Distance of time or place can reconcile complacent minds to wonderful narratives. Besides, the greatest part of mankind has no other reason for their opinion than they are in fashion.
The man involved in life is sometimes forced to believe without verification, and obliged to choose before he can examine. He is surprised by sudden alterations of the state of things, and changes his mind according to superficial appearances. He is led by others, either because he is indolent, or because he is timid; sometimes he is afraid to know what is right, and sometimes he finds friends or enemies deft and diligent in deceiving him.
For what we may see before our eyes, or reaches our ears at any given moment, is inexplicable without reference to all that has ever been. This interlacing of all contributing threads which necessity weaves into the production of one single phenomenon is a stupefying yet inescapable reality.
Adding to the preceding tribute to obviousness, we are generally delighted with soothing explanations, captivating plots and triumphal outcomes.
A case in point is/are/have been the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A historical event closely followed by the end of Soviet Russia and by the beginning of the end of history, under the soothing protection of the neo-liberal, turbo-capitalistic American-Zionist world empire.
In his related pronouncement, Pompeo, the US secretary of state, linked the collapse of the Berlin wall to America’s victories in the War of Independence and in World War II.
That Pompeo has only a conjectural glimpse of his own meaning, with an added signal talent for ignorance and mendacity, does not diminish the significance of his imaginative historical connections. For they reflect the inner thoughts of the current and eminently parasitic American elite.
Nevertheless, Pompeo’s founding mythology stinks, and more sober minds may realize that the celebrated anniversary was not the beginning of something new, but the last gasp of a (Western) dying system – killed by the disappearance of an enemy who indirectly managed to contain that system’s folly.
It may be heretic to say that the Berlin Wall was as much a Western as a Soviet symbol. And in the current currents of the world it may not really matter, considering that – if polls are true – 95% of the tourists approaching the remnants of the wall know nothing about it. While the rest knows history through the improbable fiction of Hollywood, in which bad communists built the wall to prevent people from escaping into the arms of good capitalists.
I can resist anything but temptation, including the examination of both sides of a coin, especially when most only look at one, and when looking at the other borders with thought-crime.
Readers may remember that, in a masterpiece of gullibility (for a statesman), Gorbachev agreed to the re-unification of Germany, while believing the Americans when they committed themselves – in exchange – not to expand NATO towards the East. We know how it went. Tanks, missiles, American bases and soldiers are within yards of the Russian border. Meanwhile, at the time and in a feat of consummate servility, Gorbachev even appeared in a TV advertisement, blessing the onslaught and the onrush of the Pizza Hut franchise in the Moscow landscape.
In terms of similarly broken promises, and to give a historical setting to the fall of the Berlin wall, we should refer to the aftermath of WWII.
The agreements of Yalta and Potsdam, among the victors, envisioned a Germany jointly administered by ALL the allies. Instead, the Western Allies created West Germany, and East Germany was born as a consequence.
That imagination is strained, which attempts to recreate the conditions of Germany (and Russia) after the war, following the destruction of everything and the death of millions of civilians and soldiers.
The black and white pictures showing the total erasure of magnificent, artistic and historic German cities, – notably by US-UK bombs and bombers – only marginally can convey the depth of the impact, physical, historic and political. In the videos “The Destruction of Dresden” of my series ‘Historical Sketches’ [ https://youtu.be/_V8aV5l5f9k ], I attempted to show the horror, so well described and documented by David Irving in his book “The Destruction of Dresden.” A city where, just before the end of the war, and with the Russians at less than 80 km, the Allies conducted three non-stop carpet bombing raids resulting in the death of 135,000 civilians, almost as many as at Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
Nor we should forget the diabolic US finance-secretary Morgenthau, who convinced Roosevelt and Churchill to sign on and underwrite his “Morgenthau Plan.” Which literally included “reducing Germany to the stone-age”, when not sterilizing all Germans according to the book “Germany Must Perish” written by Theodore Kaufman. The plan was only scrapped at the last moment out of fear that all Germany would rise and join the Eastern block.
Furthermore, as all know who are not blinded by Hollywood propaganda, the USSR bore the brunt, the weight and the cost of victory. In fact, as per the agreements at Yalta, the USSR army stopped its advance at Berlin, though the Americans were still far away. And even a cursory review of the salient events of the war in 1944-1945 shows how much the Western Allies struggled to reach the German soil.
