Why Communism Did Not Collapse: Understanding Authoritarian Regime Resilience in Asia and Europe

Why Communism Did Not Collapse: Understanding Authoritarian Regime Resilience in Asia and Europe

Language: English

Pages: 390

ISBN: 1107651131

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This volume brings together a distinguished group of scholars working to address the puzzling durability of communist autocracies in Eastern Europe and Asia, which are the longest-lasting type of nondemocratic regime to emerge after World War I. The volume conceptualizes the communist universe as consisting of the ten regimes in Eastern Europe and Mongolia that eventually collapsed in 1989-91, and the five regimes that survived the fall of the Berlin Wall: China, Vietnam, Laos, North Korea, and Cuba. Taken together, the essays offer a theoretical argument that emphasizes the importance of institutional adaptations as a foundation of communist resilience. In particular, the contributors focus on four adaptations: of the economy, of ideology, of the mechanisms for inclusion of potential rivals, and of the institutions of vertical and horizontal accountability. The volume argues that when regimes are no longer able to implement adaptive change, contingent leadership choices and contagion dynamics make collapse more likely. By conducting systematic paired comparisons of the European and Asian cases and by developing arguments that encompass both collapse and resilience, the volume offers a new methodological approach for studying communist autocracies.

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continuous adaptive institutional change. Therefore, collapse is more likely when adaptive institutional change stagnates. As scholars of the Middle East are now questioning basic assumptions of their subfield,2 they have begun to suggest a similar structural explanation for the Arab Spring, finding that regimes that had inflexible political structures were more likely to collapse, whereas regimes that had room to maneuver institutionally (i.e., the monarchies) or had a strong nationalistic base of

“deliberately broke the might of the apparatus.”76 Together with the weakening of the ministries, the capacity of the USSR authorities to steer the economy largely disappeared. As lower-level entities refused to transmit taxes to Moscow, its government was financially starved. At the local level, the power of the soviets was increased as economic power was taken away from the all-controlling party committees, who were left in search of a role. But at the same time, as Chernyaev notes, since the

Military First Policy,” December 11, 2003, Nautilus Institute, DPRK Briefing Book, http://www.nautilus.org/publications/books/dprkbb/transition/Ruediger_Socialism.html (accessed November 14, 2010). Ideological Introversion and Regime Survival 117 to have fallen out of favor after his arrest at Narita Airport in 2001, when he tried to sneak into Japan with a false passport. Little is known about Kim Jong Chul, the second son, but he seems not to have been a contender. Rumors that the third son,

or survived this period only to endure up to the present time. There was, in short, something very important about that period. Second, it is important to remember that, even today, the Soviet Union remains the longest-lived communist experiment. For example, communism in the Soviet Union lasted for seventy-three years (1917– 1990), whereas the regime in China was only sixty-four years old in 2013. Finally, it is striking that the cross-national spread of mass-based challenges to authoritarian

redistribution in exchange for political quiescence.19 An overriding concern of most communist regimes was to ensure high levels of economic growth, which were necessary for effective governance, in particular so as to fulfill the redistributive commitments made under the social contract. Exceptionally, these regimes can survive periods of negative economic growth, provided that they have access to the tool of repression (to punish opponents) and to a credible external threat to stability (to

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