Toward an Open Society

JIS XVIII 2006: 1-24


Michael E. Meagher
University of Missouri-Rolla

Most Americans in the 1920s and 1930s were unaware of the crimes committed in the Soviet Union. Even today, the full extent of the carnage is unknown. This essay explores the ways in which Presidents Kennedy and Reagan dealt with the contrast between the open societies of the West and the severely damaged civil societies of the Soviet bloc through the rhetorical presidency. Key speeches throughout the two administrations stressed the use of presidential rhetoric as a way of challenging the communist regimes of Eastern Europe and the USSR. For both Presidents, the key rhetorical moment came in West Berlin, in 1963 and 1987, respectively. Using comparable language, Kennedy and Reagan spoke of the hope offered by West Berlin to those suffering under communist rule. The highlight came when Reagan challenged the Soviet leaders to tear down the Wall separating the city. Ironically, the victory over Soviet bloc communism has not led to the elimination of communist regimes, notably China. That chapter in the struggle against communism remains yet to be written.

JIS XVIII 2006: 25-56


Oskar Gruenwald
Institute for Interdisciplinary Research

From the Adriatic to the Baltic, from the Elbe to the Urals and beyond, totalitarianism has collapsed. Yet the 1989 bloodless revolution in Eastern Europe caught most observers by surprise. This essay explores the signal socio-cultural forces which contributed to the sea-change. Throughout Eastern Europe, grassroots movements emerged in the 1970s and 1980s demanding greater participation in social, economic, cultural, and political life. Thus, the rise of a new civic culture and civil society preceded and fostered the momentous changes in Eastern Europe. This essay offers a model of transition from authoritarian systems to political democracy, highlighted by “The Menshevik Divide,” and places East European nations and the USSR on a cognitive map which indicates the relative strength of civic values and autonomous action just before the revolution (1988). Curiously, this model also shows why the transition remains incomplete, since authoritarian values and political processes keep many post-communist systems in a twilight zone between democracy and dictatorship. Hence, the quest for universal human rights, democracy, pluralism, tolerance, and an open society is still a futuristic project in much of Eastern Europe and the Soviet successor states, suspended between democracy and “virtual communism.”

JIS XVIII 2006: 57-74


Kazimierz Z. Sowa
Jagiellonian University, Poland

This essay explores social forces which contributed to regaining independence by the Polish people and sovereignty by the Polish state after 45 years of Soviet domination. There were four major factors or forces of historical change: workers’ resistance (big-industry working class); intellectual opposition (dissidents); grass-roots movement (families, households and their microeconomic activity); and the Catholic Church (in the late phase of the Polish People’s Republic). The preliminary thesis is that Poland succeeded in transcending communism and Soviet domination as quickly as it did thanks to its civil society traditions. In particular, universities and their intellectual influence on the young generations of Poles helped nurture the political opposition. Equally, the grass-roots movement of Polish family households undermined the unrealistic, strange system of national (planned) economy, which otherwise could have lasted much longer in Poland, as it did in all of Eastern Europe. The conclusion follows that the historically formed cultural capital of the Polish people was the decisive factor in the nation’s liberation from totalitarian rule.

JIS XVIII 2006: 75-92


Leonidas Donskis
Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania

Aleksandras Shtromas (1931-1999), a British-American scholar, became an eminent figure in his native Lithuania, yet Western social scientists have yet to discover this human rights activist, Soviet dissident, and political thinker. Shtromas had no doubts about the inexorable collapse of the Soviet Union, resting his analysis on the assumption that communism was unable to provide any viable social and moral order. The vast majority of the Soviet intelligentsia had become skilled at the ideological cat-and-mouse games, wrestling with Soviet Newspeak and censorship, and employing an Aesopian language in order to survive and remain as decent as possible in a world of brainwashing and lies. A gifted prophet of post-communism, Shtromas was the only political scientist in the world who took the disintegration of the Soviet Union as early as the late 1970s as an ongoing process. This essay links Shtromas’ legacy to the great East European dissenters.

JIS XVIII 2006: 93-110


Georgy Fotev
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

The code name “Balkanization” has many aspects, but in all cases it is quite negative. Belated modernization in the region–the transition from traditional to modern society–has been subject to a constellation of contradictory factors externally dependent on the Great Powers’ clashing geopolitical interests. Following World War II, this region, except for Greece and Turkey, became part of the Soviet Empire and the communist project. Totalitarian states are in radical opposition to civil society, and this in-compatibility is evident even in the comparatively mild case of Tito’s Yugoslavia. The implosion of communist totalitarianism represents a unique precondition for post-communist development, especially for the Balkans. One of the main tasks is the building and consolidation of civil societies, which involves surmounting various degrees of ethnic autism, suspicion, and hostility between neighboring countries. Paradoxically, former Yugoslavia of all countries went from implosion of the totalitarian system to an explosion of typical Balkanization. However, this does not apply to other Balkans countries and the region as a whole. The opening of Balkan societies to one another, and especially to Europe and the democratic world, is closely linked with the construction of open societies, a process that is perhaps irreversible.

