Progressive politics, ideas & culture


What’s your point?

This Magazine Staff

Thanks for everyone who has participated on this blog for the past year, it has been great fun. I’m off for a while. I’ll leave you with this passage from Timothy Garton Ash’s book Solidarity, which seems more relevant today than when I read it yesterday. At the very least, it might help clarify just what the Cold War was about.
(Hint: It wasn’t about happiness or saving the environment)
At the very least, the Polish experience should put our own in perspective. One particular distorted perspective was exemplified by the editor of the influential West German weekly Stern, in a leading article justifying martial law in Poland. The article was entitled, in a novel variation of Pontius Pilate’s famous quip, “Freedom — what is that?” “We citizens of the Federal Republic are free people,” Mr. Henry Nannen concluded. “Are our 1.7 million unemployed also? Freedom — what is that?”
However economically circumscribed the freedom of the unemployed is, there is no sense in which an employed Polish worker was more free in January 1982 than an unemployed West German worker. Of course there is no perfect freedom on earth; of course it is difficult to define freedom in the abstract; and yet I will not hesistate to offer and defend as a working definition: “Freedom is what a West German worker, employed or unemployed, did, and what a Polish worker, employed or unemployed, did not have in January 1982.”
No one who has really understood the Polish revolution will so confuse our unperfect freedom with their unfreedom.
-TGA, 1983, p.353-354.

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