The fall of communism in 1989 was a great relief to citizens of the eastern bloc. But why are millions of them now angry at the ruling elites who have made them freer, wealthier and citizens of the EU?by Ivan Krastev / September 23, 2009 / Leave a comment
Published in October 2009 issue of Prospect Magazine
Above: the end of intimacy in the old eastern bloc
The revolutions of 1989, which saw communist governments toppled across eastern Europe, used to be considered among the continent’s most agreeable. The left praised them as an expression of people power and the victory of civil society against the state. The right celebrated them as a triumph of the free market and the free world. But the combination of the global economic crisis and the rise of political populism in eastern Europe is challenging long-held assumptions. The financial crisis has put neoliberal capitalism on trial and the claim that democracy is best at delivering growth has been shaken by the success of China.
The geopolitical gains from the end of the cold war now also look uncertain. Writing in the Observer in September 2008, the philosopher John Gray prophesied that “the upheaval we are experiencing is more than a financial crisis.” He argued that “the era of American global leadership, reaching back to the second world war, is over… a change as far-reaching in its implications as the fall of the Soviet Union.” And the EU’s declining global relevance is acknowledged even by Brussels. The revisionists’ hour has arrived.