The Fall of the Berlin Wall

 The force that brought down the Wall is the force that will get us through the postal strike, and that force is people power

Forget Guy Fawkes – remember, remember the Ninth of November for the fall of the Berlin Wall
The fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago freed millions from tyranny and poverty, argues Boris Johnson

I am thinking champagne. And cake. And fireworks, of course, not just any old fireworks but some of those truly shell-shocking bits of Chinese ordnance called Harmonious Geese or Whispering Swans.

Far more important than the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot, far more benign in its consequences for world peace and prosperity, we celebrate next week the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall – the ultimate triumph of simple human instincts over an evil and degenerate system. Without the Fall of the Wall, millions of people in eastern Europe would still be living in terror of the Stasi or the Securitate.

Without the end of Soviet communism, China would never have launched the turbo-charged entrepreneurial drive that has helped fuel two decades of global consumption and growth, and spread undreamt-of material benefits around the world. Without the end of one oppressive regime in Moscow, another one – in South Africa – might have limped on for a few more years.

Without the Fall of the Wall, Nelson Mandela would never have walked to freedom. How much the greatest political event it was in my lifetime, and how much the best.

Boris Johnson argues that this is why he believes that we should remember the 9th November:  “not  just because the revolution introduced British tourists to the delights of the Easyjet weekend break in Vilnius and the stag party in Prague. We should remember that magnificent collapse with songs and cheers, because we are now still enduring a recession caused by the defects of free-market capitalism.

It is precisely now, when the public mood is so bitter towards bankers, so hostile to profit, so seemingly brassed off with the very idea of wealth creation that we should remember how ghastly, grim and unworkable was the alternative – state-controlled socialism. It was a moral disaster, a system that extolled equality but entrenched the privileges of an unelected elite who luxuriated in their dachas and their Zil limos, roaring down their reserved lanes and splashing the people with contemptuous sludge. It was a cultural and artistic wasteland, a regime that promoted the kitsch and camp of socialist realism and whose only literary legacy is the handful of books by authors brave enough to denounce the regime. It was a complete and utter environmental catastrophe, as anyone who travelled behind the Iron Curtain will remember. I don’t just mean Chernobyl; I mean the cynical way in which socialist planning obliged human beings to endure the proximity of some of the filthiest factories in the world, the roiling clouds of smoke that seeded the warts and the cancers on the skin and in the lungs and the eyes of an innocent public.

It wasn’t even a scientific success, but rather a series of appalling embarrassments, from Stalin’s wacko genetic theories to Konkordski, to the abject failure to respond to the technical challenge of Star Wars. It was a human disaster, which crushed the spirit and sent tens of millions to their deaths or the servitude of the Gulag. Above all, it was an economic non-starter.

What mixture of joy and rage impelled those crowds, 20 years ago, to tear down the Berlin Wall with their bare hands? It was the rage of Germans obliged to live in miserable flats and drive hopeless two-stroke brown exhaust-puttering Trabants, when they could see their fellow Germans using all manner of gadgets and driving BMWs; and it was joy that the end was in sight.

And yet after an exhaustive test it was our system that triumphed, not just because of the material advantages of capitalism, but because a liberal free-market democracy has proved the best way of allowing individuals and families to realise their hopes, and to make something of their lives as independent and rounded moral agents. That is the freedom those crowds recognised and wanted in Berlin. It is the freedom of the human spirit, and it is worth infinitely more than some fancy BMW.

If you persist in objecting that capitalism promotes individual greed, and excessive consumption, then I would have to admit that you have a point, though those vices were certainly not absent from the communist nomenklatura. If you complain that free-market practices share some of the blame for the worst recession in 30 years, I would have to agree.

But look at the changes to this country in the past three decades, and look at the benefits that free-market capitalism has brought to all levels of society. Whatever you may think about the quantum of goodness in the human soul, or the sum of human happiness – and I persist in my view that both are greater in a free system than under communism – look at the food!

