This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
In 1989 the communist block collapsed in the Central-Eastern European region. The new institutional and political structure will be shaped by the legacy of forty years of Leninist rule. In order to clear up the framework of the communist collapse we can take a glance at the big revolutionary picture from the end of the 1980’. In 1988, Europe went through a year of revolution, as kings fell and democratic governments were created. In 1989 the first free labor union was founded in the communist Poland. The end of the communist system had begun. The Soviet Union could control their satellites yet but with the new leader Gorbaciov their politics changed in 1984. Gorbaciov reforms should review the Stalinist structure in the Soviet Union but not replace the communist system. The reforms in the Soviet Union also had its effects on the other communist countries especially in Poland and Hungary. On 5 April 1989, in Poland the “round table” talks between the government and leaders of the opposition , particularly the Solidarity trade- union movement, headed by Mr. Lech Walesa that had lasted two months culminated with agreement, on political reform, trade union pluralism, including the legalization of Solidarity and economic and social policy. Among the political reforms was the introduction of a new bicameral Parliament .According to the accords senators would be chosen through free elections .In the Diet , the ruling Polish United Workers Party PZPR and its then allies were guaranteed 65% representation the remaining 35% of the seat to be open to opposition figures and independents in freely contested races. The whole
Ken JOWITT. “The Leninist legacy” in Idem, “New World Disorder: The Leninist extinction”, University of California Press, Berkeley-Los Angeles-Oxford, 1992, p.286.
process was to be “no confrontational” Solidarity trade-union movement wins a huge majority of the vote, including 96% of 100 Senate seats. On 2 August Gen .Czeslaw Kiszczak was named Prime Minister. Being unable to form the Government he resigned on 24 August and was succeeded the same day by Mr.Tadeusz Mazowiecki. On 12 September, Mr. Mazowiecki’s Cabinet was approved. Among its 23 members were eight Deputies, two Senators and representatives of the OKP, PZPR, ZSL and SD parties. On 23 August 1989 Hungary opened the iron curtain to Austria. Months before East German tourists used their chance to escape to Austria from Hungary and in September 1989 more than 13.000 East German escaped via Hungary within three days .It was the first mass exodus of East Germans after the begun of the Berlin Wall. On the 7 th October in Hungary Socialist Workers Party renounces Marxism, embraces democratic socialism and it’s renamed the Hungarian Socialist Party. The parliament ends the one party monopoly and announces elections for next year. In December of 1989 the Brandenburg Gate in East Berlin is reopened. The breakthrough of the wall on both sides of the two pedestrian crossings marks a symbolic end to Berlin’s 28 years of division. At its third session, the Round Table adopts a list of priorities for future cooperation between opposition groups and the government .These includes elimination of the secret services. In apparent justification of the planned creation of an intelligence agency in East Germany, counter intelligence reports increased activity by the U.S and West German secret services. All the Western leaders were interested in current information in order to revise their political strategies for Germany. On the 12 January 1990 the second day of the parliamentary
session is accompanied by demonstrations at the Palace of the Republic in East Berlin, at which thousand people protest the continuing hegemony of the SED. In the second day ,for the first time West German politicians publicly advocate a German economic and monetary union as the speediest means to achieve German unity even before the clarification of political unification as the latter is depended upon many unresolved foreign policy issues . According to Erich Riedl CSU, Parliamentary Undersecretary in the West German Federal Ministry of the Economy ,the goal should be a gradual , clearly defined growing together of the two economies. Matthias Wismann, the parliamentary expert on economic policy for the CSU, recommends officially permitting the West German mark to function as a parallel currency. In February Parliament agrees to the formation of a Government of National Responsibility that would grant representatives of groups and parties at the Round Table position as ministers without portfolio. Earlier, Premier Chodrow urged parliament to approve the new governing constellation developed by the Round Table .He says the situation in the country has worsened since last week’s parliamentary session and East Germany can only be governed with broad responsibility. Parliament agrees to bring the date of parliamentary elections forward to March 18th.In a further resolution by the People’s Chamber ,activities by the far right “Republikaner “ continue to be prohibited and successor or substitute organizations with the same gals are also forbidden to become politically active in East Germany. In West Berlin representatives of the three conservative parties Democratic Awakening DA, German Social Union DSU and the CDU agree to run for parliament jointly on March 18th as the Alliance for Germany.
