Just now I'm reading David Priestland's history of communism. An engrossing reading with many lucid depictions of past events, people, and their backgrounds. And sometimes it gives you these déjà vu moments when it explains the several causes for the turmoil, the many attempts to break well-worn patterns of politics and social realities: the stuffy bourgeois society, bound to profit and exploitation; predetermined lifes; corruption; economic crises; incompetent social parties and unions; a widening gap between 'upper' and 'lower' parts of society, and so on.
While the western societies of the 19th century made use of nationalism as a valve for these tensions, which was followed by a war of ideologies in the following century, these valves don't work any longer in our times. Since the catastrophic events of both world wars (including the Cold War) were the results of national and ideological clashes, their absence should be a welcome circumstance. So why are we still reading news like this, this, and now this?
It seems that unstable circumstances and the obviosuly existing desire for violence are carrying war into our societies. Without having a definite enemy image and without governments capable of channeling the violence, self-destructive tendencies of the society gain the upper hand. Inner and outer pressure are still growing: economic expectations are meagre, and they will increase the tension on a world-wide scale.
Against this background the situation of Russia in 1917 looked very familiar: a run-down ancien regime, a lost war, a ruined economy, an impoverished population, and a lot of anger in the cities.
Will history repeat itself, even in our disillusioned times? Or will our fragmented societies just fall apart? What's coming next, if anything happens? And who is going to pay for it?
(Image: The choir of St Denis; the windows are probably historistic and remind of the works of Jean-Baptiste Capronnier in Brussel's Cathedral.)