Fall of the wall – Celebrating 20 years of freedom

20 years ago today West German television channel ARD broadcast that – “This ninth of November is a historic day. East Germany has announced that, starting immediately, its borders are open to everyone”. On hearing the announcement East Germans began gathering at the eastern side of the 140km long Berlin Wall. Soon their numbers swelled dramatically, the sheer size of the crowd overwhelming the guards who were nervous about using force. The guards gave in, opened their check points and the crowds swarmed through to be met by joyous west Berliners on the other side. The irrestible force of the human desire for freedom had overcome the not-so-immovable object of Soviet Communision as represented by the Berlin Wall.

Over at Turbulence Ahead, Libertarian thinker and Slugger blogger, Gerard O’Neill, argues that this should have been a continent-wide holiday – I agree with his sentiments wholeheartedly.

Happy Freedom Day Slugger!

German Original Viewable here

  • Mick Fealty

    I’ve not been to Berlin since February 1986. So my memories of the place are of the divided polity.

    As I recall we left the GFR at Hof and stopped for Breakfast at the motorway service station before crossing the border. It fell like the restaurant at the end of the universe. It was clear at the time that Hof had seen better days itself and was a large town whose hinterland had been cut off by a border which unlike our own, was absolute.

    Looking at the map it was clear that main roads on both sides of the border had been turned into giant cul de sacs in the middle of nowhere.

    We were told then that the border guards in the GDR had lightened up in recent years. So instead of silence we got a gruff ‘Godt Tag’. One reading my colleague’s passport was intrigued at his profession (a teacher). Then they took our passports from us and told us we ould have to drive half a mile before we could get it back again.

    It seemed to me at that time it was a clever psychological trick to make you feel vulnerable before entering their territory. It certainly worked on me.

    Once we were in we had to stay on the motorway. We’d been warned that the police would take the 80km signs and put them at the bottom of the pole, so that they could pull visitors in and charge them foreign currency in on the spot fines. Whether we were lucky or it was another of those urban myths, no such thing happened to us.

    It was strange passing big cities like Magdeburg and Leipzig that you knew existed but had been expunged from the European map and consciousness. And everywhere were the little two stroke Trabbies crammed full of families and skis strapped to the roof. Whilst I was asleep in our UK registered Volvo, one family we passed a first thought I was the driver and according to my erstwhile work companion panicked.

    Later when we pulled into a layby to swap drivers, they pulled in about 50 meters behind. We had thought of giving them some of the chocolates we’d bought at the west German motorway station, but the East German police patrol car put paid to any contact with them.

    When we got to West Berlin, the thing that struck me was just how small it was. And it was the first time we’d seen the military presence (I’ve a feeling it was the US zone we came into, but I can’t be sure since it had been my turn to sleep in the back). It was not the first time I’d thought about the comparison with home.

    [more later…]

  • AlanAlan

    “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
    But to be young was very heaven!”

    If you can call twenty-nine young.

    This really was a wonderful time. It had been presaged by months of discussion. Marxism Today had run a series of essential articles as part of their New Times series, including pieces on the new East German Prime Minister who was to open the gates.

    It led on to the harrowing spectacle in Roumania, watching live coverage of freedom protestors being shot dead in the streets. We were so proud of them all.

    I think, though that it was not the German decision that broke the dam, but Czechoslovakia who opened their borders first and left the DDR with nowhere to go.

  • Helden

    Hey, surely Bowie singing Helden (Heroes in German) would have been a better choice of song ….

  • Babeuf
  • Mack

    Wasn’t aware of it, certainly might have been a better choice than the English version of 99 red balloons! Nena reportedly not particularly enamoured with the English lyrics of their protest song. But I’ve just always associated that song with German anti-cold war protest.

    Here’s the YouTube Video – Bowie – Helden

  • Mack

    Babeuf – Well, there’s always one 😉

    I skim read parts of it – this stood out.

    First, socialist societies were committed to improving the living standards of the mass of people as their first aim (whereas capitalist countries are organized around profit-maximization as their principle goal – a goal linked to a minority that owns capital and land and derives its income from profits, rent and interest rather than wages.)

