Shakespeare, Truth & the Berlin Wall

Angela Merkel as a communisat youth leader of the DDR just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Illustration of sonnet lines, When forty winters shall besiege thy brow, And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field...“When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field….”

These lines from the famous Sonnet may come to mind when looking at the picture of the young lady, talking on a portable phone, the size and cumbersomeness of which betray the age when it was used and the photo taken.

Should you have not recognized her, the young lady in question is none-the-less than Angela Merkel, a few months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. She was captured while attending a meeting of the “Freie Deutsche Jugend”, (Free German Youth), the Youth Communist Organization in East Germany, where Merkel was born, raised and educated.

It would be impolite to point out the effect of 25 years on external appearances. But time, the ceaseless lackey of eternity, is a communist, and does not discriminate between the one and the ninety-nine percent.

During the celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall the same Angela Merkel said, “The issue was to regain freedom. It was about the freedom a person needs to be human.”

Some have called the event, the realization of a dream. In reality, the tearing of that diaphragm – much more permeable than what the Western regime media conveyed – signaled the actual end of two different dreams, as an Italian writer pointed out. Namely, the end of the communist dream (Soviet style) and the end of “capitalism with a human face”.

Today, Berlin is divided between two nostalgias – of the DDR and of the idealized West, when the wall still existed.

It should be no surprise that, in a poll conducted by USA-Today, 10 years after the re-unification of Germany, 51% of East Germans preferred life in the DDR. And if we remove from the statistics those aged less than 25 when the wall fell, the percentage is about 75%. A further 10 years later, the regime media does not report current polls. It just says that West Berliners are tired of the East Germans who have nostalgia of the old regime.

Which proves the wisdom of the adage that most of what the communists said about communism is false, but all that the communists said about capitalism is true.

As usual, there is a chasm between what really happened when the Berlin Wall fell and what was (is) reported by the regime media. The end result may be the same, but knowing the truth may give history a different color.

It has been endlessly repeated that the enemy surrendered because the Soviet Union was afraid of Reagan’s “star wars”. This is false. The Soviet Union had advanced technology, notably in the laser field. Rather, the Soviet Union had lost the “propelling force”, as a Western leftist leader said. It had lost its way. Instead of creating a new world, it had established a type of an inward-looking regime economy. Economy pragmatically established after the 1917 revolution, but crystallized, more or less after Khrushchev, and without evolution.

As for the wall, it is widely believed that East Berliners tore it down, against the will of the passive authorities. It was in fact Gorbachev who announced the dismantling of the wall on Nov 8, 1989 in a speech given to the West German Parliament. The decision had been reached in Moscow one year earlier, for reasons too long to go into here.

Gorbachev had organized an official ceremony featuring a pickaxe delivering the first blow to the wall. It was a logistical glitch that delayed the ceremony. The impression was therefore left that the fall of the Berlin Wall was a mythical act of liberation conducted by thousands of people, in defiance of the authorities, and not that of a crowd gathered to receive Gorbachev in front of the soon-to-be-lifted iron curtain.

The second impression (and myth) is that West Germany was “generous” – meaning that her own resources were employed to help the fellow East Germans to become re-united. A symbolic image corroborates that notion – East Germans flocking to West German banks to convert their first 100 East German marks into their first 100 West German marks. And since the E German mark was worth 30% less than the W German mark at the exchange, it was as if, overnight, the wealth of the East Germans had increased by 30%, at the expense of the West Germans.

All this, incidentally, had been planned months in advance. In reality, East Germany was subjected to a shock therapy from which it has not yet recovered. How? Let us see. I am simplifying but the core information is correct.

It happens that the East Germans were not only consumers but also producers. West Germany, with a stroke of the pen, decided that next day, the East German mark was worth the same as the West German. In turn, this made the goods produced in East Germany 350% more expensive than the day before. Immediately East German products could no longer be sold due to their price. ALL factories needed liquidity (cash) to just remain open.

Not only they lacked cash, but with the re-evaluation they lost three markets,

  • The Eastern European Market
  • The West German market (over 30% of the total),
  • The Internal market.

