Lech Walesa
Lech Walesa; drawing by David Levine


I telephoned Jacek Kuron, the veteran dissenter, now Poland’s minister for labor and social affairs. A woman answered the phone.

“Could I speak to pan minister Kuron, please?”

“But this is the censors’ office,” the woman politely replied. (The telephone numbers differ only by one digit.)

“I thought censorship had been abolished?”

“Yes, it has, but our contracts run until the end of July so we’re still here.”

“Well, I wish you pleasant inactivity.”

“Thank you, and all the very best to you.” She sounded charming.

Former censors, former border guards, former apparatchiks, former secret policemen: What is to be done with them? Or rather, what is to be done with Them—Oni—as the Communist power holders, great and small, were universally known. There is the question of justice. At the highest level, this is the Nuremberg question. Should the men at the top be brought to trial for the evil they did, or that was done under them? If so, on what charges and by what laws? At a lower level it becomes almost a question of social justice. Is it fair, people ask, that those who had comfortable office jobs under the Communists should still have them today, when ordinary people are having to tighten their belts yet more? Is it fair that members of the nomenklatura are exploiting the unclear legal conditions of privatization to take over as capitalists the enterprises they had previously commanded as Communists?

Yet the requirements of justice can clash with the requirements of efficiency. If the choice is between a compromised, incompetent person and an uncompromised, competent one, then the decision is easy. But what if the choice is between a compromised but relatively professional person and an uncompromised but wholly amateur one? I dine with the new ambassador of an East Central European country, a charming person, Catholic, brave, honest, proud. The number two man at the embassy, by contrast, is plainly from the old guard, at best an unprincipled careerist, complete with regulation dandruff and greasy smile. He starts telling me how this year he hoped they would lay a wreath at a monument to the American rather than the Soviet liberators. A perfect turncoat. Yet at least he has some rudimentary professionalism in foreign affairs, whereas the ambassador tells me that “our foreign minister has introduced a new element into international relations—it’s called trust.” Oh dear.

There is the problem of Them, but there is also the problem of Us. “We Are Not Like Them,” chanted the crowds in Prague during last November’s revolution. Six months later some of those same people can be heard muttering about how the new power holders resemble the old. In Poland, the disgruntled now speak of a “new nomenklatura.” The regional Civic Commitees, originally set up to fight the elections for Solidarity last summer, are, they claim, beginning to work like the Party Committees of yore. As in the old days, they say, a telephone call from the Committee decides the issue.

Many things contribute to this inchoate discontent. Partly it is that, having known no other power holders than the Communists, people do not distinguish between what is common to all power holders and what was peculiar to Communist ones. Partly it is that in the first postrevolutionary phase these countries’ new would-be democratic leaders are almost bound to resort to the method of placing “one of Us” instead of “one of Them” on the commanding heights, whether of the secret police or the press, by nomination rather than election or free competition. This has been true of Havel’s Czechoslovakia—one writer called it Havel’s “anti-February,” referring to the Communists’ February 1948 coup—and of Mazowiecki’s Poland, although the nominations are often the outcome of complex negotiations, and in no case imposed by force or the threat of force.

One may have some sympathy with those at the top, for they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they leave old Communist appointees in place, people say it’s not fair and nothing has really changed. It is like the Polish police cars: same vehicles, same colors, same people inside, but where before it said Milicja it now says Policja. If, however, they replace the Communist appointees with their own, then people cry “foul!” and “new nomenklatura!” On the one hand, they are required to make changes fast and effectively, on the other hand, democratically and constitutionally. As one speaker remarked at a stormy session of Lech Walesa’s central Citizens Committee in June, the trouble is that there are no generally accepted “rules of the game.” This leads into temptation.

Visiting old friends catapulted from jail to cabinet, from stoker to parliamentarian, from being a victim of the secret police to being the head of it. I was interested to see how the acquisition of power had changed them. Could they prove exceptions to Lord Acton’s universal rule that all power corrupts…?


Everyone, but everyone, is changed. It is not just the externals, although these are important. Offices with secretaries—most of them women of a certain age taken over from the ancien régime. Chauffeur-driven cars—avoiding, if at all possible, the old black Tatras in favor of Volvos, Mercedes, or, as in Havel’s new presidential motorcade, super-sexed BMWs. Suits and ties instead of the regulation dissident sweaters. (With the exception of Adam Michnik—still defrantly wearing blue jeans and open-necked shirts—and the Hungarian Young Democrats, who, even in the sumptuous, gilded Budapest parliament have a quite distinctive line in casual summer wear. “Yes, they discuss it in their caucuses,” an MP told me.) The unaccustomed press of business, exacerbated by deep tiredness, poor institutional backup, and the ceaseless flow of Western visitors. Changes in bearing, manner and manners. When Havel became president he adopted a ramrod-straight posture and a rather gruesome imperial stare that I had never noticed before. One sees it often now, far away, on television. Just playing the part?

Many others exhibit the same features to a lesser degree. “I feel as if I’m two different people,” says one. “My old, private, writer self, and a new public self.” There is an irony here. Against what did they set out to do battle? Why, against the double life, against the split between public and private selves, the daily toll of public conformity and mendacity which, as Havel demonstrated in his essays better than anyone, played a vital role in sustaining the previous system. Yet now they are themselves condemned to live a sort of double life. Not that the new public language is comparable with the old. Havelspeak, in the version used by Czechoslovak television commentators, is quite depressing, but it is still a world away from Newspeak. Nonetheless there is, also in Poland and Hungary, a certain incipient divergence between the public and private language of the new elites.

Corruption by power? The germs of it, in some cases, yes. A little too much enjoyment of the new privileges. Perhaps a few too many trips abroad—“for the good of the country,” of course. (Oh, the hard life of luxury.) The arrogance of power, subtly reinforced by the feeling that you have deserved it after so many long years of struggle. “Where were you in November?” Havel recently retorted to a crowd of Slovak hecklers. “Where were you in August?” “Where were you in ’68?” “Where were you in ’56?” Explicitly or implicitly, these are also the challenges made in Polish and Hungarian politics. But this is a line of argument as dangerous as it is understandable. When the writer Wiktor Woroszylski attacked the Polish parliamentarian Ryszard Bender for having been a member of parliament under the Jaruzelski “normalization” regime, Bender retorted by recalling Woroszylski’s own Communist past. Where do you stop with the reckoning? Where do you draw the line?

