Chapter 29 From the Past to the Future: 1968-2000

Section 4 Democracy and Free Trade

The end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union seemed to foreshadow an end to the struggle that had embroiled much of the world for most of the twentieth century. Communism as a political system seemed to be giving way to democracy, while socialism as an economic system was giving way to capitalism.

The Abandonment of Communism

Perhaps the most striking feature of the end of the Cold War was the speed with which communism itself was abandoned throughout the world. In the century and a half after the 1848 publication of the Communist Manifesto, various versions of Marxism, all of which emphasized a collectivist economic class identity as the primary human identity, the inevitability of class warfare, and the ultimate triumph through violent revolution of the working class and the establishment of a "dictatorship of the proletariat," had become the most aggressive challengers to the political and economic systems that underlay the western democracies - democratic liberalism, with its emphasis on individual identity as the source of all rights and responsibilities; and the free market capitalist economic system, based on private property and the relatively free pursuit of individual self-interest. The triumph of the Russian Communist Party and the establishment of the Soviet Union between 1917 and 1921, seemed to have established communism as a permanent, even inevitable, movement throughout the world. In addition, the international communist movement seemed a natural ally of the growing demands of colonial nationalists for freedom and self-determination. Lenin's own addition to Marxist theory, in which he asserted that imperialism itself was "the highest stage of capitalism," had appealed to many opponents of imperialism in the West, as well as to many colonial nationalists within the European overseas empires. Marxism-Leninism offered an attractive alternative political theory and model for economic development to colonial nationalists who were anxious to attain their independence from imperial rule while at the same time maintaining their own justification for taking over the governments of the new colonial states rather than allowing them to return to their traditional rulers. Consequently, during the inter-war period many western-educated colonial nationalists turned to Marxist doctrines to justify their critique of imperialism and to provide a blueprint first for liberation from colonial rule and then for the development of their newly-independent states along modern industrial, technological lines.

            As the Russian Revolution had won the world’s largest country to communism, in 1949, after three decades of civil war, the triumph of the Chinese Communist Party brought the world's most populous nation into the communist fold. After World War II, other wars and revolutions established communism in Eastern Europe, North Korea, Indochina, Cuba, Angola, and South Yemen. “The East wind prevails over the West wind,” Mao Zedong had boasted in the late 1950s,[95] and Nikita Khrushchev had predicted a series of “national liberation wars” that would bring developing nations to communism.[96]

            By the late 1980s and early 1990s, however, nearly all the communist regimes in the world had fallen. The domino theory, once cited as a warning against communist expansion, seemed to work much better in reverse. Mikhail Gorbachev’s moves away from communism in the Soviet Union led to the toppling of every communist regime in Eastern Europe. Soon, most communist regimes around the world began to collapse.

The Rising Tide of Democracy

The abandonment of communism was part of a larger trend in world political affairs during the 1980s and 1990s. As authoritarian regimes fell, democracy made substantial gains. Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union were the most obvious additions to the realm of democracy, even if questions remained regarding the permanency of their conversion.

            Elections were held throughout the former Soviet bloc. On the eve of the first free election in East Germany, an East Berlin woman exulted: 

“Freedom! Freedom! I wake up each morning with freedom on my mind. I am so happy to finally be free, to live for this day when I can finally vote, express my opinions freely without worrying what the neighbor thinks. I had it out with my neighbor last week—one of those who stood on the other side—and told him exactly what I thought. And we still greet each other on the street. . . . The Communists have no right to rule anymore—no rights at all, for anything. They’ve ruined everything in this country.”[97] 

Most voters had similar views, and the Communists were the big losers in the initial round of voting. Subsequent elections brought some Communists back into office—almost always under new party names—perhaps demonstrating that democracy really worked.

            Democracy made important gains in Asia, as well. In the early 1990s South Korea elected its first civilian president since 1961,[98] and Taiwan allowed increased popular participation in politics.[99] Democracy returned to the Philippines in 1986 after 20 years of autocratic rule by Ferdinand Marcos.[100]  In Pakistan and Bangladesh, military rulers stepped aside, if not very far and not always for very long.

            Much of Latin America also experienced a democratizing trend in the 1980s and 1990s. Nicaragua held elections in 1990 in which the ruling Sandinistas were turned out.[101] In Chile, the longtime dictator Augusto Pinochet also allowed himself to be voted out of office in 1989.[102] Peru made the transition from military rule to civilian rule in 1980,[103] as did Argentina in 1983[104] and Brazil in 1985.[105] Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party retained its grip on that country's presidency, but allowed reforms that made opposition more effective.

            Some of the most exciting developments in the democratizing trend of the period occurred in South Africa, where the formerly dispossessed black majority won political rights and elected a government headed by Nelson Mandela.

            [BIO]The son of the royal family of the Thembu people, Mandela became politicized in his twenties. In 1944 he cooperated with Walter Sissulu and Oliver Tambo to found the Youth League of the African National Congress (ANC) In the early 1950s, not long after the official establishment of racial segregation known as apartheid, Mandela and Tambo set up the first black law partnership in South Africa. The white minority government frowned on legal and political activism by blacks, and more than once, Mandela was arrested and brought to trial for various anti-government activities.

            After a police massacre of unarmed demonstrators at Sharpeville in 1960, Mandela became convinced that black violence was necessary to counter white violence. He organized a military wing of the now outlawed ANC. Again arrested, he was convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government, and in 1964 was sentenced to life in prison.

            For twenty-six years Mandela was South Africa’s most famous political prisoner. Few friends or observers saw reason to believe that he would ever leave custody. By the 1980s, however, on-going world boycotts of South African goods and the growing weakness of the Communist threat so many white South Africans feared led the South African government to reconsider its apartheid policies.

            In 1990 the government legalized the ANC and released Mandela from prison. As the trend toward democracy gained ground throughout the world in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse, the government began to negotiate with the ANC for a transition from apartheid to full non-racial democracy in South Africa. In 1994, the first all-race elections were held.[106] Mandela, who himself voted for the first time, was resoundingly chosen to be South Africa’s first black African president.[107] On the day of the election, Mandela said: 

“We are moving from an era of resistance, division, oppression, turmoil and conflict and starting a new era of hope, reconciliation and nation-building. I sincerely hope that the mere casting of a vote . . . will give hope to all South Africans.”[108] 

Despite tension among South Africa’s various ethnic groups, particularly the Zulu and the Xhosa, as well as opposition from diehard, right-wing Afrikaners, South Africa seemed permanently on the road to democracy.

Freeing Trade

As world politics grew more democratic, world trade grew freer. In 1947 the major economic nations had signed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) to promote economic growth and development throughout the world. Over the years, these nations have come together for a series of negotiations to broaden the scope of this agreement. In 1993 a 6-year round of these negotiations, known as the Uruguay Round, substantially lowered tariffs and protected intellectual property, such as patents, trademarks, and copyrights.[109] The Uruguay Round also created the World Trade Organization (WTO), which has the power to resolve disputes between trading partners.[110]

            Other efforts on behalf of free trade were regional. In the early 1990s the European Economic Community evolved into the European Union (EU). In 1993 all 12 members of the EU ratified the Maastricht Treaty, in which EU members agreed to work toward a common defense and foreign policies, drop trade barriers, and work toward the acceptance of a common currency. Although there has been some hesitation in Great Britain about tying its affairs too closely with those of Europe,[111] the European Union provides the promise of greater political and economic power for its members in the world.

            In 1994 the United States, Canada, and Mexico negotiated a regional free-trade pact called the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).[112] Disputes over free trade continued, however. Japan’s practices of limiting access to Japanese markets for certain American products, for example, caused increasing tension between the two countries. When the U.S. threatened to impose heavy tariffs on Japanese luxury cars in 1995, however, Japan finally entered into a trade agreement with the US that would allow freer trade of American cars and car parts in the Japanese market.


While the trend toward more-open markets appeared irresistible, a few governments held back the tide of democracy. The most important was China, where economic liberalization was still accompanied by political repression under communist rule. In Cuba an aging Fidel Castro continued to cling to power even after the collapse of the Soviet Union cut off the aid that had long propped up his government.[113] As living conditions in Cuba grew increasingly intolerable, about 30,000 Cubans took to boats or homemade rafts to risk the ocean passage to Florida.[114] By 1995, however, even Cuba was beginning to show signs of loosening some economic controls.

            In North Korea, the death of longtime communist leader Kim Il Sung in 1994[115] led many Koreans to hope that Korea might reunite, perhaps along democratic lines. However, after an internal power struggle Kim’s son Kim Jong Il became president. Although some movement toward reconciling North and South Korea seemed promising, disputes soon arose over North Korea’s nuclear program. By 1995, the future of relations between the two Koreas remained unclear.

            Communists were not the only ones resisting the trend toward democracy. In Iran, for example, the Islamic government cited the Qur’an as justification for denying effective democracy to the Iranian people. In Indonesia President Suharto, in power since the military coup of 1968,[116] placed economic development ahead of political rights. Sa’udi Arabia’s royal family also continued to rule autocratically, with only an appointed council to advise the monarch.[117] The governments of Iraq,[118] Syria,[119] Burma, Liberia, and Ethiopia[120]—to name a few among many—having seized power at gunpoint held on to it by similar means. The world was becoming more democratic, but still had a long way to go.



IDENTIFY and explain the significance of the following:

African National Congress


General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

World Trade Organization

European Union

North America Free Trade Agreement


1.            Main Idea  What happened to communism in the late 1980s and 1990s?

2.            Main Idea  How did international trade evolve during this period?

3.            Politics and Law  How did China, Cuba, and North Korea react toward the international trend toward democracy? 

4.            Writing to Explain  In a few paragraphs, explain why eastern European nations might want to join the European Union.

5.            Hypothesizing  Given the remarkable political and economic changes that have taken place in the last two decades, what political and economic changes do you foresee in the next 20 years? Explain your answer.

Chapter 30 Review


From the following list, choose the term that correctly matches the definition:




greenhouse effect

ozone layer


1. A period of relaxation in the Cold War established by Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev.

2. A plan for reforming the political and economic system of the Soviet Union by diminishing the role of the state in Soviet life and by introducing elements of the democratic and capitalist systems of the West.

3. The first modern computer, built in 1946 at the University of Pennsylvania.

4. The official system of racial segregation in South Africa, established in 1949 and dismantled in the early 1990s.

5. The warming of the earth's surface caused by the buildup of carbon dioxide, which traps the sun's heat.


List the following events in their correct chronological order:

1. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

2. Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev initiated the policies of perestroika and glasnost.

3. U.S. President Richard Nixon made an official visit to China.

4. President Ronald Reagan launched an invasion of Grenada.

5. The United States boycotted the Olympics in Moscow.[121]


1. What was the purpose of détente between the United States and the Soviet Union?

2. How and why did the Soviet Union disintegrate?

3. What resulted from the alliance of science and technology in the decades after World War II?

4. Why did many scientists worry about the effects of continued industrialization?

5. What happened to communism and democracy in the 1980s and 1990s?


1. Evaluating Which was more significant in breaking apart the Soviet Union: Cold War opposition by the United States, or forces and events within the Soviet Union? Explain your answer.

2. Hypothesizing  Why do you think that China clung on to communism after most other communist nations abandoned it?

Chapter 30 Bibliography

Beschloss, Michael R. and Strobe Talbott. At the Highest Levels: The Inside Story of the End of the Cold War.  Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1993.  (PCL)

Carr, Thomas A., et al.  "Rain Forest Entrepreneurs: Cashing in on Conservation."  Environment 35 (Sept 1993): 12.

Carter, Jimmy. Keeping Faith.

Cohen, Stephen F. and Katrina Vanden Heuvel. Voices of Glasnost.

Current History, vol. 91, no. 561 (January 1992).

Current History, vol. 91, no. 568 (November 1992).  

The Economist, vol. 318, no. 7690 (19 January 1991). 

The Economist, vol. 318, no. 7696 (2 March 1991). 

The Economist, vol. 320, no. 7713 (29 June 1991).  

The Economist, vol. 322, no. 7742 (18 January 1992).  

The Economist, vol. 324, no. 7770 (1 August 1992). 

The Economist, vol. 330, no. 7844 (8 January 1994). 

Froman, Michael B.  The Development of the Idea of Détente: Coming to Terms.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991.  (PCL) 

Lenssen, Nicholas.  "A New Energy Path for the Third World."  Technology Review 96 (October 1993): 42. (Austin Public Library) 

Lewis, Jon E.  The 20th Century: Eye-Witness Accounts of the Moments That Shaped Our Century.  New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers Inc., 1994. (Travis's) 

Time, vol. 134, no. 21 (November 20, 1989): 24-33. 

Walker, Rachel.  Six Years that Shook the World: Perestroika—The Impossible Project.  Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993. (PCL) 

Webster's 10th 

World Almanac and Book of Facts 1995. Mahwah, NJ: World Almanac, 1994. 

World Resources Institute.  The 1993 Information Please Environmental Almanac.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993.  (Austin Public Library)  

[1]Time, vol. 134, no. 21 (November 20, 1989): 27.

[2]Time, vol. 134, no. 21 (November 20, 1989): 27.

[3]Time, vol. 134, no. 21 (November 20, 1989): 27.

[4]Time, vol. 134, no. 21 (November 20, 1989): 26.

[5]Froman, 92; Walker, 213.

[6] Jimmy Carter, Keeping Faith, 473.

[7]Forman, 92.

[8]Froman, 93.

[9]Froman, 106.

[10]Froman, 97.

[11]Froman, 106.

[12]Walker, 213.

[13]Walker, 80.

[14] Stephen F. Cohen and Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Voices of Glasnost, 42.

[15]Walker, 213.

[16]Beschloss, 132.

[17]Current History, vol. 91, no. 568 (November 1992), p. 376.

[18]Webster's 10th, p. 1403.

[19]Beschloss, 169-70.

[20]Beschloss, 170.

[21]Beschloss, 132.

[22]Beschloss, 132;  Current History, vol. 91, no. 568 (November 1992), p. 359.

[23]Beschloss, 132.

[24]Peter Millar and Richard Ellis, “The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 11 November 1989,” in Lewis, p. 667-668.

[25]Current History, vol. 91, no. 568 (November 1992), p. 359.

[26]Beschloss, 299; 304-305

[27]Beschloss, 315.

[28]Walker, 222.

[29]Walker, 230.

[30]Walker, 237.

[31]Walker, 242.

[32]Walker, 289.  (Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan joined the CIS; Georgia was the only republic that did not join).

[33]Current History, vol. 91, no. 561 (January 1992), p. 6.

[34]The Economist, vol. 318, no. 7690 (19 January 1991), p. 20.

[35]The Economist, vol. 318, no. 7690 (19 January 1991), p. 20.

[36]The Economist, vol. 318, no. 7690 (19 January 1991), p. 19.

[37]Current History, vol. 91, no. 561 (January 1992), p. 11.

[38]The Economist, vol. 318, no. 7696 (2 March 1991), p. 19.

[39]Current History, vol. 91, no. 561 (January 1992), p. 14.

[40]The Economist, vol. 320, no. 7713 (29 June 1991), p. 41.  (Secession on June 25, 1991)

[41]The Economist, vol. 322, no. 7742 (18 January 1992), p. 42. (Voters approved a referendum on independence on March 1, 1992)

[42]The Economist, vol. 324, no. 7770 (1 August 1992), p. 38.

[43]The Economist, Vol. 335, No. 7918 (June 10, 1995): 45.

[44]The Economist, Vol. 332, No. 7882 (September 24, 1994): 54.