    Setting this as the standard they failed on their own terms. Living standards were far higher in the Capitalist West, it’s certainly a noble goal and one most of us aspire too – it’s just that the Capitalist system contains within it the neccessary dynamics and tensions required to evolve and meet that goal – while Socialism manifestly doesn’t.

  • Greenflag

    Gerald O’Neill’s freedom day I can agree with . Had I been asked on Jan 1 -1989 would I live to see a reunited Germany my response would have been a resounding no , and my added response would have been nobody else would either . I would have thought that the only way Germany would have been reunited would be as part of the wasteland left behind by several thousand nuclear weapons . The entire european continent from Galway to the Urals and from Bergen to Sicily would have been uninhabitable for the next 1,000 years if ever .

    ‘but Czechoslovakia who opened their borders first and left the DDR with nowhere to go.’

    I believe it was the Hungarian Border guards with Austria who turned a blind eye to their East German tourists crossing the border to Austria which set off the first domino. A house of cards after that .

  • wild turkey

    ‘but Czechoslovakia who opened their borders first and left the DDR with nowhere to go. ‘
    AlanAlan

    ditto GF above. ah, i think it was the hungarians who opened their border for east german ‘tourists’ to visit austria.

    i remember being at a party/piss-up around 15 years ago and being subjected to the usual analysis of how the workers will still rise up and shake off their oppressors as a new day of freedom and fairness dawns. i pointed out that actually this had already occurred… well at least in eastern europe and the doomed regimes were, ah, communist. while others gulped their Havana Club in digust, fortunately i had a bottle of my nom de plume to hand.

    i leave the rest to Mr Hitchens.
    hope the link below works

    http://www.slate.com/id/2234782/

  • Greenflag

    wild turkey ,

    Thanks the link worked. Not one of Mrs Thatcher’s greatest days . The Iron Lady would have preferred the Iron Curtain to stay in place . East German dictator Honeker had ordered thousands of body bags and had he got the backing of Gorbachev would have ordered the ‘filling’ if the body bags with dead East Germans . The West was fortunate that Gorbachev was on the other side and not Andropov .

    Thatcher’s fears of a United Germany going it’s own way into some 4th Reich was mistaken and can be seen in hindsight as British ‘paranoia ‘ of a type that is almost endemic in the Tories .

    The sight of Gorbachev ,Merkel and Lech Walesa today in Berlin celebrating the 20th anniversary of it’s fall is a timely reminder that eventually when the emperor is naked the people rise up and tell him it’s time to go .

    And that will hold true whether the ‘elite’ be communist or capitalist .

    more ‘spaeter ‘as they say in Berlin.

  • Greenflag

    mack ,

    ‘just that the Capitalist system contains within it the neccessary dynamics and tensions required to evolve and meet that goal – while Socialism manifestly doesn’t. ‘

    A statement if I may say , almost turgon like in it’s politico economic rather than religious certainty.;)

    I’d be more inclined to say that the jury is still out on that one at least in a modern interpretation of the ‘two ‘ ideologies . Since the fall of the wall the world is no longer divided into a simplistic two ideology world with communism and capitalism .

    Some would say that the existence of ‘communism ‘ or just the threat of communism kept capitalism from reverting to it’s ‘rawer’ 19th century format . Some would also say that the existence of what is called social democracy in western europe undermined the totalitarian communists of the East and led to their ‘propaganda ‘ being discredited .

    Capitalism is now ‘divvied up’ into various ‘brands ‘ from the neo conservative market leader based in Wall St to the more socially aware forms still preferred in Scandinavia and parts of Western Europe . I’m sure Gerald O’Neill may appreciate the
    nicheing of the brand 😉

    Then there is the authoritarian capitalism of the one party state variety which is all the rage in China which still calls itself a ‘communist ‘ country . George Orwell would have enjoyed that ‘newspeak ‘ And then there is the ‘slave communism’ of North Korea which awaits it’s own ‘wall fall’ , while arming it’s
    elite attempts to defend the indefensible by arming itself with nuclear weapons while providing itself sufficent supplies of western brandy as it tries to feed it’s army while keeping the mass of the population on a bowl of rice a day and allowing/permittting several million to starve to death .