Everyone finds it difficult to come to terms with the loss of the common enemy. Of course there were personal conflicts inside the opposition movements, and deeper differences of tradition and ideology. But sooner or later people pulled together against the common oppressor. This was true, at a rather basic level, of all the East Central European societies under Communism. In your circle of friends, you could always find common ground in grumbling about Them. A young Dresdener described to me his shock at discovering, during the election campaign, that his friends could actually think differently. Unerhört! What was true of the majority of the population in a mild way was true of the politically engaged minority in a much stronger way. (Hungary is the exception to this rule.) For all the tensions and conflicts, the emotional experience of Solidarity in Poland was, indeed, that of solidarity. The heyday of the Civic Forum in the Czech lands was a shorter but no less intense experience of triumphant social unity. Yet, to put it in Hegelian terms, the triumph of unity was also the beginning of its negation.

The one great conflict is succeeded by many small conflicts. However much you may rationally appreciate that there is no pluralism without conflict, the mere fact of these conflicts is somehow felt to be abnormal and disturbing. Often they involve the severing of old friendships, with sadness and bitterness. There is a lack, not only of the forms and procedures in which to regulate these conflicts, but of the language in which to express them. In Poland and Czechoslovakia the opposition civic movements came to power with a rhetoric derived from the antipolitical language of the democratic oppositions, a language of philosophic and moral absolutes, of right against wrong, love against hate, truth against falsehood. To communism as a monopoly system of organized lying they counterposed the antipolitical program of “living in truth.”


Now we expect many things of politicians in a well-functioning parliamentary democracy. But “living in truth” is not one of them. In fact the essence of democratic politics might rather be described as “working in half-truth.” Parliamentary democracy is, at its very heart, a system of limited adversarial mendacity, in which each party attempts to present a part of the truth as if it were the whole. When Václav Havel was asked at a public discussion in London earlier this year whether he thought it would prove possible for the new politicians to continue to “live in truth,” he replied: “Either yes or no. If it proves not, I certainly won’t go on being one.” Now it may just be possible for the president, as moral father figure, to go on “living in truth”—although some might think that campaigning in the election for Civic Forum while protesting that you are not campaigning at all comes pretty close to the line. But it is certainly not possible for any lesser mortals who actually have to compete for power.

Partly for tactical or strategic reasons (“Unity Is Strength,” as the crowds chanted in Prague), but also for intellectual and emotional ones, there is a reluctance to move from antipolitical to explicitly political language. Instead, there is a tendency on all sides to Manichaean overstatement. Having lost the communist devil, says Adam Michnik, we find the devil in each other.


New political divisions are clearly emerging. But how to describe them? Western observers grasp for simple, comprehensible dichotomies: the functional equivalents of the categories of “reformists vs. hardliners” or “regime vs. opposition” which served understanding (and misunderstanding) in the past. Polish, Hungarian, Czech, and Slovak participants and analysts are only too happy to offer new clear dichotomies, partly in an attempt to understand the situation, partly to mold it. Unfortunately, they offer not just one or two but ten or twenty new dichotomies.

The real issue, says Lech Walesa, is “pluralism” versus the “new monopoly” of his former advisers. No, it is parliamentary constitutionalism versus extraparliamentary populism, says Bronislaw Geremek. It is Europeans against nationalists, says Adam Michnik. No, say others, the real conflict is between underrepresented workers and overrepresented intelligentsia. Or between country and city. Or simply between those who now have power and those who want it: the Ins and the Outs. Then someone else comes along and says, to the relief of many baffled Westerners, that after all the fundamental argument is still between left and right. But no, says another, the crucial difference is rather between liberals of right or left and illiberals of right or left. And so on and so forth.

In the U-shaped Hungarian parliament you have, starting from the speaker’s left, a few independent members, then Socialists (i.e., former Communists), Young Democrats, Free Democrats, Smallholders, the Democratic Forum and the Christian Democrats. That looks clear enough: left to right. But wait a minute: the economic policy of the Free Democrats is far more radically free market (“Thatcherite”) than that of the Democratic Forum, while at the far right of the Democratic Forum sit members of what is described as the protestant, populist left: advocates of an agrarian community spirit and highly suspicious of capitalism.

Let’s try again: The basic divide is between two Hungarys, the cosmopolitan, urbanist, Western-oriented Hungary represented archetypically by the multilingual Jewish intellectuals of the Free Democrats, and a nationalist, populist, sometimes anti-Semitic Transylvania-oriented Hungary, represented by the monolingual intellectuals of the Democratic Forum. But then the Forum’s foreign minister, Géza Jeszenszky, a charming, sophisticated diplomatic historian, spends twenty minutes explaining to you with eloquence and passion, in fluent English, why this is a caricature. And the members of the populist “left” (or is it “right”?) rather prove the point by their furious attacks on their own prime minister, József Antall, and his cozy cabinet of Christian-democrat or Gladstonian-liberal gentlemen. They claim that on many issues Antall is closer to the Free Democrats than to them, and strictly in private some Free Democrats will almost agree. But then again, it is Antall, a devout Catholic, rather than the Protestant populists, who has pressed one of the policy proposals most offensive to Free and Young Democrats: that there should be religious instruction—initially it was even implied that this might be compulsory Catholic instruction—in schools. So is that all clear?

In Poland, things are no less complicated. Take, for example, two prominent exponents of opposing points of view: Adam Michnik, chief editor of Gazeta Wyborcza, and Jaroslaw Kaczynski Lech Walesa’s appointee as chief editor of Tygodnik Solidarnosć and a leading light of the so-called Center Agreement, a pro-Walesa party. Michnik needs no introduction to readers of The New York Review and has recently summarized his own views in these pages.* Essentially he argues that the basic divide in Polish politics today is still that which can be found, in one form or another, in the histories of all East and Central European countries—from Germany to Russia and from Poland to Romania—between Slavophiles and westernizers, populists and urbanists, Kultur and Zivilisation.

One problem with his position is that it does not really allow for the possibility of a modern, liberal, European Christian Democracy in East Central Europe. Early in July Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki attended a meeting of, precisely, European Christian Democrats, hosted in Budapest by József Antall, and starring the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Some politicians close to Mazowiecki have recently founded a Forum of the Democratic Right, which clearly aims to be just that. But in Michnik’s judgment the dynamics of Polish politics would almost certainly sweep a would-be liberal, tolerant, European Christian Democracy into the flood waters of an intolerant, nationalist, chauvinist National Democracy (endecja).

