Democracy since 1989
China’s Tiananmen Square protests is a good occasion to look back on the year 1989 and the non-violent movements for democracy which changed our world.
- Non-violent movements in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989 ended the confrontation between East and West and strengthened the possibility of a “new international order” based on the extension of democracy around the globe.
Democracy around the Globe
- Victory of non-violent campaigns in Poland (with the Solidarity movement) and in Czechoslovakia (with the Velvet Revolution) proved the democracy.
- In many areas of the world, such as Latin America, North Africa and West Asia, where armed struggle was once seen as the only path to freedom, non-violent campaigns are now considered institutionalized methods of struggle for democratic invention and democratic governance.
Czechoslovakia’s Václav Havel’s point of view
- The real test of democracy was not only in the peaceful process of transition, but also in the non-violent consolidation of democratic institutions and also but a new attitude and approach towards the problem of power
- He pointed out, “Politics is an area of human endeavor that places greater stress on moral sensitivity, on the ability to reflect critically on oneself, on genuine responsibility, on taste and tact, on the capacity to empathize with others, on a sense of moderation, on humility.”
- Undoubtedly, for all the non-violent actors of 1989, the twin practices of self-discipline and empathetic service seemed necessary in order to control an unjust and inappropriate power.
- Another leader of the 1989 movements, Adam Michnik, declares, “The real struggle for us is for the citizen to cease to be the property of the state.”
The lesson of 1989
- The spirit of 1989 dawned in Beijing, the Polish people, and the Czechs, Slovaks, Romanians, Hungarians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Ukrainians and Russians came to understand that the empowerment of civil society and the collective ability to rule democratically were the essential constituents of non-violent transition to democracy.
- Paradoxically, both Communist China and post-Communist Poland turned to market economy and a wild rush for wealth.
- But the lesson of 1989 remained intact and more relevant than ever.
Still a matter of concern
- The spirit of young Egyptians and Tunisians who shook Arab history though the tactics of non-violent resistance.
- We can call a Gandhian moment of history, in Algeria, Sudan, Iran, Indonesia, the U.S. and many other countries around the globe.
- It shows that where non-violence is practised, democracy is honoured.
- The spirit of 1989 is a reminder that democracy is a system based on trust in human action and the fact that the impossible could become possible.