- What moment stands out for you in the events of 1989?
- What do you think led to the unrest in East Germany?
- What is the larger context within which you interpret the events of 1989?
- Why didn’t authoritarian states succeed?
- How did East Europeans react to the arrival of pluralism?
- Why did the revolutions of 1989 happen so fast?
- What images of 1989 stick in your mind?
- Why did things go so badly in Yugoslavia?
How did East Europeans react to the arrival of pluralism?
When it happened, and the specious people got out there and started fighting it out in public, they were disappointed and there was kind of a backlash, and then, “My gosh, is this what this is?” And the answer is “Yes.” I mean, it is. Despite all of that, despite all of that they’re still around. They’re still working. They have been working for a long time. They continue to evolve and develop to solve or ameliorate, or ignore sometimes, problems.
And I think you could say the same for the market system. I mean, the market system, I think in the West, often people look at the market system and say, “Oh, well, the market system is the Protestant ethic.” I mean, if you are honest and you fulfill your contracts and you work hard, and so forth, you will be successful and make money, and then you will be a good steward of that money, of course, and place it back in society, and what have you. That’s sort of the Western vision of what constitutes the market system. And of course, there’s a good deal of truth to it. Less often spoken is the fact that capitalists, imperialists, are perfectly willing to enslave people and to cheat people and to produce shoddy products and to make a quick buck, and leave the rest to society to clean up the mess, and capitalists are perfectly willing to do that. That is stressed a little bit less in the normal.
But, of course, when the market system comes to Eastern Europe, they get that too. They get the crooks. They get the cheaters. They get the conflict, the shoddy products. But they also get, at the same time, the advantages of a market—a market economy, or I really should say a mixed, because there are no real market economies out there, but the mixed economies.
How to Cite
Gale Stokes, interview, "How did East Europeans react to the arrival of pluralism?" Making the History of 1989, Item #709, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/709 (accessed October 21 2016, 4:26 pm).