During his recent visit to Poland, General de Gaulle discreetly but repeatedly called upon the Central European countries to assume an independent and creative role. By challenging the unnatural East-West dichotomy in Europe he showed himself again a statesman of vision. Yet, regrettably, while he has a highly desirable political goal he has failed to choose the means most likely to attain it. The French Government in the last few years has not favored the growth and cohesion of the European Economic Community (E.E.C.) and other common institutions of the West and has sought to raise the independent international status of France. It is essential to the General's plan that analogous processes be stimulated in Central Europe: in his mind the rigid commitments of nations east and west of the Elbe to antagonistic "blocs" impede the rapprochement between these nations, the definitive elimination of the Iron Curtain and the restoration of a "European Europe."

A prominent member of the French cabinet, Edgar Faure, outlined this policy as follows: "One must, moreover, consider with all due concern the problem of the countries of Central Europe, which number 118 million people and which seek to escape from the abnormal situation in which they found themselves as a result of Stalinist policies. We obviously must avoid allowing an immediate political construction of 'Little Europe' to hamper this operation." (Le Monde, December 1, 1965.) Thus the views of the French Government about the effect of West European integration on relations with the communist states, although differently motivated, are not far from the official communist position on the E.E.C., according to which its progress- and even its very existence-constitutes a major obstacle to rapprochement between the "socialist" and the "capitalist" nations of Europe.

To someone familiar with the contemporary economic, social, political and psychological realities of Central Europe, de Gaulle's method for moving that region toward a greater self-affirmation, and thereby overcoming the division of Europe, seems quite the opposite of what is needed. In order to recover its independence and to assume its natural role of bridge between the western and eastern parts of the Old Continent, Central Europe (by which I mean the "People's Democracies") ought to counterbalance its ties with the Soviet Union by closer relations with Western Europe. And Western Europe itself must provide a strong attraction for both the public and the élites of Central Europe.

Public opinion in the People's Democracies deserves the closest attention. It has been steadily gaining importance since the collapse of Stalinism, and the governments are less and less in a position to neglect it. Whereas the ruling élites of the communist states and the "lines" they espouse are sometimes subject to dramatic changes, public opinion is a constant factor.

The people of Central Europe lost much of their traditional respect for the West before and after the last war. Nor is de Gaulle's message of nationalism and friendship to Central Europe likely to revive the prestige of the West there, in particular among the intelligentsia who traditionally have played the crucial role in shaping public opinion. These people realize that in the past nationalism plunged Europe-and particularly Central Europe-into chaos and paved the way for foreign domination; and that the alliance of their nations with France before 1938 did not avert the disaster.

If anything has restored the West's attraction in Central Europe it is the E.E.C. experiment. Citizens of the People's Democracies watch with respect the adventure which has united onetime enemies through organic cooperation, led to the virtual abolition of frontiers and laid foundations for the real independence of Europe. Subject themselves to restraints on their freedom and to shortages of consumer goods, they cannot but have a high regard for the community of Western nations where the living standard of all classes is high and still growing, freedom of individuals and groups is respected and common problems are resolved publicly instead of in the secrecy of ministries and politburos. Therefore the news about the development of the E.E.C. which comes to Central Europe by Western radio or other means is received with extraordinary interest.

Evidence of this interest is found in the accounts of travelers visiting the People's Democracies, in the rapidly increasing number of official publications aimed at indoctrinating citizens with the governments' viewpoint on Western integration, and even in certain communist pronouncements. Thus one of the Polish experts on the E.E.C. states: "Much is expected from the processes of Western European integration. This explains the immense interest in these problems which we also observe in Poland. These problems command the attention not only of the circles professionally concerned by them, such as the representatives of corresponding scientific disciplines and personalities responsible for practical political activity, but also-to no lesser degree-of the large parts of society."[i] Consequently, there seems to be no question that it is not a resuscitation of nationalism, not a "freezing" of the E.E.C., but the progress and consolidation of the Community which can increase the attraction of the West for the general public in Central Europe.

