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Fall of the Berlin Wall Eyewitness: An Accidental Explosion of Freedom
A journalist who witnessed the events of 1989 from a Soviet perspective looks back on a surreal period when attempts at moderate reform quickly an uncontrollable momentum of their own.
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I went to Moscow as a correspondent in 1984, just as the Brezhnev generation of leaders was beginning to die off or be replaced. There was nothing to suggest that Soviet control of Eastern Europe had only another five years to run and that the Soviet Union itself would disintegrate a few years later.

In retrospect, it might seem self-evident that by seeking to reform the centralised, militarised and authoritarian Soviet state, the General Secretary of the Communist Party (CPSU), Mikhail Gorbachev, was sawing through the branch on which he and the party were sitting. But it was not obvious at the time when the most striking feature of the Soviet Union was its political and military strength and not its sclerotic leadership. In a sense, the Soviet Union had been too successful for its own good. Lenin, Stalin and their successors had built a powerful military and industrial state machine in a beleaguered peasant country. Through a mixture of ideological fanaticism and physical coercion, they had achieved their aim, defeating the Nazis and rivalling the US as a super-power.

But the Soviet Union paid a price for creating a system that was geared for concentrating all resources for coping with emergencies, but not for providing for day-to-day needs. Victory in the Second World War left Moscow in control of Eastern Europe, but its rule could continue only through the use or threat of military force. Once this threat disappeared, it was highly probable that Communist governments would disappear, from Berlin to Bucharest. Once Gorbachev became General Secretary of the CPSU in 1985, subsequent events such as the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union three years later have a feeling of inevitability about them, which this is surely a misreading of what actually happened.

The Soviet Union in 1984 was not in a state of crisis, though it did have a moribund feel to it. This was symbolised by the leader of the day, Konstantin Chernenko, once an aide to Leonid Brezhnev and now white-haired and gasping for breath because of his emphysema. He spent much of his time resting in his dacha on the outskirts of Moscow, though he did once make a macabre appearance on television. He was shown clutching the back of a chair to stand upright as he received a delegation. The delegation leader offered him a bunch of red flowers and twice he visibly strained as he tried to raise his right hand from the chair to take the bouquet, but the effort was too much and his hand fell back.

A few weeks later, Chernenko was dead and Gorbachev took over the leadership. For the next three years, much of my time was spent writing articles trying to persuade sceptical editors and readers that something significant and new was happening in the Soviet Union. Academic and diplomatic Kremlinologists largely discounted changes, often seeing developments in Moscow as a cunning PR ploy designed to deceive journalists like myself or, more persuasively, a doomed attempt to rescue an ossified system. In 1983, Lieutenant-General William Odom, the head of the US National Security Agency, and a leading expert on the Soviet Union, said that he “expected sound and fury about domestic reform accompanied by little actual change”.

In the first years of Gorbachev there was a certain of truth in this, but the “sound and fury” was very revealing as the reformers tried to use glasnost – openness – to stir up the political system and discredit their opponents by exposing various scandals. Revelations were sometimes trivial but always fascinating, such as a newspaper report that Soviet teeth were in such bad repair because the man in charge of dental policy, who had held his job for decades, was a specialist in gum disease and had no interest in teeth. Who were the people I could see milling about regardless of weather conditions on a little triangle of land called Smolensk Square between the Soviet foreign ministry and the Beograd Hotel? It turned out that they were black-marketeers and prostitutes who were taking advantage of the fact that the square was on the intersection of two police districts, both of which disclaimed responsibility for what went on there.

Moral puritanism was in the air, and a notable feature of it was Gorbachev’s campaign against excessive drinking that raised the price of alcohol and made it more difficult to obtain. High above Mayakovsky Square in the centre of Moscow, I saw a flashing electric sign carrying the message: “A glass of mandarin juice a day contains all the vitamin C an adult needs.” Down below in the street, a long queue of people waited in the driving snow for a drink shop to open. Criminals took over the alcohol trade just as at the time of Prohibition in the US, making me wonder about the realism of the highly principled people trying to reform the Soviet Union.

