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Post-Communism

Post-Communism is a name sometimes given to the period of political and economic transition in former communist states located in parts of Europe and Asia, usually transforming into a free market capitalist and globalized economy.

Politics

The policies of most Communist Parties in both Eastern and Western Europe had been governed by the example of the Soviet Union. In most of the countries in Eastern Europe, following the fall of communist-led governments in 1989, the Communist Party generally split in two factions: a reformist Social Democratic party and a new Communist Party. Almost without exception, the newly created Social Democratic parties were vastly larger and more powerful than the remaining Communist Parties; only in Russia and Moldova did the Communist Party remain a significant force, and even then both the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova are in fact democratic socialist as opposed to ideologically Communist.

The ex-communist social democrats gained increasing popularity when the transition to capitalism began to cause economic problems such as poverty and unemployment. All of them won national elections in their respective countries at least once in the past 15 years. However, their voters, who were certainly expecting left-wing policies, were very disappointed: nearly all the ex-communist "social democrats" followed a highly capitalist, neoliberal policy while in power. As a result, many disillusioned left-wing voters have turned to the remaining Communist Parties in recent years.

In western Europe, many of the self-styled communist political parties reacted by changing their policies to a more moderate and less radical course. In countries such as Italy and Germany, post-communism is marked by the increased influence of their existing Social Democrats. The anti-Soviet communist parties in western Europe (for example the Trotskyist parties), who felt that the fall of the Soviet Union vindicated their views and predictions, didn't particularly prosper from it - in fact, some of them became less radical as well.

Economy

Several communist states had undergone economic reforms from a command economy towards a more market-oriented economy in the 1980s. The post-communist economic transition was much more abrupt and aimed at creating fully capitalist economies.

All the countries concerned have abandoned the traditional tools of communist economic control, and moved more or less successfully toward free market systems. A summary of the process, containing both economic analysis and anecdotal case studies, can be found in Charles Paul Lewis's How the East Was Won (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). Although some (including Lewis) stress the beneficial effect of multinational investment, the reforms had important negative consequences that are still unfolding. Average standards of living registered a catastrophic fall in the early 1990s in many parts of the former Comecon - most notably, in the former Soviet Union - and began to rise again only toward the end of the decade. Some populations are still poorer today than they were in 1989 (e.g. Ukraine, Moldova, Serbia, ). Others have bounced back considerably beyond that threshold however (e.g. Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia), and some, such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, are currently undergoing an economic boom (see Baltic Tiger).

Today, most post-communist countries in Europe are generally seen to have mixed economies, although it is often argued that some (such as Romania, Slovakia and Estonia, with their flat tax rates) are actually more capitalist than Western Europe.

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