February 16, 2010
THE ROUTE DOESN'T MATTER IF YOUR JOURNEY CAN ONLY HAVE ONE END:
The Velvet Philosophical Revolution: Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the battle for political freedom goes on. (André Glucksmann, Winter 2010, City Journal)
On the evening of November 9, 1989, the wall of shame was breached. The next morning, I took off for Berlin; shortly afterward, I experienced the Velvet Revolution in Prague, and finally the fall of Ceauşescu in Bucharest. The year 1990 opened joyfully for the human race. But I was struck by the difference in the emotions felt in the East and in the West. Representative of the West was Francis Fukuyama and his idea, which caused a sensation, that history had just come to an end. But those in the East realized that this was far from the case. Less than a month before the Berlin Wall fell, I had given a speech in front of Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the cream of the Federal Republic of Germany in honor of Czech dissident Václav Havel, who was receiving the Frankfurt Book Fair’s prestigious Peace Prize while still a prisoner in his own country. I entitled the speech “To Leave Communism Is to Enter History”—the view of those emerging from behind the Iron Curtain.
The West’s confusion arose because it wasn’t prepared for such a fundamental unsettling of postwar geopolitics. During four decades of ideological confrontation, theoreticians and journalists had argued about how a society should move from capitalism to socialism. There was no research on the opposite question—that is, on the transition from socialism to capitalism—apart from a few inconclusive studies, most notably in Poland, concerning the possibility of introducing some elements of the free market into a Communist society. As the philosopher Josep Ramoneda has observed, the whole world—Communists, anti-Communists, and those in between—took it as given that the Soviet Union and its satellites could not “return” to capitalism. So when, during the Velvet Revolution, demonstrators posed exactly this question—How can we go from socialism to capitalism?—there was no ready answer.
But that is, of course, where they're going. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 16, 2010 7:16 AM