Political Change in Eastern Europe since 1989: Prospects for Liberal Democracy and a Market Economy

By Robert Zuzowski | Go to book overview

2 Eastern Europe After the Collapse of Communism

The sudden though expected fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union had much more to do with the Soviet leaders' loss of faith in communism as a superior system to capitalism than their countries' poor performance in economics, science, and the arms race. Almost from the onset of the communist era, unbiased observers saw clearly that the new system based on a state-owned economy (private property was abolished nearly overnight) was no match to systems grounded on private property and competition. Especially the lack of the latter, competition, resulted after a while in shrinking national economies and declining standards of living in all communist states.

Initially Soviet leaders explained away the poor economic performance of their country by pointing to its backwardness and, later, to the destruction of the Soviet economy during World War II. As time passed, however, evidence mounted in support of the old observation that systems devoid of competition perform worse than those that are based on it. Czechoslovakia, for instance, was an industrialized country that had had a relatively high standard of living between the two world wars, yet after the imposition of communism its national economy, not destroyed by the war, eventually stagnated. East Germany, also an industrialized state, evinced similar results, as did other Eastern European states, with even much worse economic results.

As we know, empires declining economically and militarily may last for many centuries before they eventually collapse. The almost simultaneous

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