The processes of political and economic transformation in Central and Eastern Europe are determined by several types of factors. Basically these are as outlined below. Political framework This consists of the institutions which were inherited from the communist era or which developed in the course of transition.Economic institutional framework and economic conditions These were also partly inherited from the communist times. For example, in all these countries part of both industry and services is in state ownership. The economic institutional framework has changed alongside the privatisation of state property but, paradoxically enough, even in the countries where this process has been rapid (the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary), central power and control over the economy was not weakened at all. It is a common opinion that it has rather been strengthened and that without this the reforms would have not been possible.Social structure and stratification None of the countries entered the path of transformation with a fully developed middle class. As has been predicted, it is the stratum of intellectuals which takes the shape of the new middle class and political class, whatever its background. The ranks of the post-communist bureaucracy, nomenklatura, or groups of dissidents and ‘semi-dissidents’, are most often endowed with higher education. However, the countries of this part of Europe are different with respect to the resources from which the middle and political classes could grow. In some of them, for instance in Poland, the private economy was never completely liquidated and the group of dissidents was relatively large. Conversely, in others, like Ukraine, no private economy existed before 1990, and the group of dissidents was very small. A rather important aspect of the social structure of the countries are the numbers of people working in agriculture. Poland and Hungary are countries where the proportion of people working in agriculture is very large, while Russia and the Czech Republic employ many fewer people in this sector. The political effects of this are quite visible. For instance, the new ruling coalition in Poland consists of the agrarians and neo-social democrats. Another important aspect of the social structure is the resource base of people with higher and full secondary education. The Czech Republic is one of the richest in this respect, and Poland one of the poorest. All these and other aspects are important as factors which determine the course of economic and political reform and the basis for political stability.Social, political and economic attitudes of people In all these countries it is possible to identify a short period of time during which everyone, except the nomenclature and some communist party members, were pro-reform. However, shortly after that the people’s attitudes changed significantly. Observers and students of opinion polls show that the privatisation of the economy in most of those countries was supported by relatively large groups of people whose market positions were strong (highly qualified specialists) and opposed by those whose market position was weaker or weak (semi-skilled workers or farmers). This differentiation of attitudes is growing and their content and dynamics is an increasingly important factor in the processes of transformation.
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