A fitfully enlightening exploration of the political transformation of the former Soviet satellites, by Goldfarb (Political and Social Science/New School for Social Research). Like Oxford's Timothy Garton Ash, Goldfarb mixes political, social, and cultural analysis with personal experience of the ongoing revolutions in Eastern Europe. There is a good deal here that is illuminating: background on Lech Walesa, who actually has spent more time mediating and averting strikes than leading them; a portrait of the postrevolutionary education minister in Bulgaria, who was seemingly unable to conceive of a university system not centrally controlled; and a description of the Soviet Writers Union, which gave great financial benefits to its members as long as the Party line was toed. Goldfarb is ruthless in his dissection of the death of Communism: ``The failure of `actually existing socialism' (as it has been called by those who wish to distinguish between realities and their dreams) has been so thoroughgoing that the connection between dreams and realities can no longer be denied.'' But while saying that protagonists of this ``third way'' between Communism and capitalism ``were destined from the beginning for the historical dustbin,'' the author seems to expect such an outcome from any system: ``Socialism is simply not the answer to all social ills. But neither are capitalism or nationalism.'' He never resolves this dilemma. Occasionally far-fetched (Goldfarb argues that Jeffrey Sachs, the Harvard economist advising the Polish government, ``represents for Poland a new totalitarian temptation of the laissez-faire kind'') but frequently perceptive. A curate's egg of a book.