it Was a moment of illusion, in the double sense of the word. Illusion as hope. And illusion as a mirage. The fall of the Berlin wall represented the triumph of the liberal democracies against the soviet bloc, and opened a new phase in which nothing was going to slow down the expansion of human rights, free elections and the rule of law. But 1989 was also a moment of illusion in the sense of vain self-delusion. The crisis after 30 years fracturarían West incubaban in those days of wine and roses.
“There is a famous saying of marshal Polish Pilsudski: ‘to Win and rest on its laurels it’s a defeat. Lose and no surrender is a victory”, says the british historian Timothy Garton Ash. “What we did in the West was to win and to rest on our laurels”. The 9 of November of 1989 lost the communist dictatorships and won the free world. A few months before, in an article that was to become The end of history and the last man, Francis Fukuyama captured the spirit of the times: “liberal democracy may constitute the end point of ideological evolution and the final form of human government and, as such, the end of history”. With joy certifying the death of the nation-State, ideologies, social classes, ethnic groups and boundaries. Shortly after that the Internet would smash the natural stone walls of the geography. “The world is flat”, sentenciaría columnist Thomas Friedman.
When Dominique Moïsi, French political scientist and son of a Holocaust survivor, looks at the piece of wall that still remains, you feel the nostalgia. “I feel that it was the great moment of my generation, and it happened much earlier than we expected”, says Moïsi, who has just published les Leçons de lumières (Lessons illustrated), a manifest pro-european. “The year 2019 is, in some respects, the exact opposite of 1989. The anger and the fear have happened to hope.”
Thirty years later, the expansion of democracies has stopped and there is talk of a “third wave authoritarian” (the earlier ones were in 1922-1942 and 1960-1975). The erosion comes from the outside: the rise of China and the consolidation of authoritarianism putiniano in Russia. And within: the double victory of the Brexit and Donald Trump in 2016, which dislocated the West.
“1989 was a time of hope and victory for the West and for the values that we stand for. Hundreds of millions of people no longer live under the tyranny of the Soviet Union,” celebrated from Washington, Danielle Pletka, of the laboratory of ideas the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “My greatest fear”, he adds, “is that we have forgotten what it means to defend freedom, and that neither we nor our allies in Europe are sufficiently committed to defend people oppressed by tyrannies such as the USSR.” Today the same concept of the West is in doubt. “If it alludes to an actor geo-political, which is what we wanted to say between 1939 and 1989, the West was already barely there”, says professor Ash. “The West’s geopolitical context, it was held together by the common enemy: first nazi Germany, then the Soviet Union. Once the common enemy disappeared, it was almost inevitable that the West debilitase”.
Thirty years later, there were new boundaries. “Before the Wall divided the East and the West, and in fact this division has not disappeared completely. But there is a north-south divide in the EU. And a break in the interior of the country,” says the reporter Marion van Renterghem, author of Cast on Europe, je t’aime moi non plus. 1989-2019 (My Europa, I love you me neither. 1989-2019). The internal walls are ideological (nationalist and pro-european), territorial (cities and provinces) or class (people with high income and college education, and middle class is impoverished). “I’m against the idea that then we were so enthusiastic,” says the historian Pierre Grosser, author of 1989. L’année où le monde a basculé (1989. The year in which all wobbled). “No one knew what was going to happen,” recalls Grosser. “We thought that the Soviet Union would impress but we knew if would be very dangerous. In Yugoslavia we saw that he could be”. Everything could go wrong; the world of 1989, without the old order of the Cold War, it was a forest full of risks.
Mostar, one of the cities bosnian hardest hit during the war in the Balkans, in an image from October of 1994. JESUS CISCAR
The chimera postnacional lasted an instant. With the champagne by the fall of the Wall cool, the perpetration of a genocide in the continent for the first time since the Second World War. The 200,000 dead people in the Balkans are an antidote to the discourses more catastrophic in 2019. “People are discovering new but often old identities and groups under new but often old flags to wage wars with new but often old enemies,” said Samuel Huntington in The clash of civilizations and the remaking of the world order.
Everything is invented. Euro-skepticism: in 1992, France was near to reject the Treaty of Maastricht. Trump is not the first tycoon in power, Silvio Berlusconi was a pioneer in Italy of the nineties. While islamist terrorism is preparing for the 11-S. The Iraq war in 2003 and the 2008 financial crisis undermined the authority of the western model. Both are derived from the excess of confidence after the success of 1989: the belief that could be exported democracy in the blink of an eye, or the reduction of liberalism to capitalism, deregulated and globalized, which shot inequalities. “The roots of the current problems in the field of the victory of then,” says Timothy Garton Ash, who has just republished The magic lantern (The magic lantern), his chronicles of 1989.
In the old steps at the level of French you see a sign that says: “One train can hide another”. It is a call to not be complacent. When you have passed the convoy, you should make sure that there is another in the opposite direction. It is a moral lesson: the danger comes when one believes that he’s already dodged. In 1989, something similar happened. Four decades of the Cold War and of a world on the brink of nuclear armageddon were left behind. End of the movie. After that, he was the other locomotive. The 11-S, Lehman Brothers, the return of nationalism. The signs were there.