By the end of the 1950s, it looked to all the world as if Eastern Europe were safely back in the Communist fold. The Hungarians were still stunned by the defeat of the revolution; the irascible Poles were finally subdued; the Czechs were laboring under the most severe repression since the death of Stalin; the Rumanians and the Bulgarians seemed, as usual, to be bearing their yoke with docility; the Albanians were too few, too far and too inconsequent to deserve the world's solicitude. Jugoslavia was effectively quarantined by Moscow and her revisionist influence was at an ebb. The 1956 interlude was over. It was hardly possible to detect at that time the forces that a few years later were to challenge the renewed order and breed confusion and disarray in the Communist ranks.
The events of 1956-from the Twentieth Party Congress of the C.P.S.U. in February to the end of the Hungarian general strike in December-had more profoundly altered the nature of Communist rule in Eastern Europe than was believed at the time. Khrushchev, in his speech at the Congress, had condemned rule by terror; by his accusations against Stalin, he had also, in effect, acknowledged the fallibility of party leadership. Terror, in the sense of wanton repression for deeds not condemned by law, has ever since been abandoned in Eastern Europe, except in Albania, which rejected the principles of the Twentieth Congress. The revelation of Stalin's follies, reinforced by criticism of Gottwald, Rakosi and Chervenkov in their respective countries, undermined the faith of Communist Party members in their chiefs everywhere; at the same time, the de facto acknowledgment of errors in the past policies of the party made it increasingly delicate to bar public discussion of present policies.
In June 1956, the Poznan riots, which were set off by economic demands, demonstrated to the ruling régimes the political risks they took in neglecting their people's welfare. This lesson has been learned: henceforth, the necessity of at least
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