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In this concluding section of the course, we return to the debate between Cohen (individual volition) and ‘Z’ (structure).  Should the Hungarian (1956) and Czechoslovak (1968) experiments with socialist reform have prepared us for the fact that Gorbachev’s efforts to reform Soviet-style communism from above would fail?  In contrast, how might the Chinese Communist Party have been trying (perversely) to learn from these lessons in 1989-91?  One possibility is that the different outcomes suggest that serious reform was merely impossible in one country (the Soviet Union) but possible inanother (China)?  Another possibility is that China’s carefully circumscribed reforms will are destined to fail as well.

34.  LECTURE:   Monday, Novemer 14

Two Challenges to Communism in Poland.  It is impossible to understand the fall of communism in Europe after 1989 without addressing the impact of both Karol Józef Wojtyła’s ascendency to the Throne of St. Peter  in 1978 and the formation of the independent Polish trade union movement, Solidarity (Solidarność), in 1980.  In my view, the second event would not have taken place–at least, not as early as  it did–without the first.  In the documents below, note the rapid acceleration and politicization of events over a mere 13 months.

  • Homily of his Holiness John Paul II, June 2, 1979, Warsaw, Poland (look for the potentially incindiary issues in this homily):    HERE
  • Two key documents from the early days of the Polish upheaval:  (1) “The 21 Demands” (August 31, 1980); and (2) the “Solidarność statute” (November 17, 1980) (English originals):  HERE
  • Program of the First Solidarność  National Congress (October 7, 1981):   HERE

35.  LECTURE:  Wednesday, November 16

Gorbachev’s Revolution of Reform.  Mikhail Gorbachev’s made a grand attemp to reform Soviet communism.   For several years, his calls for “perestroika” (economic restructturing) and “glasnost” (openness) were a cause for unparalleled excitement, both within the socialist bloc and in the liberal west. Check out the two videos here.  Yet despite the fact that this period looked like it might lead to a revolutionary stage of communnist development, it ultimately resulted in revolution against the system and the death of Marxism-Leninism.  Some observers have argued that his reforms were destined to fail due to the manifest shortcomings of the socialist system.  The events in the Ukrainian city of Chernobyl in 1985 provided ample cause for reflection.  Yet others, like Malia, contend that communism was moribund anway, regardless of  happened in the Soviet bloc.

  • Mikhail Gorbachev, Report to the Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the CPSU, January 28, 1987:  HERE  (Print)
  • Trabant Crash Test: HERE
  • “Z” (Martin Malia), “To the Stalin Museum,” Daedalus, 119, 1 (1990):  section IX.
  • “Stories and Totalitarianism,” in Vaclav Havel, Open Letters, pp. 328-50.

36.  DISCUSSION SECTION:  Friday, November 18

Because you have been working on your papers, there will be no section.  Please hand in your paper to your TA.

37.  LECTURE:  Monday, November 21

Violence Amidst Reform in China.   Since the late 1970s, scholars have debated whether China is following a special path in the late stages of constructing socialism.  Was the army’s deployment against student protestors on Tian Anmen square, as well as around Beijing and in other major  cities, déjà vu all over again?  Or have China’s reforms over the past 3 decades signified something very new about world communism?

  • Deng Xiaoping’s educational policy:  HERE
  • Editorial:  “It is necessary to take a clear stand against disturbances,” People’s Daily, April 26, 1989:  HERE (Print)
  • Deng Xiaoping, “Address to officers of the troops enforcing martial law in Beijing,” June 9, 1989:  HERE.  (Print)
  • Previously secret: CIA analysis of the speech (declassified, but it’s amusing to see what’s left):  HERE
  • Tiananmen Square:  HERE

THANKSGIVING BREAK:  Wednesday November 23-November 27

38.   LECTURE:  Monday, November 28 

Gorbachev was not alone. Gorbachev wasn’t the only reformer in the Soviet bloc in the 1980s.  In fact, his policies helped to accelerate significant shifts in domestic policies that were already underway in countries like Hungary and Poland.  Yet when Gorbachev’s policies proved to be unworkable, these countries’ governments had to decide whether they would continue with reform or simply move on to something entirely new.  Indeed, it’s possible that they had no choice in accomodating themselves to a totally new political system.

  • “Z” (Martin Malia), “To the Stalin Museum,” Daedalus, 119, 1 (1990):  section X.  (Course Reader)
  • “Meeting Gorbachev,” in Vaclav Havel, Open Letters, 351-354.
  • Hungarian Border:  HERE

39.  LECTURE: Wednesday, November 30

Those who refuse to learn . . . . are punished by history.   In this lecture, I will address the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ensuing collapse of communism in East Europe bydescribing my own experiences in East Germany in the late 1980s.

  • “Testing Ground,” in Vaclav Havel, Open Letters, pp. 373-376.
  • Previously secret:  Record of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and the politburo of the Socialist Unity Party of East Germany, October 7, 1989:  HERE
  • Previously secret:  Conversation between Vadim Medvedev and Kurt Hager in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet union, October 13, 1989:  HERE
  • A. James McAdams, Germany Divided:  From the Wall to Reunification (Princeton University Press, 1983), ch. 6.  (Course Reader)

40.  DISCUSSION SECTION:  Friday, December 2

Paragraph Assignment:  Why didn’t McAdams predict the fall of communism?  How can he have been so daft?  Please identify those features of late 20th-century communism that would have enabled McAdams to predict the events of 1989.  What lessons should he learn from being so shortsided?

41.  LECTURE: Monday, December 5

Yet others learn what we don’t want them to learn . . . . and somehow survive. Ironically, China, North Korea,Vietnam, and Cuba learned that the best response to popular demands for revolution was retrenchment.  Still, ‘retrenchment’ meant different things to each of them.

  • An interview with Fidel Castro, “Blaming Stalin for everything would be historical simplism,” June 3, 1992:  HERE

Your final essay assignment will be around HERE 

 42.  LECTURE:  Wednesday, December 7

Concluding Reflections. We go back to the beginning.  I seek to make sense of the “long, strange trip” that was world communism.  Some experts say that Lenin is dead. But maybe not.

The use of electronic devices of any kind, including laptops, cell phones, video cameras, and personal digital devices, as well as those I don’t even know about, is prohibited in my classroom!

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