Is 2011 The Next 1989?


by Patrick Appel

Joshua Tucker asks the question:

While there clearly was a snowball effect during the collapse of communism - with the collapse in one country giving rise to the collapse in other countries - we sometimes forget just how long it took for the first revolution to come to fruition, and how long it then took to spread to the second country. Timothy Garton Ash has this wonderful line in his book The Magic Lantern where he reports having said to Vaclav Havel that "in Poland it took ten years; in Hungary 10 months; in East Germany 10 weeks; perhaps in Czechoslovakia it will take 10 days!". (Rumor has it some subsequently amended this rule to include that in Romania it would take 10 hours.) So one important lesson from 1989 is the fact that snowballs take a while to pick up steam. Events in Tunisia are still unfolding, and may continue to unfold for sometime. This does not necessarily mean they will not eventually spread elsewhere.

(Photo: From an Egyptian Guide to protesting, translated by Alexis)