For all the talk about greater openness, the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine in 1986 was only grudgingly admitted as a radioactive cloud spread to Scandinavia and the disaster became undeniable. The accident appeared at home and abroad as a prime example of criminal sloppiness protected by obsessive secrecy and all too typical of the Soviet system. We should, perhaps, have been more careful about seeing such disasters as validating stereotypes. Twenty-five years later, when an accident happened at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, following the tsunami in 2011, the supposedly super-efficient Japanese politicians and technicians proved to be almost as incompetent and secretive as their Soviet counterparts.

ORDER IT NOW

It was never clear to me what Gorbachev and those around him were aiming to achieve. Change was being driven by the Communist Party but with the apparent purpose of putting itself largely out of business as the institution which monopolised power. It had been an oppressive administrative apparatus for so long that it was wholly unsuited to competing with other political parties in an election. Nor was there an obvious alternative to the party, since potential rivals had long been eliminated – other than predatory gangs and networks looking for power and money.

Authoritarian governments that have ruled for decades without seeking democratic endorsement are unlikely to fare very well when they do start to take public opinion into account. Furthermore, governments which have long claimed credit for anything good happening to their people not surprisingly get blamed by them in the long run for everything bad. This was noticeable not just in Russia in the late 1980s but during the Arab Spring of 2011, when opponents of the status quo genuinely believed their own demonisation of the old regime as responsible for all of the ills of society.

Gorbachev and the reformers had great difficulty getting reform under way, but once they did so the pace and direction of change became uncontrollable. The Cold War had never really ended and the priority of the West was to see an end to the Soviet Union as a political and social rival. In later years, Russian leaders complained that the West failed to fulfil promises made in the early 1990s that there would be no expansion of Nato further east. But once the Russians had withdrawn their armies from Eastern Europe, they had little leverage left.

What is most striking about the fall of Communism, a movement that had convulsed the world and battled for power in state after state, is that so few fought for it at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: History • Tags: Berlin Wall, Soviet Union 
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  1. “Victory in the Second World War left Moscow in control of Eastern Europe, but its rule could continue only through the use or threat of military force.”

    Given the loss of public credibility our own institutions have lately undergone, one can’t help but draw parallels. After all, history is mostly only useful insofar as it shows us where we’ve been, so we know where we are – and thus where we may be headed.

    Post World War II, America has come to garrison the world with the mightiest (and most expensive) military the world has ever known. It seems to now have left our own people little more than bragging rights. America also, prior to the Great Wars, was largely an agricultural demographic, and thus our people, too, were perhaps dragged along a future not of their own choosing.

    Why does our own de facto oligarchy insist on maintaining the thousands of military outposts it came to occupy all over the world?

    Does it too, realize “its rule could continue only through the use or threat of military force?” It seems very obvious that without constant threat inflation and exercising covert and overt operational domination, political and military, that it is felt all these countries would no longer be adjuncts of American power, even in the financial realm.

    The lesson is well-taken, because they wouldn’t any longer be subservient without de facto military occupation. The question becomes, how long can this imperial reach endure, if it is seen by the average American to no longer coincide with her own interests, but be undermining them?

    Again, the parallels seem obvious, with the domestic response of the massive growth of State Security apparatus, turned inward upon the American people.

    • Replies: @Epaminondas
  2. Clarke says:

    So few fought for it because so few had ever believed in it in the first place. It was imposed on populations by force, not persuasion.

    The same sudden end awaits PC in the West, for the same reason. Who knows when, but the PGA president getting kicked out because he tweeted that someone “cried like a little girl” or whatever it was? Must be getting close.

    • Replies: @Kevin O'Keeffe
  3. Sean says:

    I have heard that the fatal error of communist regimes was allowing programs like Dallas to be shown in the early days of perestroika, because it really destroyed all faith in the system among the populace. A striking characteristic of the Soviet system, one they don’t share with US, is the Soviet system didn’t even give their elite a high standard of living by world standards.

    While it is true the nomenklatura didn’t really put up a fight, I think it is relevant that the up and coming apparatchiks’ prospects in the existing system were not so good. They went on to become truly well off only after the system fell; now they own banks. A system in which those aspiring to become part of the elite can look forward to living better than anyone in the world is a very different kettle of fish.

  4. Authoritarian governments that have ruled for decades without seeking democratic endorsement are unlikely to fare very well when they do start to take public opinion into account.

    Unlikely, but not impossible. Didn’t Augusto Pinochet outdo Jimmy Carter at reelection time?

