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Old 2009-08-19, 12:55   Link #1
TinyRedLeaf
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End of an Era: Fall of Communism in Europe

"IN 1980, the world seemed a cold and forbidding place.

"For two generations, the Cold War overshadowed national and international politics as the United States and the Soviet Union competed for global leadership. The 20th century divided Europe between states that had Communist governments and those that did not. As Winston Churchill famously declared in 1946, this divide created an 'iron curtain' across Europe from Stettin on the Baltic Sea to Trieste on the Adriatic.

"When Mikhail Gorbachev became General-Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union in 1985, trouble began brewing for the Communist parties of Eastern Europe. Believing that economic change could revitalise the Soviet system, Gorbachev introduced social and economic reforms in the Soviet Union that provided for more political freedom (glasnost – literally 'openness') and a restructuring of the economy (perestroika). As these changes began to take hold in the Soviet Union, Communist leaders in Eastern Europe were forced to consider similar reforms in their own countries.

"While publicly expressing support for his fellow Comunist governments in Eastern Europe, Gorbachev also made clear his belief that Communist governments everywhere needed to pursue a similar path of change. Perhaps even more important, he made it clear that the Soviet Union would no longer intervene militarily in Eastern Europe to prevent reform movements as it had done in East Germany in 1953, in Hungary in 1956, and in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

"For the East European Communist leaders, Gorbachev’s disavowal of the so-called Brezhnev Doctrine (in which former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev vowed to use military force to prevent Communist states from turning away from Communism) meant that they could no longer count on his support to stop those in their countries who had begun to press for change.

"At the same time, East European regimes were facing a growing economic crisis in the region that inspired many government officials and ordinary citizens to seek out ways to foster change. Excessive foreign borrowing had resulted in external debts that could not be paid without substantial increases in state revenue. The only way that Communist regimes could raise the revenue they needed to pay their external debts was to increase prices for essentials: food, shelter, and energy.

Faced with rising prices and stagnant wages in an economy controlled by the government, citizens increasingly turned their ire on the government — first in private and later in public. Because they knew that the Soviet Union was experimenting with economic reform, many citizens in East European countries became very frustrated with their own leaders who seemed to resist similar reforms..."

- Abridged from Making the History of 1989
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Old 2009-08-19, 13:06   Link #2
Dreamtale
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Fight!

To be serious, and so what?..
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Old 2009-08-19, 13:17   Link #3
TinyRedLeaf
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August 1989: Poland

"THE Polish people had a long tradition of resisting the Communist government, including localised protests in 1956, 1970, and, most importantly, in 1980. That year, Polish workers, angered by consumer price increases, began striking at shipyards, factories, and mines across the country. This protest quickly developed into the independent self-governing trade union named Solidarity.

"Led by Lech Walesa, an electrician who later became a politician (and ultimately president of Poland), Solidarity challenged the Communist Party's monopoly on power from August 1980 to December 1981, when Polish prime minister Wojciech Jaruzelski banned the union and imposed martial law throughout the country.

"Jaruzelski's crackdown on Solidarity held until the late 1980s when the Polish government once again faced a serious economic crisis. Again angered by significant price increases, Solidarity's members renewed their strike in the fall of 1988. In his public war of words with Jaruzelski, Walesa announced that he would be willing to open talks with the authorities at any time, but only if such talks included representatives of the Roman Catholic Church. Jaruzelski countered that the strikes must end first.

"Jaruzelski's position was undermined in December 1988 when, in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Soviet leader Gorbachev announced a substantial reduction in Soviet troops throughout Eastern Europe. The Soviet Union had intervened with military force in 1953, 1956, and 1968 to support Communist regimes in East European countries, but Gorbachev essentially announced that his country would not do so again.

"Unable to force the striking workers back to their jobs and lacking support from Moscow, Jaruzelski finally agreed to what became known as the Round Table Talks, negotiations that lasted from Feb 6 to April 5, 1989. When the two sides emerged from these talks, they had agreed to compromise on economic issues, to the re-legalisation of Solidarity and, most significantly, to elections in which parties other than the Communists would be able to field candidates.

"In the ensuing elections on June 4 and June 18, Solidarity candidates won 160 of the 161 seats in the lower house of the Polish parliament that were available to them, and 92 of the 100 seats of the Polish Senate. In addition, many leaders of the Communist Party failed to secure enough votes to be elected to the parliament they had controlled for four decades. Hoping to avoid a crackdown similar to the one in 1981, Walesa persuaded his coalition in August 1989 to elect Jaruzelski president while Solidarity member Tadeusz Mazowiecki became the prime minister, thereby creating a power-sharing arrangement that secured Solidarity's victory."