Kaczynski offers a quite different dichotomy. Michnik and Geremek, he says, represent “the left.” For himself, he would accept the label “center-right.” What, I asked him, distinguishes this “left”? Without hesitation he spelled out four points. First, he said, there was the attitude to property. He and his colleagues were unambiguously in favor of private property, “the left” much more ambiguously so. Second, there was Michnik and Geremek’s attitude to Communists. For a year since last June’s election they had been far too ready to make compromises with the Communists. As late as the autumn, Michnik had argued that the most important thing was to forge an alliance with reformist (ex-)Communists. According to Kaczynski this also reflected ideological preferences: a red-pink continuum. Third, there was the attitude to the Church. To be sure, Michnik often referred to Christian values, and professed admiration for the historic anti-totalitarian role of the Church, but there was still an underlying suspicion, an anticlericalism, which they, the “center-right,” did not share. Fourth, Michnik and Geremek had a basic, underlying mistrust of ordinary Polish people: they, the “center-right,” by contrast, believed in the common sense of the common people.

Kaczynski is a clever man, and there is something in at least the last three of these points. Yet the truth of the whole is less than that of any one of its parts. For the whole picture he paints is that of a conspiracy: a conspiracy to dupe the common people, organized in what Tygodnik Solidarnosć writers refer to as the “Warsaw-Kraków salon,” and led by the satanic pair “Michnik and Geremek,” whose names are repeated over and over again.

To suggest that this is covert anti-Semitism would be as crude as it would be to suggest that Polish-Jewish history has nothing to do with the argument. The best way to describe it is, I think, in terms of residual images. In what Jaroslaw Kaczynski says, and even more in what some of the more explicitly right-wing groups say, there is the residual image of a Jewish conspiracy. In what Adam Michnik says there is the residual image of a pogrom. (Of course these residual images are not historically symmetrical, for there never was a Jewish conspiracy, whereas there were pogroms. Indeed, it must not be forgotten that Poland saw a Communist-led anti-Semitic campaign only twenty-two years ago.) Yet the emphasis in both cases should be on the word residual. To suggest that this is somehow the “real” difference, the bottom line, would be as wrong as it would be to reduce the present arguments to any other single dichotomy: left/right, European/nationalist, monopoly/pluralism, workers/intelligentsia, Ins/Outs.

Perhaps the beginning of wisdom is to recognize that what communism has left behind is an extraordinary mish-mash, a fragmentation and cacophony of interests, attitudes, views, ideals, traditions: a Miazga. The system of late communism may not have qualified for the label “totalitarianism,” but it was certainly post-totalitarian. Many elements of civil society, elementary property rights, legal structures, intermediate institutions, which still existed under the dictatorships in Spain, Greece, or Latin America, were destroyed in Eastern Europe and, even more thoroughly, in the Soviet Union. In this sense, the totalitarian/authoritarian distinction may yet be found to have some validity.

A Russian joke about the transition from communism makes the point better than any learned disquisition: We know that you can turn an aquarium into fish soup; the question is, Can you turn fish soup back into an aquarium? In East Central Europe things are not quite so hopeless. Here one has something more like a goulash than a fish soup. (After goulash communism comes the post-Communist goulash.) There are large lumps of civil society swimming around like meat in the goulash: private farmers, Churches, universities, small-scale entrepreneurs. But it is still a very long way from the regular meat and two vegetables of developed West European societies, with relatively coherent blocs of interests, aspirations, and traditions finding their political expression through a small number of relatively durable political parties.

In East Central Europe today there are a few elements of political differentiation according to socio-economic positions. For example, ever since the formation of the Mazowiecki government, the private farmers have been the clearest and most determined interest group in Polish politics. But it is still very difficult to imagine a class-based politics. Walesa and his political allies may sometimes speak in the name of “the workers,” but in reality the working class is almost as divided as the intelligentsia is between those who stand to gain from this or that measure favoring a market economy, and those who stand to lose by it. In Poland there is still no significant property-owning middle class. In Hungary, the sociologist Elemér Hankiss argues that one can already identify a small grande bourgeoisie (including the “red barons,” who exploited their Party positions to take large stakes in new private companies, and the “green barons” of the agricultural cooperatives), and a larger petite bourgeoisie, numbering perhaps as many as two million. But he cannot yet offer any significant correlation between these new classes and particular political parties.

Indeed in both Poland and Hungary the more important divide may be between those who believe that parliamentary politics can change something in their everyday lives and those who do not. For these countries’ first free elections in more than forty years, the rate of abstention was staggeringly high: nearly 40 percent in Poland’s parliamentary elections last year, nearly 60 percent in the local elections this May, 35 percent in the first round of Hungary’s parliamentary elections, 55 percent in the second.

It would also be wrong to say that there are no ideological divides. Of course there are. They emerge, for example, in one of the most important debates in all contemporary East Central European politics: that over how to proceed with privatization. What, if any, should be the limitations on foreign ownership? Should the present management of state enterprises be allowed to turn them into joint-stock companies? Should ownership rather be given to the workers? Or should shares be distributed to the whole population? But again, these differences are not sufficiently clear and simple to form the basis of different political parties. The arguments are, precisely, about how to proceed with privatization, not about whether to do so. Legislation providing for the distribution of shares both to employees and to all citizens was passed by the Sejm in mid-July, with an all-party majority of 328 to 2.

If the basis of post-Communist politics is neither class nor ideology, then what is it? At the moment the answer would seem to be: history and the West. Western models play a major part, both in the design of the new political institutions of East Central Europe and in the formation of parties. Everywhere, teams of Western experts have been called in to give their advice. In domestic debates about the new constitutions, the “French model,” the “Italian model,” and the “German model” are basic terms of reference. The last-mentioned is particularly noteworthy.

Germany has offered many things to East Central Europe over the centuries, but democracy has rarely been among them. Now, however, the German model of democracy is arguably the most relevant of all, because it is a model built on the rubble of a totalitarian dictatorship and very deliberately designed to prevent the return of such a dictatorship. It is, one might say, a Western system built on Central European experience. Constitutional elements such as the rule that parties must win more than 5 percent of the popular vote to gain any seats in parliament or the parliamentary institution of the “constructive vote of no-confidence”—that is, a vote of no-confidence that simultaneously appoints a new prime minister—have been taken over directly, in Czechoslovakia and Hungary respectively. The West German parties, together with their rich and active party foundations, also play an important role. At the moment, the CDU seems to be most successful, the SPD having the problem that all over East Central Europe ex-Communists are now calling themselves Social Democrats.

