Notes from reading Stokes – The Walls Came Tumbling Down

The Walls Came Tumbling Down

Gale Stokes

Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (October 30, 1993)

ISBN-10: 0195066456

– antirational – Nazi used power of technology but rejected rational intellectual thoughts from enlightenment and French Revolution.
– hyper-rational – communists thought they could transform the world through rational, scientific thought. They thought they had correct or scientific understanding of society.
– pluralist – genre of solutions, or accommodations, to people’s problems/human frailties. characterized by open government that was responsible to the people. Multi-faceted political organizations replaced communist dictatorship.

Chapter 1
– 1960s brought disillusionment of communism throughout world. realized it was maintained by force not good will.
– Students and professors in Poland disillusioned with communism protested, but the working class did not back them in their demonstrations.
– Dec 1970, workers strike in Poland, did not work, but reached ability to conduct own union affairs and strategies, occupation strike and interfactory strike committee.
– Gierek’s Poland: He tried to appease the workers by providing cheaper food and higher wages by getting excessive loans from other nations. Without producing better exports and continuing to increase the imports, Gierek did little to improve Polish economy. While the workers had food, they had no dignity because of their total dependence on the state.
– Antipoliticians: people began to acknowledge that communism was a hopeless end, and lived with the hope to see it end. Put hope in morals and ethics not in politics.
– Helsinki and Charter 77: The Helsinki accords sought to bind the Eastern European countries to uphold rights and privileges that they already had agreed to. Charter 77 was an intellectual paper which called on Czechoslovakia and other communist countries to abide the Helsinki accords.
– Civil Society in Poland: after another workers uprising in 76, a group formed to defend these workers relying on the Helsinki accords and Polish constitution. KOR
– KOR helped bring civil society to Poland by supporting and sustaining illegal printings, creating free lectures with antipolitical themes, and helped start other organizations which were in opposition to government.
– Pope John Paul II and the Polish Catholic Church: this pope was polish, his visit to Poland “jolted millions of Poles to their first awareness” of the need and hope for change.
– Solidarity: became a legalized entity, claiming to be “the single true representative of the working class.” formed by the working class, gained legal status through use of strikes. was about gaining freedom to choose, a union to ensure liberties, rights. “A moral revolution” (39)
– Solidarity began to evolve into more of a political entity, so with a new leader the Polish central committee was able to face off.
– State of War: December 12, 1981, the Polish govt. guickly and effectively rounded up Solidarity’s leaders and enforced marshal law, military took control over many things (censorship, six-day work week, coal mines)

Chapter 2 – Gang of four and nemesis
– three attempts at throwing of Stalinist embrace: Hungarian Revolution (1956), Prague Spring (1968, Czeschoslovakia), Solidarity (81, Poland).
– Bulgaria: kept itself out of revolutions and reforms from within, in large part due to its leader Todor Zhivkov, who was good at manipulating and pacifying the intelligencia. Basically, life was good enough not to complain about.
– Romania: led by Nicolae Ceausescu, was a Stalin-type ruler. controlled the country with a heavy hand, the secret police infiltrated every aspect of public life. population lived, and remained revolutionarily inactive, because of fear. In seeking to escape control of Soviet Union, Romania allowed itself to be controlled be the same type of totalitarian regime led by Ceausescu.
– Germany: East Germany’s condition was different in several ways. First was their psychological confusion at being a divided Germany. Oppositionists to the government were dealt with quickly, and harshly. Most were just thrown over the border to West Germany, since that is what they wanted in the first place. GDR did not face the same issues with debt because of the heavy subsidizing and support from West Germany. While the intellectuals who wanted change were repulsed by western materialism and believed in a socialist cause, the common people were infatuated by western lifestyle and wanted it.
– Czechoslovakia: tried “socialism with a human face”. normalization = civilized violence, purged dissenters and oppositionists in ‘humane’ non-threatening ways, no furniture destroyed, interrogations during normal working hours, etc. The govt. offered the common people a decent private life if they conceded to what they wanted in public life. The people accepted that.
– Gorbachev: initiated Perestroika, or restructuring. Was aware of the need for social and economic change as were others before him, but was willing to make the changes.
Four things Perestroika sought to achieve.
– Soviet economy would be centrally planned.
– success or failure of enterprises based on economics
– incomes reflected productivity
– enterprises decided economics for themselves
– workers participated in management decisions.
Glasnost, or more openness. Gorbachev wanted people to feel like people, by respecting their ideas and letting them express them.

