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The participants summarise their talks

  • 1789: The French Revolution and its repercussions
    Jean-René Aymes

    The French Revolution is presented starting from the spring of 1789 as an accumulation of incredible and transcendental events which are normally considered the beginning of the modern world. The event has deep and differentiated impacts all along Europe, and their echoes still can be perceived in the present. They gained a special intensity when its two hundred year anniversary took place in 1989 in France, but also in Spain, through international symposia and the publication of important studies. But all in all, it has not been possible to reach a historiographic agreement because since the time of the events and until the present, the Revolution may be alternatively used either as an admirable example or as a repulsion pole.

    It is absolutely mandatory to avoid the methodological approach of seeing the decade of 1789-1799 as a long series of lineal and homogeneous events, but should be seen as a series of sequences of different nature and different meanings. When observed from a foreign country, the big events of 1789 are the Storming of the Bastille; the meeting of the General States later transformed into the National Assembly and the Constitutional Assembly; the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen"; the apparition of new great figures like Mirabeau, Marat and Siéyès; the emerging role of women and young people; and the emergence of the "public opinion" thanks to the proliferation of gazettes and the activities of the "clubs".

    In opposition to what occurred in other European territories where there were national emancipation movements inspired by the Parisian uprising, in Spain the reaction of the authorities, probably motivated more by fear or rejection than by admiration and hope, was essentially counterrevolutionary, with the exception of a few individuals, like José Marchena, who celebrated the hopeful revolution. The Revolution was indeed a matter of controversy between liberals and absolutists during the War of Independence, during the constitutional reforms adopted in Cadiz, and during the management of concepts full of new significance like "nation", "liberty", and "equality", supposedly imported from France.  

  • 1929: The crisis and the Great Depression
    Gabriel Tortella

    The crisis of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed were the biggest economical catastrophe of the 20th century, and one of the largest ones ever remembered. It is inevitable when studying the 1929 crisis to establish comparisons with the current one; although there are without doubt a number of parallelisms, there are also clear differences. The first one would be the causes. The causes of great crisis are many and although all of them share the fact that economic evolution is cyclic, there are many differentiating factors. The size and severity of the 1929 crisis were due in great deal to the lack of knowledge of politicians and economists. They did not understand that the First World War and the social cataclysms that followed forbid simply going back to a pre-war economy, and specially the return to a system of international payments based in the gold standard. The current crisis is not due to the lack of knowledge, but to an excess of confidence by the monetary authorities.

    Naturally, the knowledge on crisis that we have today, and which was lacking in 1929, is in great way due to the contribution of John M. Keynes and his invention that would later be called macroeconomy. 

    The inexperience with which we faced the 1929 crisis explains the profundity of the Great Depression; the main consequences was a very strong contraction of the national income of the main countries (with the exceptions of Japan and the USSR) and of the international commerce, a cascade of bank failures, a large increase in unemployment, a disarticulation of the international payment system, and a strong rise of protectionism in its multiple forms. The political consequences were the triumph of totalitarianism, and on the long term, the beginning of the Second World War. It was the war, more than the economic policies, what put the Depression to an end. From all economic political programs implemented to fight the Depression, the most known is the New Deal of the North American president Franklin D. Roosevelt.

  • 1949: Totalitarism, change and opening in contemporary China
    Taciana Fisac
    On October 1st, 1949 Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China. Thus begins one of the most totalitarian dictatorships of history. Thirty years later, the arrival of Deng Xiaoping will imply a radical change. The progressive reforms, the economical growth, and the opening towards the exterior have been giving the "Central Kingdom" an undisputed prominence, and accounting for those years is fundamental to understand what is happening today in China, and where is the new superpower of the 21st century heading.
  • 1989: Ending/Beginning of a hope. The fall of the Berlin Wall
    Emilio Lamo de Espinosa

    In a well known article published in 1989 in the New Yorker, Robert Heilbroner, an old American socialist, wrote: "Less than 75 years after its beginning, the competence between capitalism and socialism has ended: capitalism has won... Capitalism organizes the material issues of humanity in a more satisfactory way than socialism". And shortly after, he would add: "except sporadically the democratic freedoms have not appeared in any nation that has declared itself anti-capitalist".

    Indeed, for some, 1989 was only the end if the Cold War, the third (although fortunately non nata) World War, which formally began in 1945 in Yalta in with the division of Europe, and was won by the reviled Ronald Reagan to the ossified Soviet Union. This moment does not only open the unification of Germany, but of all Europe, the current UE of 27 countries. For others, 1989 is nothing less the the end of a "short" 20th century, a century that began late (in the Great War of 1914) with the termination of the old empires (Austro-Hungarian, German, Russian, Ottoman, and even the British) and the Russian Revolution, and ends early with the fall of the Soviet Union.

    But in any case, it is clear that 1989 closes the century of the social fights, of civil wars; initially European, but later the entire world with an East-West confrontation; and of political tensions that built the history of the world for the last hundred years, which was reflected by the tension of marxists versus anti-marxists, the "undisputed horizon of our time" until recently. A closing that opened the triumph of freedom in a powerful third democratizing wave that fostered the current globalization process.

    Nevertheless, this may have been a pyrrhic victory. Because if on 1989 the triumph of the liberal West was secured, the triumph of technology and scientific rationality, the triumph of the market economy and the democratic State, its own universalization relegates the old Europe, small and badly united, into a marginal position in the world: the new Far West of a pushing and powerful Asia.  

Fundación Juan March
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