    The fall of communism in 1990 was seen as a win for capitalism and democracy . As we survey a western world in the grip of the biggest recession since the 1930’s we may be seeing the death knell of at least one of the many brands of capitalism , while at the same time we see the growth of the ‘authoritarian ‘ brand of top down ‘enforced’ capitalism led and implemented by the former communist elite . The lack of any ‘competing ‘ elite was iirc all the rage in the old USSR and Communist China.

    I guess it ‘proves’ capitalism can evolve to meet the needs of an elite/elites, regardless of the political environment . But then that was proved under the National Socialist and Fascist regimes of Europe in the 1930’s and 1940’s and in the USA ‘roaring 20’s ‘

    Thanks for the Gerald O’Neill link . While some of it I can agree with – some of the comments he quotes from Scruton and others can be blown out of the water by anybody who has their eyes open .

    Using the Italian school crucifix controversy as an anti EU argument , while preferring the US brand of ‘raw capitalism ‘ which ensures that NO state schools can have any religious symbolism is I would think indicative of the ‘closed mindset’ of some of the crazier believers in neo conservative ideology.

    And where does Ireland and the UK fit in the market branding of modern day ‘capitalist’ segmentation ?

    I call it the SS brand (scared sh**less )

    In both states it’s a case of wait and see and lets hope that ‘something ‘ turns up to restore confidence in the political and economic policy decision making capabilities of our ‘elites’ .

    First they’ll have to be dragged away from the public trough but, hark what’s that I see on the horizon ? Ah yes another pair of piggies looking somewhat thin from years /decades on the opposition benches, and eyeing the trough with the look of those who can hardly wait to follow the example of their predecessors 🙁 But they say otherwise as always 😉 . It’s part of the game eh .

    But if you believe what they say now don’t be disappointed in what they do later. And that by the way is not a defence of the status quo .

  • Mack

    Greenflag –

    I’m not sure I’d accept that segmentation. The USA certainly doesn’t have raw capitalism, although pure entrepreneurial capitalism does play an important role there, the USA has also lapsed into corporatism and has a healthy does of socialist inspired policies to protect workers when they are down on their luck (certainly compared with the 19thC).

    But if you contrast capitalism with socialism, socialism may improve living standards today for the least poor in society – but it lacks a dynamic for constantly improving them. There is no ‘natural selection’ (or the capitalist equivalent – creative destruction) to render old practices, goods and services redundant with superior systems that improve living standards for everyone.

    The are a number of characteristics that separate broadly capitalist systems from broadly socialist ones, I’d rank the presence of an economic Darwinian force high up there, also the presence of individual freedom to pursue their own goals (over forced equality of outcome), respect for property rights, and the degree to which the state engages centrally planning the economy. Along those four axis’ there are possibly millions of combinations – but as long as they are prioritised the state could be said to operate along Capitalist lines (the negation of economic Darwinism need not mean the state is socialist, corporatism or fascism is another alternative). Corporatism and fascism probably offer the worst of all worlds, as the rich stay richer without experiencing a disruptive dynamic that forces innovation and living standards higher for the poor.

    I posted up the excerpt from a Profile of Joseph Schumpeter, where he describes with some foresight that the danger to the capitalist system (by which he means an entrepreunerial and Darwinian system) comes in the first instance from the Corporatist interests of established big busiess and their political cronies and in the second from democracy which he feels will promote socialism (expanded welfare state) as an alternative to taking on powerful vested interests directly..

    http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2009/10/16/capitalism-a-possible-sea-change.aspx

    Schumpeter also believed that free enterprise would collapse under the weight of its own success. Unlike Marx, who warned against a proletariat revolution, Schumpeter believed that a new class of “intellectuals” and “bureaucrats” would bring down the system. He warned that successful businessmen would always try to scheme and plot with politicians in order to ensure the status quo. In a non-political way, Schumpeter argued that democratic majorities, frustrated with corporatism, would vote for the creation of a welfare state and place too many burdens on entrepreneurship that would eventually wreck the structure of capitalism.

