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tv   After Words  CSPAN  December 27, 2013 8:00pm-8:56pm EST

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20 more years. that's a worrisome diagnosis but i think it may be unfortunately true. >> thank you. i believe that will conclude the panel. i want to thank ryan and elliott and thanks to the hudson institute and thank you very much for coming. happy holidays.
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>> i think radio is the longest and best form of media that's left. what we are doing now in our long conversations like c-span's is longform conversation you and charlie rose are the guys that read books the way that i read books. it's german asleep revealing when it authors had their book read these days because they don't get many people who have read their books and know what they're talking about with page notes. it's so rewarding to them. i get a great deal of satisfaction and in fact the highest compliment that's the best interview i've had on this book tour.
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i just got it from charles krauthammer and i loved the interview of things that matter his new collection of essays on that are autobiographical. that makes my day. three hours is an abundance of time and i can do so many different things. >> up next on booktv "after words" with guest host sub and eight of foreign-policy magazine talking with christian caryl on his book "strange rebels" 1979 and the birth of the 21st century. in the book is senior fellow at the center for international studies at m.i.t. argues a left-leaning consensus developed across the western world after world war ii and that counterrevolution represented a new era beginning in 1979 with the election of margaret hatcher is british prime minister in the overthrow of the shah and iran. this is about an hour.
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>> host: hello christian caryl. we are here to talk about your terrific new book "strange rebels" 1979 and the birth of the 21st century. i'm going to let you explain why it is that 1979 was the crucial pinpointed history but let me first start out with a little bit of explanation for what i think is a really unusual book that you have done. i know it's a real labor of love but christian for those of you joining us today is a longtime "newsweek" foreign correspondent and contributor to the new york review of books as well as my colleague who contributes to foreign-policy magazine where i am the editor-in-chief. i think you have done something very unusual with this book which is you have managed to do in a way linking together in one place margaret thatcher and the ayatollah khamenei as characters in a unified narrative about the
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grade counterrevolutionary year of 1979 and it is your very provocative thesis that this was the year in which basically the backlash or the return of markets and religion to global politics in a big way signaled a counterrevolution toward the reactions of the earlier post-war era. you know, how did you come up with back? who could possibly write a book that says margaret thatcher, deng xiaoping, the ayatollah khamenei, the afghan communists and the iranian revolutionaries have in common nevermind pope john paul ii and the resurgence of religion as a factor in polish national life which is a whole fascinating part of the book. how did you come up with putting these things together? >> guest: well it had a lot to
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do with my reporting in afghanistan after 9/11. you were there too. actually if memory serves me we actually stayed in the same house for a while. you were with the "washington post" and i was with "newsweek" and that house kind of struck me at the time. it had this shag carpeting and it was a ranch style house. it was just like the kind of houses that we were growing up and in the 70s when i was a kid. i was kind of struck by that. when you went outside and cobble you were driving around 1970s american car sometimes with a tractate layers in them if you remember what those were. all the government buildings were built in the 1970s and when he went to the bookstore and cobble you found out these great postcards in books about afghanistan in the 1970s. what all of this showed was that afghanistan was actually an up-and-coming country in the 1970s.
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at the end of the 1970s it hits a wall and history starts running in reverse as it were. the more time i spent in afghanistan the more i found myself wondering about this. you shouldn't take this as a self-evident thing when it entire country goes into reverse. during my reporting over the past couple of years i began to notice similar things in other places and i begin connecting the dots and thinking about what happened at the end of the 1970s. i realized if you look at it globally it's a very important moment. we tend to focus in the united states on the 60s, western europeans tend to focus on the 60s but if you look at it from a global perspective it doesn't look quite that way in my book was kind of an exploration and attempt to figure out why this is so. >> host: let's take the five very quickly here. you have afghanistan as you mentioned and i always thought that house to me looked like "the brady bunch."