The ruling élites of the People's Democracies also seem most likely to be drawn into rapprochement with Western Europe through the strengthening of the E.E.C. The recent evolution of relations between France and the communist bloc by no means extends to Western Europe as a whole. In fact, the trend toward the multiplication of bilateral contacts between the "capitalist" and the "socialist" states, favored by the policy of Paris, enables the communist governments to differentiate broadly among the Western nations. As long as Western Europe offers any grounds for believing the Marxist dogma about the inevitable "contradictions" in capitalism, as long as it leaves the communist ruling élites any hope of extending their system, there will be no real rapprochement between Western and Central Europe. And an autonomous role for the latter will not be possible. On the other hand, the consolidation of the E.E.C., its transformation into a political as well as an economic entity, the strengthening and democratization of the Community organs will provide irrefutable proof of its vitality and cohesion and thereby oblige the ruling élites of the People's Democracies to abandon doctrinaire policies and seek a durable cooperation with the West.

Economic necessity is pushing the ruling élites of Central Europe toward this coöperation. The People's Democracies are in serious need of credits and investments; they also need to increase foreign trade greatly. The U.S.S.R., itself in economic and political difficulties, is unable to meet all the needs of the People's Democracies. None of the West European nations acting alone can do it either. Trade relations between France and Central Europe are insignificant compared to the total volume of foreign trade of either. With a one-fifth share of the E.E.C. trade with the Soviet bloc, France is today outdistanced by Italy and still further by the Federal Republic, which alone accounts for more than half. Recent contacts between France and the communist states have shown that the possibilities for an increase in trade and economic cooperation are very limited. This is fully recognized in Central Europe. A Polish journalist, for example, expresses this opinion in the important weekly, Tygodnik Powszechny: "It is necessary to notice that de Gaulle's Eastern policy emerges from a purely political vision of Europe and so far is not sufficiently based on economic reality. Whatever one may say in purely political terms, the fact is that France's trade with the East is very small. As far as Poland is concerned, one may doubt whether there is much chance for increasing commercial exchanges, even with the best will on both sides."

Only the E.E.C. as a whole-thanks to its huge resources and its role in the economic life of the People's Democracies-can provide economic cooperation and assistance equal to their needs. For example, the Common Market's share in Rumania's foreign trade with non-communist countries is roughly 50 percent, in Hungary's 40 percent, in Czechoslovakia's and Poland's about 25 percent.


The successes of West European integration at the end of the fifties and the beginning of the sixties induced the Soviet leaders to revise their position with regard to the Common Market. This seemed to offer Central Europe the opportunity to improve its economic relations with the Six. In an article published in Kommunist in 1962, Khrushchev recognized the achievements of Western integration, in effect gave credit to its "objective character" and foresaw economic collaboration "not only between different states having different social systems but also between their economic unions."

Almost simultaneously with the publication of the Khrushchev article, "The Seventeen Theses" on Western integration-worked out in 1957 by the Moscow Institute for World Economy and International Relations to guide the struggle of international communism against the E.E.C.-were replaced by a new document, "The Thirty-two Theses." A comparison of the two shows the evolution of Moscow's attitude. In 1957 the creation of the Community was presented as the work of American imperialism, doomed to failure according to the laws of history. Five years later, the Franco-German alliance was identified as "the spine of integration," and the viability of the E.E.C. was recognized as follows: "The pace of economic development having been faster in the Common Market countries than in the United States, there is a resulting increase in their share of world capitalist production, international trade and gold reserves. For the first time in postwar history, the possibility of creating a 'center of attraction' equal or comparable to the United States from the viewpoint of human and material resources, volume of industrial production and foreign trade, is beginning to take shape. . . ."

This trend, however, has not continued in the years since then. Careful observation of Soviet policy on Western integration indicates that Moscow's attitude has been determined by the fluctuations in the integration process itself: the tendency to accept the E.E.C. as a partner in economic coöperation coincided with its initial period of vigorous progress; the subsequent recurrence of the original hostility reflects the crises which have shaken the E.E.C. since the beginning of 1963.