  • Brit

    The first and overwhelming objection to the Eastern Bloc “Communist” or “Socialist” states, and those who followed the same path in Asia, Africa or Latin America, is that they were totalitarian, authoritatian, illiberal undemocratic.

    This varied from the extremes of Stalin and Mao to the more moderate oppression of the invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the supression of the East German workers’ uprising. Even in the 80s those states were opressive regimes with horrible secret services organisations, censorship, imprisonment and/or torture for opposition and probhibition of freedom of expression or relgion.

    For these reasons no socialist, from a genuine Marxist to a mixed-economy/Keynesian social democrat, could legitimately support those states or see them as representative of socialism. The collapse of Communism was a liberation. It was also Geoge Galloway’s saddest moment which means it must have been a good thing.

    There are plenty of Capitalist states which are also authoritarian, illiberal and oppressive.

    That said it is clear that command economies totally failed to generate the kind of wealth and growth that classic socialist economics would have expected. For the time being capitalism, for all its institutionalised inequalities and unfair distribution of econcomic political and social goods, is the least bad option. But only when combined with pluralist democracy, human rights and liberal constitutionalism.

    All capitalism is highly regulated and even the most pure of Capitalist economies have a fairly large state which plays an important rule in controlling the economy as well as a system of welfare state which provides a safety net. Most also have Trade Unions. This is far from the model envisaged by Adam Smith.

    It may be that we go move to a post-capitalist mode of production and in the meantime there is lots to argue about as to the type of capitalism we want.

  • Mack

    Or to clarify – the USA is battle ground where there is a fight between real capitalism, what is often described as ‘pure’ capitalism (but is promoted by people who, we have seen in this crisis, are corporatists) and in response to the later, many Americans have lost their faith in the former and there may well be a move towards socialism in the future. How that will play out, I’ve no idea. The USA’s genuine entrepreneurial drive has wrought us all very many benefits..

  • Greenflag

    Mack , thanks for that ‘clarifification’
    To reply to your above by paragraph.

    1)’The USA certainly doesn’ etc

    Not in the 19th century sense but it’s probably the closest to the ‘laissez faire’ ideal in the 21st century .

    2)’But if you contrast capitalism with socialism, etc ‘socialism may improve living standards etc.

    This point is often made by the economic darwinists . As a ‘Darwinist ‘ believer in the natural world order of life -I would take issue with the full application of the principle to economic and political life . Man via his cultural and political development has become an ‘economic’ being with in most cases a sense of fair play . It’s a delicate balance. If one aspect of his ‘being ‘ is exaggerated to the weakening or near destruction of the other aspects then you end up with recent financial history . It’s unclear how much creative destruction any society can take before the ‘gas chambers ‘ or ‘killing fields ‘ are re-enacted as ‘solutions ‘ to the scarce resource problem . We remember Weimar Germany. We now see the rise of ‘authoritarian ‘ capitalism in ‘corporate ‘ format in China and Russia . Corporate ‘capitalism ‘ in an international context has no loyalty to any state entity and will, and has made ‘deals ‘ with any regime out there which will turn a blind eye to the exploitation of any country’s natural resourcs or it’s ‘cheap ‘labour in return for a ‘cut ‘ for a particular national elite .

    3 )’The are a number of characteristics etc

    Well that’s the theory . In the real world because of the close connections between the ‘corporate ‘ sector and the political elite and in particular in the USA – voters might as well vote for ‘corporate ‘ executives to represent them. This is the root cause of the current disenchantment with ‘democracy and capitalism ‘ which we see increasing around the world and not just in the former east european states .

    Many american politicians regardless of party represent ‘corporate ‘ america first and their their ‘constituents ‘ last if at all.