Look at the stuff in Tesco, where they sell the juice of raspberries and mangoes and other things that would have been unimaginably luxurious in my childhood. Look at the iPods and the gizmos, and look at growing life expectancy. This winter we face an echo of the 1970s, with angry postal workers crowded round braziers. The tragic reality is that millions of people will get round the strike by using electronic mail. That technology was invented by geeks in Californian garages who took it to market with capitalist flotations and gave us all a power to communicate on a scale never seen before. The force that brought down the Wall is the force that will get us through the postal strike, and that force is people power.

Communism took power away from the people, eroding democracy with the promise that the system would improve their quality of life in exchange. It failed dismally. Remember, remember the 9th of November, and remember all the idiots – some now running this country – who supported communism in their youth. Peter Mandelson, Alistair Darling – how will you be celebrating the Fall of the Wall?”

The full article is in The Daily Telegraph

27 thoughts on “The Fall of the Berlin Wall”

  1. Let’s get over the postal strike people! I want to get my christmas cards throught the letterbox not my email inbox

  2. Whatever is said about the cold war, it took far fewer lives than the wars we have replaced it with. It was, to some extent, more fun as well. We used to follow them around and they us, “spot the trawler” during exercises was good. It would look like and ordinary trawler but with more aerials than than a porcupine has spines. In the South Atlantic we followed the Russians new Aircraft carrier “Moskva” around,(this was the late 70’s) on it’s flight deck was their 1 and only vtol fighter. Everyday the team would turn out, mill around it for a while, run up the engines for 10 minutes then shut it down and go away. It never got off the deck while we were there and I believe never did.

  3. Not many young people remember the fall of the Berlin Wall Boris so it is hard to bring it to life again. I wonder if Andrew Marr will talk about it in his current Modern Britain Series on tv –

  4. For our brave British soldiers


    In this muddy field
    Your old helmet lies
    Are you still alive
    Fighting bravely
    Alongside your troop
    On a hillside?

    You’ve gone to
    It seems
    Where dreams
    And eternal peace

    Who are you?
    This muddy old helmet
    Once nurtured your dreams

    Your dreams were nice
    Crystal laughters of a few kids
    And the warm embrace of a young wife

    The name
    Carved in your old helmet
    I’m calling out your name
    And our thundering season
    Makes it sound
    Like a roar that comes from
    The distant horizon

    A little frog
    Now makes the pool of rain water
    In your muddy helmet old
    Its new home

    In this muddy field
    Your old helmet lies
    Are you still alive?

  5. I agree with your point on the fall of communism but that fact does not seem to have done a lot for democracy.

    Since the advent of NuLabour, our government together with the EU Commission have been very busy in destoying all democracy in this country.

    The Europeans may wish to accept this, but we need OUT.

    R E H

  6. Remember, remember the ninth of November,
    Miliband, Mandy and Darling,
    While they drank student shandy,
    They thought it quite dandy,
    T’make bedfellows with Joe Stalin.

    O’Alistair, O’Peter, it was their intent,
    T’inflate a big bubble then pop it went.
    Three trillion pounds red ink in the books,
    And still all they care ’bout is how they all look.

    Yet by God’s mercy we’ll vote this lot out,
    Then pop the Champagne corks, cry, laugh and shout,
    Holla boys, holla boys, let the bells ring,
    To be rid of these pinkos and their Goblin King.

  7. Mark II

    Remember, remember the ninth of November,
    Miliband, Mandy and Darling,
    While they drank student shandy,
    They thought it quite dandy,
    T’make bedfellows with Joe Stalin.

    O’Alistair, O’Peter, it was their intent,
    T’inflate a big bubble then lo! pop it went.
    Three trillion pounds red ink in the books,
    And still all they care ’bout is how they all look.

    Yet by God’s mercy we’ll vote this lot out,
    Then pop the Champagne corks, cry, laugh and shout,
    Holla boys, holla boys, let the bells ring,
    To be rid of these pinkos and their snot-Goblin King.

