Resisting the Tyranny of the Possible: Lessons from the Fall of the Berlin Wall


Resisting the Tyranny of the Possible. This was moral revolution, a revolution of conscience rooted in cultural reclamation, and it resonated through the region because it was entirely congruent with what the human rights resistance in Central and Eastern Europe had been saying since the 1976 Helsinki Final Act, when “Helsinki Watch” groups had sprung up all over Central and Eastern Europe and inside the Soviet Union itself, argues George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies at the Ethics & Public Policy Center. Those Helsinki groups developed the strategy that Vaclav Havel called “living in the truth,” in forms of cultural resistance whose moral strength could not be bested by merely material power, writes Weigel, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy:

This business of living in the truth, living as if one were free, produced something that Communism simply couldn’t handle: solidarity, the virtue. Communist social control depended on the fragmentation of society. One great symbol of that was the arrangement of apartment blocks in Nowa Huta, a steel milling town built on the outskirts of Cracow in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In these massive blocks, it was impossible to walk down the long axis of the building, from one apartment to another. If you wanted to visit the neighbor next door, you had to go down five floors, walk outside, go into the next entrance, and come upstairs to see your neighbor. And while this made things easier for the secret police, it also embodied the Communist atomization of society, the systematic destruction of the sinews of civil society.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email