a certain point in these transformations, the communist parties gave up their monopoly of power -- often removing a constitutional clause on that subject and admitting rival parties -- and submitted to competitive elections, which turned over power to their opposition. There were significant differences, for example, with regard to the abruptness or completeness of the change among the elites, ranging from the purge of the old elites in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) to the sliding-scale, power-sharing arrangements in many other postcommunist societies (Robert, 1985).
As in Southern Europe and Latin America, the ruptura with the old regime transferred authority only with certain de facto limitations to the new elites. Whereas in the former areas, the army and both private and foreign big business often continued to wield powerful influence, in Eastern Europe it was more often the bureaucracy and large, state-owned firms and farms. In Russia, the entire military-industrial complex at first survived the meltdown of communist control. The new governments began to make inroads into the realms of state-owned and cooperative enterprises whose managers had somehow inherited command from the defunct state planning commissions at the center of their command economies. In many cases, this left the economy half in and half out of the range of authority of the new democratic governments (David, & Bruszt, 1998).
There is no need to go into the complexities of the transfer in each country, except to stress the paramount role of particular elites -- political or nonpolitical -- along with the rebellious masses in the unraveling of the old and the consolidation of the new regimes. The masses effectively challenged the authority of even the last hard-line dictatorship. "We are the people" was the chant of the East German demonstrators in Leipzig and elsewhere as they confronted the claims of popular legitimation of their communist government (Samuel, 1991).
Were the economic crises of the old regime or its dictatorial character at the roots of rebellion Most immediately, the latter, although the multiple failures of the communist economy played a significant role under the surface. Crucial to the final collapse of the old regimes were also the defeat of the repressive apparatus at home -- especially the secret police and other repressive forces such as the workers' combat groups in large factories -- and the end of the outside military threat, both of Soviet power to reformist regimes like that of Alexander Dubcek and of the Western military counterpressure that had for so long been the alibi of Soviet pressure on the satellites. Once Mikhail Gorbachev had renounced the Brezhnev doctrine of Warsaw Pact intervention against nonconforming communist regimes and, in fact, encouraged them to follow in his path of glasnost and perestroika, hard-liners in Czechoslovakia and East Germany were on their own, with predictable results (Joseph E., 1994).
The complex requirements of a working democratic system, of course, did not automatically fall into the laps of the aspiring peoples of Eastern Europe when communism fell. Far from it, each element had to be acquired separately, and, as of this moment, some are still missing, incomplete, or in ...Show more
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Summary

The waves of democratization during the 1970s and 1980s in Southern Europe and Latin America have dramatized once more the extraordinary complexity of the process and alerted us to the many different elements that have to be in place before democracy can be said to have triumphed in a country…
Eastern European Politics
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