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it is literally a copy of the house and the brady bunch with the open staircase where the family would come down in the opening scene of "the brady bunch" and yet it had been most recently occupy it before "newsweek" took it over by al qaeda leaders or least that's what we were told. i guess it made it seem more -- but it's a great point that you made. afghanistan and the communist takeover of afghanistan which happened in 1979, china, the rise of deng xiaoping and the beginning of a turn towards the markets and to mao and his cultural revolution. poland as you mentioned the election of the polish pope pope john paul ii in his return to his homeland and the precursor of the solidarity movement. great britain and and the election of margaret thatcher and the tom alt over the british economy that has been really lost as part of the historical
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narrative of written after thatcher. i'm looking forward to coming back to that a number five of course the one probably the most people think of first when they think of 1979, the iranian revolution the toppling of the shah and the hostage crisis. wow that's an awful lot of ground to cover. let's start with thatcher. there has just been huge outpourings of tributes to thatcher on the occasion of her death. magazine covers revisited. your book takes apart some of the myths of margaret thatcher. >> guest: well i tried to do that. it's always a challenge because you want to show why somebody is worth knowing about in the first place. there have been a lot of revisionist histories of thatcher. a lot of people correct some misperceptions about her but first you have to establish why she is importing the first place in very few people would dispute that she is hugely and immensely important.
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like any hugely important transformative figure she has generated a lot of myths. there are many myths about her and for example we think of her, american conservatives think think of for think of or is this icon of conservatism. well guess what? she was in favor of national health insurance. she never seriously tried to dismantle the health system in britain because she knew how popular it was. she voted for the law in parliament to decriminalize homosexuality in great britain. she never interfered with gun control. when she had a chance she voted for abortion. the social issues which you know britons are sometimes have very different opinions than american conservatives she doesn't look like a traditional conservative at all. i think one of the most interesting stories in fact is her relationship with ronald reagan. there's no question that she and reagan were very close. they really adored each other but they were both very intense
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and intense when it came to defending the national interest of their respective countries. make no mistake margaret thatcher even when it came to ronald reagan was not shy about defending her national interest. >> host: she wasn't shy about much, right? i think the economy in many ways her legacy rises or falls. >> guest: yes, for example we live now in a world where it is taken for granted that capital can flow across boundaries without almost any barriers at all in one of the first thing she did when she became prime minister was she dismantled capital controls in great britain. there was a period in britain win if he wanted to leave the country you had to fill out a form and then they would give you 15 francs or something if you are going to france. you actually have this whole bureaucratic procedure and she did away with all of that. that was an important prerequisite for what came laten project that turned london into
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a european and global financial center but we take all this stuff for granted today, right? we just assume that this is kind of the given. we assume that big companies should not -- multinational corporation shouldn't be on by governments. this is another legacy of hers that i think indoors to this day. other parts of her legacy perhaps haven't endured because we have had such different conditions. austerity is a good example. she was very very austere and her financial policies and those sorts of policies are really coming under attack a lot nowadays. i think economically she was hugely important in shaping this market-oriented world that we live in today but you know by no means have all aspects of her legacy remained in place. >> host: i find it striking how much she is invoked the modern patron of our politics in the me will be a reason that her successor david pemberton
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embarked upon that path as a response to the financial crisis of 2008. she has been much in vogue even if actually the conditions of today there are almost no resemblance to the kind of massive labor strikes and heavily nationalized economy that she was dealing with a 1979. >> guest: exactly. people forget for example she did reduce the punitively high rate of personal income tax in britain which at that time was 83%, and comprehensible. no country has a personal income tax rate like that today but at the same time she raised taxes on consumption because she believed in balanced budgets. she was actually willing to raise taxes to make the books balance. and that this she was quite different from ronald reagan who allowed enormous deficits. this was quite a source of friction between the two of them
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but when american conservatives now seek to position themselves as part of her legacy i really wonder if they are paying attention to that part of it. she was such a budget hawk and not averse to raising taxes to make the books balance. >> host: that's one of the things that comes through strikingly in her history of her part of her tenure is the willingness to use all the tools that she saw in the toolkit of government and that's certainly is not the direction that american conservatives on capitol hill have gone in dealing with this latest budget crisis here. sometimes history gives us lessons and sometimes we don't know them. that brings me right to kind of two of the real lightning rod subject of your book, iran and afghanistan. those are both countries that are very much front page news in the united states today in terms of policies that frankly feel stuck and in many ways we are
