9 comments on “Vaclav Havel

  1. I don’t want to speak ill of the dead ….. but actually that is just what I am going to do. Well not of the dead, but of the newspaper coverage. Havel was an important figure, but Communism was not brought down by one act plays.

    He was always the sort of dissident that the leftist intellectuals who write for newspapers liked. Not like Walesa or Solzhenitsyn who always seemed to, you know, believe in things. Like God. Havel liked his food, he liked his alcohol, he liked the company of pretty women. Newspaper reporters and readers in the Guardian could relate to him. Just as they could relate to the younger Communist party leaders who took such a *nuanced* view of Stalin.

    Walesa on the other hand was far more likely to see these things like Reagan – as black and white, as good and evil. You know, like stupid and uneducated people did. Havel knew what nuance was. As did someone like Sakharov. Which is why so many Western intellectuals were always half convinced by Soviet smears about Walesa’s and Solzhenitsyn’s anti-Semitism. It was one of those things that must have been true.

    Havel was an accidental dissident – if the Communists had not barred him from further education he may well have ended up on the other side of the Cold War. He happened to be in the right place at the right time when the Poles had done most of the heavy lifting. He signed some important documents. He wrote some important essays. He went to jail for it too. Which ought to be respected. But if not for the religious believers, people very unlike Havel, Communism might still be there.

    I doubt Walesa will get such a good press.

  2. Pingback: Vaclav Havel II

  3. Steve – “The world is a better place for him having been in it.”

    Really? I still don’t want to speak badly of the man. It took courage to do what he did. More so than, say, Mandela. But if he had not been born what do you think would be different?

    Even the BBC admitted this morning that if he had done nothing Communism would still have collapsed. And that is from some of his biggest (post-1989) fans.

  4. Which is why so many Western intellectuals were always half convinced by Soviet smears about Walesa’s and Solzhenitsyn’s anti-Semitism.

    Solzhenitsyn was a bit of a tosser as well IMO, for reasons that Mark Holland explains pretty well here.

  5. “Even the BBC admitted this morning that if he had done nothing Communism would still have collapsed. “

    It didn’t collapse in China, Cuba or North Korea.

  6. SMFS:

    You sell Reagan way short in ascribing his opposition to communism as arising fro religious or other personal prepossession.

    RR major in college had been Economics (of the mainstream variety, of course). But, somewhere
    about the time he’d begun serving as California’s governor, he’d shifted his focus to the theories of what is known as the “Austrian School.” In a newspaper interview from 1976, when asked about the type of reading he enjoyed, he answered that, because of the intensive reading demands of his job, he’d given up all forms of pleasure reading and, on his own time, did all of his reading from among a few writers on Economics, naming particularly, Mises, Hayek, Hazlitt, and Bastiat (the last being, technically, not an “Austrian” but a “pre-Austrian).

    And, reading Mises, he could not possibly have been unaware of Mises’ discovery, in 1920, of the “problem of economic calculation in the socialist commonwealth’ and his conclusion that, one day, perhaps in two or three generations, the USSR would, suddenly, simply, and overnight, cease to exist altogether. I’m also of the opinion that Reagan saw it as part of his purpose to hsten that day.

  7. Ross:

    “It didn’t collapse in China, Cuba, or North Korea.”

    To a degree, that depends on what is understood by “collapse.” Though these entities all exist and, at least in China’s case may be seen as advancing materially, they are all in severe trouble and, in the case of the first two, heavily dependent on what are best described as charitable contributions from other nations.
    Cuba, though offiically under trade embargo (by the U.S.) receives enough in humanitarian aid from the U.S as to make it their largest “trading partner.” Noth Korea is even worse off, needing regualr donations of foodstuffs and medical supplies (and, while the average male height of Japanese, coastal Chinese, and South Koreans has grown from 5′ 4-5″ to 5’9″ since WW II, the average height of North Koreans has dwindled to 5’2″ or 5’1″. Before partition, the north was the rich, prosperous, educated, and advancing portion, while the south was simply almost entirely rural and agrarian. When I served in the Army in Korea (1961-2), their total trade (in anything other than rice) couldn’t have bought more than a few dozen average suburban homes in the U.S.

    China’s situation is more difficult to comprehend in any simple fashion except to say that its relative prosperity is still somewhat confined to a ((coastal) small minority of its
    people and that highly dependent on foreign
    trade, especially with the industrialized west; any significant decline in our circumstances would have devastating consequences for China
    (and it looks like we’re liable to learn just how devastating that will be).

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