Wednesday, 10 June 2009

1989 - It began in Poland

Last week The Times carried a supplement devoted to the Polish role in spearheading the protest against communist rule in eastern Europe.
It was, the paper reminded us, on June 4th 1989 that the ruling communist party held elections in Poland, in which they had (foolishly) agreed to allow some representation of the Solidarity-led opposition. Predictably, in every constituency in which it was permitted to field a candidate, Solidarity won, forcing the ruling communists (both in Warsaw and in Moscow) to radically rethink their concept of the one-party state. Lech Walesa (pictured above) had forced the first breach in the Iron Curtain.
Of course, for most of us, the fall of communism is synonymous with the dramatic events in Berlin five months later, when the Berlin Wall fell and thereby seemed to usher in a winter in which each and every one of the communist regimes of eastern Europe (with the exception of Albania) collapsed, to be succeeded by the often painful, but no less euphoric, transition to liberal democracy - a transition that, for some, is still going on.
This year sees the 20th anniversary of those momentous events - events that changed the face of Europe, brought the Cold War to an end, and finally drew a line under the post-war division of Europe. It is absolutely right and proper that those events should be celebrated, commemorated and generally shouted from the roof-tops. In the cynical, anodyne age in which we find ourselves, 1989 should be a lesson in the vital importance of politics, and in the power of people to change their world for the better.
Yet, in remembering the fall of the Berlin Wall, let us not forget where it was that the liberation of eastern Europe began - Poland. It was in Poland that Solidarity had provided the first home-grown political challenge to communism, and it was in Poland that the first chink in the communists' armour appeared.
Zaczelo sie w Polsce - It began in Poland

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