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dealing with a legacy of the tom alt of 1979 in both of those country but frankly i'm not sure that we come up with a better way to negotiate with the iranians than we did at the disastrous time of the hostagetaking in afghanistan. have we learned the lessons of the last superpower to find itself enmeshed in a war there? it's hard to say that when our war in afghanistan is now the longest war in u.s. history by a long shot. so let's start with iran for example. what surprised you as you delves into the history of this? something we feel that we know but i think you talked about a lot of things we didn't know or had forgotten. >> it think the most fascinating to me as i delved into the history of the randian revolution is this blend of the old and the new. one historian calls it revolutionary traditionalism. it was a revolution. it overthrew the shah but it was
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a conservative revolution. there was a revolution staged in part by men in white beards, in turbines and they aligned themselves at the beginning of that revolution with nonislamist democrats, some nationalist democrats and the forces of the left. at ayatollah khamenei was very smart in the way that he talked like a leftist. he loved talking about imperialism and colonialism and the fight against american hegemony and he was very good at incorporating that sort of rhetoric which played a huge role in bringing the leftists and the other revolutionaries into his coalition. when he didn't need them anymore he discarded them. but even today i would say the iranian system has some very interesting characteristics that you can trace directly back to the revolution.
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you have this combination of an elected parliament and an elected president which is the legacy of the democratic revolution shall we say and then you have the supreme leader who is really appointed by the other clerics and who exercises ultimate authority. even today more than 30 years after the revolution we still see a power struggle between the president the people who support him and the supreme leader. there have been power struggles almost since the day the islamic islamic -- and i'm fascinated by the way that legacy that ayatollah khamenei himself established in 1979 continues to shape the country today very clearly. >> host: that's particularly relevant with another presidential election coming up in a few weeks in june and i think you will see that tension as well as americans continued to struggle with the question of who really makes decisions in
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today's islamic republic? who can we negotiate with them that is another striking thing was the internal american divisions at the highest levels of the u.s. government over how we should approach this new much more threatening iran and from the very beginning you chronicled how secretary of state cyrus vance at one point of view who is much more in favor of negotiating a more conciliatory stance. brzezinski at the time the national security of wiser to president carter took a much harder line. if you change the names it seems to me it could be talking and writing the story on today's front page about the internal divisions within the united states government over how to approach iran. >> yeah and of course those things are very similar today. the thing that was new then of course was that nobody had ever encountered an islamic revolutionary movement like this. people didn't know what to make of it. people at the time were looking for all kinds of comparisons and
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for example there were people comparing ayatollah khamenei to gandhi. what if the comparison do you have? he's a religious leader who led an independent struggle. it's that simple and when you look at this policy feud if that is in putting too much on it between secretary of state and the national security pfizer at the time what you see is competing views about what this whole thing means and what's going on here? who is very hard to understand that the time. we have to remember the word islamist didn't really even exist at the time. this whole idea of the islamic fundamentalist was pretty new. >> host: two points and want to follow up on. one is a historical point it's striking to recall in historical terms what role the hostagetaking of the american diplomats played in resolving that internal power structure and in fact it was a key moment in which this tension was
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balance between a more elected democratic form of government and a harder line clerical form of government was resolved in favor of the clerics in part a cousin of the internal political success of taking american hostages. they used that in a way that i think many americans would disagree with. >> that's another thing i wanted to examine in my book because quite understandably and rightly the americans took a look at the hostage crisis from an american viewpoint. how could they possibly violate all of these diplomatic laws and traditions by holding our diplomats hostage? people were understandably and quite rightly exercised over this but at the time we tended to pay less attention to how that factored into these internal conflicts within the iranian reveille shared regime and as you say ayatollah khamenei very skillfully use the hostage crisis to undermine his secular liberal opponents branding them as agents of america and enshrined the
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principle of clerical rule. from then on really he had no challengers. >> it think that's striking and in terms of this present day run you made the point about this being almost a key moment in the creation of modern political islamism as we know it. it sounds a lot like what's going on in egypt these days. we are early into what is going to happen in egypt and what the toppling of host the mubarak's regime really means. it certainly seems i can see parallels between the muslim brotherhood and what happened as there was an early vacuum and jostling for power between a whole bunch of different political factions in egypt. the cairo revolution was driven by a bunch of western oriented
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democratic small dmag kids. i wonder if you saw it echoing in the resonances in the story of the revolution in iran. >> absolutely, susan, absolutely and i think what we are seeing right now the muslim brotherhood which controls the presidency and the parliament in egypt is showing signs of cracking down on the judicial branch and putting in judges who are amenable to the muslim brotherhood. again this looks very much like iran at a certain stages the revolution as clerics were extending control over everything. i think the difference with egypt is that egypt is 30 years later and we have the islamic republic of iran as an example of what a fundamentalist state can look like. it ain't necessarily so pretty. it's an economic basket case, very chaotic and very unstable.