JIS XVIII 2006: 113-120


Mihajlo Mihajlov
Belgrade, Yugoslavia

Apart from Milovan Djilas, Mihajlo Mihajlov is considered as the most famous dissident in the Balkans–a former prisoner-of-conscience in Tito’s Yugoslavia. This brief, but comprehensive, autobiographical retrospective recounts some major highlights in Mihajlov’s odyssey ushered in by his intellectual travelogue, Moscow Summer 1964, first published in full in The New Leader. Mihajlov became an embarrassment not only to Josip Broz Tito and the Soviet leaders, but also to those in the West who lauded Tito’s “independent path to socialism.” Yet others correctly perceived Mihajlov’s quest for freedom of thought, speech, press, association, religious, philosophical and political persuasion as a classic benchmark of basic human rights and freedoms characterizing open, pluralistic, democratic polities. Indeed, the Western press contributed to the pressure of world public opinion, which helped free Mihajlov, and, as he claims, even kept him alive. In a region divided by inter-ethnic conflict and civil war, Mihajlov’s struggle for the rule of law and human dignity epitomizes hopes for a better future.

JIS XVIII 2006: 121-135


Harrry Wu
Laogai Research Foundation

The term “genocide” was first coined in the 1940s to describe the horrors of Nazi rule in occupied Europe. In Nazi Germany, the machine of oppression was the concentration camp; in the Soviet Union, the Gulag. In China, it is the Laogai, which means “reform through labor.” In fact, Laogai is a brutal and inhumane system that enslaves millions of people throughout China. The government in communist China divides people by class, politics, and religious beliefs. Such divisions are based not on race, but individual economic status. If a person owns land, capital or property, he or she belongs to the landlord or capitalist classes. Both are considered “exploiting” classes, and their members, including their family, are subject to extermination, since they belong to “counter-revolutionary” classes. During the Cultural Revolution, many people were massacred for the sake of the “Red Revolution.” Since 1949, when the Communist Party came to power, it sought to destroy all religion in China, particularly Christian faiths. The Roman Catholic faith is still illegal in China today. It is common knowledge that people in China are not allowed to practice the religion of their choice. Meanwhile, Laogai, or prison camps, throughout China, imprison countless people who belong to the “wrong” religion or hold “wrong” political ideas. The Chinese government uses the Laogai to control and eliminate those people. Yet, despite the prevalence of the Laogai and its multitude of victims, the world seems unwilling to acknowledge this widespread plague.

JIS XVIII 2006: 136-152


Stephen Denney
University of California-Berkeley

Religions have served various dissident movements in Vietnam. The two indigenous sects–Hoa Hao and Cao Dai–were founded in the early twentieth century and became forces for the anti-colonial, and later anti-communist, movements in Vietnam. Catholics and Buddhists played major roles in South Vietnam’s political scene, while they were both suppressed in the North. Protestant Christians constitute only a small portion of the overall population, but have become linked to nationalist movements among the ethnic minorities of the Highlands. Vietnam’s communist regime has pursued a heavy-handed policy of anti-religious repression in North Vietnam since 1954, and continued this policy after reunification of the two Vietnams in 1975. Capitalist-style economic reforms began in 1986, allowing for more openness in the society, and emboldening religious leaders and other dissidents. However, the regime still cracks down on religious groups and leaders perceived as a political threat to the Communist Party’s monopoly of power. With the decline of Marxist-Leninist ideology in society, religions may become alternative repositories of moral values for Vietnam.

JIS XVIII 2006: 153-156


Edward Kim, J.D.
Princeton Theological Seminary

It has been a daily struggle for me to believe, not whether God exists, but whether God is present in North Korea. What follows is an account of how I got involved in the North Korean human rights movement, why I want to give up, and why I fight. When I visited the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., I frequently observed people shaking their heads and whispering with conviction, “Never again.” It is this conviction that gave birth to Chosunjournal.com, which is an experiment to see if a virtual holocaust museum for North Korea set in real-time can actually help decrease the number of victims and increase the number of heroes that will be commemorated in the future museum made of brick and stone.

JIS XVIII 2006: 157-170


Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat
Cuban Democratic Directorate

During the 1990s, the dissident movement in Cuba has grown in effectiveness, popular participation, and international support. While facing a first-generation totalitarian regime, with a sophisticated repressive apparatus, the civic movement in the Island has persevered and grown in spite of constant persecution, offering hope for political, social, and economic change from within Cuba itself. This essay seeks to provide a brief overview of the civic movement in Cuba covering its social origins and growth, theoretical repercussions of its existence, major leaders and initiatives, its relationship with the Cuban exile community, its ideological history and development, international support, and its current status in light of recent events affecting political conditions in the Island. Born initially out of dissident cells within Cuba’s revolutionary movement and the Communist Party, the dissident movement in Cuba has transformed itself into a microcosm of a re-emerging civil society through which Cuban citizens are reclaiming their sovereignty and constructing the blueprint for a new Republic. The Varela Project is of particular significance for the development of the civic movement in Cuba.

JIS XVIII 2006: 173-190

Review Essay


Jesse J. Thomas
San Diego State University

The World of the Rings:  Language, Religion and Adventure in Tolkien.  By Jared Lobdell.  Chicago, IL:  Open Court, 2004.  Paper.  139 p.  $22.95.
Narnia Beckons:  C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe–and Beyond.  Eds. Theodore & James Baehr.  Nashville, TN:  Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005.  Cloth.  184 p.  $24.99.
Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters.  By Dick Staub.  San Francisco, CA:  Jossey-Bass, 2005.  Cloth.  310 p.  $16.95.