    An examination of the economic history of the past several decades i.e the ramping up period of the modern phase of ‘corporate ‘ capitalism shows that the income of most middle and working class americans has stood still over the past 25 years . Despite huge growth in ‘labour ‘productivity -there has been no commensurate increase in american ‘real ‘ wages . Excluded from this trend is the top 1% of society who have over the same period grabbed an even bigger share of wealth produced -up from 85% in the 1970’s to 95% now . The vast current emisseration of the American middle and working class now underway will further skew those figures -Obama’s reforms notwithstanding . This fact of economic life has been disguised by the mass entrance of women into the workforce since the 1960’s and 70’s , so that now household income (two or more adults working ) is compared ‘favourably’ with one person working fulltime in the USA of the 1970’s. The outsourcing of manufacturing to China and elsewhere over the past two decades combined with the promise of the ‘services ‘ and financial sectors taking up the slack has ‘backfired ‘ and left the next generation of Americans and the one after that either mired in debt or looking at a standard of future living that will compare unfavourably with their parents and grandparents .

    4)Re Schumpeter

    Schumpeter did’nt foresee the use of ‘modern technology ‘ which while seeming to promise a more ‘democratically ‘ accountable future had another side . That side was to be exploited by the corporatist interests both for the worldwide expansion of their businesses and for the vast accumulation of international capital arising therefrom which would and could and has been used to ‘weaken ‘ and disempower any major ‘political opposition ‘ from so called democratic electorates .

    ‘The USA’s genuine entrepreneurial drive has wrought us all very many benefits.’

    I don’t disagree and if ‘capitalism ‘ survives it’s present regression, and evolves to form a less destructive path to a future of basic dignity for ALL of the world’s 8 billion people then I for one would see the present impasse as an unavoidable part of that progress. But no matter how I try I can’t yet ‘admit ‘ to myself that the world ‘economic ‘crisis that we see , is one that could not have been avoided .

    As I write 25,000 (twenty five thousand) dollars a minute are being paid in debt repayments from Sub Saharan Africa to the rich North of the world in a transfer of some 200 billion dollars a year while at the same time a person dies of starvation every 3.6 seconds or 400 human beings since I started to post this reply. As they say life isn’t fair.

  • Greenflag

    There is also the possibility that the ‘system ‘ like all systems which are successful as long as they operate in isolation from the rest of the economic world , may not be viable when applied to the whole economic world at the same time ?. The old ‘fallacy of composition’ syndrome writ large perhaps, except applied to a very small planet with 7 billion people who can only ‘progress ‘ by wanting more and more for ever and ever ?

    While I’ve no desire to throw out baby , bathwater and bath , I’ve noticed that the baby’s arse was not properly cleaned before inserting said brown bottom into the tub . Meanwhile the water has now become so soiled that if baby is not quickly removed two probabilities present themselves . One the baby will as is their wont will use their fingers as lollipop sticks and succumb to faecal illnesses of a sadly terminal kind , and two the bathtub itself will become so soiled that a replacement will be required .

    Economic humourists may wish to add that it’s probably better to have free market capitalism in such an instance as no doubt a new bathtub will be supplied quickly . Whereas if a babybath is ordered under ‘communism ‘ said baby is likely to have to be washed in a snow mobile 😉

    I remain a sceptical and unconvinced observer as to the evolutionary prospects for global worldwide capitalism in it’s current ‘corporatist ‘ format and remain distinctly down beat on the possibilities a=of any radical new departure .

  • Greenflag

    Brit ,

    ‘For the time being capitalism, for all its institutionalised inequalities and unfair distribution of economic political and social goods, is the least bad option. But only when combined with pluralist democracy, human rights and liberal constitutionalism.’

    Tell that to the corporate capitalists of emerging China and they’ll be quick to tell you that your second sentence above is ‘irrelevant ‘ for the ‘needs’ of China in the 21st century .

    I’ll accept that it’s the least bad option but in it’s corporate format it seems to me to have come to the end of that particular evolutionary cul de sac .

  • Mack

    Greenflag –

    Despite huge growth in ‘labour ‘productivity -there has been no commensurate increase in american ‘real ’ wages

    I’ve come across this quite a bit, and seen it debunked quite a bit too (for the USA). It should be relatively obvious though, that ‘real’ wealth has increased in the USA – in the technology area computers, mobile phones, the internet – didn’t even exist, and most other consumer goods have improved significantly. The price of a car relative to income maybe the same, but it’s a better car.

