The Berlin Wall, the DDR and New Labour

I remember twenty years ago watching as the people of the Socialist paradise surged across Checkpoint Charlie into the bright lights of the West, as the 28 year old Berlin Wall was breached. It was but part of a process that began with the Hungarians taking down the fence, and continued with the Velvet Revolution in Wencelas Square.
The fall of the Berlin Wall may not not have been the triumph of capitalism, but it was the collapse of communism. It represented the end of the era, started in 1917, that saw the deaths of  100 million people at the hands of their own governments in the name of a false utopia. The physical wall, that seemed so impenetrable, was felled with pickaxes and chains. The political system, buttressed by a vast system of informers and secret  police, seem to crumble away even more easily. But the we share some elements of  that repressive  regime share today in this country. In the DDR

1. Everyone had to carry ID cards and constantly present them when asked.
2. A “democratic” country where parliament held no power.
3. Where the official properganda differed from reality.
4. Where every aspect of life was tightly regulated.
5. Arbitary arrest and detention.
6. Endless form filling and checking on every aspect of people’s lives. And where that form filling served as a huge hinderance, but no useful purpose outside of the bureaucratic machine.

It is worthwhile to remember that a moderate socialist party contains elements of the authoritarian left of the Soviet bloc. Their instincts are that only government solutions are the valid, and that private initiative cannot be trusted. That the individual owes everything to the state, and errant views are by definition not just wrong but dangerous.

Whilst we remember died trying to escape the suffocation and those who were persecuted for the slightest protest, it is also worth a history lesson in how the mass of people lead dreary, impoverished lives, made worse by officialdom.


Thanks to John Redwood, who stimulated my thoughts.



When Strong Politics incites the Thugs

The Huffington Post reports on another killing of a critic of the Russian Regime

Award-winning Russian rights activist Natalya Estemirova has been found dead hours after being kidnapped in Chechnya, reports Human Rights Watch.

Estemirova’s body was found on a roadside near the Chechan border with two bullet wounds to her head, according to the local Interior Ministry spokeswoman.

I do not believe that the Russian Government authourised this, any more than they ordered the deaths of numerous others journalists and human rights activists that have been  murdered over the years. (Please see list below from the Huffington Post Article). Nor do I believe that some leader mutters some comment like Henry II referring to the Thomas a Beckett in 1170 saying “What sluggards, what cowards have I brought up in my court, who care nothing for their allegiance to their lord. Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest.”  (Although there is nothing like the penitence of that monarch expressed after the deed was carried out after the event either)

Rather, it is a more lowly scale. An assertive government, who believes that they are acting for the good of the nation, and confident that they are right, will pass on that belief to their supporters. Some of these supporters, acting anonymously, will have a slightly less scruples & no political acumen.

In the UK, there is a slightly more moderate party that craves for power. The leadership will never call for violence against those who thay oppose, but may inspire others of a more extremist vain to support violent acts.  In the UK (the home of Liberal Democracy), they will remain a minority so long as people remember their heritage and believe in it. The problem with Russia is their history. The current leadership are the children of the survivors. Those who survived by keeping their heads down and agreeing. The children of those who accepted that the state was all-powerful and the individual was a cog in that machine.
Russia will continue to be a miserable place until the leadership can learn from Henry II. They need to learn pennance and the need for openess and for dissent. It will take more courage than unarmed combat with a tigers, but not more than the courage of true men who believe in making their country great.

Alternative details on the BBC.

Vyacheslav Yaroshenko,

Magomed Yevloyev,

Anna Politkovskaya,

Telman Alishayev

Stanislav Markelov

Anastasia Barburova