Sunday 5 June 2011


In 1980 I was thirteen, Leonid Brezhnev was in his 16th year as leader of the Communist party and therefore the USSR, the Soviet Bloc - having survived the Hungarian uprising - was a reality, it would be five years until Gorbachev’s leadership, nine until the fall of the Berlin wall. To someone my age, politics on a global stage was a duopoly; the free west versus the oppressed east. 1980 was the year a Polish electrician and trade union activist, Lech Walesa, became leader of the Soviet Bloc’s first independent trade union, Solidarity. It was my first indication that things could be different; albeit not without struggle, arrests, detention... martial law.

It’s why every time I see an avatar or comment tagged #Solidarity, I can only shake my head in disbelief. At least that’s one emotion; another was annoyance, this appropriation of the past to romanticise their own role as agents of change. But I settled on bemusement; this lack of self-awareness, I wonder if they’re prone to talk of an ‘elected dictatorship’? Some might be too young to remember, it could be mere coincidence yet, accidental or not, from my viewpoint they still look awfully silly.


  1. I was in my early teens in the Prague Spring of 1968. It was very upsetting, seeing Soviet tanks invade the country and Alexander Dubcek's reforms being reversed. There had been such hope.