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.
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.
Some of the keywords of post-communism are: