Puzzled by the simultaneity of new authoritarians welling up across the globe, we seek common historical causes. But figures like Orbán and Kaczyński may be better explained by convergences in political strategy. One such is their abandoning of ’89 as a historical touchstone, argues Holly Case.
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How we mark historical anniversaries says as much, if not more about our perception of the present as it does about the past. This familiar axiom has interesting results when we apply it to how the revolutions of ’89 have been remembered in each decade since.
The perpetual transition in eastern Europe has led to the spread of an angst-ridden politics. While the derailing of imported western institutions calls into question the project of Europeanization, transnational solidarity remains possible and necessary.
Clear ideological differences between East and West may be long gone. But recently solidarity itself seems to have become a thing of the past too. Public debate in Europe is now riven by a new volatile set of polemics about the European Union, the memory of the Holocaust and of communist crimes, nationalism and multiculturalism. The resulting misperceptions are of a different order to those of the Cold War.
Soundings, the New Left and the boundaries of politics and culture
Rejection of rigid Marxist orthodoxies and a strong focus on the cultural forces shaping politics and society were central to New Left thought after 1956. The British journal Soundings, co-founded by the influential New Left thinker Stuart Hall, emerged from this tradition.
There is a certain type of post-Soviet anxiety that manifests itself in fear of state authorities, border controls or even doormen. The memory of 1989 may have largely faded, but the feeling of being ‘eastern’ has stayed with many – not least those who have built up lives and careers in the West, writes Júlia Sonnevend.
The Polish government’s attempt to abolish abortion rights in 2016 was one battle in a historical civil war, in a country where modernization has always been at the expense of sexual equality. After the Black Monday protests, rebellion has gone underground in art created by women.
Born in the ’80s in eastern Europe, I grew up among unkept promises which everybody refused to be accountable for. We were told we were going to be free, and later this alleged freedom was used as an argument to shut us up when criticizing political misrepresentation.
East and West after 1989
When the Cold War came to a sudden end thirty years ago, the two halves of Europe declared in unison their intention to overcome the legacy of the division. Today, the hopes and ambitions of those heady days can be viewed as unrealistic at best. But is talk of a new East–West divide justified?
Thirty years after 1989, from an island perspective
The workings of western capitalism were almost as unknown in the Eastern Bloc as the everyday realities of ‘real socialism’ were among western Trotskyists. Then, after ’89, eastern Europe disappeared off the political map of the left. Nowhere was this more so than in Britain, writes Owen Hatherley.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the unification of Germany, and the EU’s enlargement, the East-West divide has lost its meaning. Moreover, post-communist countries have been more vigilant in keeping their accounts in order than many of their western European partners. So why not put the ghosts of communism to rest and build a united Europe?
The comeback of ethnocentric populism is disquieting, but does not necessarily mean the end of the liberal engagement the revolutions of 1989 inaugurated. It may as well be a short-lived return of repressed emotions and phobias, an effect of the disenchantment that follows almost every revolution.
As of this year, Germany has been united for a longer time than the Wall and its barbed wire stood. Yet despite 30 years of the Solidarpakt, social differences have not been evened out as hoped, and the division is tangible in political leanings as well.
Instead of overcoming the division of East and West after 1989, the West embarked on a programme of expansion and Russia began to create an alternative world order. Yet as economic power shifts from the Atlantic to the Pacific basin, this is just one aspect of the current clash of world orders.
An interview with Javier Cercas
‘The novel enjoys a freedom that no other literary genre enjoys. This is a privilege, and perhaps also a guarantee of its sustainability, on condition that we know how to make the most of that freedom.’ The novelist Javier Cercas talks history and fiction, and his influences in the Spanish language tradition.
Every so often an article gets under your skin. Reading it, one is both exhilarated and unsettled. It is something that cannot be ‘unread’. Eurozine’s latest editorial introduces the highlights of the past two weeks.