On the other hand, there is history. I have referred already to some residual images that shape and color Polish and Hungarian politics. In Czechoslovakia, the only relatively clear divides at this moment are historical-national ones, with separate Czech and Slovak versions of the revolutionary civic movement dominating the Czech and Slovak governments, while both are challenged by Slovak nationalists, by Hungarian nationalists in Slovakia, and by advocates of Moravian and Silesian autonomy. But these echoes of the interwar period are only one part of the story. Both the more recent and the more distant past also play a role.

To understand present conflicts you really need a collective biography of the last forty years. Members of the Hungarian Democratic Forum, for example, often charge the Free Democrats with being former Marxists, while they themselves had no illusions. Similar charges are heard in Poland. Yet many of those who never had illusions about Communism were also never a particularly active against it. The flamboyant Transylvanian philosopher and Free Democrat MP, Gáspár Miklós Tamás, calls them “the sleepers.” In present-day politics, you have the class of ’48, the class of ’56, the class of ’68, the class of ’80, and (largest of all) the class of ’89, and both between and within each class there is a complex personal history of friendships and rivalries. You cannot begin to understand the personal alignments of today unless you know who did what to whom over the last forty years.

Sometimes, however, one can try to dig too deep. For example: there were, to be sure, obvious differences of tone and style between Tadeusz Mazowiecki and Lech Walesa over the last ten years—Mazowiecki always diplomatic, cautious to a fault, a cabinet politician, Walesa direct, instinctive, a tribune of the people. (“Panie Tadeuszu!” I remember Walesa saying to Mazowiecki in a besieged Lenin Shipyard during an occupation strike in the now remote year of 1988, “Panie Tadeuszu! You’re the man for negotiations, you’re for wisdom!”). Yet the origins of the conflict between them are essentially to be sought in developments over just the last year, when Tadeusz Mazowiecki has been sitting in the prime minister’s office in Warsaw whereas Lech Walesa has been sitting in Gdansk.

“How you see things depends on where you sit,” as Walesa himself put it. Last autumn the civic movements in Poland and Czechoslovakia believed that they were embarking on a sort of “march through the institutions,” to recall the German student slogan of 1968. But what I saw on a recent trip was rather the opposite: a march of the institutions through people. It is remarkable how quickly and fully people identify with that particular part of the political system in which, initially almost by chance, they have come to serve: with government as opposed to parliament, with parliament as opposed to the extra-parliamentary movement, with the presidency (in Prague Castle) as opposed to the government, and so on.

At the same time, one cannot ignore the elements of history, tradition, and political culture stretching back not months but centuries. Obviously these are more difficult to analyze and assess. But they are certainly there. Watching the meeting of Lech Walesa’s Citizens’ Committee in the main lecture theater of Warsaw University, with its dramatic entrances and exits, its passionate speeches, furious interjections from the floor, and plotting in the corridors, I wrote at the top of my notes one word: Sejmik (literally “little parliament,” that is, the gentry parliaments of prepartition Poland). Then the film director Andrzej Wajda slipped into the chair beside me and said: “You see, all they need is sabers and they’d be fighting each other outside.”

Amid this baffling cacophony of intelligentsia politics—baffling to a large part of the population as well as to the outsider—with its strange admixtures of Pilsudski and Olof Palme, Horthy and Thatcher, Masaryk and von Weizsäcker, Bundestag and sejmik, endecja and CDU, the only serious path to real understanding is a detailed historical and, in the case of the leading actors, biographical narrative. But short of that, there are still a few generalizations that might be risked.


A friend of mine has a thick file labeled simply “TD.” It contains invitations to conferences on the subject of the “Transition to Democracy” in Eastern Europe. TC might be a safer label. What one can certainly observe in the whole of the former Eastern Europe, and in much of the Soviet Union, is the Transition from Communism. But the only case in which one can be almost 100 percent certain that the transition will indeed be to democracy is that of the former German Democratic Republic, which will cease to be called Democratic, but actually become so. It is, however, no disrespect to the people of East Germany to say that this will be as much an imported as a home-grown democracy.

Inside the Soviet Union, the aspirations of such European peoples as the Lithuanians, Estonians, and Latvians, and of European Russians, are clearly in the same basic direction—toward liberal democracy, the market economy, and the rule of law—but the problems they face are both of a different kind (being part of a multinational internal empire) and a different degree (fish soup rather than merely goulash). In the Balkans, too, there is a rather different pattern, with what seems at the moment to be a transition from a (notionally) Communist dictatorship to a non-(or ex-?) Communist dictatorship in Romania, and Yugoslavia facing ethnic national problems more comparable with those of the Soviet Union than with those of East Central Europe.

The heartlands of East Central Europe, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia are therefore, at the moment, something of a special case. One might also say, a test case: for the success or failure of their attempts will influence future developments in the countries of the Balkans and the Soviet Disunion. Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia are the three ex-Communist countries that are at the moment clearly attempting to build their own democracy on the ruins of dictatorship. Hungary and Czechoslovakia have had wholly free parliamentary elections, which all observers accept to have been fair. Poland has had partly free (but wholly fair) parliamentary elections and wholly free local elections. These elections were not contested by a “normal” party spectrum, as in Western Europe, but nonetheless they produced real parliaments. New constitutions are being written. There is already legally guaranteed freedom of speech, assembly, and worship. There is a free press, although the practice of independent journalism still leaves much to be desired—especially in the all-important medium of television. People can travel freely, limited only by the shortage of hard currency. The increasing convertibility of their own currencies is itself a vital element of freedom and dignity. Everyday life is less abnormal.

So these countries are traveling hopefully; but will they arrive? It is a commonplace to say that the chances for the political transition from dictatorship to democracy depend to a very large degree on the transition from a planned to a market economy. But it is also true that the chances for the economic transition depend on the politics of transition. It is, I think, slightly misleading to describe the problem as that of a possible “failure” of the economic transition. For even “success” will be agonizing in the early stages. The transition is, as Ralf Dahrendorf has written, unavoidably a valley of tears. The valley may be shallower or deeper, shorter or longer, but a valley there will certainly be. Even the Germans, with far better starting conditions in 1948, got poorer before they got richer. (There is of course a problem of unrealistic popular expectations in East Central Europe, based on a mental elision of the idea of the 1950s Wirtschaftswunder with the visible reality of West German prosperity in the 1990s. Perhaps the Goethe Institute should organize a traveling exhibition showing everyday life in Germany in the early 1950s.) In Czechoslovakia, there is talk of achieving a “soft landing.” But the real issue is whether you can achieve a soft takcoff. Even East Germany is not going to have that.

