In 1918, the Estonian republic declared its independence from the German empire, after its defeat in the first world war. This was followed by a two year war against Bolshevik Russia, ultimately resulting in the Treaty of Tartu, which recognized its independence. Like the other Baltic states however, Estonia was eventually annexed by the Soviet Union again, as part of a communist empire that stretched all the way into Germany.
What chance did a humble nation of one and a half million people, many of them Russian immigrants, stand against the Soviet empire? It’s hard to imagine they could ever regain their independence. Yet, in November 1988, Estonia was the first Soviet republic to declare its full sovereignty, within the Soviet Union. Then in 1990, Lithuania went a step further and declared that its annexation into the Soviet Union had been illegal.
Gorbachev declared the independence declaration to be illegal. The Soviet Union responded with an economic blockade against Lithuania. This caused dramatic inflation, but ultimately did not work to quell the independence movement.
A few months later, in January 1991, shit officially hit the fan. On January the 10th, Gorbachev declared that the constitution of the USSR had to be restored in Lithuania and all anti-constitutional laws had to be revoked. The next day, Soviet troops began seizing key infrastructure in Lithuania.
Unarmed(!) civilians physically blocked access to these buildings throughout the capital city. You can see some of them here, blocking the Lithuanian press house. These people were shot by troops, as the troops seized the press house.
But people from all over Lithuania continued to go to the capital city, to physically block the most important buildings: The Supreme Council, the Radio and Television Committee, the Vilnius TV Tower and the main telephone exchange.
On the 13th of January, tanks and soldiers surrounded the Vilnius TV tower. Soviet soldiers fired live munition at the armed crowds and tanks drove straight into the crowd. Fourteen people died as a result. Two people were crushed by the tanks, another twelve people were shot. The live television broadcast that people could follow at home ended with pictures on people’s television set, of a soldier physically turning off the camera.
But then a few minutes later, a different television channel suddenly came on air. It called for anyone who could help, to broadcast to the world in as many different languages as possible about the Soviet army and tanks killing unarmed people in Lithuania.
After these attacks, large crowds of tens of thousands of Lithuanians gathered around the Supreme Soviet Council building. They began building anti-tank barricades and setting up defenses inside the building itself. These were regular civilians. The crowd prayed, sang and shouted pro-independence slogans. The Soviet military surrounded them, but ultimately retreated instead of attacking the building, which would have resulted in mass death.
Who were the victims? Who were these people crushed by tanks and shot by soldiers? A seamstress, Loreta Asanavičiūtė, is the most well-known victim. Others were students, a metal worker, a butcher, a plumber and a locksmith. Regular working class people, for whom the system was officially set up to work. But they wanted freedom and gave their lives for it.
After these events became known, the Soviet Union was condemned by another state with heavy rumblings, Poland, as well as by Norway. In other cities in the Soviet Union people began setting up barricades too. A few weeks later, Iceland became the first nation to officially establish diplomatic relations with newly independent Lithuania.
A few months later, the Soviet Union descended into true chaos, as communist hardliners in August attempted a coup against Gorbachev. The coup ultimately failed, but left Gorbachev and the communist party with no real power. Bush in the US then declared that military force against Lithuania would be met with military force from the United States. And so Lithuania, a nation of three and a half million people, won independence from a country of 286 million, setting the stage for the other Baltic states to follow, along with the other Soviet republics.
Now note what is conspicuously missing here: The people who won their independence did not travel from village to village, slaughtering and torturing innocent women and children. The people of Lithuania engaged in massive, peaceful civil disobedience.
Imagine for a moment if those thousands of Palestinians who broke through the walls of Gaza and landed with parachutes in Israel had not set out to torture and kidnap women and children living there. Imagine if they had instead done what the Lithuanians did. Imagine if they had physically chained themselves to the land and houses they claim as theirs. Imagine if the IDF had to physically drag them back to Gaza.
