Courtesy Reuters

Eastern Europe on Its Own

No easy generalizations, and certainly none that are conclusive, can be offered about the frequently surprising, fast-changing and ultimately ambiguous and confusing world of Eastern Europe. The observer must aim at a moving target, not only because of the rapid pace of new developments but especially because of the gap between reforms proclaimed and reforms pursued, reforms announced and reforms implemented.

Confusion persists because, on one level, nothing has changed in Eastern Europe. The Warsaw Pact is in place and functioning. For the time being, the leading role of the region's communist parties-the exercise of one-party rule-remains in force. Some version of "socialism" is embraced by reformers and antireformers alike.

On another level, however, everything about the area is in flux. The term "Soviet bloc" is becoming a political misnomer. Differences among the region's six states are so acute that it is now less appropriate than ever to speak of "Eastern Europe" as a single entity.

Ideologically, the foundation of the East European alliance is sinking, the edifice of its socialism is cracked. "Marx has turned out to be right, after all," began an article published in a prominent Hungarian weekly in the fall of 1988. "It is in the advanced capitalist countries that socialism has come into being." Some East European officials now even regret the split in socialist ranks that took place at the turn of the twentieth century; they speak of the political wisdom and economic achievements of their erstwhile enemies, the social democrats of Western Europe. Meanwhile, at the other end of the ideological spectrum, Romania's Nicolae Ceausescu assails ongoing reform in the Soviet Union and some parts of Eastern Europe as "capitulation to capitalism."

Politically, too, Eastern Europe is in a state of disarray and division. In one ring, Hungarian and Polish reformers and professed reformers meet the region's "Gang of Four"-Brezhnevite Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and East Germany, and neo-Stalinist Romania. In another ring, where the contenders appear in old nationalist uniforms, the main event pits Hungary

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