Transitional Economic Systems: The Polish-Czech Example

By Dorothy W. Douglas | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

W ith the ending of the war in eastern Europe a series of new governments came to power calling themselves 'Popular Democracies'. They differed from the Soviet Union, in the wake of whose Red Army they had sprung up, in including at first a wide range of political parties, only the prewar rightists being excluded, and in permitting small private enterprise. And they differed far more sharply from such countries as Sweden, and Britain while under the Labour Government, in the sweep of their nationalization and land reform practices and the scope and authority of their planning. This difference is characteristic and unmistakable from the outset. For some time, however, it was not clear how rapid their march to further socialization would be. There was much talk in Western circles of the hope of their reversing their trend. There is also considerable evidence that within the countries the leadership of the leftmost elements at that time, the Communist parties, exerted a restraining influence upon their members and others to hold back from exploiting the revolutionary possibilities of the situation. Their argument was that an unprecedentedly peaceful and exceedingly gradual transition to socialism was now possible, owing to changed world conditions.

The new picture was held to be rational because of the changed relations of power internationally as well as nationally, with these countries safely within the orbit of the Soviet Union. Germany was defeated, and a new era of tolerance and possible co-operation between the Soviet Union and the Western powers had begun. Hence native small business groups, with their big leaders gone, might adapt themselves to the new régime, once it was clear they had no powerful outside help to look to. Similarly with the larger farmers. Now that the actual landed estates were gone, differences in interest between them and the new receivers of small holdings could be managed. Ultimately, of course, the small farmer would

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