History’s Slow Dance of the Seven Veils

The past is not dead; it’s not even over.
– William Faulkner

Voltaire once joked that historians are more powerful than God, ‘as even God can not change the past’. But sometimes no revisions by historians are necessary to make the world view the past differently; profoundly important public events can accomplish that directly. The great year for that was 1956, when three such events arrived. The first was the leaked ‘secret’ February speech of Nikita Krushchev to the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party; the second, in October,-was the aborted British-French military intervention in Egypt, intended to protect the Suez Canal from Nasser’s new ‘pan-Arab’ nationalism; and the third, at roughly the same time, was the outbreak of revolution in Communist-controlled Hungary. All of these, surprising enough in themselves, led to the instantaneous collapse of three concepts about domestic and international politics that had held sway in all quarters since the end of the Second World War.

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