November 10th, 2009

The Fall of the Wall

photo credit: ruishidalong

Yesterday marked two decades since the Berlin Wall came crashing down. As a visual representation of the larger “Iron Curtain”, Berlin’s wall served as a symbol of the separation of and forced isolation by the Eastern Bloc. In the minds of people throughout the world, its slow and eventual removal was not only a restoration of important freedoms, but a significant step in the eradication of Communism.

In this historical and monumental event we find an example of the power of symbolic representation. Many people equated (and still equate) such physical barriers with the tyrannical impositions of communist countries; since the walls are no more, then Communism must no longer be a threat, right?


Leaving aside the obvious examples of countries who currently have forms of government that embrace the ideology and structure of Communism (China, Cuba, etc.), we must ask: did Communism die out when the Berlin Wall fell? And are physical barriers the correct point of reference for evaluating the existence of this nefarious political philosophy?

To answer this question, it is important to understand the difference between Communism (big C) and communism (little c). A country need not have only one party, authoritarian and brutal rule, and a popularized Marxist belief system to be communist. These elements are indeed found in Communist states, but the verbal affirmation of adopting this system of government is not required (nor politically advantageous) to promote communist practices and programs within a government of some other form.

The elements of communism can be implemented by individuals living under any form of government; our own Republic has been contaminated with such a rotting disease for decades. While the heavy hand of a dictator is easily seen (and more keenly felt), the communist policies of leaders of so-called “free nations” are more difficult to detect and more subtle in their application. Consider, for reference, the words of Mr. Communist himself, Karl Marx. In his Manifesto of the Communist Party, he lists the ten planks upon which Communism must be founded:

  1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
  2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
  3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.
  4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
  5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
  6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
  7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
  8. Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
  9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equitable distribution of the population over the country.
  10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production.

The astute political observer will note (hopefully, with great sadness) that several of these items have weaved themselves into our own laws, here in a country that some people still erroneously believe is a bastion of liberty for the world. The Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain are gone, thankfully, but despite these emotional experiences, the principles and policies that Communism espouses have slowly become infused in nearly every government throughout the world. Communism did not fail—it simply changed strategies, went underground, and wrapped itself in flowery, emotional language to eventually be welcomed with open arms by the very people who previously had decried its existence when presented from the other side of a wall, in a deep red color, by men with angry voices.

While we (rightly) praise the removal of these physical barriers, we are tolerating the creation of new ones all around us. Whether on social, cultural, economic, political, or intellectual subjects, elected and appointed officials alike are building, brick by brick, to slowly and surreptitiously erect new walls. These walls owe their existence to our collective refusal to recognize and reject the policies that serve as the foundation for their existence. If we, like those in Germany decades ago, wait for actual barricades to be formed before we will repudiate the elements of communism that serve as their foundation, then we, too, will find ourselves as pawns of the State—controlled, corralled, and denied the liberties we currently claim to possess and enjoy.

11 Responses to “The Fall of the Wall”

  1. rmwarnick
    November 10, 2009 at 4:28 pm #

    How ironic that the U.S. and Israel later built very similar walls in Baghdad and Palestine that also became symbols.

  2. Clumpy
    November 10, 2009 at 10:18 pm #

    Some of these planks are clearly more communist-y than others (1 in particular is a doozy), though things like public education have been in place since the early 1800s and even when the Pilgrims set aside public land for education. Some things may be principles of communism though they could be principles of other things as well. As with most philosophies it’s pretty tough to determine a line.

  3. Quincy
    November 11, 2009 at 10:07 pm #

    To me the identifying feature of communism is that it addresses problems from the position of an omnipotent ruler governing its ignorant children. Under communism individual rights are not part of the equation. Rather, government simply uses force to implement the policies it finds desirable for the community. Even public education is patently communist because its implementation disregards individual property rights, it is forced on individuals through taxation and mandatory attendance laws, and its only justification is that it is better for the community. A liberty loving individual will reject such justifications as irrelevant because they elevate pathos over principle.

  4. Greg
    November 15, 2009 at 4:41 pm #

    And perhaps KGB Maj. Anatoliy Golitsyn’s stunning predictions about the Berlin Wall in New Lies for Old – which was published in 1984 – should be reviewed anew.

    Market Socialism is not incompatible with the aims of these countries.

  5. M
    November 15, 2009 at 5:34 pm #

    Fabian Socialism is the communism with a little c. To bring about its ends, the Fabian Socialist advocate evolution rather than revolution where as communist has traditionally espoused violent means to bring about satanic compacts.

    Someone spent the time to put together a little video online that highlights what the objectives and views of Fabian Socialism.

  6. Clumpy
    November 17, 2009 at 12:26 am #

    I don’t think Marx even thought that true Communism would be possible without a violent revolution. The whole point was that the exploited proletariat would eventually realize that they were being exploited and rise up against their salmon eatin’ managers. Marx and other classical Communists wouldn’t agree with income redistribution, social programs and the like, because it neglects the formal thesis of Marxism. Which was that the workers ought to control the means of production as well as doing the actual, y’know, producing.

    “Fabian” socialism would never lead to actual Communism, the classless society that true adherents to the philosophy wished for. From this perspective, giving a couple of bucks to beggars outside of the supermarket is one of the most selfish things I can do – it assuages my conscience a little without dealing with the social structure that created beggars and college students with flat screen TVs in the first place while people are starving in Sierra Leone.

    All of this is just to say that whatever “socialism” we have in the United States is merely weighted capitalism. There is little common ground between attempting to compensate for privilege in a market-based society and “common ownership.” Whether or not compensating for perceived economic, racial, or other injustices does anything to fix social problems and inequality, “small ‘c’ communism” and socialism are two different philosophies. They’re no more similar than capitalism is to authoritarianism, though radical leftists often see them as one and the same. Orwell was a stalwart socialist and a rabid anticommunist – it’s only in modern times that many of us have begun to think of them as one and the same.

