Troubled Transition: Social Democracy in East Central Europe
How social democrats, after the collapse of communism, face the task of constructing capitalism.
Written by Michael Dauderstädt, André Gerrits and György G MárkusFriedrich Ebert StiftungWiardi Beckman StichtingAlfred Mozer Stichting
With the on-set of regime change in East Central Europe, dozens of social-democratic groupings and parties (re)emerged. Historical parties were revived, former state parties were renamed, new movements entered the scene; all with a, more or less authentic, social-democratic label. The initial hope of a widely shared social-democratic alternative to a command economy and communist party dictatorship proved unrealistic and evaporated rapidly. The first free elections illustrated the attraction of nationalist and market liberal forces in Central Europe and the strength of re-named communist politicians in Eastern and Southern Europe.
In the meantime the picture has changed. After years of a turbulent transition process with painful economic change and sometimes inefficient and corrupt polities, many East Central European countries suffer from ailing economies and an increasingly frustrated populace. Within this context, social democracy, both as a concept and policy experience, got new chances. It adapted itself to the new circumstances and soon played a major role in various countries, based upon the paradoxical objective which it derived from the post-communist reality: to 'create' and to 'tame' capitalism at the same time.
Troubled Transition attempts to explain why social democracy has a prominent position in some countries and is a quantité négligeable in others; why some communist parties convincingly transformed into social-democratic ones, while others have far more difficulties; why the Czech Social Democratic Party is the exception, being the only 'historical' social-democratic party playing a significant political role.
Troubled Transition is the first book-length analysis of social democracy in East Central Europe. It is, as László Kovács, the chairman of the Hungarian Socialist Party, writes in his preface: 'the first attempt to give an insight into the situation of the democratic left in East Central Europe'. The authors attempt to understand social democracy in East Central Europe by going back to its historical origins, and to trace the continuities of its dramatic history - from the inception of the movement in the final decades of the nineteenth century, its destruction by both authoritarianism and communism, to its resurrection in the turbulent years of post-communism.
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