A month later the Council of Ministers accord a regulation that obligates all nationalized enterprises to transform themselves into companies limited corporations or stock corporations. A Trusteeship Agency is done for the creation of capitalist labor conditions nationalized businesses, facilities and combines under the authority of the Council of Ministers .The government further approves a draft law on the right of establishment which allows foreign firms formerly permitted only representation to establish their own branches on the territory of East Germany for the purpose of economic activity. The Minister of Social Welfare of North Rhine – Westphalia, Hermann Hunemann demands immediately aid for East Germany. East Berlin must offer its resident a bonus for staying if the flood of migrants from East to West is to be checked .The SPD politician strongly opposes the suggestion that East German immigrants should be paid bonuses for returning home. Canceller Helmut Kohl is received enthusiastically by 200 000 people in Karl-Marx-Stadt where he calls for rapid economic and monetary union of the two parts of Germany. The CDU chairman rejects request for billions in immediate aid he refused to invest billions in a bankrupt system. It is much more important to introduce the West German Mark, he maintains but economic reforms are unavoidable if that is to be done. CSU Chairman Theo Waigel believes concern over the economic effects of German unification is uncalled for .He is deeply convinced that it can be done and that would cost less than many post-war tasks. The four victorious World War powers and the two German states begin joint negotiations in Bonn on the process of German unification. On the 18th March 1990 the CDU is the winner of the first democratic elections in East Germany. German unity has been elected rapidly.
As all these swiftly events came to an end, the new elected governments had to deal with societies in a total chaos. Almost all the institutional framework must be reshaped in order to fit the new “democratic” regime. The first step was made rapidly, by tearing down the communist structure but its scattered members were recombined into the newly democratic institutions. The Leninist legacy is in itself a real and unhappy solution to the difficulties of the “transition to democracy”. The term “transition” implies an evolutionary development passing from authoritarian or totalitarian regimes to democracy. There are three main interpretations in explaining post-communist transitions in Eastern Europe. The first one is related to the communist inheritance and its influence in this region and it will be cleared up further in this essay having in mind mainly the view of the American political scientist, Ken Jowitt. The second one explains the transitional phenomenon in terms of democratization of executives and institutions. The third interpretation deals with the actors (the elites) and the decision making process implied. The political scientist Ken Jowitt has a very pessimistic view on the political and ideological development of the post-communist Europe. Jowitt is the one who introduced the theory of the “path-dependency”, explaining that the communist inheritance in Eastern Europe is a serious impediment for realizing the transition to a democratic system. The old customs created in the collective mentality, public and private, official and personal, a society based on suspicions, fear, weak institutions, distrust, racism and probably the most important aspect, the absence of civic virtues and private initiative. In the Communist space the Party dominated the
entire society, either political, ideological or in the realm of the personal relations between citizens. The public and the private space in the society have known a huge ideological gap. The Party, which identified itself with the State, was the official indestructible and unmistakable entity. The State was the Party itself so that any offence or critic against the Party was an offence to the State. The small critic or attempt of change transformed the individual into a subversive element for the official doctrine, a state enemy, a small piece of the huge state mechanism which had to be removed by all means, so that the whole organism of the Party keep its doctrinal health. The fear and dissimulation trapped the entire society and these behaviors became the daily aspects of the communist world. The entire population was never integrated into the political realm, which was seen as something risky and better to be avoided. The people became interested mainly on themselves, on their personal survival. The public sphere was a place of dissimulation, where all had to have the same opinion and the personal beliefs were not important but even dangerous. The population started a sort of double life between the private and the public sphere. This kind of behavior was characteristic also for the relations of the Soviet Union with the socialist countries in its sphere of influence. The Soviet regime had the same dominant position inside the communist block as the Party had in each of the states. “Regionally and nationally, the Eastern European polities were fragmented, not integrated.”2 The people became very self interested and this individualism made the population to behave in a selfish way without being concerned wit the public good. For the common citizen in the Communist world, the general prosperity of the community as a whole was not his concern.
Ken JOWITT. “The Leninist legacy” in Idem, “New World Disorder: The Leninist extinction”, University of California Press, Berkeley-Los Angeles-Oxford, 1992, p.290.
