Eastern Europe on the Eve of a New Vassalage
THE END OF THE WAR was not a time of joy for the people of Eastern Europe. There was, of course, relief that the long struggle was finally over. But even this emotion was tempered by the numbness that followed the incredible bloodletting and pervasive destruction. In the best of circumstances, it would have been years before the psychological scars had healed sufficiently for society to return to normal. But, for most Eastern Europeans, the new circumstances were not in fact good ones; the prospects seemed perhaps better than war, but scarcely more than that.
As we have seen, only a very small percentage of the population welcomed the advent of communism. The hostility of the majority was based on a number of factors. One, certainly, was the idea of communism as a social and economic system. But it would be a mistake to assume that this was a widespread reaction. The members of the bourgeoisie and the remnants of the aristocracy were adamant in their opposition to Marx and his ideas, but representatives of these classes were comparatively few in number and had suffered particularly severe loss of life and property in the war. Moreover, as the group from which the leadership of the interwar period had been with few exceptions drawn, their credibility was not particularly high. Cynicism about the old order was widespread.
If the hostility to communism on the part of the bourgeois and the nobles was not of paramount importance, who were the opponents, and why? The answer is that the communists met with enormous resistance from workers and peasants--those to whom they directed their most ardent appeals--and that the sources of these people's ill will were a direct reflection of the history of Eastern Europe.
Peasant hostility to communism was to some extent socioeconomic,