Thursday, November 17, 2005

Sixteen years after Velvet Revolution

Sixteen years ago, on November 17th, 1989, students in Prague commemorated the 50th anniversary of the closure of the Czech universities by the Nazis back in 1939. On November 17th, 1939, nine students were executed. This time, back in 1989, the students were beaten up not by the Nazis but by the communists.

Together with Tuesday 9/11/2001, the dates around the Velvet Revolution are the only days in my life that I remember very clearly. On Friday evening, November 17th, 1989, the news about the student demonstration circulated among everyone who was interested in politics. The Radio Free Europe and other "anti-socialist" radio stations of course played a very important role in informing (and provoking) the public.

There were rumors that a student, namely Martin Šmíd, was killed. (Another student, Mr. Růžička, who was thought to be dead actually turned out to be Mr. Zifčák, an agent of the secret communist agency, but I never understood what this whole story was all about. As far as I can say, the story was irrelevant.) Actually many years later, we had many published debates with the very same Martin Šmíd about astrology which he believes (and I don't). At any rate, the rumor was definitely false and Martin Šmíd was not killed by the communists.

During the weekend, the actors started their strike and other professions followed quickly. The Civic Forum, a very broad political movement whose goal was to win the free elections and get rid of the communists, was established. On Monday, November 20th, we were making bets when Miloš Jakeš, nicknamed the "lonely fencepost", the ridiculous leader of the communist party at that time, would be forced to resign and when the "leading role of the communist party in the society" would be erased from the Czechoslovak constitution. It just happened that both of my guesses were spot on: 11/24 and 11/29. An interesting month followed. A lot of demonstrations, a drastic increase of freedom, a significant decrease of communists' power at many places, and so forth.

The Velvet Revolution "officially" ended when Václav Havel was elected the president of Czechoslovakia on December, 29th - a few months after he was released from the jail.

During the time of the Velvet Revolution, people were really nice to each other. Many of them had unrealistic expectations. Many left-wing people who were bitter about the communist party did not realize that they actually hated capitalism as well - something that caused a certain amount of problems later.

People were predicting the future. Some of us stated that within 15 years, we would be on the same political and economical level as the average of the EU. It seems fair to say that these predictions were essentially correct.


  1. With over 10.6% unemployment rate I don't think Czech is in any position talking about "same political and economical level". I can not think about anything that Czech exports, other than those young girls along the German border. As Europe is plunging into a terrible terrible winter energy crisis right now, Czech will be strangled and deprived of necessary energy importation, including natural gas and oil. It's going to be miserable.


  2. Dear Quantoken,

    let me mention that the unemployment in Germany is 11.6 percent or so, e.g. higher. This is certainly not a way to prove that the Czech Republic is doing much worse than Germany.

    Before 1989, the unemployment was zero, but unlike you, I don't think that it was such a positive thing.

    Let me avoid comments about your ideas about energy crises.

    All the best

  3. While I had not noticed before, I saw comments you make about socialism, as directly related to communism?

    Even within the United States, such a feature is attributed to any labor, or caring society that is concerned with the social fabric, as communistic.

    Would there be a better interpretation, knowing of course you are influenced from your background. That fear mongering of the worst kind, was instilled in the Amercian public, by fighting wars based on communism?

    If one had not recognized the impurtenance of oil companies to gouge through the worst times, or their keeping "extra value" on the reserves, would this not of even soured the worst capitalist?:)

    Anyway, I want to try and save caring people from being labelled to the "ole ways of thinking."

    How could this be done Lubos, without becoming a profiteer above the limits on profit of let's say 22%?

    That loss, would not be anything below 21.9 and would instill a greater safety margin by "gouging and being greedy?"

    What cost of living has excelled more (even before the great catastrophes) then in the energy sectors, while the very faric of that society suffers and tries to live a decent life?

    Why oil companies would deny meeting with Cheney in 2001?

    This is not isolated to the UNited States, as captialism, would like to know no boundaries and transpose itself as a free society?

    What's your thoughts on that as well?

  4. I say Czech could be strangled on natural gas because as a nation the Czech is too stupid to let a foreign company dorminate 97% of its gas supply. Guess when there is a shortage, RWE would supply German first. The Germans buy 97% stake of Czech gas because that's how it can obtain Russian natural gas, due to the geological locations. This winter will be very miserable as gas and oil production from the North Sea is depleting at 20% year by year.

    North America is not much better. On Bloomberg the gas price shoots up 20% to 40% in just one day, because of fear of cold winter.

  5. Hi Lubos,

    Today's BBC "on this day" news article is "1989:Police crush Prague protest rally". There is some video footage, and may be of interest to you.

    Best wishes,

  6. Quantoken: France has the same 10% unemployment.

  7. Dear Plato,

    concerning the socialist/communist terminology: the parties were communist parties but we actually called our system "socialism" before 1989 - which is how the countries were called, too. For example: Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. In socialism, the word "communism" referred to the next level of socialism in which money don't exist, everyone does whatever she can and she can have whatever she wants (utopia). ;-)

    In the West, the word communism has always been used as an insult, and the word "socialism" is still being used by many left-wingers. In my opinion, they just don't realize that these two concepts refer to the very same trajectory towards the very same goals.

    I don't like people and companies who are gouging prices - much like Bill O'Reilly, for example :-) - etc. but it is not enough of a reason for me to abandon or regulate capitalism. Every social and legal system allows the people to behave in more moral ways or less moral ways. This is also the case when everything is regulated. The difference between a regulated society and a free society is that the latter works more efficiently.

    All the best

  8. The difference between a regulated society and a free society is that the latter works more efficiently.

    Would you agree that both systems would eventually consolidate power and money to the few?