European Political Thought, 1815-1989

By Spencer M. Di Scala; Salvo Mastellone | Go to book overview

17
EASTERN EUROPE VERSUS THE SOVIET SYSTEM

In the Eastern European countries, each Communist party prevented opponents from organizing themselves politically, but opposition manifested itself against the "model" that each single Communist party had to follow. This opposition slowly grew in importance and achieved doctrinal significance. Combined with Soviet errors, inflexibility, and the Communist world's inability to reform itself, it eventually contributed mightily to the demise of Communism itself.


THE SOVIET MODEL

In the Soviet model, the state owned the means of production, collectivized the land, centralized economic production, and prevented all forms of political association independent of the Communist party. The party wielded power in the name of the workers and had the task of implementing the dictatorship of the proletariat. Theoretically, party members meeting in periodic congresses were sovereign and determined policy by electing the Central Committee; from this body, authority flowed to the executive organs--the Politburo, the Secretariat, and the secretary. In reality, however, this "democratic centralism" favored a highly rigid, hierarchical structure in which decisions were made at the top and ratified by party members, instead of vice versa. The legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government took orders from the party, despite the formal state structure that gave the appearance of political power to the voters. In addition, although the Soviet Union was organized as a multinational federation of "independent" republics, ethnic Russians actually ran the entire Soviet state. This state, moreover, claimed as its raison d'être the right to serve as a "guide" in the struggle for eman

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