The immediate question, therefore, is: What variant of democratic politics can, on the one hand, provide sufficiently strong, stable, consistent government to sustain the necessary rigors of fiscal, monetary, and economic policy over a period of several years, while, on the other hand, being sufficiently flexible and responsive to absorb the larger part of the inevitable popular discontents through parliamentary or, at least, legal channels, thus preventing the resort to extraparliamentary, illegal, and ultimately antidemocratic means? (This challenge has already been posed in a quite direct way in Poland, with peasant farmers physically occupying the agriculture ministry and blocking highways across the country.)

For some in Poland and Czechoslovakia, these requirements seem to point to the need for a strong presidency. In an opinion poll conducted in Poland in early July, 52 percent of those asked said the highest power in the state should be the president, against 43 percent who declared themselves for parliament. (In Hungary, by contrast, the argument seems already to have been decided in favor of parliament, with the president having little real power, although lots of real influence.) The Columbia University political scientist Alfred Stepan has forcefully argued that the Southern European and Latin American experiences of attempted transitions from dictatorship to democracy indicate that an unambiguously parliamentary system has a better chance of striking the necessary balance than a presidential one. Executive presidents are less able to create consensus behind painful (e.g., anti-inflationary) policies than parliamentary coalitions usually are. The executive president therefore either becomes a weak president, because he bows to the majority, or a strong but antidemocratic one, because he does not. It is, of course, a question how far such experience is applicable to a region with a very different history, and with the unprecedented task of transforming not just an authoritarian but a posttotalitarian polity, not just a controlled but a central command economy.

Nonetheless, what I have seen on the ground in East Central Europe would support the general argument. Given the fragmentation and confusion of interests, aspirations, and traditions that I have sketched above, it is very difficult to see how any president, however popular or charismatic, could sustain a voluntary consensus over a sufficient period for those painful policies of economic transition to have a chance to work, unless it were by mobilizing nationalist fervor against a real or alleged common enemy: a new devil—Russian? German? Jewish? Romanian?—to take the place of the Communist one. But such an undemocratic, nationalist mobilization would itself undermine the proposed economic transition, which crucially depends on the continued good will and active engagement of Western democracies.

No, the political key to creating such a consensus must be the formation of strong, freely elected coalitions. At the time of writing, in July 1990, each of the East Central European countries has fulfilled two of these conditions, but none has fulfilled all three. Hungary has a freely elected coalition government. But thus far it seems to be a weak coalition government, one in which junior coalition partners (e.g., the Small-holders party) behave as if they hardly belong to the coalition, while the main partner, the Democratic Forum, is itself a coalition within a coalition. Nor has the Antall government yet found an architect of economic transformation to compare with Leszek Balcerowicz in Poland or Václav Klaus in Czechoslovakia.

Czechoslovakia has a freely elected government—in fact it has three freely elected governments, federal, Czech, and Slovak. If President Havel puts his authority firmly behind the policies proposed by the finance minister, Václav Klaus, who knows that there is no such thing as a soft takeoff, then the federal government may also be a strong government. But it is not a coalition, in the sense of a government constructed as a negotiated deal between distinct parliamentary parties. Since the 5 percent rule (taken over from West Germany) led to the elimination at the polls of virtually all the minor parties contesting the election, the Civic Forum in the Czech lands, and to a lesser extent the Public Against Violence in Slovakia, are left as an over-whelming bloc, with a parliamentary opposition composed only of Communists and nationalists (plus some Christian Democrats in Slovakia).

The competing parties will therefore have to form out of the body of the Civic Forum. There are already nascent political groupings within the Forum and one proclaimed proto-party, the neoliberal (or is neoconservative?) Civic Democratic Alliance. These parties will have to separate out and define themselves more clearly in time to compete in the next elections, scheduled for 1992. The tendency must therefore be for the Civic Forum to pull apart, rather than to pull together. How this necessary pluralization can be combined with the unity required to sustain the hard policies of economic transition over the two-year period, nobody in Prague could tell me.

As for Poland, from the formation of the Mazowiecki government in September 1989 until the early summer of this year, Poland had something that it has not often had in its history: a strong coalition government. This was a broad coalition, dominated by ministers from the Solidarity side, but containing Communists in key positions (defense, interior ministry), as well as representatives from the formerly puppet Democratic and Peasant parties. It was a coalition strong enough to sustain, in its first six months, a remarkable degree of national consensus through the most radical and painful economic shock therapy that has yet been seen anywhere in the ex-Communist world: the so-called Balcerowicz Plan.

The trouble is, it was not a freely elected coalition government. (In the June 4, 1989, election, as a result of the Round Table agreement, 65 percent of the seats in the lower house of parliament were reserved for the Communists and their allies.) When free parliamentary elections had been held everywhere else in Eastern Europe, when Czechoslovakia and Hungary had their play-wright-presidents (Václav Havel and Arpád Göncz), then it began to seem anachronistic and shameful that Poland—the pioneer throughout the 1980s—should still have a rigged parliament and, Heaven help us, General Jaruzelski as president. A seemingly transformed General Jaruzelski, to be sure, as mild and discreet and civil and cooperative as any West European constitutional monarch, but nonetheless—Jaruzelski.

In the event, Polish politics were transformed by Lech Walesa’s challenge from Gdansk (of which more in a moment). But even if Walesa had behaved like—well, like Jaruzelski—the problem would still have become acute. It seems to me quite unlikely that, in these external circumstances, the Mazowiecki government and, so to speak, the Geremek parliament, could have stuck to the timetable of holding free parliamentary elections only in the spring of 1991. Even if they had, there would still almost certainly have been a crystallization of competing parties from within the broad movement of Citizens’ Committees.

These Citizens’ Committees are strange creatures. The central one started life as a group of intellectual advisers to Lech Walesa. In the last six months it was expanded to include representatives of very different political groupings, at Walesa’s behest, but against the wishes of many of its founding members. The regional Citizens’ Committees were set up on the initiative of the Solidarity leadership (Walesa, Geremek, and Mazowiecki then working in close harmony) to win the historic June 4, 1989, election. They had no clear structure or membership rules. Anyone “who feels good there” could come, one member explained. This sort of spontaneous, quasi-revolutionary grassroots democracy has, of course, led to countless tensions and conflicts ever since the June elections.

