Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Lessons of 1989.

Throughout the 1980s, democratic insurgencies in the Philippines and South Korea, as well as the long resistance of the anti-apartheid forces in South Africa, showed that when the ruled do not want to go on in the old way, all they really need do is to fold their arms. These examples were studied behind the Iron Curtain: Matynia's book on Poland makes a direct comparison case with South Africa, and leading Polish dissident Adam Michnik was a close observer of the gradual but impressive manner in which Spain evolved from a sort of fascistic theocracy into a civil and secular society.

Today, the memory of the "velvet revolution" or the "soft revolution" is very strong in Iran, where arrested intellectuals and activists are accused in so many words by the secret police of having a "velvet" agenda. In Tehran, alas, there are still many in the clerical leadership who believe, as the Communists no longer did, in their own primitive and oppressive ideology, and who are willing—if not, indeed, eager—to kill for it. (And the brutish Iranian mullahs secured the first great-power endorsement of their election theft from Vladimir Putin's Moscow, which, these days, is the seat of an aggressive, chauvinist, militarist, and clerically influenced regime.) So we still have our duties of solidarity with movements of transformation, and we can draw on the memory of a time when civilized peoples, so long forced to hold their tongues and hold their breath, all exhaled at the same moment and blew the old order away without a shot being fired.


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