Thursday, 4 June 2009

Revolutions from Poland to Portugal, by Way of China

There’s a lot in the press about this being the 20th anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square, and rightly so. But there are a number of things that put that event in perspective. One is the fact that on the same day, Poles, to everyone’s surprise elected majorities of the opposition party Solidarity. This was definitely the beginning of the end for Communism. By the fall, the Iron Curtain was down and the world had changed profoundly politically with repercussions we feel still today.

Another thing to remember is that Tiananmen was in many respects the swan song of old style Chinese Communism, the last gasp of aging rulers who saw which way the wind was blowing. In a few years time the China would buy into capitalism in a big way. While repression continues on many fronts, most observers would say that the Chinese are much better off now than they were then.

And finally, since we’re talking about revolution, bloody and otherwise, I’d like to share with you the trailer to a film made in 2000 about Portugal’s Carnation Revolution of 1974, The Captains of April. Four people were killed in it, but as you can see from the clip, people put down arms and took up flowers. A wonderful reminder that change can come peacefully. It was a thrill last week to stand where it all began: see the picture above.

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