The orgy of self-congratulation in Berlin by Western leaders to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall is hypocritical and designed to encourage the myth that no valid alternative exists to crisis-riddled capitalism.
Their condemnation of the 40 years of the German Democratic Republic as a brutally repressive state in comparison to enlightened Western democracy in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) is, at best, an oversimplification.
The GDR came into being during the cold war. It was never the intention of the Soviet Union, which liberated eastern Germany from nazi dictatorship, to set up a separate state.
Moscow intended that Germany should be united along the lines of Austria, which adopted military and diplomatic neutrality.
It gave force to this intention by allowing US, British and French forces to share the occupation of Berlin even though the Red Army alone had captured the German capital.
But the Western allies had different plans for West Germany, triggering division by their imposition of the deutschmark and, throughout the period of the open border until 1961, sabotaging and undermining the new GDR economy.
The US gave massive economic aid to the FRG, intending its success to be a source of propaganda against the less dramatic gains in the underdeveloped East, but that was not the only difference between the two states.
Whereas denazification was systematically carried out in the East, former Nazi Party members were allowed to continue in the FRG as government ministers, teachers, judges, prosecutors, military officers and diplomats.
At the same time, the most consistent opponent of the nazi regime, the Communist Party of Germany, was banned and suspected communists barred from all state employment.
Throughout the existence of the GDR, the Western mass media kept up a torrent of criticism against the wall, being assisted in this by the unjustifiable shooting of GDR citizens who fled through or over it.
However, there was no publicity for the positive elements of the new society being built there, the social solidarity, the co-operatives, the gender equality, the comprehensive welfare state and the support given to art, education and sport.
In the end, these were not enough to counter the distrust for leaders who were too slow to appreciate changes in the international situation and to act accordingly.
This led not so much to reunification as to annexation, in which the GDR was treated like an occupied state, with its industries sold off and closed as competitors, its land and property subjected to claims from former owners and its working people sacked in huge numbers.
No wonder so many former GDR residents regret what they lost and the Left Party continues to enjoy widespread support.
None of that concerns US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who gushes: “We need to form an even stronger partnership to bring down the walls of the 21st century and to confront those who hide behind them.”
By this she does not mean the Israelis who, unlike the GDR which constructed a wall on its own land, build on Palestinians’ land as a means of ethnically cleansing them, with US assistance, from their homeland.
At a time when monopoly capitalism’s failures are self-evident, Clinton, like Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel and the rest, is intent on defending neoliberalism by trying to convince people that there is no alternative.
November 9, 2009