The answer to the catastrophe was deemed to be privatization. The West German government formed a structure under whose jurisdiction came all the productive capacity and companies of East Germany (owned by the state). This included 8500 large companies, 20 thousand smaller companies, the mines, the forests, 8500 hotels and restaurants, 1800 pharmacies and 900 book-shops.

Privatization was conducted en-masse  and without auctions – the veritable garage sale of a nation. Companies were bought by friends and cronies for pennies on the dollar, and often for one dollar.

As a result of the privatization, 4 million East Germans became unemployed, 4.5 million people (out of 19 million) moved to the West, twice as many as had emigrated before the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961. Accompanying the migration came the fall of the birth-rate, with numbers comparable to the 30-year war (1618-1648) and to 1915, when all men were at war.

When approximately ¼ out of a population of 19 million leaves a country, the effect is visible. Paradoxically, so many houses became empty that they had to be demolished to prevent the housing market from collapsing.

Ever since re-unification the migration from East to West has never stopped.

There is no room here for a thorough documentation, but the conditions applied to re-unification of the two Germanies are now mirrored in the conditions of the countries in Southern Europe.

The myth is, for example, that the Greeks became fat while the Germans were lean and now the Greeks pay the price for their obesity. Anyone who has visited both Greece and Germany (and knows the general working conditions and employment market in Greece), will find the image of a fat Greek and a malnourished German strongly amusing.

In reality, conditions have been created whereby the only way to live with a common currency (the Euro) is to reduce the cost of labor and dramatically shrink or abolish the so-called safety-net, which was a European conquest after WW2, as well as a counterbalance to the fear of a Socialist revolution.

The general idea is that by causing the majority of the people of a country to suffer, the sufferers actually receive a benefit. A concept similar to the program of the neo-cons. They define as “tough love” the abolition of subsidies to the poor – when the poor cannot find living-wage jobs due to de-mobilization of industries (see Detroit, for example).

Let’s leave the economy and look at German and European society at large, after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  That is, let us look at the “…freedom a person needs to be human” to quote Merkel again.

When it comes to freedom from surveillance and repression, the power of surveillance agencies by now equals, or maybe exceeds the power of the STASI of old, usually cited as a reference. And in Eastern Europe, now blessed with freedom, history is re-written, myths are born and monuments raised to glorify very undemocratic rulers such as Pidulski in Poland, Horthy in Hungary, when not actual Nazis as Bandera in Ukraine.

As for standards of living, in East Germany one out of five residents lives below the poverty line, fixed at about 1000 $ per month.  In neighboring Poland and the Czech Republic, the average hourly wage is less than a third of Germany’s, and in Bulgaria and Romania, less than one-sixth. Unemployment is massive, especially among the young – and all this while the previously existing “safety-nets” are eroded or eliminated.

As for “militarization” (Orwellianly called peace), Germany has joined the “coalition of the willing” to treat Russia as an enemy and militarily act accordingly. In the East, Yeltsin (Russia), Walesa (Poland) and Havel (Czech Republic) replaced the Communist bureaucracy with the dictatorship of the international capital. And having successfully destroyed (most of the) industrial capacity, they successfully won a class struggle in reverse.

In this context, the growing militarism is a repeat of the past. The onepercenters respond to crisis conditions by militarizing the state and attacking social rights gained after immense struggle – while enriching themselves in a measure that would fill with envy the most rapacious of the feudal lords of old.

It has been said that a serious and impartial retrospect of our conduct is indisputably necessary for the recovery of virtue. Similarly, a serious and impartial analysis of neo-liberal extreme economics is necessary, if not to recover sanity, at least to devise remedies.

For the gradual growth of wickedness, endeared by interest and palliated by all the artifices of deceit, gives time to well-foraged economists and social engineers to form distinctions in their own favor. Reason, then, by degrees submits to absurdity, as the eye in time accommodates to darkness.

Neo-liberal economics, implemented at the highest levels almost as a religion, are a disease of the collective soul, similar to a cancer that will stop at nothing until it consumes itself, after destroying everything in its path.

A coalescence of power, will and appetite, as in Shakespeare’s lines,

“… Then every thing includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite;
And appetite, an universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce an universal prey,
And last eat up himself.” (Troilus and Cressida)

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