Whereas in the continental US the only direct victim of the war was a young man who tampered with an unexploded bomb, which the Japanese floated across the Pacific with air-balloons, and that eventually landed in an Oregon forest. In contrast and as we know, Russians and Germans died by the tens of millions.
Following the installation of President Truman, and in the midst of a suddenly arisen ‘red-scare’, the Yalta and Postdam agreements went the way of all flesh. While in the US, after the manufacturing fever triggered by the war machine, the government feared a recession mimicking that of the 1930s. Hence the US invested heavily in the reconstruction of Europe, and notably Germany.
But it was imperative to exclude the Russians. To do so, a new currency was created and mostly printed in America – the new Mark, replacing the current Reichmark, used since the Weimar Republic and until then in force throughout Germany in all its occupied zones. This happened in 1948.
The new Mark, the new currency of West Germany was assigned 4.7 times the value of the Reichmark. Consequently salaries and retributions in the Western occupied areas were at least 3-times higher compared to those in the USSR sector.
The USSR could not duplicate the feat, even if she had had a currency of universal reference as the dollar.
As an aside and in this context, Churchill, who wanted the war for fear of losing the British empire, lost the empire and gifted to the US dollar the strength that was formerly of the British pound. And, as a mockery to the British people at large, their food was rationed until 1954, well after food-rations disappeared from other vanquished continental countries. We could almost paraphrase Churchill himself, …. “Such victory, such war!”
Back to post-war Germany. The introduction of the new West German currency marks both the official beginning of the Cold War and of the Germans’ exodus from East to West – the latter branded as a demonstration of a Communist ideological failure. Whereas, until that moment, the flow is reported to have been – somewhat embarrassingly – from West to East.
The US’ decision, in 1948, to create two currencies and by default two Germanies, eventually led to the erection of the wall, 13 years later, in 1961.
The German people did not seek the original division. Consequently, their desire for re-unification, independently of politics and currencies, was patriotic and beyond question.
Economically, however, the act of unification coincided with a monetary and monumental sleigh of hands – similar in concept, scope and consequences to what happened in 1948. It involved – within months of the fall of the wall – assigning to the Eastern Reichmark the same value of the Western Mark.
“Wonderful” was (is and would probably be) the ecstatic reaction of any man of any street on knowing that his income will instantly triple at the stroke of midnight – as in an updated version of Cinderella’s tale. Besides, German Chancellor Kohl himself had dispelled any potential doubts, by assuring that all would benefit and none would suffer.
Fairy tales are irresistible, especially when spun by authorities or experts. And the distillate of the masses’ thought (assuming it exists) is often thoughtlessness. Not, I think, because the masses are stupid, but because, in the instance, they (the East Germans) were made to believe, by relentless Western psychological conditioning, that they were desperate. And the man who languishes in the gloom of misery cannot suspect fraud in him who wants to help him so seemingly disinterestedly. Especially when fancy propaganda peddles the opium of unsubstantiated hopes.
Readers may remember the aphorism circulating in Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, “All that the Russian government told us about Russia was false, but all they said about America was true.”
Which, incidentally, should remind us that the excellence of aphorisms consists not so much in the elucidation of some rare or abstruse concept, as in the comprehension of some useful truths in a few words. For we easily forget or frequently fall into error of judgment or action not because the true related principles are not known, but because, for a time, they are not remembered. Therefore those may be justly numbered among the benefactors of mankind, who can contract the complex dynamics of history into short sentences that may be easily impressed on the memory, and taught, by frequent recollection, to recur habitually to the mind.
Still, after waking up from the dream of tripling his income, the East German citizen saw that the cost of goods had equally risen 3 times. And, worse, the goods that he until then produced with his labor at competitive prices, had suddenly become uncompetitive, hence unsalable.
Though the following is but a scant and incomplete rendition of the related events, it may, I hope, give an idea of their actual dynamics – confirming once more that official chronicles are often pure instruments of falsification and opportunistic narrative.
When there were two Germanies, East Germany exported her goods using an exchange rate set at 1 WM = 4.4 EM.