This would mean multiple things:
- They would not have confirmed that Israeli citizens can not safely live next to them.
- They would have won the world’s sympathy.
- They would have demoralized the Israeli troops.
Even if you think the state of Israel should not exist (a stupid idea, but I’ll play with you), you have to acknowledge that the actions of the Palestinians have been extremely hurtful to their cause. The militants demonstrated WHY Israel refuses to let the descendants of the refugees return to Israel.
The militants even demonstrated why the two state solution is unworkable: Within a few hours you can move from the West bank to Tel Aviv and split the country in two. The militants completely confirmed the idea that the settlements on the West bank are necessary for Israel’s safety.
What has the Palestinian resistance accomplished? They turned Gaza, which is entirely run by Palestinians, into hell on Earth. With all of their bloodshed they have terrified the other Arab countries, so Egypt refuses to accept Palestinian refugees. They brought misery upon Israeli and Palestinian children, none of whom had any choice in this conflict.
In a conflict against overwhelming power and odds, you need to demonstrate that you are reasonable moderate people, suffering from an injustice, for which you demand a reasonable solution. You will inevitably have to depend on the sympathy of other people. This sympathy then erodes the power of your opponent and causes internal dissent among the forces that make up your opponent. Did Soviet troops want to massacre unarmed Lithuanian citizens physically defending their government? Probably not, so they ended up retreating.
For quite some time, I had the hope that climate activists would do what the Lithuanians did: Peacefully demonstrate that they are reasonable moderate people, who suffer from an injustice and demand a reasonable solution.
As I have explained, they fail to do this. The Dutch activists had a reasonable demand: End the system of fossil fuel subsidies. This system of subsidies results in an absurd situation, where it is cheaper for me to travel to Portugal by plane from Eindhoven, than to take a train from Eindhoven to Amsterdam.
But these activists decided to make themselves appear unreasonable, by latching their struggle onto all sorts of other global problems that have nothing to do with climate change and require far more nuance and understanding of the historical context. As an example, the climate activists decide to declare that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians.
Climate activists inevitably make huge demands for society. Frankly, the demands are bigger than those the Lithuanians made against the USSR, so you need to hold yourself to very high standards. In practice the activists fail to do this, they latch their activism onto LGBTQI+ stuff, Palestinian stuff and all sorts of other stuff, so the activism accomplishes nothing. And importantly, they fail to win support of the majority of the population.
But the important thing to understand, with the Baltic states and their successful fight against communism in the back of our heads, is that it’s never over. For decades after World War II, guerrilla forces in the forests of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania continued their fight against the Soviet Union.
They committed violent attacks against Soviet officials and the notoriously cruel secret service agents. But if you lived in these tiny countries, home to just a few million people, with people from other ethnic groups brought into your country from all across the Soviet union, could you sincerely believe there would one day be a free Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania again?
It would have been easy for these people to believe that it’s over. It would have been easy for them to believe the mediocrity they lived in would be forever. This mediocre system of Marxism-Leninism, that robs people of all access to the transcendental, that makes life bland, that produces banal statues that only a brute could love, that keeps you physically imprisoned with walls running through your country. Surely this must be the future!
Well, it wasn’t. Eventually it collapsed under its own contradictions. That doesn’t mean that paradise followed. Freedom carried a high price. But people are free. They don’t have to fear the secret police. New forms of oppression will follow.
But this system, that was so hated that tens of thousands of unarmed people decided to gather around, to physically obstruct the tanks and soldiers sent to quell their independence, came to an end.
And that’s the lesson to keep in mind. The West is now captivated by a new ideology that disseminates from our universities. It is similar to Marxism-Leninism, but instead of treating wealth inequality as the main evil to be purged, it focuses on various forms of discrimination people are believed to suffer.
And just as Marxism-Leninism was supposed to deliver happiness and liberation to the seamstresses and plumbers of Lithuania, who physically blocked the Soviet tanks with their own bodies, the ideologies taught at universities today seem to do nothing to halt the skyrocketing rates of mental illness among their adherents.