  7. M
    November 18, 2009 at 11:23 pm #

    The US has not had a free market system so some time perhaps since 1913 if I had to put a date on it.

    What is “weighted capitalism?” How about “weighted socialism?”

    I use a different political spectrum than most.

    George Barnard Shaw joined the Fabian Society in 1884 and wrote the “Fabian Essays in Socialism” He was also a strong supporter of Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany.

    In practice what’s the difference in Socialism, Communism, or even Fascism? They all advocate total government control and result in a ruling elite and loss of individual liberty.

    Walter Williams recently wrote, “… the reason why the world’s leftists give the world’s most horrible murderers a pass is because they sympathize with their socioeconomic goals, which include government ownership and/or control over the means of production. In the U.S., the call is for government control, through regulations, as opposed to ownership.”

    Like Ezra Taft Benson, I put socialists and communists in the same camp.

    What is the difference between an anti-Stalinist and an anti-Communist and when did Orwell contract rabies anyway?

  8. Clumpy
    November 19, 2009 at 1:10 am #

    I totally understand your point of view from the video, M, and I agree that that makes sense (not that the “usual” political scale doesn’t make sense, but yours certainly does too). By this standard, a very libertarian individual would probably condemn both Bush (for government programs and civil liberties violations) and Obama (for government programs and continuing most of these violations) as they both show up closer to the “more government” end of the scale. In effect our current political party system seems to balance fascism and militarism (far Right) with outright socialism on the left. Though such a scale seems to accept “some” acceptance of either as somehow tolerable or moderate which most libertarians definitely wouldn’t agree with.

    Still, thinking of government as the only source of tyranny is kind of shortsighted in my opinion. At the time of the inception of the United States, interstate businesses were federally prohibited until the oil barons figured out how to skirt that law. Clearly some regulation was compatible with constitutional government. I happen to believe that a government that doesn’t regulate business merely enables the already-powerful to gain more power and wealth. A free market can’t really handle globalism, and unchecked “capitalism” is merely oppression by the suits rather than by the gun or taxation. Allowing too much power into too few hands jeopardizes the ability of all to pursue life, liberty and happiness and leads to a self-serving corporatocracy as bad as any government. The new era of arriving technology has the capability to lead us into a populist golden age or a restrictive power structure of a privileged few, and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to have a government responsible enough to deal with that and put the people first.

    The goal of some corporate bureaucrats is to create a reality where they have the hiring power, the cash and the power, and leave the people with no freedom at all. Government can’t allow our freedom to be taken away by any means. As the quote from the clip says “Without law, there can be no freedom.” businessmen can cause an order of degree more damage than petty thugs, and ruin a great deal more lives in the process; law ought to address this. Destroying the health of Americans in the pursuit of profits is the same as mugging them and ought to be policed in the same way.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents. I hope it makes sense. I would much rather be “poor” in a free market society than “richer” or more well-off in a socialist one, though I do subscribe to the idea that as wrong as Marx was about the benefits of Communism, he had a lot to say about unchecked capitalism that we ought to consider. I favor a free-market system, which we barely have now due to globalization and corporate exploitation, not just in the U.S. but worldwide.

  9. M
    November 19, 2009 at 9:59 am #

    If I had to stack rank the sources of tyranny, government would win by a long shot. My eye sight is just fine.

    Please note my reference to the year 1913 and the loss of the free market system. Then read the following quote from Thomas Jefferson.

    “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them, will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”

    Interesting statistic I heard is that Freddie and Fannie own over 50% of the mortgages in the US. But I need to validate that one.

    I believe in free markets and competition and low barriers to entry to allow markets to stay free.

    I don’t believe in super capitalists like John D. Rockefeller Sr. who said, “competition is sin.”

    Free markets are not bad. They are good. Capitalism without virtue (honesty, respect, hard-work, etc.) is as evil as communism.

    John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

    I interpret Adams quote to apply to all aspects of life – political, economic, etc.

    Take a look at America today where corruption and immorality invades almost all aspects of our lives.

    It’s also interesting to note how super capitalists fund communist-socialist movements. Perhaps there is a symbiotic relationship there.

    A good example today is George Soros, who made billions off of shorting currencies and then funds organizations like the Tides Foundation that does things like promote socialist ideas and produce videos like “The Story of Stuff”

    To view everything is shades of gray is kind of wishy-washy.

  10. Clumpy
    November 19, 2009 at 12:58 pm #

    Frankly I think a lot of rich people who theoretically believe in progressive ideals feel guilty about their wealth and think that funding left-wing stuff and charities somehow evens it out. It’s pretty easy to give away billions when you have billions more :).

    I don’t think that “super capitalists” are intentionally acting immoral, but laboring under the delusion that their wealth has come from some personal genius or providing services to the community, rather than cutthroat business skill and negotiation which most people at the top deal with, not production of goods and services. The myth that “hard work” automatically leads to money pretty conveniently justifies those rolling in it.

    I don’t think we really disagree fundamentally on this but I didn’t do a great job of explaining my point of view above.

    Oh, and by the way “rabid” means “fervent,” it may have been more correct for me to say that Orwell was rabidly anti-totalitarian (including Communism), and “shortsighted” is only a figurative reference to eyesight and hopefully not any personal insult :). I don’t think that morality is ambiguous or “shades of gray,” though things are usually a great deal more subtle or at least different than we initially make them out to be.

  11. Michael
    December 6, 2009 at 6:58 pm #

    If we need a good reason for why some capitalists and others support socialislm or communism we can look to the
    Book of Mormon where it tells that they were promised they would become rulers of the people.

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