- Abridged from Making the History of 1989
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Old 2009-08-19, 13:21   Link #4
Dreamtale
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Western capitalism on the contrary is white anf fluffy, yep?
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Old 2009-08-19, 13:37   Link #5
TinyRedLeaf
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August 1989: On the borders of Hungary

How Hungary let East Germans go
Quote:
Sopron, Hungary (Aug 19): "It was in Hungary that the first stone was removed from the Berlin Wall," said the former German chancellor Helmut Kohl. His successor, Mrs Angela Merkel, went to the Hungarian town of Sopron today, to thank the country for opening its border 20 years ago, the decision led to the fall of the Wall three months later.

Curiously enough, it was a picnic in a field outside Sopron that would change the face of Europe.

In the summer of 1989, thousands of East German "tourists" had been making their way to Hungary, looking for a way to cross into Austria. What drew them was a bold decision taken earlier that year by the reformist prime minister Miklos Nemeth to start dismantling the security system along the border.

"I thought it was obsolete in the 20th Century," Mr Nemeth told the BBC. Another reason was that Hungary, heavily in debt, simply could not afford to pay $1m to maintain it. As he returned from holiday in his official car, Mr Nemeth was shocked to see hundreds of young people and families camping outside the West German consulate in Budapest.

Then, in August 1989, Hungary was awash with rumours and leaflets about a "Pan-European Picnic". Opposition groups in the country had decided to organise the event as a celebration of good-neighbourly relations, with beer and gammon roasted over a bonfire right on the border with Austria.

But the refugees wanted more than a picnic.

'For my conscience'

Today, you can simply drive or walk into Austria with no questions asked. The Iron Curtain has become a bike trail. But in August 1989, much of the barbed wire fence was still there. Just before 3pm that afternoon, Lieutenant-Colonel Arpad Bella, who was in charge of the Hungarian border post, saw a crowd of men, women, even children rushing towards him.

Before his eyes, the first wave of East German refugees pushed through a barbed wire-topped wooden gate into the West. Some cried, laughed, embraced each other. Others kept running because they could not believe they were in Austria. Without clear instructions from his superiors, Lt-Col Bella decided not to shoot.

"It was terrible for me!" he said. "Those 200 people were just 10m away from freedom. So I took the decision that I thought was best for Hungary and for my own conscience."

By the end of that day, more than 600 East Germans had crossed over to the West. Three weeks later, when Hungary fully opened its borders, 60,000 flooded out.

But 20 years on, Lt-Col Bella feels he was only an actor in a complex play whose director remains unknown. Some of those who organised the Pan-European Picnic, like engineer Laszlo Nagy, also feel politicians used it to test how far they could go.

"If you are taking part in a test of which you are not informed, you feel yourself as a worm that they use in fishing," Mr Nagy said. "They threw us in deep water and they were watching whether the sharks are coming or not."

The shark of course was the Soviet Union, which still had 100,000 troops in Hungary. Under Mikhail Gorbachev, its appetite seemed to be for reforms rather than military intervention.

"For me, the most important thing in those days was how I judged the position of Gorbachev in power. If he's being toppled, kicked out of power, that would have been a different story, I can tell you," Mr Nemeth, now retired, said.

- BBC NEWS
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Old 2009-08-19, 16:15   Link #6
Nightbat®
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The fall of the wall, end of the cold war, dreams of gold turned into a reality of poverty and civil war
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Old 2009-08-19, 16:17   Link #7
mg1942
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Originally Posted by Nightbat® View Post
The fall of the wall, end of the cold war, dreams of gold turned into a reality of poverty and civil war
Yugoslavia?
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Old 2009-08-19, 21:36   Link #8
risingstar3110
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Yugoslavia?
I think we can include Russia because they have poverty rise, age expectancy lost and a "civil war" with Chechnya
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Old 2009-08-19, 21:43   Link #9
yezhanquan
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If you look at the history of Eastern Europe, there is a pretty strong case to make that the values of the Enlightenment never made it there.

I agree: the West did help create unreasonable expectations in the minds of the people living in the Communist bloc. It's the same in South Africa under apartheid. There is freedom, but how do you build economic growth on top of that?

Independence from colonial rule, end of apartheid and communism were all once thought to be a panacea. Guess what? They are not.
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Old 2009-08-19, 21:44   Link #10
ZeBird0
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Democracy, Communism, and the Cold War.
I feel like humanity is creating problems for itself with ideas. -_-

And, well yeah. With the Truman Doctrine and the containment policy, the US didn't let communism spread too far over Europe. It's more of a eastern europe communism thing.
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Old 2009-08-19, 21:52   Link #11
yezhanquan
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Originally Posted by ZeBird0 View Post
Democracy, Communism, and the Cold War.
I feel like humanity is creating problems for itself with ideas. -_-

And, well yeah. With the Truman Doctrine and the containment policy, the US didn't let communism spread too far over Europe. It's more of a eastern europe communism thing.
One of humanity's greatest triumphs, and disasters, is ideas. That is us.

