What Destroyed the Communist Bloc? One Flimsy Answer.
You may have heard of the Solidarity uprisings that started when workers at the shipyard in the Gdansk, Poland, went on strike in 1980 and formed a union that eventually brought down the Communist government in Poland. And you may have heard of the 1989 Velvet Revolution—the term used to describe the massive nonviolent demonstrations that led to the end of Communist rule in former Czechoslovakia (now Czechia and Slovakia). (Though I have to say that when I saw videos of the events in Prague’s Wenceslas Square, I had to rethink my image of what took place. The demonstrators were nonviolent, but the police/military units were not. Civilians were brutally beaten and kicked.)
Many factors led to the willingness of people to risk their jobs, their freedom, and even their lives at that moment in history, but one factor I had not been aware of until I visited was toilet paper! Toilet paper shortages were demoralizing and dehumanizing. When toilet paper was available, people stood in line for hours if necessary to get it. And when it wasn’t available—well, the joke was that the official newspaper of the communist regime was always available because it never sold out, but needless to say, it would not have been a pleasant alternative.