Tomorrow is November 17, 2009 – the Czech Republic and Slovakia will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, i.e. twenty years of freedom.
Communism as a form of government is inherently totalitarian and the pre-1989 era had many signs of oppression and totalitarianism. And yet we still hear occasional voices (of old geezers, especially) that the era of communism was better than the post-revolution times. Their most frequent stupid arguments and errors are:
Stupid argument 1: Before 1989 there was no unemployment.
Reality: Avoiding work was against the law. Moreover, the communist regime had people’s job under control. There were thousands of people who could not do what they wanted or what they studied for. Thousands of people were fired from their jobs for minor mistakes and they ended up sweeping streets. The was no labour market. The process of recruitment of new employees often included the “is-he-a-good-communist” criterion.
Stupid argument 2: What is the point of having open borders, we have no money to travel.
Reality: Before 1989 there was the Iron Curtain and people were shot and killed, or “at least” thrown in jail, for leaving their own country. The communist regime did not want to have the image of a regime that people want to run away from, so it wanted to lock people in. It has been established numerous times that the Iron Curtain wasn’t there to protect, but to prevent (see above).
Stupid argument 3: Before 1989 a loaf of bread cost 5 Czechoslovak crowns, now it is 30.
Reality: It makes absolutely no sense to compare the socialist system of economy with the current one. In Middle Ages, a man could exchange his future wife for ten cows. Now he has to marry her and earn money to raise a family.
Stupid argument 4: I never had any negative experience with the state police.
Reality: Thousands of people were spied on and prosecuted (forget fair trial) for badmouthing the system, or for listening to Western radio stations, or for meeting “enemies of the regime”. Many were executed, again, without fair trial.
The most ironic thing is the “freedom paradox”: the people who say “communism was better” are allowed to say it because they live in a democratic society now. Had they said “capitalism is better” before 1989, they would end up in jail.
And on a slightly lighter note: because we have the freedom of speech now, they have every right to say what they want. But what if the current government decided to load them onto trains and transport them to North Korea? Maybe they would enjoy it: a) North Korea has a communist government which is exactly what they have been missing, and b) in North Korea they would finally get the big picture, and having learned from the Velvet Revolution, they could try to overthrow Kim Chong-il.
The STEM agency recently conducted its annual Are you proud to be Czech? poll (1,270 respondents):