Transitions and Non-Transitions from Communism: Regime Survival in China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam
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Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, many scholars have sought to explain the collapse of communism. Yet, more than two decades on, communist regimes continue to rule in a diverse set of countries including China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam. In a unique study of fourteen countries, Steven Saxonberg explores the reasons for the survival of some communist regimes while others fell. He also shows why the process of collapse differed among communist-led regimes in Europe, Africa, and Latin America. Based on the analysis of the different processes of collapse that has already taken place, and taking into account the special characteristics of the remaining communist regimes, 'Transitions and Non-Transitions from Communism' discusses the future prospects for the survival of the regimes in China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam.
stand still; rather, they develop in a variety of directions. Notwithstanding their many cultural and institutional differences, however, communist regimes have all subscribed to a common political religion, derived from a common ideological model. Following Eric Voegelin, we may see communism as a political religion.13 It has a collection of clearly set-out beliefs, with strong eschatalogical and messianic qualities; it has holy texts (by Marx, Engels, and Lenin); it has a pope (the general
Democratic Republic,” in Grifﬁth, ed., Central and Eastern Europe: The Opening Curtain? (Boulder: Westview Press, 1989), p. 316; Thomas Neumann, Die Maßnahme: Eine Herrschaftsgeschichte der SED (Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1991), p. 145; and Michael Simmons, The Unloved Country: A Portrait of East Germany Today (London: Abacus, 1989), pp. 5–6. In contrast, Charles S. Maier emphasizes the importance of the failure of economic reforms for Ulbricht’s ultimate fall; but this remains a minority opinion. See his
History and Memory, 9:1–2, (1997): 321–9. I am grateful to Mark Thompson for pointing out this allegory of politics as religion. For a detailed discussion of this, see Steven Saxonberg, The Fall: A Comparative Study of the End of Communism in Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary and Poland (Amsterdam/ London: Harwood Academic/Routledge 2001), Chapter 5. Deﬁning communist rule 5 ammunition, since they proclaim the superiority of planned economies over their market counterparts. This analysis
information about candidates, while deputies reported having little time to meet with constituents or, for that matter, to attend to ofﬁcial duties.”173 Yet, Manion concludes, “There is a growing scholarly consensus that, despite great variation, grassroots electoral democracy has progressed and is ﬂourishing, affecting the lives of ordinary Chinese villagers in important ways for the better.”174 At higher levels of governance, democratic experiments have not gone as far as they have at village
Workers are tied into the ideological legitimacy in a special way. The Party knows that its claim to a monopoly on Truth relates centrally to workers’ interests. Marxist-Leninist dogma gloriﬁes the role of the workers, and communist parties rule in the name of the workers. Even in agricultural societies, such as China and Vietnam, the Party nonetheless claims it is ruling on behalf of a small group of workers, and that, through its modernizing programs, it will eventually create a society with a