After the Vacuum: Post-Communism in the Light of Tocqueville
JOHN A. HALL
Socialist society in its last two decades (the 1970s and 1980s) did not seem to me to be frozen. On the one hand, a significant degree of liberalization had typically already been achieved: The era of high totalitarianism had ended, no matter how repulsive were the remaining mechanisms of social control. On the other hand, possibilities of further liberalization--that is, of the replacement of a power system by a more limited one, of ideocracy by technocracy--seemed good, particularly given the presence both of splits within the party and of blocked middleclass social mobility more generally. If these were facts, the extent to which I endorsed them reflected hope as well as analysis. 1 It might be possible for slow decompression to lead to something more. If the ruling elite within authoritarian socialism learned to replace control with coordination of and cooperation with different interest groups, as well as to tolerate difference in order to make opposition loyal, then a later evolutionary transition to democracy might well succeed, somewhat along the lines suggested fly the burgeoning literature on transitions in Southern Europe and Latin America. 2 This position entailed support for Gorbachev, even at the expense of the Baltic states--whose actions at times seemed to endanger the whole process, and recklessly so, given the implicit offer of the benefits of Finlandization.
Any reversion of major parts of the former Soviet Union to authoritarianism may restore appreciation of the virtues of gradualness. Nonetheless, the starting point for this chapter is that this scenario of gradual liberalization was not realized; concentration must accordingly be refocused on an altogether different reality--There are in fact good reasons-classically given by Alexis de Tocqueville and