In fact the dilemma of the Citizens’ Committees in Poland is comparable with that of the Civic Forum in the Czech lands. Once the electorate had shown that its confidence still lay with these heirs of the revolution (and the Citizens’ Committee lists secured over 41 percent of the vote in the May local elections), then it was clear that the process of democratic pluralization must occur inside the movement as well as outside it.

This is one of the things that Lech Walesa has said most forcefully. But it is not the only thing that he has said. In fact, in a series of pyrotechnic interviews and speeches he has said many different and contradictory things, some very acute, some very stupid, some funny, and some less so. There are two ways of viewing the “war at the top” that Walesa launched this spring. One is that Walesa, being in touch with ordinary people, saw that all was not going well with the government he had done so much to create. His former intellectual advisers and comrades were growing too comfortable in their undemocratic, rigged Warsaw coalition: their “new monopoly.” Meanwhile, both political and economic changes were going too slowly. Privatization, insefar as it was happening at all, was benefiting the old nomenklatura rather than ordinary people. As prices and unemployment rose, so did popular discontent: witness the railwaymen’s and other strikes, which only Walesa, with his authority and charisma, managed to pacify.

What was needed, therefore, was an “acceleration.” Acceleration of privatization and marketization, to be sure, but above all political acceleration: meaning free parliamentary elections, Walesa himself for president, perhaps with powers to rule by decree, and the faster removal of Communists at all levels. Walesa has sometimes adopted the argument, made by Jaroslaw Kaczynski and others, that since people cannot be offered economic goods in the short term, they should be offered symbolic political goods instead: that is, Communist heads on a silver platter. Not salami tactics but Salome tactics. Yet with Salome tactics, as with salami tactics, the question is: Where does the slicer stop? especially if, like Kaczynski and Tygodnik Solidarnosć, you have decided there is a red-pink continuum. After the red heads come the pink ones? After Kiszczak and Jaruzelski, Michnik and Geremek?

The other way of describing Walesa’s campaign is simpler. Having contributed more than any other single human being (with the possible exceptions of the Pope and Mikhail Gorbachev) to the end of Communism in Eastern Europe, having won the elections and formed the Mazowiecki government, he suddenly found himself on the margins, up there in Gdansk, while all the action was in Warsaw. Now the famous foreign visitors came to see Mazowiecki and Geremek, not him. Then he found that his popularity was slipping in the opinion polls prominently published by Gazeta Wyborcza—the paper whose editor, Adam Michnik, he, Walesa, had personally chosen. According to one of these polls, he scored even lower than Jaruzelski as a suitable candidate for the presidency, and according to all he was less popular than Mazowiecki. His former advisers made it plain that they, too, did not see him as president. And then news leaked out from the Belweder that Jaruzelski, resenting the attacks upon him and realizing that his time was past, was ready to resign. So if Walesa wanted to be president, it was now or never.

There is truth in both versions. The discontents and problems to which Walesa has pointed are real, but so is his personal sense of destiny. What worries his former advisers and colleagues more than anything he says is the way in which he says it. Even in 1980–1981 the young Walesa had a high-handed, authoritarian style, and a rather ambivalent attitude to democracy. Indeed this was one of the principal sources of controversy inside Solidarity. “Dictatorship or Democracy?” was a Solidarity newspaper headline already at the movement’s first congress, in 1981. World fame and the Nobel Peace Prize hardly weakened these inclinations. I have never seen a human being change so much. Havel may have adopted a slightly more upright posture and steely glance, but Walesa…not just his manner but his whole physical person was transformed. From being the skinny shipyard wag he became a portly King, a stately Marshal. So long as Solidarity was fighting a (peaceful) war against Communist dictatorship this was all to the good. In war, you need a Marshal. But where does he fit into a peacetime democracy?

Like a commander in chief, Walesa replaced the chairman of the Citizens’ Committee with his own appointee, Zdzislaw Najder, the controversial former head of Radio Free Europe’s influential Polish service and biographer of Conrad. Then he sacked—by public letter—the secretary of the committee, Henryk Wujec, for many years one of his closest comrades. When Wujec politely objected that since he had been elected by the Citizens’ Committee only the committee could dismiss him, Walesa wrote back, no longer to “Henryk,” but to “Representative Henryk Wujec” the now famous line: “Feel yourself dismissed.” Then he attempted to sack Adam Michnik from Gazeta Wyborcza. Then, in early July, he peremptorily summoned the prime minister to a meeting before the workers in the Lenin Shipyard. “Let us meet at the source,” he wrote, as if “the source” of the prime minister’s power was somehow still the workers’ muscle that gave birth to Solidarity in August 1980, rather than the election of June 1989 that gave birth to the Mazowiecki government. (But then, and here’s the catch, it wasn’t a wholly free election, and people were voting for the “candidates of Lech Walesa.”)

He talks about himself in the third person as “Walesa.” Walesa cannot accept this, he says, Walesa will do that. He speaks of “my Solidarity,” only sometimes correcting himself to “our Solidarity.” At the meeting of “his” Citizens’ Committee that I attended in Warsaw this June, one of the bravest and most intelligent younger leaders of Solidarity, Wladyslaw Frasyniuk, angrily attacked him, saying, “I’ve noticed, Lech, that you talk a great deal about yourself and very little about Poland.” But the real problem is that he seems unable to distinguish between the two. When, at the beginning of this meeting, he rudely summoned up to the podium the venerable Catholic editor, Jerzy Turowicz, he did so with the words: “Poland awaits your criticisms….” But Poland was not waiting for Mr. Turowicz’s criticisms. Indeed, most of Poland probably did not know that Mr. Turowicz had made any criticisms. For “Poland” read “Walesa.”

Yet at the same time, he often seems genuinely unsure of where to go next. There is some force in the substantive criticisms he makes, as Bronislaw Geremek acknowledged at this same meeting, observing that “Poland’s number one problem is acceleration.” He can still be funny, cuddly, adorable, irresistible—simply Lech. A place just has to be found for him in the new system. As a figurehead president, a constitutional father figure? But that is just not Lech. He’s no good at the ceremonial side. It’s not his thing. And why on earth should anyone imagine that he would now suddenly begin to play by the rules? He never has in the past. That has been part of his greatness. He doesn’t promise to do so now. In a newspaper interview in mid-June, he said:

For today, when we are changing the system, we need a President with an ax: decisive, tough, straight-forward, doesn’t mess around, doesn’t get in the way of democracy, but immediately fills the holes. If he sees that people are profiting from the change of system, stealing, he issues a decree, valid until the Parliament passes a law. I would save half of Poland if I had such powers.


