|Edited by Janina Frentzel-Zagorska
Amsterdam-Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 1993
The scientific analysis of the unprecedented, massive and deep socio-political, economic and psychological transformations, taking place before our very eyes at high speed, is a very difficult task to which the application of a single, well defined theoretical approach does not seem appropriate. Thus, in this book no single theoretical approach is privileged. Pains were also taken to maintain some balance between theoretical analysis and providing empirical material, in order not to let the one overshadow the other.
The volume consists of three parts. The first is devoted to a theoretical analysis of the nature of 1989 revolutions and the nature of the communist system which collapsed. The second part is devoted to the transitional period analysed by most authors on the background of the communist legacy. The transitional period is conceived as a specific period with its own transitory non-reproductive logic. Thus the socio-political mechanisms which operate in this period cannot be directly projected into the future. This section of the book has a more empirical character, but the actual developments and processes are discussed within theoretical frameworks chosen by the authors. The third part, consisting of one chapter, is devoted to the special case of Yugoslavia.
In the first two chapters of Part I, Zygmunt Bauman and Leslie Holmes discuss the 1989-90 revolutions in terms of theories of modernity and post-modernity. They address the modernity/post-modernity paradox confronting the post-communist nations, which have to modernize in the post-modern world to which they aspire. BAUMAN makes a distinction between political and systemic revolutions. Political revolution ‘emancipates’ the existing socio-political system from its political constraints. Systemic revolutions, in addition, require a transformation of the system itself. The recent anti- communist revolutions are systemic ones and thus ‘they face the task of dismantling the extant system and constructing one to replace it’. Bauman analyses the paradoxes and threats facing the young democracies involved in this process. For Bauman, communism was the most radical embodiment of modern hopes and promises of all-penetrating rationality and ultimate subordination of nature to human needs and desires. It collapsed because it lost in a competition with capitalism to realize these promises, especially to stand up to the challenge of the post-modern world, in which consumer choice is ‘the essential systemic requisite’.
The chapter by Leslie HOLMES is to some extent a response to Bauman’s analysis. Holmes presents his understanding of modernity and post-modernity and the relation of East European revolutions to both of them, stressing points of disagreement with Bauman. He contends that one cannot simply argue that the collapse of socialism is the epitome and supreme example of the crisis of modernity if the latter is, in fact, widely accepted to be more complex and contradictory than Bauman’s interpretation suggests. According to Holmes, ‘whilst socialism/communism represented an extreme form of some aspects of modernity, in others — notably the political system, the actual economic system and some important aspects of social structure — it was either extra-modern or pre-modern’. Above all the communist states failed the test of legal-rationality, which, according to Holmes, is ‘the only appropriate form of legitimation to the modern state’. He expresses doubts over the reality (as distinct from conceptualization) of post- modernity. He agrees that the elements of post-modernity, identified by Bauman and others, can be found in the contemporary world but he poses the question as to whether they are salient features of this world. Consequently, he does not see the necessary correlation between the events of 1989-90 and the crisis of modernity.
Leszek NOWAK discusses the nature of the socialist/communist system, the anti- communist revolutions and their consequences in terms of his philosophically-laden ‘theory of non-Marxian historical materialism’. He criticises the theory of totalitarianism for not being able to explain both the communist reformism and revolutionary movements in the communist world. He attributes this failure mainly to the underlying ‘Weberian paradigm’ which he considers faulty. He presents his own methodological paradigm on which his theory of socialism is based. Nowak’s theory is designed to explain the constitutive features of socialist society, including reformism and the revolutionary movements, and to allow for predictions of post-revolutionary developments. According to Nowak, the socialist/communist system is characterized by the ‘triple monopoly over all types of material means of control over people’s actions’ — over the means of material production, over the means of coercion and over the means of indoctrination (the class of ‘triple lords’). The second most important part of his theory is ‘the mechanism of lost revolutions’ which by cyclic changes in the relationship between the class of rulers and the class of citizens finally leads to a change of the ruling elite.
Jan PAKULSKI offers a retrospective analysis of Eastern European regimes’ legitimacy. According to him, a swift collapse of these regimes amidst flares of public protests has undermined explanations of their persistence in terms of ‘mass legitimacy’ and their fall in terms of ‘legitimacy crisis’. He argues that the Eastern European regimes had never developed mass legitimacy, and that even before the 1989 upheavals, they lacked normatively based mass approval. He suggests an alternative explanation of the persistence of communist regimes in terms of elite legitimacy and ‘conditional tolerance’ and argues that the collapse of conditional tolerance combined with elite de-legitimation prompted the sudden collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe.
The opening chapter of Part II, by Adam CZARNOTA and Martin KRYGIER, is devoted to the analysis of the mechanisms and prospects of establishing (or re- establishing) the rule of law in post-communist countries in Eastern Europe. The authors analyse this issue in the light of historical legal and state traditions in the region. They contrast the Eastern ‘state-oriented’ tradition, which was in some Eastern European countries strengthened and in some imposed by the communist system, with the Western legal tradition rooted in civil society, and analyse the consequences of both traditions for the building of a democratic legal order.
Mate SZABO analyses in detail a concrete example of the political learning process in a new post-communist democracy. He discusses the taxi drivers’ protest in Hungary in 1990 in terms of a ‘political opportunity structure’ in the framework of which the social movements can influence government policies and the political process at large.
Edmund MOKRZYCKI concentrates on the analysis of the structure of group interests established in communist system which were inherited by the post-communist democracies. He argues that these group interests constitute the more important obstacle to economic and political restructuring than values, attitudes and habits.
The closing chapter of Part II, by Janina FRENTZEL-ZAGÓRSKA, has a synthetic character. She analyses the processes of building the democratic political systems and democratic societies in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia (Czech and Slovak Republics). The transitional period on which she concentrates is treated as an outcome of a confrontation between the legacy of communism and the legacy of non- violent revolution in grappling with the democratic rules of the game. The author stresses the trial-and-error character of the process of learning democracy which brings about political instability and ‘the transitional neurosis on a societal scale’. After a discussion of political, social and psychological mechanisms characteristic of the period of transition, the positive results of learning to play the democratic game, as reflected by the recent developments in the countries most advanced in their restructuring, are analysed. Most of the authors in this book concentrate on the contradictions and difficulties involved in the transition as well as the threats their pose for the young democracies. Janina Frentzel- Zagórska presents a more optimistic view. She arrives at the conclusion that the process of building democratic institutions and the consolidation of political forces interested in their maintenance are so advanced, at least in the countries she analyses, that they would be very difficult to reverse.
In Part III, Robert F. Miller presents an analysis of the Yugoslav experiment with communism and of the mechanisms involved in its dismantling that led to cruel domestic war.