Chapter 3 – Hungary up to 89
– Hungary’ economy turns westward, with increasing debt they looked to western help.
– Hungarians began to experience autonomous freedoms in the economy
– socialized agriculture, the people took care of mechanizing the farm themselves.
– ‘second economy’ allowed for privately run businesses, mostly restaurants, alongside state owned ones.
– family-oriented farm, small household plots given to people, rather than community plots. lead to dual income households, with one person working the factory, the other the farm to reap both benefits.
– power of those on the shop floor, able to negotiate with factory administration.
– could exercise more literary freedoms.
– protests over wanting to celebrate new holidays were successful. Gorbachev gave consent through many signs that it was OK for Hungary to break away from Soviet Control. A holiday which celebrated an executed protester from 1956 served an emotional and moral point of national reconciliation for the Hungarian people.

Chapter 4 – Poland up to 89
– 1980 trialogue with Solidarity, the church and the govt. who had power. Jaruzelski (Polish communist leader) tightened restrictions to take power from Solidarity, had initiated martial law in order to control. Many strikes failed.
– Jaruzelski successfully squashed the open Solidarity movement, but instead maintaining monogamous control on the nation, allowed for other parties/groups to arise under conditions that put him in control of them. Solidarity moved underground, and there survived.
– The murder of Father Jerzy (liked by public, hated by regime) sparked Jaruzelski in a further move to pluarlism.
– Jaruzelski continued making reforms.
– Solidarity and the party agreed to terms that allowed Solidarity back into the public legally, gave the group a part in parliament, created a senate, but was to leave the party in political control.
– Astonishingly the public voted in great numbers for Solidarity in the senate and parliament, and voted NOT to keep the communist candidates (they ran uncontested) for leadership positions. Through some fancy political work, and with Solidarity bringing two other parties in with them (who surprisingly turned on the communists), Solidarity was able to get one of their men set up as prime minister, the first non-communist in 40 years.

Chapter 5 – Glorious Revolutions of 1989
– Hungary: negotiations led to the opposition party gaining the most votes to control the mutliparty government. The presidency was put to a national vote, which the party thought they would win easily, but lost by a mere 6,000 votes out of 4 million.
– Germany: recap of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Hungary had opened borders to Austria, which allowed East Germans to flee to West Germany through Hungary. As pressure mounted at the crossing point, massive demonstrations, which started in Leipzig, began uniting the people and giving them hope of becoming ‘one’ people. The party, in an effort to appease, replaced Honecker with Krenz, who immediately realized his hopeless situation. He began making changes, and an effort to back out. He allowed an ambiguous law to allow travelers freedom to travel abroad without prior requirements being fulfilled. When pressed by the press for what that meant, rumors began to spread that it meant East Germans could travel freely to the West. Overnight the Germans had mentally made the shift to become a united people.
– Bulgaria: Zhivkov remained in power for 30 years. Things that led to his demise: race crimes against Turks, environment, agricultural mismanagement, and disgruntled intelligensia. No real opposition parties had formed until this time, but they began with grievances listed before. What finally ousted Zhivkov, though were those within the party who wanted change and wanted him out.
– Czechoslovakia: Havel and Charter 77 still hung out despite persecution, catholic church led pilgrimages with the premise of wanting church and state separate.
– Bulgaria: Ceausescu held a terribly hollow and terribly brutal totalitarian hold over Bulgaria. His programs and such were terrible. Finally people got sick of it, and after a few false starts, university students with the support of intelligensia began full scale strikes and demonstrations. Ceausescu was oblivious to reality, and thought the common folk was with him. As he was beginning to make a speech to the crowds they started laughing at him, he took off, the people found him and executed he and his wife. After a few days of confusion about who and what would take over the government, a democracy was formed.

Chapter 6 – 1990 and 1991

Chapter 7 – Yugoslavia

Chapter 8 – Epilogue and Prologue
– This is just as much a beginning as it is an end.

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One thought on “Notes from reading Stokes – The Walls Came Tumbling Down

  1. Jay

    This was awesome. I am doing a project–an analysis of this book–and this overview was extremely helpful. Thank you

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