At 18:30 EET on Wednesday the 9th November 2017, The Red House closed its mini-series on the revolutions of 1917 and 1989 with a discussion about the crisis of established politics in Central Europe.
A full-length recording of this event (simultaneous interpretation: English-Bulgarian) can also be accessed by clicking here
November is the month that is marked by two key historical events – the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the Revolutions of 1989. What legacies do these revolutions have and what is the fate of their children? What is the place of the October Revolution in Putin’s Russia? What role have the Revolutions of 1989 played in the development of Eastern Europe as part of the European Union? These are just a few points of reference for the great debate about revolutions, counter-revolutions, conservative and postmodern revolutions in the framework of the bigger, enduring question: what is progress?
The end of a post-revolutionary utopia. A Central European view.
There are two readings of the current political developments in Central Europe. According to one of them, negative phenomena such as corruption, xenophobia and the rise of populism should be conceived of as manifestations of a failed exodus from communism to the promised land of liberal democracy. According to the other, the region has already arrived at its destination.
This second reading of the crisis of the region and its countries (the so-called Visegrád nations) is part of the crisis of the promised land itself. For its adherents, the task of Central European states is not to cope with the remnants of communism, but rather with the reality of capitalism. Taken further, this line of argument suggests that we can’t blame the era-defining revolutionary utopias of the very short 20th century (1914-1968) for the region’s perceived current malaise, but, instead, need to take a critical look at the post-revolutionary utopia which emerged at the tail end of these utopias in the long 1970s.
In Central Europe, the emergence of what Moyn called the “last utopia” was accompanied by the discourse of independent intellectuals, such as Adam Michnik, Václav Havel or György Konrád. As new political developments in the region signal the start of a new, the end of the previous era now provides the opportunity to critically revisit its dissident legacy through the testimony and analysis of one who was at the heart of proceedings.
Pavel Barša (1960) teaches political philosophy at the Charles University in Prague. Currently, he is a fellow at the IWM in Vienna, where he is investigating how the end of communism has come to coincide with an anti-liberal/populist backlash on both sides of the former Iron Curtain.
The Red House’s Revolutions and their Children discussions are part of a Time to Talk series of debates looking at revolution today, 100 years after the Russian Revolution.
This series has been realised with the support of the Europe for Citizens programme of the European Union.
The Red House also thanks the Czech Centre in Sofia for its support and cooperation in putting together this event.