30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall: the same lies to mask the bankruptcy of capitalism

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Thirty years ago, the fall of the Berlin Wall demonstrated the bankruptcy of the reviled Stalinist regimes. This event was the real symbol of the implosion of the Eastern Bloc.

Its thirtieth anniversary has been the chance for the bourgeoisie to use the same lies today as yesterday. The working class has to permanently reject and fight back against this ideological assault.

This anniversary has unfolded without fanfares in an atmosphere of gloom. Contrary to the euphoria and popular jubilation of November 9 1989, the "great party" organised by the bourgeoisie fell flat[1]: "the incorrigibly pessimistic Europeans have faced the thirtieth anniversary (...) like a funeral. Morale is low"[2]. And, as a "sign of a lack of enthusiasm for the celebration, none of the major western leaders went to Berlin on Saturday November 9"[3]. Finally, only the odious propaganda of the bourgeoisie served to decorate this drab occasion.

The necessity to maintain the great lie about the "death of communism"

Facts are stubborn and the bourgeoisie is not too confident about accounting for these last thirty years. Even the Stalinist monster, so detested beforehand in the regimes of the east, has sometimes aroused a wry nostalgia and doubts from populations of the "liberated" territories, as the situation has degraded so much since:

"Thirty years ago, communication and solidarity between people were so much better. Today one must fight for everything, for work, for somewhere to live, for a doctor. Before the doctor wasn't an accountant, today he is an entrepreneur", said Amoud"[4].

And in fact the state of society is still catastrophic, most notably in the territories of the ex-Easter Bloc - grimmer if anything. The growing threats of capitalist society are pushing the population into the arms of the populists who pretend that they will "protect" them. A good number of these countries (Hungary, Poland, etc.) are thus marked by openly right-wing regimes, prone to virulent nationalism and a "bunkerisation" of their frontiers. The decomposition and chaos of the capitalist world radically contradicts the lying promises of the bourgeoisie, denting the illusions it spread at the time of the fall of the Wall in November 1989 when it promised a radiant future: a sort of democratic benevolence for the world and for the "unified German nation". At the time of these events, the perspective of being finished with Stalinist terror and chronic shortages led to an immense relief which fed the illusions of East Germans, and these illusions were used to the hilt by the western bourgeoisie in order to divide the workers and mount a vast ideological campaign, the greatest lie against the proletariat: the fall of the wall and the bankruptcy of Stalinism meant "the death of communism"! Today, even if they go about it more artfully given the rancour and anger within the populations faced with the so-called "benefits of democracy", the whole political class and its media serve us up the same nauseating speeches: "Even if today Europe is in crisis in some areas, we shouldn't forget that the fall of the Berlin Wall signalled the end of communism and totalitarian regimes"[5].

At the time we were already fighting against this idea that Stalinism=communism, which has been hammered home ever since then. And what we said then remains absolutely valid today:

Recent events have been the occasion for a barrage of lies, and in the lead the biggest and vilest of them: the claim that this crisis repre­sents the failure of communism, and of marxism! Over and above their various antagonisms, democrats and Stalinists have always formed a holy alliance in saying to the workers that so­cialism (however deformed) reigns in the East. For Marx, Engels, Lenin, Luxemburg, for the entire marxist movement, communism has always meant the end of the exploitation of man by man, the end of classes, the end of frontiers, all made possible only on a world scale, in a soci­ety governed by the abundance of "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs", where "the government of men gives way to the administration of things". The claim that there is anything "communist", or even ap­proaching "communism", in the USSR and the countries of the Eastern bloc, ruled by exploitation, poverty, and generalised scarcity, is the greatest lie in the history of humanity." [6]

All the political factions of the bourgeoisie feed themselves on this same repeated lie and with the same complicity in order to make this same, gross assimilation of Stalinism with communism: from democrats and leftists to the extreme-right as we see for example  with the AfD and its insidious slogan "Today as yesterday: freedom rather than socialism"[7]. Thirty years later, the bourgeoisie hammers home this same nail into the consciousness of workers. And only the Communist Left is today capable of denouncing it!

The euphoria of 1989 and the propaganda of the illusion-mongers faced with capitalist reality

A little while after the fall of the Berlin Wall, President Mitterand in his November 22 speech to the European parliament evoked the vibrant manner of this historic event. Standing close to his great friend Chancellor Kohl, he said: "liberty and democracy, inseparable one from the other, have brought us their most impressionable victories" thanks to the fall of the wall. Twelve months later, in the wake of the "benefits" of the wall coming down, the knights of freedom of the western world straightaway launched themselves into a bloody crusade in the Middle East, the first Gulf War, under the aegis of the United States. This was a war in which the 500,000 deaths were supposed to, according to the mantra of the White House at the time under George Bush Snr., bring in "a new world order" for "peace, prosperity and democracy".

For thirty years, contrary to the propaganda of these charlatans, the dynamic destructiveness of capitalism is there for all to see in its degradation everywhere and on every level. Judge for yourselves:

- The "New World Order" and "Peace"? The fall of the Berlin Wall opened up a Pandora's Box. What followed wasn't a "new world order" but the greatest chaos in history[8]. Thus, on every continent and territory of the planet, the tendency towards “every man for himself” is exacerbated and military conflicts multiply, generalise and spread. In the countries on the periphery of capitalism, notably in Africa and the Middle East, as in Asia, the world is falling into growing instability, multiplying massacres and bloodbaths. Above all we've seen real scenes of war at the very heart of Europe and the western world, unprecedented since 1945. From the war in ex-Yugoslavia with its charnel houses, through conflicts in Georgia, Ukraine, etc., and the multiplication of attacks since the tragedy of the Twin Towers in the United States, September 2001, "peace" has been the peace of the grave. The catastrophe of the Twin Towers, which was unimaginable beforehand, inaugurated a terror, a banalisation of scenes of war and barbarity throughout the heart of the "civilised" world: attacks in Madrid (Atocha station, 2004), London (July 2005), Paris (Bataclan concert, November 2015), etc. One could also add the horror of the more recent ravages of war in Syria and its collateral damage, the intensive bombardments which recall the worst exactions of the Second World War. Similarly, we can also add the massacres and famines in Yemen (with the involvement of western imperialisms such as Britain and France who have unfailingly provided arms to the Saudi regime). Note as well that the global arms race has heated up again in a terrifying fashion.

