We are in the process of constructing a new myth: that of the « fall-of-the-wall-that-no one-predicted. »
That no one knew the exact moment it would happen, yes, of course.
That the playing out of the episode itself, the chain of causes and circumstances that ultimately made it happen, remains enigmatic still today, sure.
That the form of this revolution followed the form of all revolutions, the true ones, those that rupture the rhythm of days in interrupting the regularities; that no historical explanation can render a perfect account of it because this revolution, like all revolutions, excludes and suspends, by nature, normal historical logic; that we were the witnesses, there, of a kind of miracle where we saw the people of the small nations of Central Europe reclaim the rudder of History from the great powers and reappropriate their own destiny, it is evident.
But to conclude, based on this evidence, that we witnessed this spectacle in a state of total stupor; to infer from the true fact that the event was incalculable the false idea that it was unimaginable; in short, to conclude from the extraordinary character of this upheaval the fact that the entire world would have swallowed whole the fable of an indestructible Sovietism; this is what is consistent neither with the truth of the matter, nor with the memory of those who had the chance to experience this unprecedented moment.
I remember the writers who, from Chalamov to Soljenitsyne, very clearly predicted that communism would collapse.
I remember the men and women that were called dissidents and who, like Andrei Amalrik, writing, already in 1970, a book with an unequivocal title, Will the USSR Survive until 1984?, had doubts only about the date.
I remember intellectuals who, in the West, relayed the words of these dissidents, and thus gave a second wind to an anti-totalitarianism whose message was that the demystification of the communist fraud was not only desirable, but probable, and, sooner or later, inevitable.
I remember an essayist, Cornelius Castoriadis, who in one of his last books Devant la Guerre [Facing War], saw in the hypertrophy of the Soviet military apparatus, in its exponential, insane metastatic growth, the sign of a cancer eating the system away from the inside, and ultimately condemning it.
I remember, to limit myself to the deceased, another essayist, my friend Jean-François Revel, who wouldn’t have been so distressed about the « totalitarian temptation » in democracies, of the « grand parade » in which they engage to please the men of stone of a Sovietism that was itself petrified, of their incomprehensible, dizzying, suicidal « cowardice, » if he hadn’t known these regimes were at death’s door.
I remember Michel Foucault saying and repeating that all discursive and political formation has a birth, and thus a death–and that this formation will indeed finish, one day, like the others, by dying.
I remember Pope John Paul II who, when he evoked the appearance of the Virgin Mary announcing, already in 1917, the death of Sovietism to the three shepherds of Fatima, told us unconditionally that the hour so anticipated wasn’t, all of a sudden, very far away.
I remember the simple people that I came across in my travels in Czechoslovakia, Poland, East Germany and the Soviet Union, before 1989, and who were increasingly less duped by the mystification that was holding on only by the fear it inspired or by the spinelessness of a « free world » betraying its own values.
We are in the process, in other words, of leisurely confusing two things.
Cowardice and blindness.
The fact that we didn’t want to hear and the fact that nothing was said.
The attitude, on one hand, of the Kissingers, Brandts, or Giscard d’Estaings slamming the door on the condemned from the east; that of Thatcher or Mitterrand who, we know now, did everything, up until the last moment, to prevent the reunification of Germany and to save what could be saved from the former order; that, finally, of an intellectual clergy who, it cannot be disputed, found, in its immense majority in the United States as well as in France, nothing to find fault with in the scandal that was putting half of Europe in a space, a time, a civilization definitively different–we are in the process of confusing that with, on the other hand, the apparent silence, the long, silent, angry murmur of people who, on the ground, had understood for a long time and who were only waiting for the final spark to dare say that the king, or in other words the dictatorship, was naked.
This confusion is more than a mistake; it is a fault.
It is worse than a legend; it is disinformation.
And this disinformation, far from dissipating the lie, revives it in another way.
This is how we scratch out, in spirit, decades of the history of thought and of struggle.
And this is how we lay the foundation for tomorrows that will become disillusioned with a rewritten, distorted, revised History.
Sick of, yes, the banality, the clichés, rehashed ad nauseum; and honor to those who, with their minds or with their feet, saw the collapse approach and hastened it.
Translated from French by Sara Phenix.