One’s personal life was more important than the welfare of the state. The state was the enemy not the final wellbeing goal of his work. That is why the Communism sheltered and left as legacy only mediocrity, a self-centered way of thinking, the mentality of tricking and hiding behind the lacks of the system. All these things characterize the communist legacy and moreover the postcommunist society and can be classified under a single term: corruption. The post-Leninist transitional system brought to life a new kind of party system made up by self interested politicians. The interests of institution builders are based on the personal political careers of those who have the power to change the institutional framework. Politicians put their own career first and seek to maximize their own power in government. Thus, they will change the institutional rules in order to fit their own personal interests. These behaviors were translated, after the Communism’s fall, into the so called new democratic society. The “transition to democracy” was to be a difficult process, built by a psychological mutilated society. An interested example on how the newly democratic regimes have constructed an institutional frame only for taking the shape of their oligarchic interests, is the case of the new born Russian Federation. Being the “heart” of the Soviet Union for almost a century, nowadays Russia has created a classical “model” of how an authentic democratic society may never be achieved after so many years of communist rule. Today’s Russian Federation is a mixture of old authoritarian heritage and newly free market competition played between a big “family” of oligarchs.
In a post-Leninist Europe, post-Soviet Russia, the transition to democracy meant the collapse of formal institutional structures implemented by Leninism, as Ken Jowitt states in his book “New World Disorder”.
Russia’s cultural, political, economic transformation was perverted by the old institutional framework, resistant to Western practices. Starting with Yeltsin’s post-Soviet presidency there can be seen the adversity with which Russia undertook new laws and a new constitution, and more recently the use of political parties as means for elites has become evident under president Putin. At the end of 1999, Boris Yeltsin’s attempts to escape the legacies from the past, had limited results. The Communist Party existed during his entire presidency even if in different names, different social platforms3. Yeltsin’s successor, Vladimir Putin, a sustainer of the old values, had declared that indeed he regrets the old regime and the Soviet Union and has actually proven his “loyalty” toward the figure of Stalin by bringing back symbols of the Soviet period. But what is most striking during Putin and Yeltsin’s presidencies is the continuity and persistence of the chaos created on a social and cultural level after the fall of USSR. Class solidarity, social homogeneity came as legacies from the past in defining national identity, ethnicity and civil loyalty, meaning that the government proved inefficient in its attempt to separate the concept of citizenship from that of ethnicity. In Anders Åslund and Martha Brill Olcott’s book, “Russia After Communism”4, the issue of ethnic groups is debated in the context of a Russian Federation. The new ethnic federalism, consisting in the existence of an ethnic group within an autonomous territory, has its flaws since the government claims to have superiority over these territories and their laws. The absence of a shared public identity as Jowitt put it, made impossible public discussions on national issues and even after the fall of the Soviet Union, those who rallied were the elites. It was in this way that the matter of ethnicity was put forward, as a railing instrument, and not by the Russian public who identifies with the former USSR, especially ethnic Russians more than other nationalities.
Stephen E. Hanson, “The Leninist Legacy, Institutional Change, and Post-Soviet Russia” in Comparative Political Studies, Vol.28, No. 2, 1995.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, 1999.
Taking in consideration the fact that the ruling Leninist parties declared themselves as superior to the nation-state, the appearance of these nation-states not only brought dissimulation from the public as Jowitt arguments, but has created within the federation disputes that Jowitt did not foresee. Still, borderline conflicts, civil violence or war are mentioned in his book in the context of the turbulences in Yugoslavia. Later, under President Putin internal and external security strategies, marked by the violence of the past, emphasize such discords in the relationships between neighbors. In its attempt to keep the status of a great power, Russia clings to the former Soviet states. Some of the points in Putin’s external and internal security policy include5 - protection against terrorism and dangers arising from military operations. - improving life standards. - strengthening Russia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. - eliminating the causes contributing to political and religious extremism and ethno-separatism. - enhancing Russia’s position as a great power. Strengthening the central authority in Kremlin, withdraw power from the constituent entities or neutralize separatist movements were only some of the objectives on President Putin’s agenda. These national interests were formulated taking in consideration threats from an external aggressor – Chechnya, not only on a military level but also with political, social and economic implications. Seeking to escape the control coming from Russia, Chechnya has tried to organize itself as a state in the meaning of modern nationalism and so the core of the conflict between the two states is none other than national interest. After 1991, radical nationalists took over power, overthrowing the Communist Party, but instead of building an institutional framework for the state they let it slowly crumble. Due to social instability,
Dr. Marcel de Haas, Putin’s External and Internal Security Policy, 2005
crime, corruption, must of the ethnic Russians left the country. Although with no clear legitimacy, in 1994 Russia intervened through military force in order to bring down the government. Under President Yeltsin the Russian officials aimed at reducing the conflict, even ceasing fire, although Russia was not comfortable to declare itself defeated and was not willing to withdraw its military force taking in consideration the internal political instability after 1996 in Chechnya. It was in 1999, under Putin’s administration that the conflict reopened, with the second Chechen war. Separatist movements stated that there will be no compromise and they will not settle under Russian domination. In this respect, two controversial terrorist attacks can be presented.
