Essays after the Collapse of Communism
- New Thinking in Political Economy series
Chapter 14: The Collapse of Communism – A Decade Later
14. The collapse of communism – a decade later* I’d like to take you back exactly ten years ago. Little did any of us know, back in January 1989, that the year would become sealed in history as one of the most important revolutionary – or, more precisely, counter-revolutionary – years of the century, at least on par with 1917. Some have gone so far as to claim that 1989 represents the end of modernity. Communism and state socialism had collapsed. We could hardly imagine that possibility in January 1989. But by April the signs of change became clearer: Solidarity had gained legal status in Poland on 17 April. By 4 June Solidarity candidates defeated the Communists in that country’s ﬁrst free election since the Communists took over. (On that same day, however, we witnessed the Tiananmen Square massacre in China.) Yet, a month later, on 6 July, Gorbachev promised a laissez-faire approach to liberalization in Poland and in Hungary. In fact, demolition of the barbed-wire barrier between Hungary and Austria had already begun in May. By 10 September, the Iron Curtain had collapsed, as East Germans were allowed to vote with their feet and exit through Hungary. By October the Communist Party was abolished in Hungary, which then declared itself an independent democratic republic. Who could have imagined, standing in January 1989, that the Berlin Wall would be opened in November of that same year? Later that month Czechoslovakia’s Communist Party lost its monopoly powers, and free elections would be declared in...
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