Fall of Communism

The shocking fall of communism in Eastern and Central
Europe in the late eighties was remarkable for both its
rapidity and its scope. The specifics of communism\'s demise
varied among nations, but similarities in both the causes and
the effects of these revolutions were quite similar. As well, all
of the nations involved shared the common goals of
implementing democratic systems of government and moving
to market economies. In each of these nations, the
communist regimes in power were forced to transfer that
power to radically different institutions than they were
accustomed to. Democracy had been spreading throughout
the world for the preceding two decades, but with a very
important difference. While previous political transitions had
seen similar circumstances, the actual events in question had
generally occurred individually. In Europe, on the other
hand, the shift from communism was taking place in a
different context altogether. The peoples involved were not
looking to affect a narrow set of policy reforms; indeed,
what was at stake was a hyper-radical shift from the
long-held communist ideology to a western blueprint for
governmental and economic policy development. The
problem inherent in this type of monumental change is that,
according to Ulrich K. Preuss, "In almost all the East and
Central European countries, the collapse of authoritarian
communist rule has released national, ethnic, religious and
cultural conflicts which cannot be solved by purely economic
policies" (47). While tremendous changes are evident in both
the governmental and economic arenas in Europe, these
changes cannot be assumed to always be "mutually
reinforcing" (Preuss 47). Generally it has been theorized that
the most successful manner of addressing these many
difficulties is the drafting of a constitution. But what is clear is
the unsatisfactory ability of a constitution to remedy the
problems of nationalism and ethnic differences. Preuss notes
that when the constitutional state gained favor in North
America, it was founded on the principle of the unitary state;
it was not designed to address the lack of national identity
which is found throughout Europe - and which is counter to
the concept of the constitutional state (48). "Measured in
terms of socioeconomic modernization," writes Helga A.
Welsh, "Central and Eastern European countries had
reached a level that was considered conducive to the
emergence of pluralistic policies" (19). It seemed that the
sole reason the downfall of communism, as it were, took so
long was the veto power of the Soviet Union. According to
theories of modernization, the higher the levels of
socioeconomic achievement, the greater the pressure for
open competition and, ultimately, democracy. As such, the
nations in Eastern and Central Europe were seen as
"anomalies in socioeconomically highly-developed countries
where particularly intellectual power resources have become
widespread" (Welsh 19). Due to their longtime adherence to
communist policies, these nations faced great difficulty in
making the transition to a pluralist system as well as a market
economy. According to Preuss, these problems were
threefold: The genuine economic devastations wrought by
the communist regimes, the transformation of the social and
economic classes of the command economy into the social
and economic classes of a capitalist economy and, finally,
the creation of a constitutional structure for political entities
that lack the undisputed integrity of a nation state (48). With
such problems as these to contend with in re-engineering
their entire economic and political systems, the people of
East Germany seemed to be in a particularly enviable
position. Economically, they were poised to unite with one of
the richest countries, having one of the strongest economies,
in the entire world. In the competition for foreign investment,
such an alliance gave the late German Democratic Republic
a seemingly insurmountable lead over other nations. In
regards to the political aspects of unification, it effectively left
a Germany with no national or ethnic minorities, as well as
having undisputed boundaries. As well, there was no need to
create a constitution (although many of the pitfalls of
constitution-building would have been easily-avoided due to
the advantages Germany had), because the leaders of the
GDR had joined the Federal Republic by accession and,
accordingly, allowed its Basic Law to be extended over their
territory. For all the good that seemed to be imminent as a
result of unification, many problems also arose regarding the
political transformation that Germany was undergoing.
Among these problems were the following: the tensions
between the Basic Law\'s simultaneous commitments to
supranational integration and to the German nation state, the
relationship between the nation and the constitution as two
different modes of political integration and the issue of
so-called "backward justice" (Preuss 48). The Federal
Republic of Germany\'s Basic Law has been the longest-lived
constitution in Germany\'s history. Intended to be a
short-lived, temporary document, the Basic Law gained
legitimacy as West Germany continued to march towards
becoming a major