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and so even though the islamist right now are cementing their power over politics in egypt i wonder if they are going to go quite so far as the iranians have. i wonder if there isn't at least some extent to which that example deters them from absolute power. we will see. right now it doesn't look very good but of course a big difference is also the people in charge of egypt now are not clerics. they are not members of a theocratic regime. they are just members of the muslim brotherhood who have appointed themselves to be the defenders of religious politics in egypt. so i think that also colors the situation somewhat differently but for the moment of course it doesn't look very good. >> host: speaking it doesn't look very good its relative because we go from iran to afghanistan which has an even more tragic narrative over the
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last 30 years and it really begins in many ways with the soviet tanks rolling in to defend a regime they didn't particularly want to defend. i think that's an interesting take away from your recounting of sort of the sad history of communist infighting that led to the syrian invasion in the first place. >> guest: that of course is a very important part of the story. when the british intervened in the 19th century they intervened several times in afghanistan and you never really quite want to go into afghanistan. you always get kind of strawman against her will by the internal politics of the place. that is what happened to the british and the soviets ended many ways that's what happened to us in 2001. i don't think anybody was that keen on getting involved in afghanistan. we felt it was something we had to do. once we were there we couldn't leave. >> that's the key part. there was a sort of consensus of
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across the political spectrum that the u.s. was going to do something in retaliation for the attack on 9/11 but they had in mind something that was not going to involve a book footprint on the ground that would last a dozen years later and that's the part about getting into the dysfunctional politics and the situation on the ground. >> what fascinated me about the situation of afghanistan and 78 and 79 was just just how different it was from what we face today. many things are radically different. there are no radical leftist parties or secular parties in afghanistan today. that is all been pretty much wiped out but in the 1970s those were the powerful forces in afghanistan. the president, first much of the 1970s was a secularist modernizer. then he was replaced in 1978 a the afghan communists who began trying to remodel society in
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their own utopian designs. they very quickly ran aground with that. the whole country -- country rose up against them and that's what the soviets had to come in. what's amazing is the way that invasion and the almost unending civil war that has followed compounded by the u.s. intervention in 2001 and after has completely wiped out the old afghanistan that we saw the 60s and 70's that's really so radically different. there were a lot of religious people in afghanistan at that time as well and moors in the countryside. it's iceman a conservative country but if you walked around in kabul in the 1970s he would see girls in skirts and few women in burkas. you would see people dressed in western-style closing -- clothing taking visiting tourists around to the booming tourist sites. it was a radically different
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place. one of the things i try tried to do in my book is explore why change so dramatically. >> one of the most popular themes that it's ever been run on foreign policy is the terrific auto essay called once upon a time in afghanistan. people just can't get enough of the pictures of women in pencil skirts and the snazzy madman era furniture. >> girl students. >> absolutely and development projects and a groovy record hangout club. there was a sense of afghanistan on a development trajectory and actually in the period before it all started to go downhill the u.s. were competing for influence that you had both of them building these big projects the kajaki dam that the united states build in the south in the tunnel that connected afghanistan's north with the
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capital of kabul. they were moving society forward in significant ways. it had been a landlocked country but people were just astonished. there was an alternate trajectory that was possible for afghanistan and i think we have become historical determinist after-the-fact. what i like about your book is it actually forces us to get away from that lazy habit of saying oh yes lecture it always was this way. i think that's the cord that people strike with that once upon a time in afghanistan photo essay. a quick lesson and then we will move onto the next example. you and i both lived in russia. how did you come away from your study of the soviet engagement in afghanistan thinking in terms of what role that conflict paved in hastening the