  8. @StevenL: Here’s a very poor imitation

    Remember remember the ninth of November
    The Berlin Wall came to a stop
    I know of no reason
    Why Gordon’s in season
    Someone should stop all the rot

  9. Whilst it is impossible to dispute that the fall of the Berlin Wall freed millions of people from an oppressive system of government, I find it less easy to accept that that this somehow justifies free-market capitalism. Some of the so-called benefits cited here are part of the machinery that threatens to bring this entire planet to its knees, and I don’t just mean human beings. China’s entrepreneurial drive has indeed fuelled global consumption, but it is the consumption that should be recognised as turbo-charged, not just the ambition to equal the United States; and these two superpowers are now on a collision course, for their impulse to continue to grow will not be checked by the planet’s dwindling resources, and wars will surely follow. History books tell us that Germany’s desire to emulate British imperialism helped set in motion the 1st World War; it looks like history will repeat itself on a larger scale. I find it somewhat ironic that the emergence of a new Communist superpower is presented here as a beneficial by-product of the dissolution of communist oppression in Europe! But I digress, eco-systems the world over are in decline due to our increasing emissions and consumption, the seas are fished out, large predators are dying out causing a proliferation of the smaller predators beneath them, in turn devastating the populations of the animals below that in the food chain, and governments are talking the talk, but very few are walking the walk. Why isn’t more of a fuss made? Because the media distracts us with news of recession, of bankers’ ludicrous greed and of MP’s expenses.

    The real problem with the argument in this article is the presentation of political governance as a dichotomy; free-market capitalism embodied by the United States (including the 51st state, a little island off mainland Europe) vs. Soviet communism, I mean that is so last century! Both systems are essentially materialist in ethos, and whilst capitalism does not persecute religion and spirituality per se, its machinery hardly encourages it, but rather distracts us from anything other than accumulation of wealth and possessions. This quest for material wealth has left a society stripped of spiritual development; the only ambition that can be inferred from this society is to make more money; and it seems that there can be no satiation, no quantity is enough; is this really the purpose of our lives? Whilst the freedoms bestowed by capitalism are indeed preferable to the persecution perpetrated by tyrannical communist regimes, at what cost does that freedom come? The stuff in Tesco, the iPods, increasing life-expectancy, these things all come at a cost to so-called developing countries, and more importantly they come at a cost to the planet which sustains our existence, which even now creaks under the strain of human growth.

    Capitalism and communism are two sides of the same materialist coin, the former synthesises an impression of freedom (the David Nutt episode exposes how real this freedom really is) and hypnotises us into submission with corporate advertising and media distractions, the latter bludgeons us into submission through persecution and negation of the individual. And yes, capitalism does achieve its ends more effectively, people don’t generally utilise the power celebrated in this article, but go through life asleep to the reality that in our trance-like state the freedoms we so value are gradually being taken away from us. Our pursuit of luxury blinds us to the wider ecological reality, just as that same pursuit blinded the Romans to their social reality and brought about their downfall. Surely there is an alternative way of living that recognises our symbiotic relationship with nature, that does not take more than it needs, that puts spiritual development before material accumulation; because our current approach is flawed, it is absolutely unsustainable; we must be able to resolve this, there must be an evolution, because surely the pinnacle of human achievement should not be the destruction of mankind and the world we live in.

  10. @StevenL: Thanks StevenL My offering can’t match yours

    Remember remember the ninth of November
    The Government are xkljadfadkwerioh!&*
    And I’m browned off with the lot

  11. Note the faces of the evil kids. They all have very cold, inhumane looks about them, like those evil kids off horror films. Maybe that’s why they were picked for training.

  12. A squaddie who received the George Cross blasted Gordon Brown for phoning Simon Cowell to ask how Susan Boyle was when she had a nervous breakdown rather than phoning any of the bereaved military families.

    Very caring indeed. Oh, I say! Shut that door! There’s a draught in here!

    *** Poppy sales are soaring this year as patriotic Brits back our brave boys:

  13. The fall of the Berlin Wall liberated those five-year-old Chinese children to die in a fireworks factory explosion? Good to know, thanks. Um, yay capitalism?

  14. @Vicus Scurra: Thank you – I can rely on my greatest supporter of all time – he might seem all peace-loving and maverick but he sure has an enviously sharp eagle eye.

    This performance is mammoth news to me and I am losing my mind and my possessions over this – am leaving bags behind in the supermarket and station platform! Must calm down

    Thanks for the thought Vicus! xxx

  15. Well said, unfortunately most people seem to forget very recent history and want another GDR/Russia all over the world.

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