On midnight of Jun 30, 1990, each East German mark became one West German mark, but all East German goods simultaneously increased in price by 350%. No economy could survive this. Saying so was even the president of the BundesBank in 1993, during a public inquiry on the shady affairs surrounding the maxi-privatization of East Germany’s previously state-owned enterprises.
Within two years the Gross National Product of the now unified East Germany had fallen by 45% – a historical record for any country not involved in war. Why?
Like all states, East Germany had an internal and an export market. The majority of exports went to West Germany, followed by the countries of the Eastern block and others. He who writes here remembers, in his first job, landing in the Iraq of Saddam Hussein and the Baath party, during Baghdad’s International Fair. Banners in Baghdad’s central square proclaimed the strong friendship and economic cooperation between Iraq and East Germany. And a large impressive array of East German industrial machinery and other products were prominently featured at the fair.
After July 1, 1990 East Germany’s export markets were lost in a matter of weeks, while West German goods flooded East Germany displacing local products suddenly become uncompetitive. As I have read, the combined export volume of a now unified Germany was, for several year after the unification, less than when East and West Germany exported independently.
The effects on the East German population were appalling and dramatic, though foreseeable. Beginning with massive unemployment, especially considering that, according to the previous East German constitution, unemployment was actually forbidden.
One expected consequence was the massive migration from East to West that has continued to this day. 4 million moved from East to West, 1.5 million moved from West to East, primarily to assume positions of responsibility in government, education and bureaucracy and/or to take ownership of homes expropriated from the previous East German government.
Many of the Germans moving to the West were women. In East Germany they had a series of social benefits that in today’s neo-liberal world conditions and mood may almost appear as science-fiction. To quote one, following the birth of a child the mother could be exempt from work for three years while still being paid.
Under the newly developed situation, the East German birth rate dropped dramatically. The previous birth rate was not high, either in East or West Germany, less than the replacement rate, said to be 2.1 children per couple. Even so, prior to unification, the East German birth rate was still higher (1.7) than in West Germany. Within a few years the birth rate in the East fell to 0.80 per couple, while longevity fell by 7 years.
Another consequence was the depopulation of cities. Many industrial cities lost from 20 to 30% of inhabitants. Even today, after the mass migration to the West, an East German has twice the chance of being unemployed than a West German, and if he works he earns 75% of his Western counterpart.
Why was such a seemingly logical turn of events not anticipated? Being able to answer concisely and accurately is beyond me and perhaps beyond many. Maybe it was thought that the magic world of the unregulated market would take care of everything. Adam Smith comes to mind with his belief in the invisible hand of the market.
There is a cause for every effect and when the cause is embarrassing another can be easily invented. In the instance, the proclaimed line was that East German products were erroneously believed to be better than they actually were. Consequently, when East Germany was compelled to compete, catastrophe was inevitable.
Here again I have a minor anecdotal recollection that would seem to dispel that notion – other than the already mentioned range, scope and appearance of the East German products I had observed at the Baghdad Fair. Besides, East Germany had been the most industrialized and advanced nation in the Eastern block.
As an International Marketing Manager (read ‘travelling salesman’) I attended twice the International Leipzig Fair, both to demonstrate my employer’s products (electronic instrumentation) and to establish commercial ties within the framework of what was possible before the unification.
It is common for fathers of young boys to develop a sudden interest in toy-trains. Finding myself in similar circumstances, I once visited a toy-train shop in Leipzig and was impressed by the beauty, the precision in details and finish, and the sturdiness of the products on sale.
Another ignored or forgotten aspect of the unification was the method used to expropriate and privatize the East German and previously state-owned companies (the overwhelming majority).
The thousands of industries to be privatized were assigned or incorporated into a new temporary collective organization, called Treuhandanstalt (‘Trust Agency’). The assessed value of the whole (30 years ago) was 600 billion West German marks.
By reading the accounts of the Treuhandanstalt operations – that even led to the public inquiry referred-to earlier on – the criteria of privatization were often bizarre, arbitrary and incomprehensible. Sometimes companies employing up to 4000 workers were sold for 1 Mark with added financial incentives for the private buyer to ‘restructure’ the company and maintain the employment level.
