THE world in Eastern Europe seems somehow upside down. One after the other, in what could be described as the domino theory in reverse, the communist systems in Eastern Europe are moving toward democracy and capitalism.
``Europe is where the cold war started, and it is proper to bury it here,'' said Adam Bromke, a professor at the Polish Academy of Sciences.
``There is no doubt, that we are living in the end of the communist era,'' Polish Housing Minister Aleksander Paszynski said recently, predicting the end of the present regime in Czechoslovakia in the near future.
That was last week, however, and with the speed that marks the changes in Eastern Europe these days, that prediction already seems a bit old.
The signals from the Czechoslovak leaders have been mixed. The first official suggestion of the need for political reform, last Tuesday, was followed Friday by club-wielding police beating up peaceful demonstrators.
No doubt there are different views among Prague's Communist leaders on how to respond to the changes sweeping through Eastern Europe, without being swept away themselves.
Not even the longest-serving Communist leader in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria's Todor Zhivkov, who for 35 years ruled that country, could withstand the demands for change. His departure followed that of East Germany's Erich Honecker, of Hungary's Janos Kadar, and of Poland's Mieczeslaw Rakowski in the last 18 months. Kadar has since died, Mr. Honecker is completely shunned, and Mr. Rakowski is trying to hang on and play a role in the new noncommunist Poland.
It seems highly likely that Milos Jakes in Czechoslovakia will share the fate of his hard-line colleagues. On Sunday a crowd, estimated at more than 30,000, gathered in Wenceslas Square chanting ``Jakes out,'' and opposition activists founded a reform movement, Civil Forum, calling for the resignation of party leaders.
But there is no similar sign that the reform movement in Eastern Europe has reached Romania. The closing of its borders Friday with Hungary, which complains about the treatment of ethnic Hungarians in Romania, is the latest indication that hard-line leader Nicolae Ceausescu remains firmly in power. No upset was expected as his party convened yesterday for a congress.
Here in Poland, meanwhile, sociologist Jadwiga Staniszkis has developed a theory that what is taking place in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe has been planned as part of the East bloc's adjustment to capitalism. The changes, she asserts, are largely coordinated by a crisis group (or ``center'') close to the KGB, the Soviet secret police.
``I believe,'' she said in an interview with the Polish weekly Tygodnik Solidarnosc, ``that this center has resolved that the survival of the empire depends on discarding decisions taken in the Soviet Union in the 1920s.''
By deciding to repudiate Stalinism, the Soviets have admitted ``that socialism is a local phenomenon while capitalism dominates the world,'' she says. The Soviets see current woes as an opportunity to develop along with capitalism and learn from Western experience. Ms. Staniszkis's theory is being widely discussed in Poland.
Regardless of whether she is right or wrong, the fact remains that Moscow's transformation from a restraining force to one that urges change has been the deciding factor in the present development in Eastern Europe.