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This Happened

This Happened — November 17: The Velvet Revolution

Updated Nov. 17, 2023 at 12:10 p.m.

In the push for an end to the Communist regime, Prague's international students took to the streets to have their demands heard on November 17, 1989. It was the beginning of what would come to be known as the Velvet Revolution.

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How did the Velvet Revolution begin?

On international students day in 1989, a student demonstration against Czechoslovakia’s one party drew around 15,000 to the nation’s capital city of Prague. The demonstrators were met with force, as the protest was suppressed by riot police.

A fabricated story about a student being killed at the protests quickly made its way around, sparking the beginning of the Velvet Revolution. In the days following the initial demonstration, the number of protestors in the city rapidly increased to 500,000, demanding an end to the country’s Communist, one party rule.

By the end of the month, there was massive turnout at the largely non-violent street demonstrations that would go down in history as the Velvet Revolution.

What did the Velvet Revolution accomplish?

The protests led the government to withdraw, abolishing the parts of its Constitution that gave the Communist party complete control. In June of the following year, Czechoslovakia would hold its first democratic elections. The country would later split into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.

Why was it called the Velvet Revolution?

The name Velvet Revolution refers to the final protests against the Communist regime that started in November 1989. Because Czechoslovakian protests and government reaction were much more peaceful and smooth compared to the conflict 21 years earlier that put an end to the Prague Spring anti-government activism, as well as other clashes that brought an end to the Cold War.

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Look At This Crap! The "Enshittification" Theory Of Why The Internet Is Broken

The term was coined by journalist Cory Doctorow to explain the fatal drift of major Internet platforms: if they were ever useful and user-friendly, they will inevitably end up being odious.

A photo of hands holding onto a smartphone

A person holding their smartphone

Gilles Lambert/ZUMA
Manuel Ligero


The universe tends toward chaos. Ultimately, everything degenerates. These immutable laws are even more true of the Internet.

In the case of media platforms, everything you once thought was a good service will, sooner or later, disgust you. This trend has been given a name: enshittification. The term was coined by Canadian blogger and journalist Cory Doctorow to explain the inevitable drift of technological giants toward... well.

The explanation is in line with the most basic tenets of Marxism. All digital companies have investors (essentially the bourgeoisie, people who don't perform any work and take the lion's share of the profits), and these investors want to see the percentage of their gains grow year after year. This pushes companies to make decisions that affect the service they provide to their customers. Although they don't do it unwillingly, quite the opposite.

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Annoying customers is just another part of the business plan. Look at Netflix, for example. The streaming giant has long been riddling how to monetize shared Netflix accounts. Option 1: adding a premium option to its regular price. Next, it asked for verification through text messages. After that, it considered raising the total subscription price. It also mulled adding advertising to the mix, and so on. These endless maneuvers irritated its audience, even as the company has been unable to decide which way it wants to go. So, slowly but surely, we see it drifting toward enshittification.

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