26 October 2009

Reflections on 1989

Here are two essays - the first by Adam Michnik, the other by Timothy Garton Ash, - both of which reflect on the political economic transformations of 1989 and what has followed. Both are worth reading. (The Garton Ash essay is the first of a pair - I will link to part two when it appears.)
Update (5 December 09): There is a similar essay by Michnik here at The Guardian.

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Blogger eugev44 said...

I'm wondering why a switch from communism to capitalism is seen as a "gain". Why do we feel that there are only two ideologies to choose from? The transformation of former communist countries was merely a trade of one form of slavery (to their governments) to another (money). To make statements such as "...socialism would not survive otherwise" implies that there was true socialism. I wonder how Eugene Debs would have judged such "socialism". The use of an enemy ideology (or race/religion for that matter, in modern times embodied in immigration debates) has always been a strategy used by those in power to distract humans from the only real difference among us: class.

27 October, 2009 12:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Warning: rant ahead!

Eugev44, how old are? Seriously. I hope it's not 44. We all know that capitalism is not perfect. We all know that it tends to promote inequality and, in many ways, by promoting materialism, it is also culturally bankrupt. Fine, I agree with these realities. Nonetheless, to still talk about communism and Soviet-style socialism and romantic workers' parties as if these are legit solutions to issues is ludicrous. The fact is that standards in the Western world are pretty damn good compared to the alternatives. I have spent a lot of time in China, a country where the hardest of hard line messianic communists have abandoned their fantasies and joined the real world, and I can tell you that views like yours would get you laughed out of the room. How much more evidence does one need to admit that Marxism is a load of bollocks? What was that theory again? That govt. is an instrument of class oppression so the workers have to take over the means of production, establish a proletariat dictatorship, and eventually, when society is classless, the state just withers away...? Is that how it works? Jesus, grow up! Read some Karl Popper, it might open your eyes.

27 October, 2009 17:56  
Blogger eugev44 said...

1. Once again, you use totalitarianism as an example of evidence of the failure of Marxism. That tends to be the problem. Soviet Russia and communist China were never Marxist or communist or socialist. They were totalitarian. Thus, if you apply the argument of human nature so that ideals of equality are subject to reality, then I have to apply the same argument to capitalism, through which its "inequality" and "cultural bankruptcy", as you put it, to me is not something to be trivially dismissed.

2. One of the things I pointed out, but which you failed to notice, is that I don't see it as a choice between the two, which apparently you do. The fall of the USSR or Berlin Wall or whatever does not imply that the ideal is to embrace capitalism as a savior. Do we need to make a list of the destruction through the modes of capitalism? It sure has us in a fun environmental situation, to say the least.

3. History is written by those who have enough time to sit around and write it (aka they're not poor). I suggest you read some real history, such as Howard Zinn's A People's History of the U.S. Then talk to me about what it means for standards of living to increase or what freedom has actually meant through the centuries.

4. Your real issue is that you're a coward. Cultural bankruptcy? Massive poverty, inequality, unemployment, lack of health care, disease, environmental destruction, disenfranchisement, human rights abuses, war, famine, murder of innocent people still exist. They have existed for a long time, and continue to do so regardless of our "great ideas". To settle for the one that smells slightly better is cowardice. As Stalin said, "One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." That's how we live our lives today. Pruned lawns and sales at Walmart. I hope this works out well for us, I really do.

5. "I am not a Marxist." - Karl Marx

28 October, 2009 15:53  

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