China in Transition: Communism, Capitalism, and Democracy

By Ronald M. Glassman | Go to book overview
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Chapter 7
The Dismantling of the Communist Party State and the Establishment of the Legal Parliamentary State

THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A MULTIPARTY DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM IN POSTCOMMUNIST SOCIETIES

Just a few short years ago, it would have been unthinkable to envision the dismantling of the communist party state and the establishment of a multiparty democratic state in its place in Eastern Europe, Russia, and China. In fact, American conservative theorists believed that the communist party states were so entrenched, that once established, there never could be a transition to democracy. 1 On the basis of this perspective, the conservative theorists believed that it was better for the United States to back right-wing military and protofascist regimes than communist regimes, because the right-wing regimes were likely to collapse, in the shorter run, and yield to more democratic regimes.

It certainly did look like the conservatives were correct in their assessment of the situation all the way through the Brezhnev years. However, the rebellions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia should have served as a clue that there was a possibility of the disintegration of communist regimes, at least within nations that had not chosen them from within. However, it is the transition in Russia (and possibly China) that really has stunned the world. Not even the most liberal of theorists expected a change in Russia so soon, and with such dramatic thrust. Even the "convergence" theorists, who predicted the long-term evolution of the Soviet Union in a democratic socialist direction, were stunned by the sudden rejection of the communist system in Russia, and by the wholesale acceptance of capitalism. 2 Neither radical nor conservative theorists predicted the acceptance of capitalism, or the possibility for the peaceful evolution to democracy.

Thus, to all theorists in the political spectrum, the impossible is actually occurring. In fact, in Eastern Europe, especially in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, a model for a multiparty electoral process has already emerged. The Hungarian

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