“Nord-Ost” Hostage Taking In October 2002, a Chechen separatist movement carried out a hostage taking in a theatre in Moscow. Approximately 900 civilians were taken hostage and the demand for their release was the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Chechen territory. The internal security policy proved extremely violent, since the chemical gas used by the Russian forces to end the attack not only killed Chechen terrorists but also a shocking number of innocent civilians. The government officials, in order to escape accusations of crime and violation of human rights, publicly declared that it was due to an ineffective legal system and legislation that they could not act rightfully in this particular operation. Thus, with no normative basis for fighting terrorism, Putin was to change his security policy, mostly in one direction and that is intensifying their military force and acting more “brutally” in revealing threats and not on economic or social level. An institution was created as a response to the “Nord-Ost” terrorist attack - Russia’s Security Council (SCRF) – controlled by Putin and some of his ministers, so centralized control of security matters.
“Beslan” Hostage Taking
Two years later after the “Nord-Ost” hostage taking, in September 2004, Chechen terrorists took hostage 1,000 teachers, parents, children at a school in Beslan, North Ossetia-Alania in the North Caucasus, an autonomous republic. Armed Osetian civilians were said to have fired first against the terrorists, thus leading to a bloody battle between the Chechen terrorists and the unprepared anti-terror units. The aftermath brought losses of 300 to 400 civilian deaths due to the violence used by Russian forces just like in the previous attack at “North-Ost”. The demand was ending the war in Chechnya, although the government did not officially support the declaration. Putin, not wanting to show any weakness, emphasized the conflict by bringing it on an international scale, international terrorism. Still, even in these conditions of foreign implication, Russia did not allow interference in its own internal issues and furthermore Russia was not willing to compromise in order to end the war. All the opposite, Putin was ready to refuse any negotiations and to enhance his power by repression in the name of this war against terrorism. When the Soviet Union broke, it was agreed that the former Soviet republics would gain independence and that the autonomous territories within a republic would remain under the control of the sovereign republic. In this way Putin has succeeded to legitimize his actions in Chechnya, by not recognizing its independence and by declaring Chechen government incapable of ruling the territory. It is hard to say that security policies have improved relations between Russia and its neighbors. The revised NSC6 did put forward as issues social and economic problems, fight against terrorism, lack of development in Russian territories, demographic problems, lack of public confidence in state institutions and government. It may be progress on paper, but in reality Russia is still dominated by old ideas of supremacy and domination. Even for the people it is hard to see that through force Russia can not gain power and can not recreate the Soviet state. The perils of the Leninist legacy, fragmented, mutually suspicious societies with little religiouscultural support for tolerant and individually self-reliant behavior, are emphasized by Ken Jowitt and
National Security Concept.
surprisingly, can be found later on under Yeltsin and Putin. Whether we refer to political, social or ethnic issues, it is quite difficult not to notice the impact of decades of communism on Russian society.
