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New Left Review I/180, March-April 1990

Fred Halliday

The Ends of Cold War

The events of the latter half of 1989 represent an earthquake in world politics. [*] Text of a lecture given to Department of Politics, University of Sheffield, 5 March 1990, as part of the Department’s programme of events marking the 25th anniversary of its establishment. They have restated, in a dramatic form, the most neglected facet of political life, one spurned in east as much as in west, namely the capacity of the mass of the population to take sudden, rapid and novel political action after long periods of what appears to be indifference. In their speed and import and the uncertainties they unleash, they can only be compared to a war, in which all established expectations and plans are swept aside, in the face of novel, and irrefutable, realities. Neither Left nor Right can claim credit for this turn of events, even as both seek to claim vindication from it. The Right began 1989, the year of revolutionary anniversaries, proclaiming that revolutions were a thing of the past. The Left has been confounded by the popular rejection of socialism, and the espousal of nationalism, predominant throughout the eastern bloc states. This is a time not only for major changes in the world situation, but for a re-examination of (often implicit) fundamentals by the socialist movement.

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