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 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