    Ronan Lyons has a good piece on Irish inflation –

    http://www.ronanlyons.com/2009/11/03/who-cares-about-measuring-inflation-correctly-taxpayers-should/

  • Brit

    “Tell that to the corporate capitalists of emerging China and they’ll be quick to tell you that your second sentence above is ‘irrelevant ’ for the ‘needs’ of China in the 21st century .”

    Irrelevant maybe to the corporate capitalists but not to the Falun Gong, Tibetans or Christians.

  • Greenflag

    Mack ,

    ‘ I’ve come across this quite a bit, and seen it debunked quite a bit too (for the USA).’

    So have I but on my visits to the USA in recent years I trust my eyes and ears rather than the outpourings of research institutes and think tanks of either the left or right . I recall on my visit to the USSR a little over two deacdes ago how ‘splendid ‘ everything was and how wonderful the USSR was in all and every aspect of daily life from the production of millions of washing machines to the cleanliness of the Moscow underground . A break from the ‘official’ tour and open discussions with ordinary Russians told me a very different tale indeed . A oouple of years later reality caught up with my eyesight;)If you believe as I that many of our western academicians and political representatives and corporate CEO’s have lost contact with the real world of ordinary citizens as they ‘ignore’ all around them , I can assure you they have the same clairvoyant capabilities of their Soviet predecessors 🙁

    ‘It should be relatively obvious though, that ‘real’ wealth has increased in the USA – in the technology area computers, mobile phones, the internet – didn’t even exist, and most other consumer goods have improved significantly’

    Mack – I have a lot of respect for your inputs on current issues but I suspect you have a great deal more intelligence than the average ‘magpie’ and would not allow a few extra shiny baubles manufactured in Asia or baby clothes produced in Pakistan to divert your focus from the main issues which confront many countries in the west today . Those issues (USA ) are mass unemployment , the out of control health care costs , the outsourcing of almost the entire US manufacturing base and it’s replacement by financial services con men and bankers who believe /believed , that not only had they a right to use your deposits to gamble away on the World Property Monopoly table but that you should reward them hugely if they are lucky and make a profit, and reward them with taxpayers monies if they ahem suffer a loss ? How much ‘corporate’ capitalism can the world afford before the balloon goes up ?

    Now I understand all the reasons why they were bailed out this time . And though you might think the bastards would have learned their lesson ? Not a bit of it . Goldman Sachs is already at it again as are other financial institutions . The reform regulations are still on the backburner as Obama tries to fend off the attempts of ‘private enterprise ‘ healthcare insurance to emasculate any reforms to the point where they will not impinge on ‘profits ‘ . Despite Obama’s effort at reform the corporate interests care not a jot for the ‘patients ‘ and would continue to slavver over a 40% share of GDP for the health sector if they could get away with . They just might 🙁

    In Ireland at least in respect of the health care issue we don’t commit a million people a year to claim bankruptcy because of medical operation costs .

  • Greenflag

    Brit ,

    ‘Irrelevant maybe to the corporate capitalists but not to the Falun Gong, Tibetans or Christians. ‘

    True but it doesn’t stop our ‘authoritarian capitalists ‘ from executing opponents or imprisoning those who oppose the top down solution from the Party of the People ? You wil ll have noticed the world wide protests of the ‘corporatist ‘ economies as they cut off trade relations with Beijing, and recalled their ambassadors and cut off FDI etc etc . And if you noticed all of that then you’ll also know that I’m a fully paid up member of the TUV ;(

    Dave’s ‘free market ‘ is a load of ould cobblers . In the corporate global world it’s the biggest dogs versus the ‘rest’. The rest includes everybody else excluding perhaps some of the political elite in key states with access to scarce resources.

  • 6countyprod

    Isn’t it interesting that one of the most important players in this whole saga has been ignored by the media.

    Want a clue?

    Who said, ‘Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!’?

  • Greenflag

    6 county prod,

    ‘Who said, ‘Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!’? ‘

    Here’s another clue .

