Fall Of Communism


The shocking fall of communism in Eastern and Central

Europe in the late eighties was remarkable for both its

rapidity and its scope. The specifics of communism's demise

varied among nations, but similarities in both the causes and

the effects of these revolutions were quite similar. As well, all

of the nations involved shared the common goals of

implementing democratic systems of government and moving

to market economies. In each of these nations, the

communist regimes in power were forced to transfer that

power to radically different institutions than they were

accustomed to. Democracy had been spreading throughout

the world for the preceding two decades, but with a very

important difference. While previous political transitions had

seen similar circumstances, the actual events in question had

generally occurred individually. In Europe, on the other

hand, the shift from communism was taking place in a

different context altogether. The peoples involved were not

looking to affect a narrow set of policy reforms; indeed,

what was at stake was a hyper-radical shift from the

long-held communist ideology to a western blueprint for

governmental and economic policy development. The

problem inherent in this type of monumental change is that,

according to Ulrich K. Preuss, "In almost all the East and

Central European countries, the collapse of authoritarian

communist rule has released national, ethnic, religious and

cultural conflicts which cannot be solved by purely economic

policies" (47). While tremendous changes are evident in both

the governmental and economic arenas in Europe, these

changes cannot be assumed to always be "mutually

reinforcing" (Preuss 47). Generally it has been theorized that

the most successful manner of addressing these many

difficulties is the drafting of a constitution. But what is clear is

the unsatisfactory ability of a constitution to remedy the

problems of nationalism and ethnic differences. Preuss notes

that when the constitutional state gained favor in North

America, it was founded on the principle of the unitary state;

it was not designed to address the lack of national identity

which is found throughout Europe - and which is counter to

the concept of the constitutional state (48). "Measured in

terms of socioeconomic modernization," writes Helga A.

Welsh, "Central and Eastern European countries had

reached a level that was considered conducive to the

emergence of pluralistic policies" (19). It seemed that the

sole reason the downfall of communism, as it were, took so

long was the veto power of the Soviet Union. According to

theories of modernization, the higher the levels of

socioeconomic achievement, the greater the pressure for

open competition and, ultimately, democracy. As such, the

nations in Eastern and Central Europe were seen as

"anomalies in socioeconomically highly-developed countries

where particularly intellectual power resources have become

widespread" (Welsh 19). Due to their longtime adherence to

communist policies, these nations faced great difficulty in

making the transition to a pluralist system as well as a market

economy. According to Preuss, these problems were

threefold: The genuine economic devastations wrought by

the communist regimes, the transformation of the social and

economic classes of the command economy into the social

and economic classes of a capitalist economy and, finally,

the creation of a constitutional structure for political entities

that lack the undisputed integrity of a nation state (48). With

such problems as these to contend with in re-engineering

their entire economic and political systems, the people of

East Germany seemed to be in a particularly enviable

position. Economically, they were poised to unite with one of

the richest countries, having one of the strongest economies,

in the entire world. In the competition for foreign investment,

such an alliance gave the late German Democratic Republic

a seemingly insurmountable lead over other nations. In

regards to the political aspects of unification, it effectively left

a Germany with no national or ethnic minorities, as well as

having undisputed boundaries. As well, there was no need to

create a constitution (although many of the pitfalls of

constitution-building would have been easily-avoided due to

the advantages Germany had), because the leaders of the

GDR had joined the Federal Republic by accession and,

accordingly, allowed its Basic Law to be extended over their

territory. For all the good that seemed to be imminent as a

result of unification, many problems also arose regarding the

political transformation that Germany was undergoing.

Among these problems were the following: the tensions

between the Basic Law's simultaneous commitments to

supranational integration and to the German nation state, the

relationship between the nation and the constitution as two

different modes of political integration and the issue of

so-called "backward justice" (Preuss 48). The Federal

Republic of Germany's Basic Law has been the longest-lived

constitution in Germany's history. Intended to be a

short-lived, temporary document, the Basic Law gained

legitimacy as West Germany continued to march towards

becoming a