Political liberalization
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Political Liberalization. Monopoly of the Communist Party. During the reform period, the Party maintains its monopoly continues to control appointments to important posts nomenklatura system remains. in some countries, some relaxation of control over parliamentary elections occurs

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Monopoly of the communist party l.jpg
Monopoly of the Communist Party

  • During the reform period, the Party maintains its monopoly

    • continues to control appointments to important posts

      • nomenklatura system remains

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in some countries, some relaxation of control over parliamentary elections occurs

opposing candidates who are not members of the Party get elected

Party maintains firm majority

government by decree continues

no separation of powers

Party and bureaucracy continue to operate above the law

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Party-state apparatus continues to have absolute control over the military, police, and other security forces

lots of examples of the military or police being used to suppress dissent during the reform period

Poland in 1981

China in 1989

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Easing of Repression over the military, police, and other security forces

  • Compared to the classical period, there is noticeably less repression

    • those who support the system need not fear the purges and persecutions that were so common

      • excesses of the former period condemned

      • creates moral crisis in the bureaucracy

        • feel shamed about having participated

        • want to turn over a new leaf

          • important element in the reform process

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Official Ideology over the military, police, and other security forces

  • Certain elements remain

    • leading role of the Party

    • validity of Marxist-Leninist theory

      • if Stalin or Mao were wrong, it was because they misunderstood Marx and Lenin

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superiority of public ownership over the military, police, and other security forces

for certain countries, the leadership position of the Soviet Union

While these elements cannot be criticized, it becomes no longer necessary to kowtow to them all the time

writers learn to criticize between the lines and readers learn to read between the lines

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Dissident underground material appears that do criticize these taboo elements of the ideology

When such criticism goes above ground and is heard in the media and at public meetings, the reform process becomes a revolutionary process

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Some elements undergo revision these taboo elements of the ideology

superiority over capitalism

no longer superior by definition

becomes hard to deny that the gap is increasing

official media and public discussions begin to consider advantages of market mechanisms

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heroic sacrifice replaced by need to provide the people with material incentives

sacrifice for the next generation during forced industrialization replaced with focus on improving consumption growth

at least until economic turmoil strikes and then focus on consumption is the first to go

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state paternalism and socialization of consumption reverses course

state responsibility to provide housing, education, public services, subsidized food, etc. replaced by individual responsibility

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all this happens as a process of disintegration of ideological discipline

control over press and public discourse loosens

not a free press, but what gets said and reported would not have been said or reported during the classical period

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Beginnings of Pluralism ideological discipline

  • Sectoral lobbies grow in strength

    • always part of the system but influence strengthens as center weakens

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Regional and ethnic interests grow ideological discipline

becomes a particular problem in ethnically diverse countries like Soviet Union

power of regional administrative authority grows relative to the center

great concern about regional issues such as power relationships, tax sharing, etc.

becomes a major power struggle

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The power of organized religion grows ideological discipline

state repression of religion relaxes

moral authority of religion grows as moral authority of the state weakens

increasing strength of religion, in turn, becomes a force in opposition to the state


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Union begins to act less as a unit of the bureaucracy and more as representative of the workers

real workers’ movements appear, either union organized or organized by some informal workers’ group

strikes tolerated

Donbas coal miners in Ukraine

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New associations appear that are not controlled by the center

environmental movements

tenants’ associations

pensioners’ association

professional associations

the seeds of a civil society never before tolerated

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Party factions become more open and more influential center

seeds of a multi-party system

clearly happening in Cuba today

old-liners versus reformists

Alternative political movements appear


petition drives

Varela project in Cuba

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such dissident activities can always be repressed center

tolerated because of divisions within the power structure of the state

why has Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, organizer of the Varela Project, not been jailed in the current dissident crackdown?

in part because it’s too late – the international community watches

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Dissident activity accelerates center

causes panic in the state and Party leadership

may react to growing influence of the dissidents by lashing out

current crackdown in Cuba is a perfect example

Sakharov in the Soviet union

Havel in Czechoslovakia

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Opening Up to the Capitalist World center

  • Began in China in early ’70s

    • Nixon travels to China in 1971

  • Foreign policy directed at reducing tensions

    • disarmament

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Anti-western propaganda subsides center

replaced by calls for peaceful coexistence

All sorts of communications increase

including official travel and even tourism

students travel abroad to study and even work


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Opening to the capitalist world does not always go smoothly center

China in the Hainan Island incident

Cuba’s current snit with Europe at the same time it holds trade fairs for American firms

Opening comes at great peril to socialist system

individuals get to do their own comparative studies

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Political Opening center

  • Glasnost was the term Gorbachev used to label this process

  • Two elements:

    • less secretiveness

      • the people are informed of the decisions that affect them and how those decisions are reached

    • the truth must be told

      • no more publication of falsehoods

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Secretiveness was a virtue in the classical system center

part of the vigilance required against the enemies from within and without

Lying was never officially considered a virtue but specific lies could always be justified on the grounds that the ends justify the means

whatever is in the interest of the state can be justified

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Falsehood was not necessarily a product of lying center

ideological brainwashing resulted in denial of reality

individuals mentally discard facts not consistent with the ideology or their belief in the infallibility of the leadership

“Cuba does not have a drug problem”

an obvious falsehood that is firmly believed by the bureaucracy

contributes to the moral crisis of the bureaucracy

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Secretiveness a tough habit to break center

the initial reaction after Chernobyl was to deny and lie in spite of glasnost

public reaction and international pressure forced the leadership to admit what happened

unlike the case when a similar accident occurred in the mid ’50s

still have not been completely truthful about impact on Kiev

still shipping young cancer victims to Cuba for treatment

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Glasnost is a loose tiger center

creates its own dynamic

does nothing to solve the economic ills of the socialist system

the shortages

the sellers’ market

the poor quality of consumption goods

repression kept the lid on discontent

with repression loosening up, the discontent rises to the surface and turns on the system

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thus, liberalization creates the conditions for revolution center

in the case of East Europe, that revolution spread even to those countries in which there had been no such liberalization

East Germany




once these people there saw what was happening in China, Hungary and Poland, the lid blew off

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Limits of Reform center

  • Reform can last a long time

    • it achieves a sort of equilibrium

    • but the equilibrium is unstable

    • the dynamic of reform leads ultimately to its own end

      • Poland a good example of a lengthy and highly tumultuous reform period

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The limit of reform is reached at the point at which the leadership admits the principle of political competition

the end of the Party monopoly

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China has had an extremely long reform by this definition leadership admits the principle of political competition

the Chinese Communist Party still has a monopoly at the national level

but free elections have been held at the village level

slowly, the end will come when the Part will finally give up its monopoly even at the national level

when should we date the end of reform?