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democratization? are you one of those people that say no ,-com,-com ma actually had to do with the price of oil in the 1980s or do you think that afghanistan hastened soviet demise? >> guest: i'm one of those people who thinks the soviet demise has a lot of causes. i don't think you can focus on one at the expense of the others. i think it was a confluence of several big things. i think afghanistan was indeed one of the biggest and most important. it's made life very difficult for the soviet military and enormous resources. and not any less importantly it also change the way the citizens saw their own government. the government was forced to lie about a lot of the things it was doing when dead soviet soldier started coming home in coffins. it was not widely publicized. evil new was happening so it did a lot to undermine the authority
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of the government itself with large swaths of the population and importantly it also made the central asian republics of the soviet union very restive and very turbulent in a way that they hadn't been before. 1979 was also the year when the muslim population of the old soviet union really began to overtake the european population of the old soviet union a very interesting moment in soviet history. certainly high oil prices and the arms race with the united states. a lot of these other things conspire to make life hard for the soviet regime but i do think the war in afghanistan was a major factor. >> host: let's go to the other soviet empire and in 1979 we have this really amazing spectacle of a polish pope. not only was he the first
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non-italian and western european but really he started a series of earthquakes rolling that became the sterile -- solidarity movement and the unraveling if you will let soviet dominance in eastern europe. what strikes you as fresh in the story of pope john paul ii? >> guest: i think thing that strikes me is the way that the polls have described the impact. it was not just the pride in a polish pope. he became pope in 1978. the polls were extremely happy about that. needless to say. the kremlin was extremely worried about it. but i think it has a great deal to do with the special qualities of john paul ii. he was one of the most brilliant men ever to become pope.
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he spoke many languages in the new -- he had two.grits. doctorates. he combined that intellect with a very easy charismatic way of dealing with ordinary folks. he was a very fine parish priest because he did things with his parishioners. he went out and did sports with them and he attended the confirmations for their children that is the kind of guy he was so he was a remarkably unique individual in the history of the pappas he and i think that played a big role. the other big thing that was the most interesting to me when i came back and looked at the story then was the role that the pope's visit played in getting the polls to think about running their own country. when the pope arrives for his nine-day visit in 1979 the communist state basically said all right, this is your show.
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we are not getting involved in this. we will provide security but you have to organize everything yourselves. the poles rose to that test with great enthusiasm. they organize the trips. they organized and manage the crowds and for a lot of poles they had grown up under the communist system and they were used to having the state do things for them. suddenly here they were organizing nine days of pebble events for 11 million poles taking to the streets from different parts of the country. that was quite a revolution and that was a very important precondition for solidarity and independent. union movement which came out the very next year. i don't think those two events are interrelated. >> religion as a crash course in practical politics as well as in opposition politics. can you really make a linkage? do you think there's a linkage
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between the kind of religious opposition to communist authority that the pope offered to polls and the religious opposition to the shah that the ayatollah offered to iranians? are they the same phenomena or are they different? >> guest: i think they are different because the pope with all of his conservatism and doctrinal was obsessed with human rights. john paul ii wrote extensively about human rights. he had suffered under both nazi occupation of poland and the stalinist and the stalinists. metropole and so he was quite success excess. he builds up an entire personal philosophical direction based on the human, the primacy of the human individual and human rights. ayatollah khamenei did not have anything like that. he had the view that islam was everything and individual rights very often had to be superceded to that.