The Central European states have generally imitated the Soviets, although certain nuances in their attitude merit attention. They have largely returned to the conception of the "Theses" of 1957, according to which the E.E.C. is the creation and the instrument of a non-European power. Communist propaganda has presented the E.E.C. as a harmful product of the cold war, divisive of Europe, anachronistic in this period of peaceful coexistence, undermined by contradictions and threatened in its very existence. The E.E.C. was not accorded recognition. Needless to say, this has impeded the expansion of stable economic relations between Western and Central Europe and has fostered the latter's economic dependence upon the U.S.S.R.

One factor determining the attitude of the communist states and parties to the E.E.C. in recent years has been Britain's absence from it. Her entry- unless it substantially altered the Community's character and permanence- would certainly be a striking proof of the E.E.C.'s viability. She has a large share in communist trade with the West; and her entry into the E.E.C. would make recognition of the Community more urgent than it is today. Both the people and the ruling élites of the People's Democracies are aware of this. The above-quoted Polish columnist observes: "De Gaulle may delay England's admission, may make conditions and enumerate a long list of difficulties, but he cannot stop the principal tendencies uniting the whole of Western Europe. I am writing this without enthusiasm, for it is easy to deduce that England's entry into the Common Market will further aggravate the situation of our foreign trade. Thus, although I wish General de Gaulle's policy could succeed in this respect, I do not think it has great chances of doing so."

Apart from illustrating Central Europe's serious concern about the possibility of Britain's entry into the E.E.C., this statement expresses the widespread skepticism about the probable success of General de Gaulle's policy-the goals of which the communist states consider to be in their interest. Polityka, Poland's principal political weekly, recognized as the spokesman for official circles, commented not long ago: "Has de Gaulle succeeded in stopping certain integrative processes which are, in reality, factors promoting the disintegration of Europe as a whole? Only in part, because some of these processes are irreversible, in particular those corresponding to objective necessities, primarily economic."

This skepticism, and also, of course, the French inability to make a significant economic contribution to the communist states, renders the rapprochement between France and those states particularly fragile. It is not likely to be a determining factor in the relations between Western and Central Europe.


The existence of the E.E.C. produces, like a chain reaction, tendencies toward integration in other regions of the world. The growth and strength of the Community could not but reinforce these trends. It is most unlikely that Central Europe could resist for long the E.E.C. example, the idea of a union of the People's Democracies similar to that of the West European nations and a transformation of the present Soviet hegemony into a partnership like that between Western Europe and America.

This idea is now crystalizing in Central Europe, and even the ruling élites may possibly accept it before long-and not only as a result of pressure from below. In a few years, the more intelligent and pragmatic younger generation will take over from leaders schooled under Stalin.

So far, the ruling élites of Central Europe either have conformed, sometimes servilely, to Moscow's line, or have challenged the Soviet hegemony single-handed. Several cases of dissent in the Soviet bloc have been interpreted as an upsurge of nationalism in Central Europe. In my view, the proliferation of nationalistic symptoms in the internal and foreign affairs of the People's Democracies signifies an evolution of certain communist parties and ruling élites and not a real change in basic attitudes as they have gradually taken shape among the people during the postwar period. Whatever interpretation one may give to the recent animation of nationalism in Central Europe, it is interesting to notice that this phenomenon has been applauded in many Western countries and particularly in France, where it is considered a happy consequence of the precedents established by Paris.

Even more interesting, and apparently paradoxical, is the benevolence with which the Soviet Union has treated nationalism in Central Europe. Just after the war, the extreme weakness of the communist parties in the newly founded People's Democracies (except for Czechoslovakia and, in a somewhat different sense, Jugoslavia) forced these parties to identify themselves with nationalism in order to establish some common cause with the people. In this they were encouraged by their Soviet sponsors. Of course, its anti- Russian component was damped down, but other "antis" came to the fore: the anti-German factor in Poland, the anti-Hungarian in Rumania and, later, anti-Semitism in almost all Central European countries.

Soviet ideologists and propagandists have taken great pains to glorify the "national state" in Central Europe and to present it as a progressive historical form. The organization of Central Europe on the pattern of "independent national states" after the Second World War had many short- term political advantages for the Soviet Union. Soviet relations with the People's Democracies were strictly bilateral, and in the Stalin era were no more than pipelines for Moscow's orders.