    Was it the same man who said to the neo conservative bankers and right wing nut jobs of America in 1980 that he taking off the muzzles that had restrained their ambitions since the 1970’s, and he knew he could trust them not to create the Savings & Loan debacle and not to set the USA on a borrowing binge that would lead to quadrupling of American debt within 20 years .

    I used to think the Spitting Image take on the Gipper was a bit overdone . Not any more . As both USA and UK face into the longest recession since the 1930’s we see it’s origin in the hare brained ideology of the Chicago School of Economics . Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan’s belated apology for being so naive as to believe that ‘bankers ‘ and the investment community would not allow their personal greed to bring the roof in on the american and world economies , just proves that no matter how expert the experts if they don’t understand human nature all the mathematical wizardry on the chalkboard or detailed 400 page analytical tomes will be for naught .

  • 6countyprod

    Maybe a word on Ronald Reagan from Lech Walesa, the electrician from Poland who became the Polish President and Nobel Peace prize winner, is sufficient to answer Greenflag’s left-wing rant:

    Walesa: When talking about Ronald Reagan, I have to be personal. We in Poland took him so personally. Why? Because we owe him our liberty. This can’t be said often enough by people who lived under oppression for half a century, until communism fell in 1989.

    Poles fought for their freedom for so many years that they hold in special esteem those who backed them in their struggle. Support was the test of friendship. President Reagan was such a friend. His policy of aiding democratic movements in Central and Eastern Europe in the dark days of the Cold War meant a lot to us. We knew he believed in a few simple principles such as human rights, democracy and civil society. He was someone who was convinced that the citizen is not for the state, but vice-versa, and that freedom is an innate right.

    I often wondered why Ronald Reagan did this, taking the risks he did, in supporting us at Solidarity, as well as dissident movements in other countries behind the Iron Curtain, while pushing a defense buildup that pushed the Soviet economy over the brink. Let’s remember that it was a time of recession in the U.S. and a time when the American public was more interested in their own domestic affairs. It took a leader with a vision to convince them that there are greater things worth fighting for.

    …I distinguish between two kinds of politicians. There are those who view politics as a tactical game, a game in which they do not reveal any individuality, in which they lose their own face.

    There are, however, leaders for whom politics is a means of defending and furthering values. For them, it is a moral pursuit. They do so because the values they cherish are endangered. They’re convinced that there are values worth living for, and even values worth dying for. Otherwise they would consider their life and work pointless. Only such politicians are great politicians and Ronald Reagan was one of them.

    …Now, from the perspective of our time, it is obvious that like the pieces of a global chain of events, Ronald Reagan, John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher and even Mikhail Gorbachev helped bring about this new age in Europe.

    …In the Europe of the 1980s, Ronald Reagan presented a vision. For us in Central and Eastern Europe, that meant freedom from the Soviets. Mr. Reagan was no ostrich who hoped that problems might just go away. He thought that problems are there to be faced. This is exactly what he did.

    Read it all!

  • Mack

    It’s easy, in a period of depression to look back and see only failure. Easy to forget that America was a basket case by the end of the 1970’s and that it was transformed by Regan, Volcker and (especially) Friedman. Morning in America was soon followed by lunch, dinner and finally too much drink around supper and as the sun sets on an era marred at the end by debuachery, the debris of once hubristic financial monuments to success now clearly demarking delusion and failure (look on our works, ye mighty and despair), it’s easy to forget that in sun set just as violently on the previous era and the ideas of the now ressurected John Maynard Keynes.

    This generation took the ideas of Milton Friedman and tested them were they worked well, and gradually extended them, testing them in the extreme, well beyond their point of failure. Just as the previous generation had done with Keynes. While America had a golden 1960’s the 1970’s were an era of massive government, high taxes and runaway inflation. Friedman rightsized government, cut taxes and got monetary policy right controlling inflation (there’s a reason it’s called monetarism ;-)) leading to a golden 1980’s. We had a touch of the problems associated with ultra-free-marketeering come the late 80’s with the Savings and Loans crises – something that should have been learned from, and Greenspan was no Paul Volcker – a hard man of the Fed, capable of politically tough decisions to reduce the money supply to control inflation when needed. Quite the opposite, Greenspan added punch to the bowl when things got tough.