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i think in that respect they were very fundamentally different. but there are some striking parallels and one of the interesting parallels is that both of these men were misfits. in some ways they were very unusual in their religious beliefs. john paul ii had an intense mystical relationship to christ and the virgin mary. he was not your ordinary priest. his beliefs went off into some really amazing and unconventional realms. ayatollah khamenei was a practitioner and mystical in his belief things along the lines of what we would call sufi is some in sunni islam. there were many other clerics who regarded him as the protection shin or of some forbid nor suspect ideas. what is very interesting is the way that matches -- mysticism can lead to political activism by showing you the
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perfectibility of man. there are a whole bunch of different things that are very complex but if you think you have a direct line to god which is what mystics think you might think that you have a greater ability and greater power to shape the human world. that's something that i find to be a very interesting parallel between the two men. >> host: and where do you see the story of poland and the catholic church leading to two-day? in many ways people have perhaps moved on or declared the end of eastern europe and moved on from that. we have a new pope today and a story that's very much moved out of europe where the church is on the decline. does this chapter have relevance to two-day? >> guest: i think it does. the striking thing to me when you look at the history of the catholic church and politics in the 1970s and 80s was the church was very effective when
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it is, how can i put it, when it is in the opposition. so in the philippines and even in south korea churches play an incredibly powerful role in mobilizing opposition and certainly so in eastern europe. then when you have a regular democracy, a regular secular state for example poland after the fall of communism the church became very cozy with the state in poland. the poles suddenly realized they didn't like that so much. they liked their church in opposition. in iran you see an interesting phenomenon where the church quote unquote has become the state and we see many opinion polls in many studies that suggest this has undermined the position of islam in iran because young people grow up seeing islam as part of the establishment. islam has lost its oppositional
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cachet, its power to defend the powerless. it's become part of the power structure. what i think is fascinating is the way in these cases we have seen the power of the church to marshal opposition but when it becomes part of the power structure it loses that ability and becomes part of the establishment and people don't think about it in the same way. that's something that i find very relevant to the story. >> host: you know it's interesting because in the other part of your book which is really one of the major themes that has to do with the incredible transformation in china, the opposition comes from within the oppressed élan of the communist party. so you have an insurgency from on high if you will. that's the amazing story of deng xiaoping and his return of the banished cultural revolution to unleashing probably one of the greatest transformations of our lifetime.
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anyway this was the biggest story that you are telling. how do you crack into that when so many people have tried to tell that story? >> guest: well that's a good question. i think it is a fantastic story in and the story that a lot of people have forgotten again we take china as a capitalist country so for granted now. we seemed to have forgotten that it was a wrenching and very difficult and very unlikely change. >> host: was that north korea? >> guest: it was exactly like north korea except with a billion people making a transformation, transforming itself into something completely different. at the time, it started rather small so the chinese certainly understood the something was brewing but a lot of people in the outside world didn't. one of the things i enjoyed very much about this was people at the time did not compare china's economic forums to the united
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states or western europe the idea of capitalist china entering the world trade organization would have got me sent to an insane asylum. people bear. the economic reforms to hungary or yugoslavia or east germany which seemed like the most economically -- so that goes to underline how surprising these changes were when that happened. and as i tell in the book, a great way to tell the story in china is by going back and looking at what people were looking out at the time. i have the story where american investors was told he should invest and he sees water buffalo in rice paddies and that place now has a population of new york city and your ipad was made there. so i think there are a lot of great ways to tell the story and some people told them at the
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time very very vividly. there have been some great looks right at the time of these changes in china but nowadays people have forgotten that story. i had a lot of fun trying to bring it back to life. >> host: that raises the question that applies both to china and across the stories that you look at in the book and that is how right or wrong where we have the time? as you look back into it and how the stories were covered at the time in the instant histories that were written, did we understand the historical import or were we really off the mark? >> i think we missed a lot of the story at the time. you know the big story in 1979 for americans and chinese was deng xiaoping's visit to the united states at the beginning of 1979 which marked the presumption of diplomatic relations and it was a huge event. the economic exchanges which
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were going on which we would regard now is much more consequential and important were largely missed simply because people couldn't imagine how far. we just missed and we didn't understand how significant they were. when the soviets invaded afghanistan we can look at the memos and we see what people were thinking in the carter white house. carter before the invasion was given covert aid to the islamic rebels revolting against the afghan communist party government. but what is very interesting when you go back and look at this is that people in the white house thought that this was part of some larger soviet plan. they thought it was like the soviets invading czechoslovakia or hungary to shore up communist party rule. this was an extension of the brezhnev doctrine and what they didn't understand was that the soviets didn't really want to do this at all.