- As for "prosperity"? For thirty years, the economic situation globally has degraded at every level, scandalously exposing growing inequalities. Since the world financial crisis of 2008, proletarians have felt the growing weight of exploitation and the justifications for it from bourgeois politicians that are more and more cynical: attacks on living conditions and wages, unemployment and the explosion of precarious work, degradation of the health services and mounting homelessness. All this aggravated by reforms in the pipeline and those to come, pensions for example. Added to these attacks we have seen the systematic pillage of resources and the despoliation of the environment motivated by the desperate search for profits in a world in crisis. In brief, the infernal logic of moribund capitalism now clearly threatens the survival of human civilisation.

- More "democracy"? For thirty years states have only toughened-up their repressive arsenals. Decomposition has only maintained and favoured nationalist and xenophobic reflexes, populist ideology and every man for himself. The bourgeoisie has above all profited from the bloody terrorist attacks in order to beef up its juridical and police apparatus and the criminalising of social conflicts. Brutal repression and violence have gradually increased at every level. That means that rather than much-vaunted "public freedoms", it leaves the real face of the "democratic state" more transparent, revealing an apparatus which coldly monopolises violence so as to maintain its order against the exploited. We should also raise the issue of the great "democratic spirit" of the countries of the western world who are everywhere building new walls draped with razor wire, militarising maritime or terrestrial borders and knowingly leaving immigrants to die, as practiced by the EU in the Mediterranean. The idea of "democracy" is anyway an empty concept while society remains divided into antagonistic classes based on the exploitation of labour. This doesn't at all stop the bourgeoisie from adapting its hypocritical speeches in order to crow about its "great principles" and its "values"; it does this to cover up and justify all its crimes so as to excuse its bloody system and the exactions of its exploiters. Today, while the declining mode of production is in agony and dragging us down towards the abyss, the bourgeoisie asks us to defend it by pushing its principal ideological mystification: the "democratic values" which have always served to cover up its atrocities. It's in this sense that we should interpret the insistencies of Chancellor Angela Merkel in her commemoration speech where she warned about the dangers of "totalitarianisms" and "growing revolts" (notably, populism in the east): "the values that Europe is based upon, liberty, democracy, equality, rights and the preservation of human rights can't be taken for granted" and "(they) must always be defended" she added. Accordingly, for the bourgeoisie: "if this thirtieth anniversary can be useful it must be in trying to re-think the democratic model for all those who have adopted it..."[9] As it's obliged to mask its weaknesses, the bourgeoisie needs to regain some credibility, to "re-think" its "democratic model" that's in trouble in order to... better attack and keep the exploited quiet!

What lessons? What perspectives?

From the thirty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the proletariat must keep these essential lessons in its head:

- Communism is neither "dead" nor "bankrupt". It is Stalinism, the political expression of Eastern Bloc state capitalism, which has foundered and fallen under the blows of the crisis of this decomposing system.

- The proletariat must reject all the lying media campaigns, notably all the traps feeding divisions: for example in Germany those opposing the "Ossies" to the "Wessies", but also the traps which opposes "populist" ideologies to "anti-populism" and other democratic ideologies.

- The bourgeoisie will always be a class of liars, obliged to permanently mask its domination and its exploitation of the proletariat. Its promises, such as those of 1989-90, are nothing but wind, empty phrases aiming to anesthetise the proletariat.

- The fall of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of the Eastern Bloc are the most spectacular expressions of the crisis and the decomposition of this system. From now onwards, capitalism can only fuel the dreadful spiral of destruction and has no other possible future. It's thus necessary to destroy it before its decomposition engulfs humanity.

Faced with all the destruction that the logic of this system imposes upon us, there is only one solution and that is the struggle of the revolutionary class. That is an international combat of all the workers, beyond divisions, beyond and against all national divides and against the bourgeois state. Only the international proletariat can offer this alternative perspective, that of another society, without walls or barbed wire, without class and without exploitation: a real communist society.

WH (December 2019)


[1]  "A feeling of cold war", according to https//www.francetvinfo.fr (in French).

[2]   https//www.lemonde.fr.

[3]   https//www.lepoint.fr.

[4]  https//www.ladepeche.fr.

[5]  https//www.lemonde.fr.

[6]  https://en.internationalism.org/ir/60/collapse_stalinism,  International Review no. 60, first quarter 1990.

[7]  https//www.lemonde.fr Alternative fur Deutschland: a nationalist and euro-sceptic group of the extreme-right. A very large part of the old East Germany is under the political grip of this formation. In several lander it is almost the largest political party. It replaced Die Linke which was largely the successor to the ex-SED (East German Stalinist party). The AfD, through its demagogy and deceptions, was able to capture the frustrations and fears of the population faced with the reality of the crisis.

[8]  https://en.internationalism.org/content/3486/notes-imperialism-and-decom...International Review no. 68, first quarter 1992.

[9]  https//www.lemonde.fr