Is this merely a specific, Polish problem, with one very special history and one very special person, or is it a more general one? At a grand conference organized by the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna at the end of June, Bronislaw Geremek spoke dramatically of the “totalitarian temptation” in post-Communist countries. As an analytical (as opposed to a rhetorical) proposition, this goes too far. One cannot see in any East Central European country today the combination of specific features which Jean-François Revel characterized as the totalitarian temptation. But one can see the seeds of an authoritarian temptation.

This is least apparent in Czechoslovakia, the country with the strongest twentieth-century democratic tradition. To be sure, one can hear criticism of Havel’s high-handed, arbitrary style, and much more outspoken resentment of his “court.” But in a speech to the newly elected Federal Assembly Havel himself came out in favor of somewhat reducing the powers of the presidency from those he currently enjoys. If the governments(s) can remain coherent and strong, even while the Civic Forum breaks into different proto-parties—a very big “if”—then there is a chance that Havel could withdraw slightly further from everyday politics; in the best case he could become to the Czechoslovak transition what King Juan Carlos was to the Spanish one.

In Hungary, the temptation is perhaps slightly greater. As one Hungarian writer put it to me a little time ago: “The Czechs are so lucky. When they look under the carpet they find Masaryk, whereas we find Horthy.” Fortunately, at the moment Hungary’s president is no Horthy, but instead is that same Hungarian writer—the liberal, genial, and charming Arpád Göncz. Göncz, himself a Free Democrat, became president of the parliament and therefore acting president of the republic as the result of a controversial deal between the Free Democrats and the Democratic Forum (enabling the Forum-led government to put through changes on some constitutional issues for which they need a two-thirds majority), although at the time of writing his path to the full presidency has been complicated by a campaign by the Socialists (i.e., ex-Communists) to have the president directly elected. Yet in the present design of Hungary’s new political system, if there were to be a new “strongman” it would probably be in the position of prime minister rather than president. His rule would be reinforced, it is suggested, by an alliance with an extraparliamentary “movement,” a Bewegung and buttressed by a complaisant, government-dominated press and television. But the Democratic Forum does not yet qualify as a Bewegung, and although the press may not be as fiercely independent as it should be (ironically enough, the former Party daily Népszabadság is now said to be one of the best), it is still very far from being a transmission beit for government policy.

Even in Poland, where the authoritarian temptation actually has a name and a mustache, the immediate danger is certainly not that of a Balkan-style transition from Communist to non-Communist dictatorship. In fact one might say that the immediate danger here is of too much democracy, not of too little. The short-term effect of Walesa’s extraordinary campaign will almost certainly be to “accelerate”—to use his own buzzword—the process of pluralization and probably of political fragmentation. As this article goes to press, a very significant group of more than one hundred MPs and activists from the Solidarity movement and the Civic Committees have formed a new party, called Civic Movement-Democratic Action (Polish acronym: ROAD). Formally headed by Wladyslaw Frasyniuk and Zbigniew Bujak, perhaps the two best-known Solidarity leaders after Lech Walesa and including such well-known intellectual and cultural figures as Adam Michnik, Jerzy Turowicz, and Andrzej Wajda, Democratic Action is explicitly opposed, to Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Center Agreement, is implicitly critical of Walesa, and supports the “philosophy” of the Mazowiecki government.

If Hungary needs the element of strength, and Czechoslovakia the genuine coalition, Poland needs the free election. But will the freely elected government then be a strong coalition, as the half freely elected Mazowiecki government was for its first six months? Or will it rather be a weak coalition, with members from numerous smaller parties or factions, subject to endless conflicts and frequent reshuffles? This is, after all, what happened the last time Poland regained its independence and attempted to build a parliamentary democracy, in the years 1918 to 1926. Then, as the historian Norman Davies jocularly observes: “The proliferating profusion of possible political permutations…palpably prevented the propagation of permanent pacts between potential partners.”

At a meeting of Lech Walesa’s Citizens’ Committee in late March, at the very beginning of the “war at the top,” Tadeusz Mazowiecki expressed his fear that the fledgling Polish democracy could turn into “a Polish hell. A Polish hell of squabbles, intrigues, and conflicts.” At the last (thirteenth) meeting of the Citizens’ Committee, in June, Walesa said, “Maybe we have to go through this Polish hell.” And that is rather how it looks at this writing. One could, perhaps, afford such fissiparous politics—the Italians seem to manage—if you already had a flourishing free-market economy, with only a small state sector, and a developed civil society. But here, in the immediate post-Communist period, too much still depends on the state. It is the state that has to organize the withdrawal of the state from the economy, the state that has to create the conditions for “building” civil society. One might, therefore, offer an alternative definition of the Polish hell: Italian politics without the Italian economy.

Altogether, if there is a threat to democracy in East Central Europe it will probably come through a period of, so to speak, excessive democracy. In Czechoslovakia and Hungary, as well as in Poland, one can see three major elements that give cause for concern. First, there is popular disgruntlement, not only about the costs of economic transition, such as price rises, reduction of subsidies, and unemployment, not only about new injustices and the slowness of visible change, but also about the processes of parliamentary democracy, which are themselves held to be responsible for the slowness of change. It is difficult to adapt psychologically from the dramatic fast forward of last year’s revolutions to the slow motion of this year’s parliamentary democracy. Seeming indifference to the new politics (reflected in the very high abstention rates in Poland and Hungary) and revolutionary impatience are, in fact, two sides of the same coin.

Second, the processes of the fledgling democracy are, indeed, often slow, ramshackle, and flawed. If there is abnormally low popular tolerance or understanding of political conflict (“Why can’t we still be united?”) there is also an abnormally high level of political conflict inside the new political elites: because there are no clear dividing lines, no proper parties, and few “rules of the game”: because the new leaders, too, are unused to living with routinized, multilateral conflict, and have difficulty moving from antipolitical to ordinary political language; and, yes, because power is a dangerous drug.

The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar’s laurel crown.

