1989 unleashed across the region and then the former Soviet Union free-market shock therapy, mass robbery as privatisation, vast increases in inequality, and poverty and joblessness for tens of millions. Reunification in Germany in fact meant annexation, the takeover and closure of most of its industry, a political purge of more than a million teachers and other white-collar workers, a loss of women's rights, closure of free nurseries and mass unemployment……..
The western failure to recognise the shocking price paid by many east Europeans for a highly qualified freedom – the Economist this week dismissed them as "the old, the timid, the dim" – is only exceeded by the refusal to acknowledge that the communist system had benefits as well as obvious costs…….
Der Spiegel this year found that 57% of eastern Germans believed the GDR had "more good sides than bad sides", and even younger people rejected the idea that the state had been a dictatorship. Just as only one in five Hungarians believes that the country has changed for the better since 1989, only 11% of Bulgarians think ordinary people have benefited from the changes and most Russians and Ukrainians regret the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
This two-sided, Janus-like nature of 1989 is also reflected in its global and ideological impact. It kicked off the process that led to the end of the cold war. But by removing the world's only other superpower from the global stage, it also destroyed the constraints on US global power and paved the way for wars from the Gulf and Yugoslavia to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
You can read the rest of Seumas Milne's brilliant piece here.And what a bunch of obnoxious patronising wallies the folk at The Economist are, branding 89% of Bulgarians and 80% of Hungarians 'old, timid and dim' for not sharing their enthusiasm for neoliberal capitalism.