216-218 Soviet Union and Central Europe 1

216-218 Soviet Union and Central Europe 1 - Central Europe...

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Central Europe (ce) 1. The Soviet Union and Central Europe In 1945, there were few Communists in Central Europe. This presented the occupying Soviet army with a problem. Most interwar regimes in Central Europe had persecuted or outlawed Communist parties. Stalin himself had disbanded or decimated others. Central European Communists therefore often had only a tenuous footing in their own countries. Their strength came from the support of the Soviet occupation forces. The Communists established their control gradually. Only in the late forties and in the context of the Cold War did Communists in Central Europe do away with competing parties, eventually culminating with the purge of "nationalist" elements within Communist parties themselves after Tito's break with Stalin in 1948. ("Nationalist" Communists were those accused of placing the interests of their nations over those of the international Communist movement (e.g., the Soviet Union).) The terror of the early years decimated elites that could compete with the Communists and had the long-term effect of discouraging any thought of opposition. With the decline of outright opposition, Communist regimes moved from “reigns of terror” to efforts to prevent the construction of civic life. The East German Stasi police referred to the “decomposition” of people: “Decomposition meant blocking people form acting. It meant paralyzing them as citizens by convincing them that everything was controlled. It meant the relentless application of a quiet coercion leading to compliance.” There were, however, many sources of opposition to Communist regimes in Central Europe: the Catholic Church in Poland; dissident intellectuals such as Vaclav Havel and the signers of Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia; environmentalist groups which organized in opposition to the devastation of industrial development unchecked by democratic forces. Nationalism--deeply anti-Russian for historical reasons in nations like Poland--challenged the particular forms which socialism took in Central Europe. Some of the most important and dramatic movements of labor against exploitation since World War II took place in Central European nations in which rapid industrialization was carried out at the workers' expense. After all, state control of the means of production is arguably the best example of the concentration of economic resources in the hands of the few that Marx predicted would precede workers' socialist revolution. A major labor-led opposition movement took place in East Germany in 1953 when workers protested conditions created by the decision of East German Communists to industrialize rapidly by raising production,
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but not wages. In 1956, Hungarian Communists, inspired by Khrushchev’s Secret Speech, initiated reforms.
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This note was uploaded on 12/10/2009 for the course HIST 151 taught by Professor Hunziker during the Spring '07 term at UNC.

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216-218 Soviet Union and Central Europe 1 - Central Europe...

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