The Shape of the Table

Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
15 November 2009

Yesterday I listened to the radio adaption of David Edgar's play about 1989 The Shape of the Table. You can hear it for the coming week here on its iPlayer. He kindly sent me an alert not least after reading my article 'We, the normal' which openDemocracy published and which I posted about here in OK. This is an exchange between Prus, a kind of Havel figure, and a traditional Communist leader,Lutz

PRUS: Do you know the real slogan of this revolution? If you can call it that, with not a window broken?

LUTZ: Yet. No, tell me.

PRUZ: "Back to normal". Communism, one of those appalling holidays you read about, where some mad enthusiastic schoolteacher takes a group of pupils up a mountain, and when the weather turns, he can't cope and the whole thing ends in tears. The message of our revolution: Please, no more adventures. No more heroism. Certainly, no more unimaginably splendid futures. Just: let's get back to the normal, ordinary way of doing things. The way that works. The way they do them in the west.

LUTZ: So that's what you're going to tell them? No more fairy tales? No more grand stories? Back to normal?

PRUZ: It is - what they want.

LUTZ: For now.

David Edgar is more alarmed at the gap between the middle class virtues of the normal revolutionaries and the working classes. There is a much larger debate to be had here, as production itself is turned upside down by the chip and digitalisation. But his warning at the conclusion of an article he wrote about it in the Guardian in the summer, is well taken:

Those of us who fervently believe in liberty, secularism, free speech, gay rights, civil liberties, enlightenment values and feminism, but also in social diversity, religious tolerance and economic equality, need to set about dismantling the barriers that people who believe in only some of those things want to erect.

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