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Washington, D.C. : National Council for Soviet and East European Research, [1993]

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This paper examines the level and sources of suppon for the market-oriented reforms in East-Central Europe and the relationship between these attitudes and political trust in the governments. The analysis is based on data collected in a common public opinion survey on social, economic and political justice implemented in the spring and summer of 1991 in eleven countries: Russia. Poland, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Germany (east and west), Holland, the United Kingdom, Japan and the United States.

The survey results suggest some measure of caution and concern regarding the possibilities for a successful transition to market democracy in the former communist countries. In all of them. there remains a high degree of commitment to the old system of social welfare. and considerable distrust of the current political system and economic reforms. These concerns are based mostly on economic factors rather than ideological ones and reflect the difficulties and dislocations many people are experiencing with the economic transition.

The people that are the most skeptical about the reforms, and most reluctant to let go of the past. are typically older. less educated, and less politically active. In some ways, these are the people who have been left behind ("the losers") in the economic transition, which is being managed and supported by those who are younger, highly educated and more politically active ( "the winners"). Because they have not been very active politically, they do

not pose an immediate threat to the political system. and can therefore fairly safely be ignored by the new political elite. But if the economy deteriorates too sharply, or for too long, they are likely to be activated.

Perhaps the biggest factor working against the new governments is time. In order for the reforms to be successful. the governments need either to effect a fairly rapid economic turnaround, thus defusing discontent. or effect a chan'.5e in popular values that will allow people to accept the inequality, unemployment and reduced economic security of democratic capitalism. Both of these tasks are likely to take a long time, perhaps as long as a generation.

Some of the countries of the region have a better chance than others of making the successful transition. Slovenia and former Czechoslovakia, for example, exhibit relatively low levels of support for socialism. high support for the market. a low sense of political alienation and high incidence of "post-materialist" values. Thus these countries seem better positioned to push ahead with market reforms while maintaining popular political support. Russia and Poland are at the opposite ends of almost all of these spectra. suggesting a rougher ride.

This might also suggest that some countries are more suited for a rapid transition through "shock therapy" and others more suited to an evolutionary transition. Former Czechoslovakia (and especially the Czech Republic) and Slovenia may be ready to make the "leap to the market," sustaining large-scale but short-time difficulties for the sake of longer term growth and prosperity. Countries like Poland and Russia may have to settle for the gradualist approach. This will afford the time to build political coalitions on behalf of the reforms. to mollify those constituencies who feel left out, and to provide for those who will be most adversely affected by the reforms. This will take time. involve compromises. and delay economic reforms. But the costs in terms of growth and production may be offset by gains in social harmony and political stability.



National Council for Soviet and East European Research (U.S.)

Butler University.

"Council contract number: 805-11."

"Contractor: Butler University."

"March 12, 1993."