Posts Tagged ‘eastern europe’

“The Polish Workers’ Paradise,” Montreal Gazette. September 2, 1980. Page 07.

Poland’s crisis is a forerunner of what could happen in the Soviet Union

Read Full Post »

“Shipyard workers at Gdansk defy Polish leader Edward Gierek’s orders to return to work,” Montreal Gazette. August 27, 1980. Page 07.

Read Full Post »

“Tanks Rumble Through Poznan Streets,” Montreal Gazette. June 30, 1956. Page 01.

“A Polish army tank disperses crowds in the industrial city of Poznan, Poland, where workers staged a riot Thursday for bread and life. Gunfire was reported to have broken out again today despite martial law clamped on the city. The revolt may have taken more than 100 lives.”

Read Full Post »

Does capitalism advance democracy?
If we also require, as is widely assumed, that a successful transition to liberal capitalism – in addition to the catch-up with the rich world and rather moderate increase in inequality — should also imply progress toward democracy, what does the record show there?

If we go back to our list of five success cases, then two countries – Belarus and Armenia – drop out of the list on account of unconsolidated or inexistent democracy. In 2012, Belarus’s Polity Score for Democracy, on a scale from minus 10 to plus 10 was -7, and Armenia’s +5.

That leaves us with only three successes: Albania, Poland and Estonia. Albania had a somewhat less than exemplary transition to democracy, and it still may not be included in the list of fully consolidated democracies (although its current Polity Score for Democracy, like Estonia’s, is a high +9).

Data on pre-transition inequality are non-existent for Albania, so we really do not know how much inequality increased there.

Most people’s expectations on November 9, 1989, were that the newly established capitalism in Eastern Europe will result in economic convergence with the rest of Europe, moderate increase in inequality and consolidated democracy.

These hopes and expectations are fulfilled most likely in only one country (Poland) and, at the very most, in another two rather small countries (Estonia and Albania). Their total populations are 42 million, or some 10% of all former Communist countries.

Thus, one out of 10 people living in “transition” countries could be said to have “transitioned” to the capitalism that was promised by those who waxed alluringly about the triumph of liberal democracy and free markets.

In this short piece, obviously, I cannot go into political developments which were also much worse than expected, nor into wars that continue and have cost, conservatively estimated, 250,000 lives so far (based on Nicholas Sambanis’ database on ethnic conflict).

Nor can I reflect major declines in life expectancy in Russia and Ukraine, or the sluggish or negative population growth rates in most European former socialist countries, or pervasive corruption and kleptocracy.

So, what is the balance sheet of transition?

1. Only three or at most five or six countries could be said to be on the road to becoming a part of the rich and (relatively) stable capitalist world.

2. Many of the other countries are falling behind, and some are so far behind that they cannot aspire to go back to the point where they were when the Wall fell for several decades.

3. Despite philosophers of “universal harmonies” such as Francis Fukuyama, Timothy Garton Ash, Vaclav Havel, Bernard Henry Lévy and scores of international “economic advisors” to Boris Yeltsin, who all fantasized about democracy and prosperity, neither really arrived for most people in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

The Wall fell only for some.

– Branko Milanovic, “For Whom the Wall Fell? A Balance Sheet of the Transition to Capitalism.Canadian Dimension, December 6, 2017.

Read Full Post »