Taking the example of our Eastern neighbor, we may agree that the Romanian case, as well as all the other ex-communist states, is very similar on what concerns the problem of assuming the old heritage. Russia tries to build a post-communist society having no democratic connections to relate with from the past. The same problematic situation Romania has to face. As well as in other cases, democracy was, by no means, a historical tradition for Romania. When the Communism officially transformed the state from monarchy to Popular Republic, the only “legacies” left from the old regime had nothing to do with a consolidated democracy. The Communist Popular Republic had to erase fascist reminisces of the Carolist and Antonescian regimes, peasant and liberal ideologies consolidated in a corporatist economic vision and most important they had to cope with a country where the vast majority lived in the rural areas, without electricity and with a low rate of education. These post war realities were far from the democratic model of the West. What is more, the small intellectual part of the Romanian society was sent into the communist jails where it was submitted to a regime of extermination. Thus, the Communism erased from the public’s view any traces representing the old world. They crushed any reminisces of a different independent thinking and replaced them with fear, individualism, the utopian dream of the new man, made in the image of the Party-Father, the collaborationism, dissimulation and most importantly, totally dependence (economically, ideologically, psychologically) on the Party State. Leaving the Communism in 1989, the population had no previous pre-communist ideals. The liberal thinking and the few sparkles of democratic behavior of the inter-wars period were
destroyed in the communist jails. Those who had to build the new regime after 1989 were themselves slaves to the old way of thinking. The new democracy in Romania had to be imported and applied to a society in an ideologically turmoil. All the democratic ideals hit the wall of a divided part of the world composed of 23 millions of individuals without any kind of personal initiative, a common public identity or a national goal. Romania was indeed the flock lacking the shepherd, as it was used to have for forty years, in the person of the paternal figure of the Party-father, guiding and giving the right path to a people which hadn’t thought to live by itself until then. A new legacy of the past is the absence of the political elites in the post-communist countries. Either killed by the communists or dying by long age, the “ancien regime” elites have disappeared and their ideals extinguished with them. This situation can be explained by the political-ideological oppression, the total destruction of the old elites by the communist regime. The new socialist order left no strongholds of the “bourgeoisie” way of life, behavior or thinking, to survive. After 1989, the historic parties were “naked” of any kind of connection with their old roots. Therefore, they could not identify themselves any longer with the new “democratic” system. As in the XIXth century Romania, the new born society of 1990’s had to be built by the intellectual elites. Taking as a model the Western European world, they had to create a democratic society in the image of its original. But the difference from the past realities is that in the post-communist world there are no longer intellectual elites with a European democratic thinking. This is why, nowadays, the building of the democratic society in Romania lies upon each citizen’ shoulders.
In consequence, Ken Jowitt explains that the lack of consecrated elites with national legitimacy in the Eastern-European countries transforms these states in extremely fragile democracies. As a conclusion, Ken Jowitt suggests that Eastern Europe is reaching to a form of liberal authoritarian oligarchy, very similar to the present time Latin American democracies. The only solution given by Jowitt to the Eastern-European problem is the position that the Western Europe should take in this situation that is the “adoption” of the East by the Western Europe. This theory is also developed by the French author Jean-François Soulet. He explains that the historical heritage of the European states, has known all the way through time different ideologies. These political experiences shaped the European cultural and social views so that at present we must accept each other’s differences and “legacies” from the past in order to be fully integrated in the European Union project. Without including the history, no matter how painful it may be, we cannot develop further into a united and enlarged European family. In contrast with these views on the political changes there can also be added some open questions which may give us a different perspective on the debated issue. The authors imply in their arguments that the only destination and form of democracy for the transitional Eastern governments is the Western democratic model. However, the historical preconditions and framework for the development of an original democracy, as it happened in the Western societies cannot be achieved anymore. Democracy is a cultural process. How can it be exported in Eastern regions in a short period of time when in its original context of birth it took centuries for it do develop?
Another question to be debated is that how can we be sure that in the transition process the certain destination is democracy and if it is for sure how can we know the moment when the transition ends? And in the end, probably the most controversial and difficult to explain aspect is this: what if the transition is a regime in itself?
Readings: Ken JOWITT. “The Leninist legacy” in Idem, “New World Disorder: The Leninist extinction”, University of California Press, Berkeley-Los Angeles-Oxford, 1992, pp.285-305.
Jean- François SOULET. “The history of the Eastern Europe, from the Second World War until nowadays”, Polirom Publishing House, Iasi, 2008.
Vladimir TISMANEANU (editor), “The Revolutions of 1989”, translated by Cristina Petrescu and Dragos Petrescu, Polirom Publishing House, Iasi, 2005.
POLITICAL SCIENCE FACULTY
The Leninist legacy
Authors: Marin Madalina Neaga Raluca
Paun Stefania Tatu Raluca Georgiana
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.