Third, the inevitable dislocation and distress associated with the conversion to a market economy could increase both the fissiparousness of the elite and the disillusionment of the population. One could than all too easily imagine these three elements—elite dissension, popular disillusionment, economic distress—combining in a vicious circle, each exacerbating the other. Arguably, that is what is happening in Poland now.

After 1918 came 1926, and Pilsudski’s coup. Yet although in so many ways the past seems to be returning with a vengeance, there are at least two powerful reasons for believing that history will not simply repeat itself. The first is the popular experience of dictatorships (of right and left) over the last half century. When Czeslaw Milosz was asked, on a recent trip to Poland, what he thought people might have learned from the years under Communism he replied: “Resistance to stupidities.” An optimistic interpretation, you may say, but there are some grounds for believing that years of bitter experience have given the people of East Central Europe a resistance to certain kinds of stupidity. The kinds of stupidity associated with dictatorships, for example.

As we have seen, people are unfamiliar with, and therefore sometimes distrustful of, the forms and habits of democracy. But the habits of dictatorship? With these they are all too familiar. “I may not know what freedom is,” wrote another Polish poet, “but I know what unfreedom is.” Suppose a would-be strongman comes along, and, using populist demagogy, attempts to over-turn the parliamentary government. How, then, would he rule? By an extra-parliamentary mass movement? By police terror? By censorship? By martial law? The repertory of dictatorship is relatively small, and, in this region, quite comprehensively discredited.

Against this argument you may cite the Romanian example. Without insisting too much on differences of tradition and political culture between East Central Europe and the Balkans. I would cite a second, powerful reason for believing that these countries can, after all, resist the authoritarian temptation. This is the international setting. If more or less authoritarian regimes flourished in East Central Europe between the wars this was partly because there were examples of authoritarianism elsewhere in Europe, which could also somehow be associated with the dream of modernity. Today there are no such examples, and modernity is unambiguously associated with democracy.

It would be nice to think that Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia could coordinate their “return to Europe,” supporting each other’s fledgling democracies. But despite the good will of the new leaders, symbolized by the Bratislava summit in April, and to be expressed in a new form of high-level institutionalized coordination, the present reality is as much one of competition as it is of cooperation. In almost every field, at almost every international gathering, one finds the Polish; the Hungarian, and the Czechoslovak representatives quietly pushing their own particular claims for the special attention of the West. This competition is not unhealthy, but it underlines the new-old dependency of these countries—on the West.

Part of the attraction to Czechoslovakia and Hungary of the pentagonal “Alpen-Adria” cooperation between them, Yugoslavia (especially Slovenia and Croatia), Austria, and Italy may be the sentimental revival of old Habsburg ties, but there is also the more vulgar charm of being closely involved with two developed Western countries, one a leading member of the EC, another trying hard to get in. In their different ways, the Czech, Polish, and Hungarian foreign ministers have all observed that if their countries are to achieve a new democratic partnership, it will only be through belonging to a larger European community—and by that they mean, above all, a larger European Community.

The responsibility of the West in general, and Western Europe in particular, is therefore immense. A cartoon on the front page of the leading Czech independent daily, Lidové Noviny, expressed a sentiment about the West that can be encountered in Budapest and Warsaw as well as Prague. It showed a rather gloomy man saying: “The European home is shut. If we want to get in we have first to solve all our key problems.” At times the attitude of some Western leaders does still recall Dr. Johnson’s famous definition of a patron: “Is not a Patron, my Lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help?” Of course, Western investors have no moral obligation at all to invest unless the conditions are right. But Western democracies do have a moral obligation to help, and, what is more, they have a hard political interest in helping the man while he is struggling in the water. Provided, of course, he is really trying to swim, and not just shouting about swimming.

Perhaps the greatest risk of the kind of super-democratization that I have suggested is possible—with more shouting but less swimming—is that it will diminish the overall Western interest, an interest which may yet prove to be as shallow as it is currently broad. “Why should we help them if they cannot help themselves?” will be the cry.

There are two sides to this coin too. The West, if it is to help, has a right to ask for certain rigorous, consistent economic policies—let us call them, in shorthand, a Balcerowicz or Klaus Plan—and the kind of government that will be able to sustain such policies. The political desiderata may, I have suggested, be summarized as strong, freely elected coalitions. But if the countries of East Central Europe produce such governments, then they must be confident that the help will really be there. For without it, such policies are simply unsustainable.

As Zbigniew Brzezinski pointed out at the Vienna conference, West Germany is currently reckoning to pay something on the order of $70 billion over the next two years for the transition in East Germany. As with all building plans, the final bill will almost certainly be higher. And that is for a ready-made transition—a turnkey democracy, so to speak—for just sixteen million people in the most prosperous country of the former Eastern Europe. How much larger then would be the bill for homemade, trial-and-error democracies for sixty million people in three rather poorer countries?

There is, to be sure, a general consensus among Western governments and political elites that “we should help” the transition to democracy in East Central Europe. But how many politicians are prepared even to contemplate action on a scale comparable to that which West Germany, after a very sober examination, considers to be necessary for East Germany? Above all, how many politicians are prepared seriously to make the case for such help to their own electors? If presented with such a bill, most West European electors would, I fear, probably say: “Sorry, no!” Ironically, the kind of Western European consumer democracy to which East Central Europeans so passionately aspire may be the kind least likely to help them. If West German taxpayer-electors are so reluctant to pay even for their fellow Germans, who would seriously expect them to cough up for Poles?

Nonetheless, the challenge of democratic leadership would be precisely to make this unpopular case as eloquently and convincingly as possible, stating plainly that this is a moment when short-term personal and material interests should be sacrificed to long-term national and European ones. What we are witnessing is, therefore, not just a testing time for the fledgling democracies of East Central Europe, but also a testing time for the established democracies of Western Europe.

Finally, my exclusive emphasis on just three countries of East Central Europe may raise an objection: What about all those other Europeans, to the east and to the southeast, who are also crying out for democracy? My answer is a purely pragmatic one. Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia are the countries where the fate of democracy hangs in the balance today, and where the weight of the West can make the difference between success and failure. You cannot do everything at once. With German unification, the eastern frontier of democratic Europe has already moved from the Elbe to the Oder. I sincerely hope (against hope) that in ten or fifteen years the frontier of democratic Europe may be at the Urals and the Black Sea. But the question for today is: Will democratic Europe end on the Oder or on the Bug?

July 19, 1990

This Issue

August 16, 1990