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they felt they were forced into it by the rapid deterioration of this situation there. they were extremely reluctant to do it and when they made the decision, they didn't even have a proper paper that they all signed. it was this very vague memorandum that didn't even say what they were going to do. >> host: just like vietnam. >> guest: just like vietnam. they really didn't want to be there and i'm not sure we understood the extent to which that was the case. we thought it was part of the grand design and didn't understand what an improvisation it was. >> host: that is really interesting when you think about the extent to which the united states was involved as a significant player in all of the stories in different ways and yet you have done something i think commendable. you have not put the u.s. front and center of the stories although they have elements to american history and also to
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decision-makers today. how daring of you not to put the united states front and center. >> guest: we will see how the book does. it's a good question. that was a conscious decision because i felt as important as the united states is it's not the only country in the world. this was the year i felt there were a lot of other really interesting things happening. the united states as a part of all of the stories but it's not the center. in many ways it's reacting to the events more than it's shaping them. i thought it was important to capture that in the book. i was trying to write a truly global book. >> host: while reagan for example is not on the cover and many people would say well 1939 he was about to be elected president in 1989 and this was the beginning of the republican revolution here in the united
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states. do you see reagan as fitting into the story you are telling? >> guest: i really contend that he wasn't really a player in 1979. he was starting a campaign against carter ended to domestic politician but his moment came a little bit later. that's why didn't include him in the book. there are some very important events that pre-stages era. the moral majority was founded here in the united states. that was the start of evangelicals, born-again's intervening in american politics and away they hadn't before that was crucial to reagan's 1980 victory. but this moment that i'm trying to capture is a slightly earlier moment. for that reason i haven't brought reagan into it. i just felt that it really he belongs to a slightly later era. >> host: tell me where you think 1979 fits in on those
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years that are the hinges of history and the pivot points of history, the 1789 and the 1917 and 1989 and most recently the arab spring revolution of 2011. where is 1979 on that spectrum in terms of import? is it going to be one for the long-term books and are we going to talk about it is we still do about section 89 or 1848? >> guest: i would make the case that we should because it was such an important turning point. i think it marks a really important moment when the domination of these ideas from the left which really played a huge role in most of the 20th century. even if you aren't weren't a communist or a social democrat you invariably find yourself reacting to these ideologies. i think what we see in 1979 is
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the rise of how would i put it, very viable alternative ideologies. suddenly market -- islam becomes an ideology and it turns out as ideologies these things repeat quite well with socialism and social democracy. i was just talking to somebody the other day who read the book and he felt himself to be much more of a leftist but he said will the left ever find a language that unifies in a way that marxism did? i thought that was a very good question because i don't think it has. i think the left is still trying to find a response to these things. i think that's because of the things that happened this year and the changes that this year initiated. i think maybe this may be
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drawing to close and when it does the ideological points will have to be very different from what they are today. >> host: is such an interesting point that your make and it's a really important one because most of our conversation about the death of ideology has revolved around the collapse of communism later in 1989 after the end of the soviet union in 1991 and that convention has come to be seen as the moment when ideology died, when leftism died. but you were in a sense saying no, that's actually wrong and we need to move back. the death of leftist ideology in 1979 have this decade-long afterlife you could argue as events play themselves out from 1979 to 1989. an interesting argument you could say actually there was a new ideological consensus that has given birth in that year around markets and religion that
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has yet to die. that's a very interesting new take on things. and it's certainly true that today's left is a very different one than the left when we were kids. republicans love to call barack obama socialist and talk to him about a european left-winger but in reality even the european left has accepted that a sick looking to be known as the washington consensus although you are arguing really that it belongs in an earlier time period. even the left accepts that a sick principle of that market being threatened by the last few years. do you think that the financial crash of 2008 and the ongoing trauma associated with that in europe especially could finally spell the end of that market-oriented consensus? >> guest: i think it has in many ways.
