Sunday, February 28, 2010

Entering History

Andre Glucksmann's essay, "The Velvet Philosophical Revolution" recently appeared in The City Journal. I recommend it because it has some very interesting ideas regarding the end of the Cold War.

During the first days in the end of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama had made headlines with an essay that suggested that this marked the end of History. Glucksmann was one writer who'd written an essay  “To Leave Communism Is to Enter History”—and sought to present 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.
Although many may think this has ramifications only for Europeans engaged with the Cold War, I think there's much to observe and lessons we might consider in many situations that are operating today. Worth reading as many of us consider the future directions of policy.

Glucksmann points out that as societies, those nations coming from behind the Iron Curtain found themselves faced largely with two options:

One was the rejection of totalitarianism, and desiring a society that cultivated its own convictions and eschewed sectarianism. The point of dissent was not to replace the old dogma with another one but to create an intellectually robust route to social and political change.

In contrast we saw an option espoused by those like Milosevic, where corrupt bureaucrat could rise to power through careful manipulation and deception, uniting interests who consider repression a legitimate tool. Such people considered liberty a disease, and while the old ideas might not serve such people, the methods of exacting obedience and coercion were still of interest. seized power. The result was war and ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in a bid to hold onto power and reclaim 'lost' territory.

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