After Stalin's death, Central European submissiveness to Moscow gave way to more normal interstate relations. Despite the anti-Soviet coloration of nationalism in some states, the Soviet policy of supporting the "national state" has remained unchanged, for Moscow's design for hegemony in Central Europe depends on it. As Zbigniew Brzezinski observes: "Nationalism not only inspires but also fragments East European opposition to the Russians, and helps the Soviet leaders in maintaining their predominance in the region by resorting to the ancient device of divide et impera. . . . There is no doubt that the inability of the East Europeans to overcome their own national antipathies makes them much weaker in their efforts to reassert their independence."[ii] This was strikingly illustrated at the Hungarian Communist Party Congress in late 1966. As Brezhnev watched benevolently, Janos Kadar revived the rationale and terminology of prewar Hungarian revisionism to attack the "imperialist dictation of Trianon" and to sling a dart at Rumania.

Westerners who commend nationalism in Central Europe should understand its role in the perpetuation of Soviet control there. Soviet hegemony over the People's Democracies will be transformed into a fruitful partnership only when the Central European states shed the confusion and weakness inherent in competing nationalisms. The goal of integration would also provide the people and the ruling élites of the People's Democracies with a political alternative able to assure the peaceful evolution of Central Europe at a time when communism is faced with the increasingly complex problems of growing industrial societies.


Communism in recent years has been in permanent crisis. In Central Europe the parties have been progressively alienated from society and in particular from the working classes, intellectual élites and youth, as statistics concerning the age, social status and occupation of party members testify. Not only are the parties isolated from the attitudes and needs of the general public, but they are also split internally. Opposition to the official line has appeared in almost all parties, and the most penetrating criticism of the communist system has come from communists from the Central European countries.

Open rebellion against the political order established by Stalin in Central Europe was repressed in 1956 and the following years. The party groups associated with this rebellion, labeled "revisionist" by their adversaries, were defeated, but opposition and revisionism persist. The effervescence among intellectuals, Marxist and non-Marxist, in the last few years has added considerably to internal tensions. The régimes are not today in a position to return to Stalinist controls, but neither have they the courage to undertake democratization or to allow the free play of common sense in the economic and cultural fields, for they fear that such measures might endanger the privileged position of the "new class." Hence the hesitation between détente and limited repression. If the ferment eating away at the intellectual community spills over to the working class-through the industrial intelligentsia which links the intellectuals and the factories- Europe may be faced with a situation similar to that of 1956.

The creation of a multinational Central European assembly would provide a way of directing these explosive forces to positive and creative uses. It would be a first step toward independence vis-à-vis the U.S.S.R., security vis-à-vis Germany, rapprochement with the West on the basis of equality, economic progress and a higher standard of living. Such a program could capture the imagination of the populace and set meaningful goals for the ruling élites.

Is it realistic to suppose that Moscow will some day permit an economic and political union of the Central European countries? So far it has stubbornly resisted any form of integration in Europe. The Briand Plan was stigmatized by Stalin as a new conspiracy of the bourgeoisie against the Soviet state. Efforts undertaken between the wars by statesmen of Central Europe to overcome the "balkanization" of that area were attacked by Moscow as plots of French imperialism aimed at reinforcing the cordon sanitaire surrounding the fatherland of workers and peasants. Later, the federation of Poland and Czechoslovakia prepared by Prime Minister Sikorski and President Bene? and- what is more surprising-the federation of Jugoslavia and Bulgaria designed by such renowned communist leaders as Tito and Dimitrov were categorically vetoed by the U.S.S.R.

However, the Soviet Union cannot continue forever to combat the unity and independence of Central Europe. Actually, the economic and political integration of the area would be profitable for it. A united and hence independent Central Europe would be much more likely to assure the Soviets stability on their western frontier than fragmented Central Europe can today. For behind the present official façade of friendship with the Soviets lurks dissatisfaction, dissent and even potential for violent disorder. Whereas such a Central Europe cannot be a secure partner for the Soviet Union, a united group of countries could well coöperate with its eastern neighbor out of genuine interest rather than coercion. It would also be a more useful link with the West than the present conglomerate of uncertain satellites. Since pragmatism is gaining over obsolete dogma in Moscow, why should not the Soviet leaders recognize this truth, especially as the Chinese giant becomes an increasing menace on their Asian borders?