Sometimes companies were sold to fraudsters, shysters and criminals, who simply ransacked the ransack-able, sold it and went their own way. The numbers tell the tale.. Workers originally employed by the companies incorporated into the Treuhandanstalt were 4-million. At the end of the privatizing operation the number of the still employed were 100,000. And the Treuhandanstalt spent a further 256 billion marks in financial incentives to buyers.
Among the less known benefits of the re-unification were, for example, the lack of recognition of education titles and qualifications acquired in the former East Germany. This led to the massive replacement of Eastern with Western academics. A similar development occurred in the army, bureaucracy and justice.
Many who lost their job or despaired of regaining their earlier social status committed suicide, and in the aftermath of the unification, in the former East Germany, the average life expectancy fell by 7 years.
Given the above, the jubilations spawned by the fall-of-the-wall anniversary, are reminiscent of the recurrent comical character in literature, who severs the tree-branch on which is sitting.
For in1989 turbo-capitalism overflowed the metaphorical banks that contained it, and gave free reign to what the Latin poet Virgil called the “accursed hunger for gold” (Auri Sacra Fames) of the dominant class. Unleashing on the world the limitless, borderless, nationless merchants of the capitalistic Apocalypse, with its inevitable tail of blood, rapine and endless wars. Leading to the somber conclusion that worse than a world divided into two blocks was what came next – a globally imposed value-system that seized, with fictitious claims, the prerogatives of unavoidability and therefore excellence. Suggesting the image of a world converted into a Plato’s cave of gigantic proportions, which to its dwellers appears as the only possible reality, for they cannot imagine the existence of another world outside.
All the while, turbo-capitalism prospers under a continual series of hypocrisies, concealing bad qualities under fair appearances. And when it thinks itself out of reach of censure or retaliation it breaks out of all restraints, like winds imprisoned in their caverns.
Assuming but not given that the reader has read so far, I wish to dispel the idea that by describing the mostly unspoken story of the German re-unification, I am a Marxist or crypto-communist. For objective truth needs no labels. Especially when persistent lying reinforces the evil that the lie was supposed to hide. The result is a globalized world where a global Ministry of Truth is the monopolistic distributor of fake news, directly, indirectly, through image manipulation and even suggestions.
Instances are plentiful but one is particularly representative of the whole. Among the introductory images of RT’s program Cross-Talk, viewers see the statue of Saddam Hussein being roped and crushed to the ground in Baghdad. When this occurred, American corporate media’s message was that masses of Iraqis celebrated their new American-brought freedom by venting their anger against the statue of the evil dictator.
But an undoctored video of the event shows that, employed in taking down the statue, were about 20 workers, protected, all around the perimeter, by a ring of American soldiers.
I hope the reader will forgive one final auto-biographical recollection. I travelled in East and West Germany, East and West Berlin and Russia when I was young. With the necessary changes due to temper, history, character and circumstances, I saw the surroundings in a mood similar to that of the poet William Wordsworth, when he travelled to Paris at the onset of the French Revolution,
“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!—Oh! times,\
In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways
Of custom, law, and statute, took at once
The attraction of a country in romance!”
Way beyond ideology, East Berlin, East Germany, Eastern Europe, Russia herself had “the attraction of a country in romance.” East Berlin’s Alexander Platz seemed to me an enormous and yet harmonious modern architectural wonder. With a gigantic stone-king – the TV tower – hovering over the symmetrical buildings around the square. In turn, the buildings framed the clear, clean, wide and huge middle, as in a silent apology of grandeur, openness and elegance.
I did not see Alexander Platz as an emblem of Communism or of any ideology, only perhaps the symbol of a determination by the German people to resist the evil of their traditional and historical enemies.
I returned to Berlin last June. In the Alexander Platz, the TV tower is now hemmed-in into a corner. Replacing and filling the former elegant and awe-inspiring vastness of the square are sundry un-coordinated structures, whose seeming only common purpose and reason for existence is profit. To me they replaced the creative previous originality of the square with the uninspiring conformism of insignificance.
So what? – may ask a neo-liberal-minded objector. Nothing of course, but profit, or its metaphorical representative, gold, will make black white, foul fair, wrong right, base noble, old young and coward valiant (1). A truth that, in my view, equally applies to the official tale of the fall of the Berlin wall.
*** (1) Timon of Athens