In early 1989, Poland legalized Solidarnosc as a political party and Hungary announced that it would become a multi-party state. These two moves set off a domino effect that spread throughout the entire Eastern bloc. (source)
The debt crisis that is today crippling Greece strangely resembles the one that overwhelmed Eastern Europe back in the late 1980s. The resemblance is not just confined to the existence of a huge debt. A quarter-century ago, there was a growing feeling among East Europeans and their elites that no solution was possible within the limits of the current ideology. As the debt became more and more unmanageable, more and more people came to see it as part of a larger problem. The debt crisis thus sparked a broader civilizational change. It became possible to debate a much wider range of issues that had hitherto been ruled off-limits to debate.
Will the current crisis play out in a similar way? Will one or two countries reach a breaking point and begin a process of change? And will this change then spread to other countries, with the result that an entire world-system will collapse like a house of cards?
Perhaps. But keep in mind a key difference between then and now. In the late 1980s, there was an alternate world-system that could inspire hope in those who wanted change. No such alternative exists today. There are simply countries that are less integrated into the current system and its ideology of globalism and post-nationalism. People will certainly become disillusioned, but without an alternate model their disillusionment will not necessarily lead to change.
Thus, the process may be slower and more erratic than the one a quarter-century ago. Change will likely come in fits and starts. Much more effort will be needed not only to explain why globalism is fundamentally unsound but also to articulate a viable alternative. And such an effort will have to be directed at people in all walks of life, including the elites. No, it won’t be easy.
In the next few posts, I will examine the roots of the Greek debt crisis, which is much more than about debt and much more than about Greeks. What does it portend for them and for the rest of us?