  5. Priss Factor [AKA "Andrea Ostrov Letania"] says:

    “We should, perhaps, have been more careful about seeing such disasters as validating stereotypes. Twenty-five years later, when an accident happened at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, following the tsunami in 2011, the supposedly super-efficient Japanese politicians and technicians proved to be almost as incompetent and secretive as their Soviet counterparts.”

    Against super-disasters, everyone is incompetent. It’s simply beyond human scope to handle. Consider Hurricane Katrina, a mega-disaster made all the worse by New Orleans folks who let the good times roll. Natural disaster + Negro disaster = superduper disaster.

    By the way, while Japanese tend to be hard-working and diligent, they’ve never been known for improvisational skills(necessary during times of emergency), and they’ve always been notorious for secrecy and opaqueness.

    Japanese do things well when everything is working and everyone knows his place. But when individuals must use initiative to blow the whistle on corruption or shake a leg during a crisis, Japanese are close to worthless.

    • Replies: @Jim
  6. Priss Factor [AKA "Andrea Ostrov Letania"] says:

    I think Gorbachev was a real anomaly in world politics. A good man in position of great power. No, he was not a saint. But he was a man of conscience who was motivated by genuine ideals. It was all the amazing since he was the product of a system created by someone as murderous and conscienceless as Stalin.

    The problem is good man cannot govern a great nation. A great nation needs someone like Bismarck or Deng. Now, Deng had his good sides too, but he has no illusions about the nature of power. When push came to shove, he knew the game.

    Gorbachev was too good for Russia at that point in time. Also, his fatal error was looking to the West for approval. It was good on his part to make peace with the West — Deng did the same thing during Carter yrs — , but he shouldn’t have fooled himself into thinking that Russia could, at least in the short run, operate in accordance with Western standards.
    This is where Deng was smarter. He opened China up to the West but understood that China had to decide on its own course of reform and development. Deng also had a keen sense of the kind of men working under him and with him.

    Gorbachev became addicted to Western adulation of him. He ended up doing things to win more Western approval. He acted more in accordance with outside opinion than with inside demands unique to Russia. Imposing liberal democratic reforms on Russia that had undergone 70 yrs of communism and had never known liberal democracy prior to communism was bound to go bad. Things turned out difficult enough for many Eastern European nations that were much smaller(therefore easier to handle) and more Western-oriented traditionally, so it was bound to be much tougher on big and messy Russia. If East Germany, the most advanced Eastern Bloc nation, had a tough time integrating with West Germany, just imagine the challenges faced by Russians.

    Because Gorbachev’s antennae was fixed so much on outside opinion, he lost sight of what was really happening behind him and below him. Though he remained General Secretary until the coup, the real power had already fallen into other players and operatives. In time, Gorbachev became a hapless international figurehead while the internal affairs were really under the control of others far more ruthless and devious than he. Gorbachev was an intelligent man but he lacked the instinct of a gangster. He didn’t know the game because it didn’t come naturally to him.
    In the past, the state apparatus in the USSR functioned with some degree of order and effectiveness because of the element of fear. But once Gorbachev removed the element of fear, the dark players within/without the government were positioning themselves to grab most of the loot and power.
    Without the element of fear, Gorbachev was no longer heeded or respected.

    Deng was more like Hyman Roth. He could be nice and smile and smoke cigarettes and look funny like the midget in Game of Thrones, but he made it well-known that if anyone displeases him, he will kick their butt.

    Gorbachev was already just a figurehead by the time he was deposed. Indeed, the coup wasn’t so much about taking power from Gorbachev as about taking the power before another group took the power.
    It’s like how Sukarno fell in 1965. Sukarno, a willy nilly ruler of Indonesia, developed various factions around him. He supported the Muslim generals on the right, the communists close to Beijing, liberal economic theorists, and host of other factions. Because Sukarno was #1, the various groups that detested one another pretended to get along. But they were all watching one another to take the power when the crisis hit. Communists struck first, but then the Muslim generals struck back and took the power. Sukarno was finished overnight.
    Likewise, while Gorbachev had genuine power in the mid 80s, by the late 80s the real power had slipped from him. His reforms had only given leeway for various factions within the government, secret police, and gangster elements to prepare to gain more power, the ultimate power. As most Russian masses were half-drunken louts whose idea of freedom was wrestling with bears and dancing on tables, they had little interest in reforms. As for Russian youths, freedom meant imitating Americans into rock and porn. So, the real power was about those in the government, KGB, criminal underground(especially Jewish ones with connections with Western Jews).
    So, the people who pulled the coup did so less out of fear of Gorbachev than fear of other factions who were also preparing to take the power. Gorbachev got sukarnoed out.
    Putin, having made his way up in the KGB, is a keener operator about the nature of power.

