“The price of velvet”

At CommentisFree, Tim Garton Ash returns to a topic he’s covered before – as I noted here. And here’s a related post by Brian. And another post of interest from a couple of years ago.. I could go on.. Anyway, from today’s CiF post

There was nothing inevitable about this peaceful triumph, born at a round table and cemented by a semi-free election. As in South Africa, as in Northern Ireland, as in Chile, the new anti-Jacobin model of revolution, with its surreal encounters of former prisoners and their former jailers and torturers, requires painful, morally distasteful compromise. There is no great moment of revolutionary catharsis. The line between bad past and good future is necessarily blurred. This is what the anthropologist Ernest Gellner, referring to the velvet revolution in his native Czechoslovakia, called “the price of velvet”.

Because that is so, the problem of the past comes back to haunt you. Spain after Franco is the exception that proves the rule. (And looking at the political debate about Francoism in Spain today, it may not even be such a clear exception.) This is why, 20 years on, I am more than ever convinced that the necessary complement to a round table is a truth commission. Not (except in the case of true crimes against humanity) long-delayed and legally dubious criminal trials – such as the one that will probably accompany General Jaruzelski to his grave. Not arbitrary and partisan purges. But, once the basic foundations of a free country are secured, a public, comprehensive, fair-minded, symbolic confrontation of the new democracy with its difficult past, in all its human complexity.

Where, as a result of the negotiated model of revolution, you cannot get justice, you can at least ask for truth.

Btw, how are those foundations?

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  • “Btw, how are those foundations?”

    Pete, there are numerous back references to policing and justice yet I can find no mention of the role of the intergovernmental joint secretariat. Do you suppose this is a deliberate MSM oversight? The secretariat has been in place since 1985.

  • Greenflag

    ‘ Go ahead -build a house on sand . It can last for a while . Eventually the cracks widen the supports falter and the lintels are found not to contain sufficient steel bars .’

    Every revolution brings with it the slime of a new bureaucracy or ideology ‘fit ‘ for the new (it’s always new ) age .

    People can’t be made to forgive or forget by Government or International commissions no matter how august those sitting on such commissions are .

    But people move on -they have do . Looking forever backwards is a perfect strategy for missing out on a better future . Civil wars have often been the most uncivil and conflict within a State for a new order is often more disturbing to reaching a new political consensus than a war with a neighbouring country .

    The NI troubles falls in both camps which is probably why it’s generated such political heat and the myriad of research projects etc etc . Probably also explains why both Governments have adopted ‘greyish ‘ policies in moving towards at least a temporary solution than any ‘painfully’ clear black or white certainty on future constitutional possibilities.