The West could help precipitate the formation of a new Soviet policy toward Central Europe; it could also foster the goal of integration among the leaders and the people in that area. A most important contribution would be to reassure them that Germany will not again be a threat either to them or to the Soviet Union. The reluctance of the Federal Republic to recognize Germany's eastern frontiers and the activities of West German refugee and neo-Nazi groups play an important role in maintaining the stagnation of Central Europe. Many people in that region of the world are really fearful of "revanchists," while others adroitly manipulate that spectre; this impedes the tendency to reject a decayed status quo. The Germans themselves could certainly help to remedy this situation. But their partners in the E.E.C. could, together, do even more by rapidly consolidating the Community.

For it is evident that the only way to resolve the German problem to the satisfaction of Germans as much as non-Germans is to integrate Germany into an economically and politically unified Europe. This idea has long since been accepted in the West and is now beginning to find its way into the minds of Central Europeans. Its power is confirmed by the immense effort of communist propaganda to combat the notion with its obverse argument-that West European integration is a screen for German imperialism.

The other contribution the West could make to the salutary evolution of Central Europe would be to state frequently and without reservation that it has no intention of undermining the socialist base of the Central European economy and society. American leaders have set a good example in this respect, as when Secretary of State Dean Rusk declared in 1966: "Ours is not an effort to subvert the Eastern European governments nor to make those states hostile to the Soviet Union or to each other. No one would benefit from an Eastern Europe that is again balkanized."

Such an attitude is necessary first because of the Soviet Union, which one day may favor the unity and independence of Central Europe provided the basic principles of socialist order are maintained (as the Jugoslav precedent indicates). On the contrary, the restoration of capitalism would amount to a severe defeat for Moscow, and, therefore, the Soviets would energetically oppose any move in that direction. So, too, would the governing élites of Central Europe.

Above all, however, the West must accept socialism in Central Europe out of consideration for the people of the area. Most of the domestic opposition to the present régimes arises not from a desire to restore capitalism but from aspirations for freedom and prosperity within socialism. Surveys conducted during the "thaw" among students of Warsaw University and nine other schools of higher learning in the Polish capital have shown extremely significant results. To the question, "Do you consider yourself a Marxist?", only 1.8 percent of the students answered "Definitely yes" and 11.4 percent "Rather yes." However, to the question, "Would you like the world to move toward some form of socialism?", 24.6 percent chose the answer "Definitely yes" and 44.7 percent "Rather yes."[iii] Clearly the Polish students polled had made a distinction between the totalitarianism reigning in their country-identified with Marxism-and socialism.

And obviously the West can make an important economic contribution to the development of Central Europe. The share of the whole Soviet bloc in the foreign trade of the E.E.C. (excluding intra-Community trade) amounts today to hardly more than 6 percent. The E.E.C. evidently could and should strengthen its economic ties with its eastern neighbors. The important speech of President Jean Rey in February 1967 indicates that E.E.C. leaders appreciate the importance of this.

But the effects in the People's Democracies of the E.E.C/s creation and progress have gone beyond the economic and are becoming a catalyst for intellectual, psychological and political tendencies. These non-economic or non-commercial aspects have not received the attention they deserve in the Commission of the European Communities. If the Commission would cultivate a thorough understanding of the multiple effects that the E.E.C. has and could have in the Central European countries, it could respond to developments there in ways that would aid them in attaining union and independence and rapprochement with Western Europe.

[i] Z. Nowak, "Koncepcja integracji Europy Zachodniej" ("Conception of the Integration of Western Europe"). Poznan, 1965, p. 8.

[ii] Zbigniew Brzezinski, "Alternative to Partition." New York: McGraw- Hill, for the Council on Foreign Relations, 1965, p. 35.

[iii] The authors of the survey summed up its results for Western readers in Esprit (Paris), November 1958.

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