    Though we say US/UK beat the USSR, in a way the transformations that happened in both sides of the world were comparable with one another.
    Though US/UK and USSR were very different economically, both sides had one thing in common. They had national economies. US had national capitalism, UK had national social-capitalism, and USSR had national communism. And in all three nations, the workers played a major role in the economy. Unions once really mattered in the US as it was a manufacturing giant. UK after WWII was a nation where labor gained great power. Though workers in the USSR had no rights in the Western sense, it was true enough that the Soviet economy was geared around the workers. Though the Soviet economy didn’t provide much for most people, one of its main goals was was to provide jobs and benefits to the workers. Though Soviet elites did much better than most people, their wealth was nothing like that of billionaires in the West.

    But as time passed and the economy got more globalized, a kind of neo-elitism took hold in US, UK, and USSR. Reagan was for the rise of the super-rich. Thatcher was for the rise of the super-rich. Though Gorby wasn’t for the rise of the super-rich, his reforms at least promised the possibility of some people becoming much richer than others.

    American elites got tired of national economic obligations. They got tired of American workers and their demands. They got tired of negotiating with labor unions. Same with British elites where proles were even more powerful.
    Though Gorbachev was idealistic and did care about workers, the dark forces around him were looking forward to a day when Russian elites could drop their obligations to the workers, the people, and non-Russian republics that were a drag on the Russian economy.

    So, in a way, the Cold War wasn’t only about US/UK vs USSR but about the elites of all three nations trying to drop their national obligations to their own peoples and workers.

    So, in a way, it’s not like Americans beat the Russians. Rather, the winners are the American elites who got richer and richer, British elites who got richer and richer, and Russian elites who got richer and richer.
    As for the American masses, British masses, and Russian masses, all three got peanuts.

    So, who really won the Cold War? Did US/UK beat the USSR? Or did the ruthless, cunning, and ambitious—the Zuckerbergs and Buffetts and Abramovs—of the world win in all three nations while most people got the shaft?

    In some ways, American and British people lost the Cold War worse than Russian people. Though Russian people are economically worse off than Americans and Brits, they are still led by a man, Putin, whose love for his motherland is genuine and heartfelt. Putin really cares for fellow Russians and wishes they would stop drinking like lunatics, using heroin, and wrestling with bears and driving like crazies.
    In contrast, US and UK leaders are nothing but shameless and worthless running dogs of Jewish globo-oligarchs. US and UK leaders are like actors in Hollywood who take their orders from Jewish moguls.

    So, US and UK didn’t really win the Cold War against the USSR. The elites in all three nation won, and the people in all three nations didn’t get much out of it.

    The rise of homomania in the West is proof enough that the Cold War was not about American/British People vs Russian People. It was about dismantling leftism as a movement for the worker and reconfiguring it to serve the interests of the globo-neo-aristocrats.

    In the end, it was about Reagan, Thatcher, and dark Russian forces behind Gorbachev shifting the power entirely to the elites.
    Though US and UK did better than Russia since the End of the Cold War, all three witnessed roughly the same phenomenon. The rich getting richer and superrich getting superricher, and everyone else slipping lower and lower.

    A lot of Russian oligarchs(especially the Jewish ones) feel nothing for the Russian people.
    And most American oligarchs don’t give a crap about Americans, especially white Americans. They are for open borders and shipping factories to other nations so they can reap more profits.
    The face of American capitalism used to be GM that hired American workers. Today, the face of American capitalism is Zuckerberg that weasel shit.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  7. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “people waited in the driving snow for a drink shop to open.”

    “Drink shop”? What the hell is drink shop? There were liquor stores (“винно-водочный магазин”) and vodka bars (“рюмочная”) but drink shops never existed anywhere.

    It was never clear to me what Gorbachev and those around him were aiming to achieve.

