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Marek, Your account of what happened in Poland 25 years ago is stirring and inspiring. If I am corect, you live in NYC. What is going on in the U.S.A. today? And I don't mean the transit strike. Your accounts of Solidarity are history and slowly entering the realm of folklore. May the Poles flourish. But what is going on in the city where you live, the country where you live? Tell us. Don't you get it? What Solidarity struggled against has reared its head again and all of Europe will have to deal with it: either accept or reject it. That is the reality we are going through at this moment, or am I wrong?
by Quentin on Tue Dec 20th, 2005 at 02:34:10 PM EST
I find history worthy of remembering in and of itself, but I'm not to into looking at it for 'lessons'.  

American democracy is in the worst shape it has been in my memory. But is it really worse than during the Cointelpro era, or Germany in the seventies? It depends on how exactly you define things, what you focus on.  Certainly not worse than McCarthyism, or the Red Scare of the post WWI period, or France in the late fifties.

So yes it is bad, yes we should be upset, yes we should be worried, but we also shouldn't exaggerate. This is not Poland c. 1970, let alone Germany in 1933 or the Poland of the first postwar decade.  There is significant pushback from the media, not enough, but much more than there was at the start of the 'War on Terror' when a WaPo frontpage story about the US adopting a torture policy sank without a trace. We are also seeing some resistance from Congress - remember that the Patriot Act originally passed with only one negative vote, last week over forty opposed it. I don't expect that to have any practical effect in the immediate term since the Administration has made its utter contempt for the law crystal clear, but it may well over the next decade. So I'm actually much more optimistic than I was just a year or two ago. The way I see it each of the periods of government overreach in America was followed by greater freedom. Let's hope it will this time as well.

by MarekNYC on Tue Dec 20th, 2005 at 05:34:10 PM EST
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But is it really worse than during the Cointelpro era, or Germany in the seventies?

Hm, there was Rasterfahndung in response to terrorism, and some street clashes, but I don't recall reading of the equivalent of a Guantanamo or laws as sweeping as Guantanamo or democracy as hollowed out.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Dec 20th, 2005 at 06:46:23 PM EST
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DoDo, I was thinking of the quality of the democracy itself - civil liberties, rule of law, etc., i.e. the consequences of the Bush admin's various abuses for American democracy and US citizens. For the most part Guantanamo has only an indirect effect - it reinforces the lawlessness but the treatment of foreign combatants and terrorists (and the unlucky innocents wrongly suspected of falling into those categories) does not directly impact American civil liberties.

In the case of West Germany what I was thinking of was the Notstandgesetz of 1968 and, especially, the Radikalenerlass of 1972. The latter provided for an investigation by the Verfassungsschutz of the politics of anyone applying for a job in the public sector - particularly Beamte level posts but to a lesser extent also Angestellte and Arbeiter. The practical effect was that if as a callow first year university student you signed up for some radical group you could be banned for life from any employment. Of the two matters you mention I was only thinking of the Rasterfahndung.  Street clashes are not in and of themselves indicative of any anti-democratic action by the authorities.  

It is worth remembering that these measures were initiated before terrorism really began - it was a response to the extra-parliamentary left in general.

by MarekNYC on Wed Dec 21st, 2005 at 02:54:52 AM EST
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Guantanamo... does not directly impact American civil liberties

I do not agree on this. The question is, are American civil liberties only for US citizens, or any human being getting in touch with US authorities? The Bush admin clearly tries to argue the former, but the original US-American sense of universality would demand the latter.

The practical effect was that if as a callow first year university student you signed up for some radical group you could be banned for life from any employment.

In the public sector. But if I am not mistaken, the recent diary on the NSA-caused job loss indicates similar powers by US federal authorities. In fact, the ability to cause job loss of members of marginal political groups (whether through explicit laws or implicitely through their powers, I don't think really matters) seems a long-running trait of US federal law enforcement agencies. I don't know enough for a practical consideration, tough - how many members (or suspected members) of the APO were affected (i.e. actively rejected or fired) by these measures?

It is worth remembering that these measures were initiated before terrorism really began - it was a response to the extra-parliamentary left in general.

Good point - and a worthy reminder for the anti-terror legal-tough-guying prevalent today (in the USA as well as across Europe).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Dec 21st, 2005 at 09:35:43 AM EST
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