Boris Johnson: Remember the Fall of the Wall

Roundup: Talking About History

[Boris Johnson is Mayor of London.]

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 end of Soviet communism, China would never have launched the turbo-charged entrepreneurial drive that has helped fuel two decades of global consumption and growth, and spread undreamt-of material benefits around the world. Without the end of one oppressive regime in Moscow, another one – in South Africa – might have limped on for a few more years.

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.

That is why I believe we should remember the Ninth of 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?..

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Arnold Shcherban - 11/8/2009

<Without the end of one oppressive regime in Moscow, another one – in South Africa – might have limped on for a few more years.

Without the Fall of the Wall, Nelson Mandela would never have walked to freedom.>
Wasn't it the Soviet Union and other so-called socialist nations who were mostly critical of and mostly active in struggle against South African apartheid, while the West, and especially the US, the ones who actually prolonged the existence of that regime?
Not mentioning already the deep rooted hypocrisy of the West and the author of this article for whom Mr. Mandela was a "terrorist" exactly at the period of the intensified struggle
against apartheid.
Yes, the world has changed - for better or worse. One thing, however, that never changes is the lies and insinuations of Western "free" propaganda machine.