Full Citation

  • Title Gorbachev's wary allies
  • Author Gedye, Robin
  • Publication Title The Daily Telegraph
  • Collection The Daily Telegraph
  • Date Wednesday,  Apr. 23, 1986
  • Issue Number 40693
  • Page Number 23
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library Telegraph Media Group
  • Copyright Statement © Telegraph Media Group Limited.
Gorbachev's wary allies Smiling through: Mr Gorbochev with o Young Pioneer in Potsdam, Eost Germany. IT IS hardlv credible, but thev are said to be erecting scaffolding to repair the scaffolding that is preventing much of Prague crumbling into a heap. Prague, merchant capital of central Europe before the war, repository of one of the finest original collections of baroque and gothic architecture, is falling to pieces for lack of funds and skilled labour. Amid all this decaying splendour fluttered the flags of the 17th Party Congress, celebrating successes of socialism, praising the glories of Marxism and proclaiming the victory of Ihe proletariat. The flags are fluttering all over Eastern Europe thi> spring and summer. In Sofia, Warsaw, Moscow, East Berlin and Prague party bureaucrats are coming up for their five-yearly gulp of air and self-exposure before ducking below the surface for another 1.825 days The words they have uttered are fashioned from the raw matenals which served Karl Marx to create a vision that has patently failed to fulfill ideals. When Nikita Krushchev told the 22nd Soviet Partv Congress in 1961: -Comrades, world communism is on the horizon." he also promised that by the 1970s socialism would have outstripped the West economically and technologically. The scaffolding in Prague is a symbol and manifestation of Eastern Europe's inability to live up to expectations. It is proof that a people whose industriousness once gained them the world's admiration have regressed to the point where they are unable to look after their proud heritage. When 1 once commented to a Hungarian construction worker that his countrv appeared verv well oft by Eastern Bloc standards, he gave a reply since repeated to me. with variations. by Poles. East Germans and Czechoslovaks. "Ah yes, that's quite true But we don't compare ourselves to Poles, Germans or any ot our other allies. We look at Austria with which we once formed an empire and we say that is what we would be like in a different system." Mr Gorbachev may bc the first Soviet leader since the 1917 Revolution to admit to the limitations of a strictly Marxist FOREIGN RLE Robin Gedye reports from East Berlin economic doctrine and seek to reverse the economic stagnation into which at least four European Communist allies have plunged. It is questionable whether his arrival has raised expectations among the working classes. They are disillusioned about promises of golden futures, but they do recognise that Mr Gorbachev mav bc their first real hope for anv kind of change in 40 > ears. They are not ecstatic: each country faces different problems and has different tears. Whiie Hungarians are now afraid that Mr Gorbachev's Stalinist efficiency will curtail their burgeoning economic ties to the West, Poles fear that while their economv continues to deteriorate, repression will increase. Czechoslovaks, whose quid pro quo for the Prague Spnng in 1968 was goods in the shops and cars in the streets at the expense of economic investment, fear their bubble is about to burst. " At best, we vvill work harder for the same reward At worst, for less reward. If Gorbachev makes us practise what he preaches, things will get tough." moans a shoe factory employee. Typical of workers throughout Eastern Europe, he has a second job to supplement his income. " If I have to work harder I'll be too exhausted to drive my taxi at which I make three times as much as in the factory." Kastern Europe has developed a sophisticated svstem of briberv and corruption. In Poland the black market exchange rate for the dollar is published dailv in a consumer newspaper. A typical Bulgarian is jokinglv defined as: "A man v\ho earns 200 leva (£141) per momth, spends 400 leva (£280) and deposits 600 leva (£420) in thc bank." While the ordinarv man welcomes -Mr Gorbachev's promises of change in principle he is aware on past precedent, that they are rarely fulfilled. The prospect of Mr Gorbachev has an even more salutary r effect thtiM Vdtl- ilh power. Conord for successful rule in Eastern Europe. Any attempts at in nowl ion have inevitably led to political upheaval and the removal of offending leaders. The "dparatchniks" or bureaucrats remain the true repositorv lor the conservative iore ot Fast European communism which no change ot ruler has vet interfered with Ihe armv and secret police are still the most important avenue of upward class mobility and there is little other opportunitv to improve earnings or status prospects. Mr Honecker, 73 of East Germanv. Mr Zhivkov, 74, of Bulgaria. Mr Husak. 73. of Czechoslovakia and Mr Kadar. 72. of Hungary have survived by strict adherence to the laws of political continuity as dictated bv past Soviet rulers. But with a man installed in the Kremlin who portravs himself as an innovator with not a little scorn for past working methods, the old guard might have been a lot more concerned than they appear to be. Eastern Europe's greatest problem is its disafected youth. Until Solidaritv emerged in Poland the problem had been recognised, but ignored. The Soviet L'nion misguidedly thought it could be dealt with by banning Western pop culture. Solidarity not only pinpointed the inherent flaw in practised Marxism—that the dictatorship of the proletariat is a myth and the working classes do not and must not have power—but it showed the barrenness of political rhetoric for the young who ignore the svstem by circumventing its laws and imitating the West in fashions and aims. Mr Leszek Kolakowski. formerly one of Poland's most prominent Marxist philosophers, now living in the West. said of his own country: "We now have a Communist nation without a Communist ideology. Marxism for Poles has become i ompletely irrelevant. "In almost all communistruled countries there has been a crisis of legitimacy because communist ideology has been shown to exist on illegitimate pnnciples. With Marxism dead, it is now religion that has won the upper hand." Again Poland has drawn attention to the attraction of religion as an alternative to state communism. Czechoslovakia is terrified about the growth in popularity of Catholicism in Slovakia. Mr Dragoslav Rancic, a prominent expert on Eastern Europe for the Yugoslav daily, Politika, last February identified Mr Gorbachev as a fighter of illusions. Mr Gorbachev would doubtless agree that religion was just such an illusion. If he is going to capture the imagination of youth he will have to first do battle with the church.