The recent political changes in Europe are so extensive, indeed, so astonishing that all of us have “fallen behind” in our thinking. It’s unavoidable. So let me here put down some quite obvious points, with no pretense to originality or comprehensiveness, in order to provide a basis for discussion. I will number them for easy reference.
The changes now occurring in the Soviet Union—these constitute the enabling basis for the changes in Eastern Europe—are of a magnitude such as no one predicted. There is still, thank heaven, surprise in history. Theories of totalitarianism that were valuable or suggestive a few decades ago are of little use today. That a proposal for a multiparty regime should even be discussed by a committee of the Soviet legislature, though it’s not likely to be enacted right away; that political-intellectual debates concerning the Soviet past, including the role of the once untouchable Lenin, rage in the Soviet press; that laws proposing the abolition of censorship are on the agenda; that the Soviet foreign minister should openly declare the invasion of Afghanistan to have been illegal and immoral (can you imagine a U.S. Secretary of State saying that about Vietnam?); that the Donetz miners were able to strike and win; that national minorities in the Soviet republics can freely agitate for independence; that dissident political organizations have been formed throughout the country—all remarkable!
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