Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Orange People: A Brief History of Transnational Liberation Networks in East Central Europe

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Orange People: A Brief History of Transnational Liberation Networks in East Central Europe

Article excerpt

Abstract: Democracy activists in East Central Europe have transformed the region in fundamental ways, as both dissidents and rulers. This article examines their lesser-known transnational cooperation efforts (or "contagion") from 1968 to today and their use of international support and inspiration. This article also explores the differences between these "Orange" people and the regimes they struggle against, speculating on the reasons for those differences and their sources of motivation.

Keywords: Democracy activism, transnational revolutionary networks, transnational influences, regime overthrow, logotherapy, anticommunism, antisocial personality disorder

"We have underestimated completely the processes taking place in Poland, Hungary and especially recently in East Germany, and their effect and influence on our society." (1)

--Milos Jakes

Deposed Czechoslovak communist leader

November 25, 1989


This article broadly traces a specific aspect of the transnational "effect and influence" (in Jakes's words) of the processes of liberation in the past half-century in central and eastern Europe. It explores the origin of the transnational Orange networks, their interactions behind the Iron Curtain, their zenith in 1989 through 1991, reappearance in the partially reformed postcommunist space, and ends with their latest activities, before outlining a few generalizations in search of a theory for their origins and motivation. Undoubtedly, the contagion effect from abroad is but one in the constellation of factors (mostly domestic) that make these liberations possible. (2) And within this factor, the transnational Orange networks are also but one element. This article will focus on this specific aspect--the main Orange people that transcended borders to reach out to other Orange people.

Because the numerous individuals and groups that have organized to overthrow communist and neocommunist regimes have a multiplicity of ideologies and goals--from liberal to patriotic to anarchist to religious to social-democratic to reformed-communist to simply outraged citizens--for simplicity, and despite its recent discomfiture, the label "Orange" to describe them collectively is used for this article. Besides Ukraine's event in late 2004, orange has been used by several opposition forces in the region, the most evident being Poland's "Orange Alternative" as well as Hungary's "Orange Appeal" and the journal Magyar narancs (Hungarian Orange).

Similarly, because the regimes targeted by the Orange people also span different categorizations--from communist to pseudo-fascist to corrupt neocommunist to sultanistic to ultra-etatist to simply illiberal--in this article I also continue with an earlier hypothesis that the nature of such regimes cannot be easily defined by ideology or any well-constructed system of values. Their common denominator instead is a compulsion to engage in illiberal and antisocial behavior, perhaps carried over from a combination of Marxist-Leninist ideology and self-selection to and training in their respective nomenklatury. Not all Communist Party members engaged in antisocial behavior and some were quite constructive to the reform process and human rights (in fact, regime moderates who played key liberating roles are also defined as Orange people here). It is also true that, with few known exceptions, the key individuals conforming the antisocial regimes were either communists or had actively participated in antisocial activities from within the apparat even after the liberalizing trends began. Such individuals change ideology and political orientations quite rapidly (the most common venue is from communist to either ultra-nationalist or unideological corrupt networks), I use the label "antisocial" to describe the nature of such individuals and their regimes rather than "communist" or other labels, because it captures their collective essence in one word. …

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