The period between the Hungarian revolution of 1956 and the Czechoslovak ‘events’ of 1968 was a difficult one for the rulers of eastern Europe. The Soviet Union, despite its technological achievements in space, suffered a number of major setbacks; so too did Moscow’s east European allies. There were serious defeats for Soviet foreign policy in central and western Africa, in the six day war of 1967, and above all in the humiliation of Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. At the same time there were ideological discomforts. Despite the marxist-leninist prediction that the capitalist states would inevitably fly at each others’ throats and would equally inevitably impoverish their working classes, western Europe moved towards a significantly higher level of economic and political cooperation and enjoyed a seemingly unbreakable rise in living standards in all levels of society, whilst the Japanese showed that recovery from the devastation of war could be achieved outside the framework of marxismleninism. And it was the communist world which was fragmenting, most dramatically with the Sino-Soviet split.
In eastern Europe the Hungarian revolution had shown that political experimentation could all too easily get out of hand. Gradual economic restructuring was a much safer option and it was one which received encouragement from Moscow where in 1961, after Khrushchev had indulged in a second and far more vehement denunciation of Stalin, the CPSU adopted a new programme based on the assumption of rapid economic expansion. In 1962 articles by professor Libermann in Pravda outlined a series of measures which were aimed at decentralising economic decision making. Economic rethinking was also prompted by the fact that for most states the first stage of socialist construction was well on the road to completion if it were not actually finished. Agriculture was by and large collectivised, urbanisation was proceeding apace, and massive heavy industrial complexes were either functioning or being built. However, the economic reforms which were enacted were generated from above, from within the party/state apparatus, and they involved primarily the reorganising of economic administration.
Upheavals such as those of 1956 inevitably demanded some examination of relations between Moscow and the east European communist parties and govern-