Austin Bay writes that, though triumphalists have become quick to see in 2005 another 1989 in the offing, that this is no year for end-games. He's right - 1989 was a year of paradigmic shifts, a vast and sudden collapse. But the Cold War lasted for forty turmoilent years of ups and downs, and to look for parallels in every new year the ending-year come again is to build oneself a machine for disappointment. There were years of movement and apparent success whose offings devoured the optimistic and revolutionary.
Consider 1956, the year that Khrushchev's liberalizing moderation met the people's will, and recoiled in a great sudden withdrawing, like the waves from a Sri Lankan beach on a late December morn. The light dawning from under the foul and dark cloud over Tyrant Stalin's mouldering corpse, and Eastern Europe stirring from its ill dream.
Happy Hungary, her chains put by the side, stands from her crouch, back aching from long years of subjugation and toil. Democratic forces on the march. Then the counter-march.
Her border groaning under the tank's tread, and the gentle wave returns with tidal recruits, to sweep silly dreams of sudden liberation away in a crush of shattered masonry, molotov-fire and petrol-station flame-thrower desperation.
Not all years are miracles, and the tyrant has his own ballot, large-bored and heavy-calibred, unanswerable and uncontestable when backed by mushroom-cloud MADness. And 1989 itself ended in a massacre of silly hopes under grinding tank-tread roars and machine-gun fire before a paper-mache statue of Liberty.