How can we explain the sudden collapse of Communism in Europe?
Communism was a very popular ideology which was in great favor during the inter-war period but in the 1980s, there was an unanticipated demise of Communism. So how can we explain the sudden collapse of communism in Europe? I would argue that there were several forces converging to the breakdown of communism in Eastern Europe. Factors such as the high expenses of engaging in nuclear arms, the lost of their satellite states, the growing economic disparity in Europe and the changing attitudes and values of the younger people converged together that brought communism to the brink of collapse in Europe. The most important factor, however, was the role of Gorbachev and his policies, which acted as a catalyst to bring the communist regime down. One must primarily analyze Gorbachev’s role and consider the impact of his policies in determining events in Eastern Europe. ‘The Soviet Union in 1985 brought a new, younger leader to foreground, Mikhail Gorbachev,’ (Adas, 2006:332). His establishment of Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (reconstruction) released irrepressible, contained revolutionary forces which shook the foundations of the internal order in Europe. It is important to note that before Gorbachev came into power, Communism was failing as an ideology, but with Gorbachev’s policies in place, it acted as a catalyst that made Communism fail as a system. The Communist regimes were failing as an ideology because they were plagued by economic woes, domestic problems and the younger generations had fostered a hatred for the communist ideology. There was no window for the masses to express their suppressed unhappiness about the regime until a new leader came into power. Gorbachev was a younger communist leader unlike his predecessors who were hardliners of the communist ideology. Thus, ‘Gorbachev believed in changes that could be made to improve the communist system instead of sticking to the orthodox manner of how the communist system was being operated,’ (Adas, 2006: 333). When Gorbachev introduced the two key polices, he hoped communism would revive as a popular ideology instead it backfired as people took advantage of the policies to express their concealed dissatisfaction about the regime. Gorbachev had unfortunately sped up the process of the fall of Communism due to his reforms. Before we look into how Gorbachev’s policies acted together to bring the communist regimes down in Eastern Europe, we need to look at the problems larking in Eastern Europe that threatened the existence of the Communist system. The changing attitudes and values of the new generation youths was a significant factor that contributed to the demise of the communist ideology. The younger generations were more educated and did not favor the repressive nature of Communism. According to Riordan, ‘the youths were the first authentically peaceful generation born of parents with no knowledge of war or postwar deprivation,’ (Riordan, 1988: 556). These youths did not care as much about the politics and had no passion for the communist ideology as they were not concerned to support an ideology but rather, the youths wanted a liberal government that would encourage freedom of speech and guarantee economic growth for a high standard of living that was evident in the capitalist economy. These youths did not witness the struggles of their elders against the democratic ideology and the wars that were fought. This proved to be a setback for the youths as they did not have a clear foundation of the Communist ideology. Consequently these youths could be easily indoctrinated by new ideas and aspirations. Without a common, shared experience by the youths, it made it more difficult for the leaders to make Communism a viable ideology that could relate to the new generation. Through advertisements, television and education it became obvious to the youths that the Western European countries were more...
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