Steven Saxonberg, Professor, Akademin hälsa och samhälle, Högskolan Dalarna, projektledare.
Jofen Kihlström, Fil dr, Akademin hälsa och samhälle, Högskolan Dalarna, projektledare.
More than two decades after the “collapse of communism,” communist regimes continue to rule such diverse countries as China, Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam. This gives us reason to re-evaluate our explanations of 1989. Our starting hypothesis is that the official mass organizations can play an important role in bringing about the fall of such regimes, especially if they have reformist leaderships; moreover, they also play an important role in helping to consolidate democratic transitions. Traditionally, social scientists have ignored the official mass organizations when discussing transitions to democracy in communist-led countries and have instead either concentrated on the regime or opposition groups comprising civil society. Mass organizations, such as unions, youth organizations and women’s organizations have been written off as uninteresting “transmission belts” of the communist party. However, in beginning to re-examine the official unions in Central and Eastern Europe, it seems they behaved more autonomous and they played a bigger role in the democratization process than has been previously believed. In both Vietnam and China the official unions are becoming increasingly autonomous and could likely play an important role in the eventual democratization of their countries.