    My point is there are lessons to be learnt here, but they’re not neccessarily the rejection of Friedman and all his works, just as the previous generation were wrong to ditch Keynesian economics in there entirety..

  • Greenflag

    6 county prod.

    To quote your quote

    ‘ Let’s remember that it was a time of recession in the U.S. and a time when the American public was more interested in their own domestic affairs. It took a leader with a vision to convince them that there are greater things worth fighting for. ‘

    Or a leader who had been President for almost two terms and had left the US economy in recession and whose economic policies had sent millions of american jobs overseas and who needed to restore his image with a ‘visionary ‘ speech ? The Wall fell not because of Reagan’s speech but because of the inherent contradictions between the so called worker’s democracy as printed in communist propaganda and the actual daily lives of the East German , Russian and Polish people etc.

    Ronald Reagan did not send his army or his nuclear weapons across the Polish frontier and both he and the world were fortunate that it was Mr Gorbachev and not Mr Andropov who had his fingers on the nuclear button on the other side of the wall.

    We will never know what would have happened in 1989 had the Soviet Army ‘re-invaded ‘ Poland and East Germany and Czechoslovakia . Had Mr Reagan been still in power I think it’s a fairly safe bet that self saving speeches is all that East Germans and Poles would have heard from the West .
    For the billion or so people living in Europe at that time from Galway Bay to the Urals and from Sicily to Trondheim anything other than speeches would have led to nuclear armageddon. We forget that there had been a few near misses both before and since those times .

    No I’ll give the major credit for tearing down the Berlin Wall to the East Berliners and East Germans, and to the Poles and others for tearing down the Iron Curtain.

    And I’ll give credit to Ronnie Reagan for talking a good talk knowing that he would’nt have to walk the walk .

  • 6countyprod

    I reckon that the words of Lech Valesa, who was delivered from the oppression of communism by the likes of Reagan, carry a little more weight than the fumings of an anonymous, left-wing, hankering-for-the-good-old-days poster on Slugger O’Toole.

  • Greenflag

    6 county prod ,

    As an anonymous non left wing nor right wing and non hankering for the good old days poster on Slugger I agree with your comment above . Who then are you referring to ?

  • Greenflag

    mack ,

    Your post 24 above on Nov 11, 2009 @ 10:32 is a good overall summary and I don’t disagree with your points other than maybe some emphasis .

    ‘Easy to forget that America was a basket case by the end of the 1970’s and that it was transformed by Regan, Volcker and (especially) Friedman. ‘

    Basket case may be too strong a word . Trapped by stagflation yes . Moving into a debt cycle that only climaxed in the first decade of the 21st century -yes . Political lack of confidence following defeat in Vietnam -yes . Basket case -NO .

    ‘it’s easy to forget that in sun set just as violently on the previous era and the ideas of the now ressurected John Maynard Keynes.’

    I had’nt forgotten and your point is well made .The lessons of the Savings & Loan debacle were long forgotten by the time the second President Bush came to office . The lessons of this crisis seem already to have been forgotten by Goldman Sachs , Bank of America and AIG . And closer to home our own political servants and their highly paid and unionised public sector .

    ‘My point is there are lessons to be learnt here, but they’re not neccessarily the rejection of Friedman and all his works, just as the previous generation were wrong to ditch Keynesian economics in their entirety’

    Keynesian economics were never ditched in their entirety and neither will Friedman’s contribution. However when purist economic theory be it of the left or right confronts the harsh realities of the real economic and political world in which people live and and actually fails to address /resolve those issues then the dogma is ‘ditched ‘ and a new ‘elixir ‘ is followed. Not always peacefully as we see from the histories of Russia etc

    But I’d suggest that today’s world is so very different from that of the mid 1970’s or even mid 1980’s that a simple return to Keynesianism while it may provide short term ‘relief ‘ will probably NOT restore western economies to a path of strong economc growth .

    As you put it yourself the ‘creative destruction’ set off by the worldwide expansion of ‘capitalism’ and in particular it’s authoritarian single party form are chickens which have yet to come home to roost .