Containment was actually only meant for Europe.
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Old 2009-08-20, 00:08   Link #12
Thingle
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I am happy Communism is just a talking point now. Now is the time to bring down other "fellow-man-isms" like socialism and sharia ideology. Capitalism is the only socio-economic system that respects the individual, despite whatever the "fellow-man-ism" may say.
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Old 2009-08-20, 01:23   Link #13
LeoXiao
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Originally Posted by Thingle View Post
I am happy Communism is just a talking point now. Now is the time to bring down other "fellow-man-isms" like socialism and sharia ideology. Capitalism is the only socio-economic system that respects the individual, despite whatever the "fellow-man-ism" may say.
No, capitalism is failing too. In the end, people have given up their ideological thinking and have gone to a "what works for me is the best" way of operation. It is a postmodern world, and capitalism and communism both belong to the modernist world. That era is over.
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Old 2009-08-20, 01:46   Link #14
yezhanquan
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A mixture of systems has always been the answer. It's when the nutjobs insist that there can be only one way for things to work that we have issues.

Besides, true communism was never achieved. Wait for WanderingKnight, our Argentine friend. He'll fill in on this.
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Old 2009-08-20, 02:26   Link #15
risingstar3110
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Originally Posted by yezhanquan View Post
A mixture of systems has always been the answer. It's when the nutjobs insist that there can be only one way for things to work that we have issues.

Besides, true communism was never achieved. Wait for WanderingKnight, our Argentine friend. He'll fill in on this.
Might be far stretched, but IMO, it would be good experience to live in a real communism (or socialism) society at least for few months... doubt i have a chance through D:
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Old 2009-08-20, 02:28   Link #16
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Why the hell do we have the internet? You want something, you make an add and simply accept the one that is the cheapest or with better quality. All the rest are nonesense. Anarcho-capitalism sounds ok. At least in small communities. Globally speaking, every society must have a system that suits its current form. We can't expect the same things to have the same treatment or value globally. Snow for Escimoes is as important as oil to Saudi Arabs.
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Old 2009-08-20, 03:26   Link #17
Dreamtale
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"Anarchy is the mother of order" as said in the song of one famous russian band

In Russia most of people nowadays tell you that "communism" you are talking about here was much better than democracy we have now...
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Old 2009-08-20, 04:16   Link #18
SaintessHeart
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Originally Posted by Dreamtale View Post
"Anarchy is the mother of order" as said in the song of one famous russian band

In Russia most of people nowadays tell you that "communism" you are talking about here was much better than democracy we have now...
The reason why communism collapsed on itself is because of unchecked corruption, namely, opaqueness compared to democracy's transparency. Secrets may be power, but not sharing it means that its powers are limited as they have not been questioned to evolve into a greater power. The lack of whistleblowers and adaptiveness of the law enforcers damaged Russia's economy, and its hardcore way of pushing people around eventually caused its collapse (Afghanistan is a different case, namely a basket one), starting with its satellite states.

It is important to change with the world, for each new generation comes with new ideas. The ruled outnumber the rulers often in proportions of 100:1, thus it is good to negotiate and listen to one another. After all, sheep may be stupid, but they still bite.
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Old 2009-08-20, 04:29   Link #19
TinyRedLeaf
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Originally Posted by Dreamtale View Post
Western capitalism on the contrary is white anf fluffy, yep?
"Desire for economic reform did not mean the vast majority of people in (East European) countries wanted a capitalist economic system as promoted by the West. The evidence points instead to strong sympathy for a mixed economic system that ensured the benefits of a social welfare model while allowing market mechanisms to function in some sectors of the economy, such as wages and consumer goods."
- Making the History of 1989

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Originally Posted by Dreamtale View Post
In Russia most of people nowadays tell you that "communism" you are talking about here was much better than democracy we have now...
"We kept calling it a democracy movement but it wasn't really that. Few people wanted 'one man, one vote', if it meant giving power to ill-educated peasants. Few openly called for the overthrow of the Communist Party — a kind of enlightened authoritarianism would have suited the demonstrators just fine."
- The Lost Voices of Tiananmen
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Old 2009-08-20, 04:32   Link #20
Dreamtale
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Typical western way of thinking about Russia Only thing left for you to say that we march in range and pray to Stalin every morning

Quote:
The lack of whistleblowers and adaptiveness of the law enforcers damaged Russia's economy, and its hardcore way of pushing people around eventually caused its collapse
This was the only way to survive postWW2 period.

Whatever someone can say, but we don't know what would happen if socialism didn't collapse 20 years ago... You cannot compare Gorbachev with Brezhnev for example, that's why we might have nowadays approximately same things...

PS TinyRedLeaf, by throwing quotes you're cosplaying Captain Obvious, didn't you?
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