    As famous Russian saying goes, they “wanted to make it better but it turned out as usual”. They were 1) stupid and 2) sold on Western propaganda. To explain in brief: USSR had serious issues, it absolutely needed some kind of reform/change. Gorby & Co thought that a limited market economy would fix everything but also foolishly believed in “Voice of America” that kept saying that the “true” market is impossible without “freedom and democracy”. The serious decline in coercion and oppressiveness that followed very soon resulted in a self-catalytic process that spun out of control – economic freedoms fed into political ones and vice versa, opening a wide field for organized crime.

    Whether Chinese were inherently smarter or if they benefited from seeing the evolution of the USSR, that I don’t know.

    • Replies: @Jack D
  8. Jim says:
    @Priss Factor

    The mouth of the Mississippi is an artificial creation of dams and levees which is inherently highly unstable. New Orleans is below sea level and continuing to sink deeper. It is protected by levees from Lake Pontchatrain which would otherwise flood it. All places on the Gulf Coast wlll occaisionally experience powerful tropical cyclones. Exits out of New Orleans are not adequate for rapid evacuation. New Orleans is a death trap pure and simple.

    From what I’ve read the Japanese populations responded well to disasters such as the Kobe earthquack and the recent tsunamis. There was an almost total lack of looting and crime in stark contrast to the Katrina situation in New Orleans.

    In addition to the geographical/geological vulnearability of New Orleans the city’s population is highly pathological and local government is highly corrupt. If New Orleans were an independent country it would be considered a failed state.

    • Replies: @Jack D
  9. KA says:

    Why the heck did Japan get a pass while Soviet Russia was demonized ,ridiculed,and blamed for a similar explosion with a similar far reaching outcome?

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @Jack D
  10. Jack D says:
    @Anonymous

    “Drink shop” is UK speak for “liquor store”. The author is British.

    • Replies: @peter
  11. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @KA

    Perchance because Japan had NO explosion?

    Your lies no longer work here.

  12. Jack D says:
    @Jim

    In Katrina there was plenty of high ground even within the city itself for people not to die. What was lacking was a functional government and a functional population. So for example the bus fleet, which could have been used for evacuation, was instead parked on low ground and flooded early in the storm. Many of the dead were Darwin Award winners who did things like fleeing to attics with no exits. This was not like a sudden tsunami – after the levees broke the city filled up slowly and gradually but the Big Easy was even slower to respond.

  13. You need to fix the subhead. The phrase “…when attempts at moderate reform quickly an uncontrollable momentum of their own” makes no sense. I think you need to add “morphed into” after the word “quickly”.

  14. @Fran Macadam

    A similar collapse occurred after the death of the Roman Republic. The Empire under Republican Rome had been built up by Italian peoples led by a Roman aristocracy. But once Imperial Rome was created, those old aristocrats became even more corrupt and feeble, along with an Italian population which no longer saw any benefit in fighting for a remote and multicultural power. The end was gradual but inevitable. We are going to go through a much more speeded up version of that collapse, precipitated by a very flawed banking system.

  15. Authoritarian governments that have ruled for decades without seeking democratic endorsement are unlikely to fare very well when they do start to take public opinion into account.

    A distinction should be made between “authoritarian” and “totalitarian.” The Soviet system was the latter because it was based on Marxist economics, a school of thought which does not account for reality. Therefore the Soviet system had to endlessly regulate, propagandize, obscure, evade, suppress, avoid–for as long as possible–mere reality. Of course, in the end reality always wins.

    Same thing, as someone has already mentioned, with political correctness. PC is a totalitarian system because it tells us un-real things: race and sex are social constructs, all children are equally educable, homosexual unions have equal status and dignity with heterosexual unions, and on and on. Reality endlessly foils the schemes of the totalitarian social engineers, so they have to enlist the State to “outlaw” reality. Anybody who buys a house can tell you that not all children are equally educable, which is why people pay thousands of dollars more for white/Asian school districts. But “officially,” all children are equally educable and the totalitarians wish fervently they had the power to imprison anybody who dares say otherwise.

    When the Great Reset happens–when reality asserts itself–things can move more rapidly than anybody can imagine. I was in grad school watching the Berlin Wall being torn down on TV. I told my roommate the Soviet Bloc would be gone in five years. He said ten. It took less than two.

    Authoritarian regimes can actually be quite popular, and so long as they hew to reality, they can be durable even without elections. I am told the generals’ coup in Egypt was with the foreknowledge and approval of all the religious patriarchs in the country. Nobody really wanted rule by Wahabbist rabble, even though they managed to whip up some sort of electoral majority.

