Future developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe will be determined by the following main factors:
Increased contradictions between the tendency of the ruling Soviet power to strengthen its hegemony and the efforts of the client states to gain more independence. These are consequences for as well as causes of political and social tensions in the Soviet bloc. Nationalism and not democratization is the most dangerous challenge to Soviet supremacy, regardless of the fact that striving for national independence cannot be separated from pressuring for increased political freedom. In the eighties the varieties and the intensity of these more or less nationalistic “deviations” will depend partly on the internal situation of the individual states, partly on the particular position or unity of the Soviet leadership, and partly (but only to a lesser degree) on the West’s Ostpolitik. To be sure, it would be wrong to view this “nationalization” in the various Soviet-bloc states simply as anti-Soviet tendencies. One must also consider the revival of the partly inherited, partly newly-provoked animosities among the client states that are caused to some extent by the dictated integration efforts. This consideration applies not only to the conflicts between Romania and Hungary, but also to the deeper reasons for Poland’s relative isolation within the Soviet bloc.
Nationalism remains the most important centrifugal force which not only weakens Soviet control, but also limits the possibilities for concerted action by the client states and thus indirectly consolidates Soviet supremacy. In this context the indirect effects of the national crisis in Yugoslavia and the volatility of Albanian irredentism should not be underestimated.
The worsening of the economic crisis in all countries, without the prospect of any noticeable improvement in the near future. After 35 years of total Communist control, references to the pre-Communist past on the one hand, and to the current misery in the 156capitalist West on the other hand, are ignored by the people as hollow phrases. But the Hungarian reform experiments must, for reasons of power and political treaties, remain much more limited than the West generally assumes. The individual Communist countries export not solutions but rather their problems (including poor-quality goods) to their brother countries. The economic crisis in the West and in the Third World is an additional factor and, of course, a welcome pretext for the Party leadership.
The succession problem, aqgrevated by insecurity about the stability and unity of the Soviet leadership under Andropov and his potential, simililarly aged successors. In this respect Hungary and Bulgaria could turn out to be weak spots sooner than expected, since neither Kadar nor Zhivkov will live forever. An uneasiness about these concrete cases is felt everywhere, since experience shows that the timely coincidence of a leadership crisis in a client state and a continued or still unresolved power struggle in the Kremlin can suddenly intensify a latent crisis.
For the foreseeable future Poland will remain not only an open sore but also a warning and therefore a welcome excuse for the Party apparatus to nip radical reforms in the bud. Also in Hungary there is the general danger that Party bureaucrats, fearful of losing their privileges, and the masses worried about losing their modest standard of living could enter into a temporary alliance of expediency against the reformers.
More than ever since the Communist seizure of power, the church, and religion in general, have become a serious danger to the established powers, although to varying degrees. Poland may be a special case, but no one can overlook the trend toward a religious upswing in Slovakia, Hungary and the GDR. The person of the Pope is an additional factor.
The change of generations, in concert with the above-mentioned points, has become an additional disintegrating factor. Neither the developments in Poland nor the growing concern of the leadership in the GDR, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia about their youth can be understood in any other way. Rebellion against hypocrisy, opportunism and dictatorship is growing steadily among the ranks of young people east of the Elbe without -- at least up to now -- endangering the foundations of the system.
Finally, one must not overlook the immense dynamics of the transistor revolution. During the Polish crisis the whole world was continuously made aware of the significance of Western radio broadcasts. Fear of free news is at the same time fear of one’s own credibility and legitimacy. Ideology cannot gloss over the gap between reality and the vision of “future-oriented” systems. Ideology -- in this case the 157postulate of one single and exclusive truth in politics which can only be interpreted by the true guardians of the Marxist-Leninist faith -- remains the indispensible basis of the monopoly of power and at the same time is that which distinguishes Soviet-style Communist systems from modern dictatorships. Nevertheless, future economic and political development, as well as lifestyle and living standard, will be determined by multiplicity rather than by uniformity.
A last remark; the element of surprise has repeatedly disproved prognoses about Eastern and Southeastern Europe and has swept away rational considerations. The unthinkable has frequently become the thinkable, and therefore it is entirely possible that my rather pessimistic assessments will be refuted by the facts.