And so it would be naive to just extrapolate what you see today into the future. The Lithuanians fought hard to achieve what they accomplished, but they still needed support, or they would have ended up like so many other attempts to revolt against communism over the decades. That support came as a Deux Ex Machina, in the form of the failed August coup that destroyed the communist party and gave Bush the guts to offer them a promise of military protection.
It was not over for Estonia. It was not over for Latvia. It was not over for Lithuania. And it was not over for East Germans either, as hard as it must have been for many to believe. When on 8 March 1989, Winfried Freudenberg fell out of a hot air balloon he had built to move from East Germany into West Germany, or when Chris Gueffroy died a month earlier after being shot trying to physically climb over the Berlin wall, what were they thinking?
“This is forever.”
“There is no hope.”
Yet if they had been able to stomach through a few more months, these men could have witnessed the whole system they hated so much that they lost their lives in an attempt to escape it implode overnight, they could have seen people physically destroy the wall that cost them their lives.
When you live under an oppressive system, it’s often hard to articulate what’s wrong. The system itself will help set up the dissent against it. And so often, you end up encouraged to attack whatever the system interprets as its own shortcomings: The food rations are too low, the wages are too low, you have to wait too long for your Lada, the politicians enrich themselves.
These are the sort of complaints people would voice at communist regimes. And their complaints fit exactly within the narrative pushed by those regimes. It was their explicit goal to offer every laborer a Lada, a livable wage and plenty of food.
Similarly, the sort of complaints we’re encouraged to voice at our regime tend to take the form of an *ist or a *phobic. The system is sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic andsoforth. Then your prime minster or president can come on stage in front of rainbow flags and declare that he opposes these things.
Any society you live in will tend to encourage you to desire what it can offer you and to rebuke what it can’t offer you. The United States, the Netherlands, Sweden, these countries can’t offer you to idea of living in a community of people similar to you, who share your religion, your language, your physical appearance and your ancestry, so they invented a word to shame you for harboring that desire: That’s RACIST! And yet, for generations this was both a normal desire for people to have and something their society could relatively easily offer them.
Instead, the society you live in can offer you certain things that societies 100 or 200 years ago could not. Today we have antibiotics, antiretroviral drugs and other medical innovations, so that even if you catch HIV, your life expectancy is not really affected. Similarly, syphilis can be cured, it won’t slowly destroy your brain like it did throughout history.
So we can afford something that is unprecedented in human history: Promiscuous sex will not kill you, along with your wife, your children and your community as a whole. Even heterosexual sex outside of marriage was once very dangerous, but now it is effectively harmless.
LGBTQI+ is the great rallying banner of the society you live in, because it is one of the few things people want that can be reliably offered to them. And because your society is so unique in being able to offer you gay sex and promiscuous sex, it’s also very eager to induce this desire in you, so that you feel as if this society has liberated you from something.
But it doesn’t seem to be sufficient to make people happy. The fertility rates tell much of the story. It’s hard to find a mentally healthy happy woman who doesn’t want children. And yet, in countries like South Korea and Italy, the majority don’t reproduce. This goes deeper than just economic problems, there are villages in Italy where you can get a house for free.
It’s hard to say what would make people happy. And in fact, when a system becomes so hated that people overthrow it, what follows is not necessarily immediately better. When it comes to their material standard of living and physical health, much of the former Soviet Union was better off in the 80’s than the 90’s. Life expectancy plunged, as people slipped into alcoholism.
But if would be naive, to think that Marxism-Leninism, or Wokeism, or LGBTQIism, or Islamism, or any other ism, is some sort of inevitable end of history, a mediocrity we are now stuck with forever. In fact, even the industrial era itself is only just over two hundred years old.
None of the things that dominate our lives and our minds are guaranteed to still be of any relevance a few years from now.