  16. Jack D says:
    @KA

    Fukishima was (partly) a result of an unprecedented natural disaster while Chernobyl was a 100% man-made disaster. The 3/11 Earthquake was the LARGEST earthquake EVER recorded to have hit Japan (which then resulted in the largest tsunami ever) so it was outside the design parameters (flood walls, etc.) of the affected nuclear plants.

    There is no such thing as an absolutely bulletproof design. Every work of engineering is based upon certain (hopefully reasonable) assumptions (balanced against costs) and when conditions exceed those assumptions all bets are off. All you can do is make reasonable assumptions as to what is likely to happen and allow for a reasonable margin of error.

    The design parameter for the Fukushima plants (based upon all known historic tsunamis) was a 5.8 meter wave so they built a 10 meter sea wall – a reasonable margin of error. But the actual wave was 20 meters high. There were some poor design decisions such as locating emergency generators in low lying areas but once they lost power for the cooling pumps the rest was inevitable.

  17. David M. says:

    “This was not like a sudden tsunami – after the levees broke the city filled up slowly and gradually but the Big Easy was even slower to respond.”

    It depends on how close you were to the levees. Some levees suddenly collapsed (gave out from below) and thus did flood the nearby neighborhoods like a tsunami.

    • Replies: @Jim
  18. Jim says:
    @David M.

    New Orleans is an extremally dangerous place to locate a large population, particularly one as dysfunctional as that of New Orleans. Many people in Holland may live below sea level but in addition to the fact that the Dutch are far more intelligent and less prone to violence than the population of New Orleans Holland is not subject to being struck by anything like a major tropical cyclone.

  19. Art says:

    The difference between the Russian and Chinese outcomes to communism is that in the European character there is a desire for personal freedom.

    That desire for personal freedom is both genetic and cultural. Total freedom is an impossibility. Freedom has to be moderated by empathy for our fellow humans. Christian philosophy is the champion of human empathy. Christianity self selects empathic offspring.

    Christian philosophy is a thought system built on an intellectual idealism. Working counter to Christian idealism is our natural primordial tribalism. Humanity needs more idealism and less tribalism – end of story.

  20. Don Hawkins says: • Website

    Read my website dated today and wonder how the USA will look in say 5 years best case……..

  21. Priss Factor [AKA "Andrea Ostrov Letania"] says:
    @Jack D

    “Fukishima was (partly) a result of an unprecedented natural disaster while Chernobyl was a 100% man-made disaster.”

    But why did they build the Fukushima nuclear plant so close to the sea?
    If it weren’t for the flooding from the waves, it would have turned out alright.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    , @Jack D
  22. @Priss Factor

    Nuclear plants need a water source for the cooling, and since Japan lacks huge rivers, the sea is the only obvious solution.

    While there was a long history of problems being swept under the carpet, the biggest issue was the lack of improvised solutions. The Japanese did almost the opposite of what the Russians did. The Russians had no problem until they screwed up majestically, but then quickly started to improvise and through multiple trials and errors as quickly as was possible under the circumstances arrived at a solution. As opposed to the Japanese, who did everything well and were prepared for most emergencies, but when the unexpected happened, were very slow and couldn’t cope with the ever worsening situation until it turned into a major f…up.

  23. The trap into which East German Marxists wandered was tragic. Some of them, especially those who had survived Hitler’s concentration camps, genuinely wanted to eradicate Nazism and militarism. What they overlooked was that the state takes the place of the “capitalists” when there is no intent to let the state eventually die as Marx predicted it would. Consequently the “dictatorship of the proletariat” morphs into “state dictatorship” with its huge loss of economic efficiency and its STASI’s which was the Gestapo of the DDR. All to preserve the status quo.
    The Social Democrats have understood the Western “proletariat” much better than the communists have. They understand that the new and powerful middle classes in the developed world do not want to let their states to die slowly but want their states to be “benign”.

  24. Drake says:

    As a baby boomer going to school during the Cold War, I was subjected to a lot of anti-communist propaganda. Those ridiculous Drop Drills, where we dove under our desks to protect ourselves from the almost inevitable attack from the evil Commies.

    At the time we were doing Drop Drills the Commies were building vast civil defense bunkers to really protect their citizens from bombardment. So, while the Americans were propagandizing their kids, the Soviets were actually protecting their citizens.

