Solidarity was not just an opposition movement. With 10 million members – more than one quarter of the population of Poland in 1980 – it was an unprecedented phenomenon. The Communist governments had faced protests from individual dissidents and even from small groups like Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia. There had also been reform efforts launched… Continue reading Solidarity After Solidarity
The great Polish playwright and intellectual Slawomir Mrozek was best known for his absurdist plays, most of them written after he’d gone into exile in 1963. I saw his play The Emigrants performed by two enterprising Polish actors in a camper van parked on a Dublin street as part of the Fringe festival there a… Continue reading The Revolution Devours Its Children
When it came to the transition from Communism to capitalism, Poland led the way with its rapid, “shock therapy” approach. This “overnight” strategy was designed to reduce inflation, stabilize the economy, and eliminate opportunities for insiders to make money by taking advantage of large differences between state-subsidized and free-market prices. On the other end of… Continue reading Slovenia’s Gradualist Transition
The intellectual revolutionaries of the Age of Enlightenment created a community through the exchange of letters. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, this “republic of letters” created a common intellectual language across countries and, indeed, across the Atlantic between Europe and the United States. This non-territorial republic played a role in various scientific… Continue reading YU-Rock!
The word “utopia” comes from the book of the same name by Thomas More, which he published in 1516. The English philosopher and humanist imagined an ideal society on an island somewhere in the New World which had abolished private property and lawyers, but maintained a system of slavery and restricted travel. The island’s welfare… Continue reading The Fall of Utopianism
When I lived in Poland in the first half of 1989, the topic of constant discussion was the Round Table negotiations. Some people liked it. Some people hated it. And many people saw it as a necessary but tedious stage that the country would have to endure in order to exit Communism. Later, this multi-tiered… Continue reading The Remarkable Round Table