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as i tell people if you are 25 united states today and you can't find a job and you are saddled with $100,000 in college dead i wonder if you will -- someone who did who went to college in the early 1980s and was born in two completely different worlds. i think what happened with the financial crisis is that it deeply undermined a lot of our faith in capitalist institutions but again no one has found the language to bring the opposition together. no one has found a coherent ideological alternative to that. personally i think arauca bomb is a great example. i agree he really does not fit the definition of a 1970s or 1980 socialist by any stretch of the imagination. he is something very very different. you mentioned the united kingdom and of course it was one of tony blair's associate who said we
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are all members of the labour party saying we are all thatcherite's now. what i think is still missing is the opposite of being a thatcherite. what is the alternative? what is the call here and alternative to this market consensus? the chinese have abandoned that a long time ago. i don't think it's being a marxist-leninist. there are still a few marxist-leninist is out there. >> host: the people who are religious leaders. >> guest: exactly. we all know that there are big problems with the system but we haven't figured out an ideological alternative. >> host: your book in many ways is a history of ideas as well as the offense that had been shaped by those ideas and that's part of what makes it such an unusual book. but then it does go back to this question of you know is it
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relevant still to the time we are living in or have you captured a moment in time that is lost? you said earlier something that has taken 30 years has already passed and really if you think about it like this, in 1979 we were close to world war ii as they are to us today. in a way you are seeing in 1979 the end of that post world war ii era of both ideology and politics and governing consensus in many of these countries. the shop iran is a good example. directly came to it the throne as a result of his fathers ill-advised alliance with the nazis in world war ii. so you have these arrangements that came about at the end of world war ii finally reaching their endpoint in 1979.
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certainly that's true in the story of britain. >> guest: exactly. >> host: regarding reaching the point in his 30 years the end cycle of these ideologies? >> guest: i don't know, it's a great question. i think a lot depends on what works and what doesn't because again people need to put themselves back into the historical context. the european welfare state and the american welfare state delivered unprecedented prosperity after world war ii. people lives better, the working classes in europe and the united states looked better than they had ever looked before. unprecedented and that worked for a good 30 years. in the 1970s with the energy crisis, stagflation, the west hit a wall and they needed new solutions. it was clear that old model wasn't going to work anymore for whatever reasons. i do see some very interesting parallels to that in the financial crisis because the financial crisis again showed us that our unlimited faith in the
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markets is top would not the thing. we do need some sorts of alternatives or corrections perhaps would be a better way of letting it and some countries have tried to put in place corrections or somehow reformed their market structures. you can't help but think that might not enough to satisfy voters in this country and europe who are now having a very hard time of it. the employment rate may be increasing but they're still enormous segments of the american population who are not benefiting from the growth that's going on. you can't help but wonder whether that was some point turn into a fundamental discontent that has transformative effects. but i don't know. or have to go see that. >> host: when you started in on the book and it has been a long journey, were there things that really surprised you with what you found?
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these are stories that you came into knowing a fair amount about gaska one thing that surprised me and continues to surprise me is the extent to which a lot of people didn't really understand what was going on in china and took maoism at face value. there's a fun story in my book when deng xiaoping comes to the white house in 1979 and carter puts on a big state dinner for him. they sit deng xiaoping at the table with shirley mcclain, the actress shirley maclaine. she has just been to china a few years earlier with the documentary team and she is a good 70's leftists. so she begins to gush to deng xiaoping how they were out of this farm and they met this professor who is working on the farm. this was part of a culture revolution when mao sent the intellectual to the countryside. mcclain is going on and on about how great this was an deng xiaoping listens to her and then he says that it's ridiculous.
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professor should be teaching in universities. they shouldn't be planting crops. that was pretty much his verdict on the cultural revolution. a lot of the china scholars at the time still bought into maoism and these ideas. this is one of the reasons why it was so hard for them to understand the reforms going on in china. if you go back to the accounts of the time, a lot of the established china scholars didn't quite get the story. they didn't understand what they were seeing. a lot of them were still wedded to these old images now as china and in some cases they were quite bewildered. >> host: it's an argument for on the ground journalism and observation. one of the people you relied on was a smart raiders diplomat who went out there and beat the pavement as if you were a journalist and in fact interviewed people and wrote down what he saw.


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