Eastern Europe: An Uphill Road to Freedom

By Liehm, Antonin | UNESCO Courier, July-August 1992 | Go to article overview

Eastern Europe: An Uphill Road to Freedom


Liehm, Antonin, UNESCO Courier


Post-communist societies face many pitfalls as they seek to modernize themselves.

LESS than three years have gone by since the collapse of communism in central Europe, and we are only beginning to realize the extent of the fail-out and to come to terms with the problems its heirs--and by extension all Europe-will have to resolve.

Central Europe had been subjected to totalitarian regimes--first nazi, then communist--for more than fifty years, leaving two generations with no experience of any other system, least of all democracy or a market economy, which were not even a distant memory. Such systems survived only as dreams, fleeting images whose shape changed according to whatever scraps of rhetoric or other information people had gleaned at random, mainly from hearsay.

Like all dictatorships, the communist regimes were profoundly conservative in their structures and manner of operation. Despite the resolutely forward-looking beginnings of communism, its ethics and even its aesthetics remained firmly rooted in the nineteenth century. In its turn, it provoked anti-communist trends that also took their cue from the past, whether in the form of rampant economic liberalism, a certain form of nationalism or an aesthetic of rejection. So when exponents of these trends came to power two years ago, they gradually transformed the anti-communist revolution into a restoration of the ancient regime. Only in Germany was there any kind of corrective counterweight.

A DISMAL LEGACY

We knew that the fall of communism would reveal the depths of the ideological and political pit the communist movement had dug, in flagrant contradiction with its own doctrines. Nevertheless, many of us thought that the vacuum would soon be filled, first by a return to religion and then by a restoration of democracy, tolerance and political ecumenism, at least in those countries that had a democratic tradition. It was clear, of course, that communism had done nothing to solve the problems of nationalities, which it had merely glossed over or concealed. Even so, few of us foresaw that the nationality issue would erupt as suddenly as it did. In some countries, nationalism-with the backing of the churches---filled almost the entire ideological vacuum left by the collapse of communism.

Half a century of totalitarianism had also left other dismal legacies, among them the myth of social equality, which was for the most part achieved by a levelling downwards, and the illusion of full employment. The very idea of a society made up of the rich, the poor and the unemployed is a difficult one for most people to accept. A sense of responsibility (except for one's own destiny) and the spirit of individual initiative have also both disappeared. The middle class hardly exists except in a form inherited from communism, namely a mass of state employees and functionaries on the one hand and a class of small or big-time speculators, crooks and parasites on the other. The latter group is best placed to benefit from the new situation. One interesting development is the growing esteem in which the old titled nobility is held, echoing the respect once enjoyed by the party elite, the nomenklatura. One last factor we have to bear in mind is the complete absence of structures governing labour relations, as well as the lack of trade unions and employers' and business organizations.

A PRECARIOUS BALANCE

In politics, the organized successors of the communist party, which, surprisingly, remain relatively strong, have been boycotted by all the other formations, thus upsetting the normal democratic process of alternation in power. Confronting them is a liberal right intent on putting the clock back, flanked by a chauvinistic and often racist extreme right wing. In between lies a fragile centre-left and various timid social democratic groupings that hardly dare mention the words "social" or "left" for fear of being tarred with the communist brush. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Eastern Europe: An Uphill Road to Freedom
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.