  25. Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website
    @Priss Factor

    Wow! What an intelligent, insightful, and unique commentary – thank you.

  26. @Clarke

    “So few fought for it because so few had ever believed in it in the first place. It was imposed on populations by force, not persuasion.

    The same sudden end awaits PC in the West, for the same reason. Who knows when, but the PGA president getting kicked out because he tweeted that someone “cried like a little girl” or whatever it was? Must be getting close.”

    Yes, I agree, and I don’t mind saying that I very much look forward to the inevitable collapse of the regime here in the USA.

  27. peter says:
    @Jack D

    I live in the UK and have never heard of a ” Drink shop”.
    Such establishments are known as bottle shops or
    off licences shortened to ” offies ” in the U.K.

    • Replies: @Jack D
  28. Jack D says:
    @Priss Factor

    Close to the sea to be accessible to cooling water. There is a nuclear plant in California that also sits literally on the beach (San Onofre).

    https://goo.gl/maps/PmdLm

  29. Jack D says:
    @peter

    Whatever – the original comment tried to make a mountain out of a molehill – you know that the original author was trying to say “liquor store” in US terms. Whether you call it a drink shop or a bottle shop or a vinno-vodochnyy magazin (wine and spirits shop) is a distinction without a difference, certainly not a big enough distinction to discredit the author. The author’s main point was that the Russians were sufficiently addicted to alcohol that they were willing to stand first thing in the morning in a queue in a snowstorm outside the alcohol dispensary, by whatever name you call it.

  30. eradican says:

    @ Andrea Ostrov Letania

    Great comment. However Gorbachev wasn’t so innocent as you believe he was in fact a malicious wrecker. The Soviet economy was never in decline only stagnant from 1976 onward. By the early to mid 1980s it was growing again after Andropov’s reforms. Gorbachev’s “reforms” by contrast murdered the economy on purpose. He also gave anti-communists “freedom of speech” to spread their poison. After demoralizing the public via propaganda he unilaterally surrendered everything the Soviet Union stood for. After betraying the sacrifices of WW2 by abandoning eastern Europe (which is now hostile to Russia again) he allowed Yeltsin’s power plays to dissolve the Soviet Union itself. Russia was ruined and never truly recovered until Chekist and Cold Warrior Putin took power. He reversed everything Gorbachev/Yeltsin did restoring as much of the Soviet legacy he could.

    For the record the first and only person to correctly predict the demise of the Soviet Union was ironically the man most responsible for it’s existence; Leon Trotsky. Trotsky was a Marxist revolutionary, citizen journalist, chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, mastermind of the Bolshevik seizure of power, commissar of foreign affairs, perhaps most importantly founder and first leader of the Red Army. As commissar of war Trotsky led the Soviets to victory in the Russian Civil War. Trotsky was the hero of the October Revolution and second in command to Lenin himself. Trotsky would lose the succession struggle Joseph Stalin who stole Trotsky’s rightful place in history. Nevertheless Trotsky was highly critical of Stalin in exile and ultimately died as the uncorrupted martyr of the revolution. He warned the precedents Stalin established killed Soviet democracy in it’s cradle concentrating massive power at the top of the bureaucracy. This elite would someday crave more luxuries and privileges hence restoring capitalism. Trotsky was mocked at the time but nearly all of his predictions came true years and even decades later. In other words there was a bourgeois counterrevolution at the top in the USSR. Mao Zedong even coined the term capitalist roaders to describe people like Gorbachev.

    I wrote a lengthy and provocative blog post about the Soviet Union which may interest you. I firmly believe Marxism will be making a comeback for the precise reasons you outlined.

    http://eradica.wordpress.com/2014/05/06/old-and-new-gods/

  31. eradican says:

    @ The Anti-Gnostic

    Like most anti-communists you know very little about the actual history of the Soviet Union or Marxism. You mostly repeat bourgeois propaganda and moreover are unaware that western liberal idiocy and dysfunction is a the product of bourgeois decadence. Please check out the link I provided above for more information.

  32. eradican says:

    The Soviet Union was so awful the vast majority voted to preserve it…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_Union_referendum,_1991

  33. @Jack D

    From what I remember, the situation was made worse because the elevation of the wall actually dropped as a result of the earthquake.

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