Those were heady days. Open societies were in the ascendant and international cooperation was the dominant creed, says George Soros, Chairman of the Open Society Foundations, whose most recent book is In Defense of Open Society.
Thirty years later, the situation is very different. International cooperation has hit serious roadblocks, and nationalism became the dominant creed. So far, nationalism has turned out to be much more powerful and disruptive than internationalism, he writes for Project Syndicate.
Three decades after the euphoria of the Berlin Wall’s fall, democratic erosion — not democratic consolidation — appears in the region’s headlines, according to Anna Grzymala-Busse, Professor of International Studies at Stanford University, and Pauline Jones, director of the International Institute at the University of Michigan. So what caused this backsliding? The dominance of liberal ideas became the victim of its own success, they write for the Washington Post:
According to the Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev, the motivations behind the rebellion against communism were always more mixed than the Western triumphalist narrative suggested, notes Yascha Mounk, an associate professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University, Those brave protesters in the streets of Dresden and Gdansk, Budapest and Sofia, were united by a hatred of their communist regimes. But they were far less unified in their aspirations for the future, he writes for the Wall Street Journal:
A great number did seek to realize the core values of liberal democracy. But others primarily wanted to liberate their nations from Russian domination, to revive the influence of their ancestral religion or to give free rein to nationalism. In that light, today’s battle against liberal democracy by populists like Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski is not so much a betrayal of the revolution of 1989 as a civil war among its protagonists.
But announcements of the demise of liberalism in the former communist bloc—and for that matter in other parts of the world, from India to the U.S.—are almost certainly premature, adds Mounk, a contributor to the NED’s Journal of Democracy and the author of “The People Versus Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It.” There is nothing like losing their individual freedom and collective self-determination to remind people that the values of liberal democracy are still vital.
Was 1989- the greatest year in European history? The European Council on Foreign Relations asks. In the first of a mini-series on the events of 1989, ECFR’s Mark Leonard is joined by Timothy Garton Ash, historian and Professor of European Studies at Oxford University. Ash provides insights into the course of our political history, but cautions on prescribing a course to our future. The neglect of solidarity, identity and community as part of the development of the European Union project has led to a hollowing out of European identity.
The revolutions that toppled Communism in Eastern Europe 30 years ago and heralded the end of the Cold War triumphed, in part, because of the work of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and foreign broadcasters, a role showcased by RFE/RL in a new microsite titled Reporting 1989.
Thursday, November 14, 2019. 9:00 a.m.– 12:15 p.m.
1025 F St. NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20004
8:30 a.m. Registration and Continental Breakfast
9:00 a.m. Welcome and Opening Remarks
Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy
Robert Destro, Asst. Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
The Triumph and Legacy of Solidarity
Lech Walesa, Founder of Solidarity and the Former President of Poland
Introduced by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
Poland’s Political and Economic Transition
Leszek Balcerowicz, Former Deputy Prime Minister of Poland.
Introduced by CIPE Board Chairman Greg Lebedev
Panel Discussion: Defending Democracy in Poland and Central Europe
Anne Applebaum, Author and Historian
Victoria Nuland, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Europe
Simon Panek, Executive Director, People in Need, Czech Republic
George Weigel, Author and Biographer of Pope John Paul II
Moderator: Daniel Fried, Former US Ambassador to Poland