[45]The Economist, Vol. 332, No. 7882 (September 24, 1994): 54.

[46]The Economist, Vol. 333, No. 7894 (December 17, 1994): 15.

[47]The Economist, Vol. 333, No. 7894 (December 17, 1994): 49.

[48]The Economist, Vol. 335, No. 7908 (April 1, 1995): 43.

[49]The Economist, Vol. 335, No. 7918 (June 10, 1995): 44.

[50]The Economist, vol. 332, No. 7873 (July 23, 1994): 15.

[51]The Economist, vol 330, no. 7844 (8 January 1994), p. 43.

[52]Estimated 150,000 died in Oct 1993 [The Economist, vol. 330, no. 7844 (8 January 1994), p. 43.]

[53]Webster's 10th, p. 839.

[54]The Economist, vol 330, no. 7844 (8 January 1994), p. 43.

[55]Economist, Vol. 333, No. 7884 (October 8, 1994): 46.

[56]Economist, Vol. 332, No. 7873 (July 23, 1994): 15.

[57]Economist, Vol. 335, No. 7912 (April 29, 1995): 50.

[58]20th Century, 686.

[59]Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 13, p. 320.

[60]Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 13, p. 317.

[61]Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 13, p. 319 [20 plants in operation in the US in March 1971] and 320 [48 plants outside the US]

[62]Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 13, 323.

[63]20th Century, 570.

[64]World Almanac, 571.

[65]20th Century, 734.

[66]World Almanac, 299.

[67]20th Century, 618.

[68]World Almanac, 446.

[69]20th Century, 466.

[70]World Almanac, 292.

[71]Quoted from PandN, p. 904.

[72]Lewis, 594.

[73]World Almanac, 448.

[74]World Almanac, 449.

[75]20th Century, 432.

[76]20th Century, 652.

[78]ANNO: During the 1991 Gulf War, for example, CNN broadcasts informed all members of the anti-Iraq coalition, and anyone else who cared to watch, how the attacks on Baghdad were going.

[79]World Almanac, 173.

[80]Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 1, p. 986.

[81]World Almanac, 842.

[82]20th Century, 433.

[83]Environmental Almanac, 530.

[84]Environmental Almanac, 532.

[85]Webster's 10th, p. 832.  See "ozone hole"

[86]Envinronmental Almanac, 303.

[87]Environmental Almanac, 312.

[88]quoted in 20th Century, p. 731.

[89]Environmental Almanac, 314.

[90]Environmental Almanac, 314.

[91]Quoted in Harm de Blij, Geography Book, p. 106

[92]Quoted in Todd and Curti, 20th century, p. 734.

[93]quoted in 20th century, 739.

[94]Environmental Almanac, 11.

[95] Jack Gray, Rebellions and Revolutions, 311.

[96] Paul Johnson, Modern Times, 615.

[97] Borneman, After the Wall, 240-41.

[98]World Almanac, 792.

[99]World Almanac, 825.

[100]World Almanac, 811.

[101]World Almanac, 806.

[102]World Almanac, 755.

[103]World Almanac, 810.

[104]World Almanac, 743.

[105]World Almanac, 750.

[106]World Almanac, 56.

[107] World Almanac, 57.  The rest of this bio is based on the Mandela entry in Encyclopedia Americana (1992 ed.).

[108]Lewis, 691-692.

[109]World Almanac, 205.

[110]World Almanac, 44.

[111]For example, GB opted out of the common currency.  World Almanac, 844.

[112]World Almanac, 42-43.

[113]World Almanac, 760.

[114]World Almanac, 760.

[115]World Almanac, 792.

[116]World Almanac, 785.

[117]World Almanac, 816.

[118]World Almanac, 786.  (Saddam Hussein in office since 1979)

[119]World Almanac, 824.  (Hafez al-Assad in office since 1971)

[120]World Almanac, 766. (in place since 1991)

[121]3 (1972),  1 (1979), 5 (1980), 4 (1983), 2 (1985).