“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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