Monday, November 09, 2009

The Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago today. 

Berliners to mark demise of Wall

World leaders are due to join thousands of people to mark 20 years since the Berlin Wall's fall, an event that paved the way for the end of the Cold War. The main celebrations in the city will be at the Brandenburg Gate ...

Giant dominoes will be toppled to show how Communist governments in Eastern Europe fell one after another in 1989... [BBC]

I remember the fall of The Wall well. I had friends living in East Berlin when it happened -- they thought it would never happen (nobody believed it would so soon). Earlier I'd had my own personal close encounter with a Soviet military invasion and occupation force. But enough of that -- you know about Communism, I hope. There's no need to repeat the contents of the Black Book of Communism, as long as they are remembered.

It's also worth remembering -- as a warning, when looking to our own future -- the amount of support the builders of The Wall received from many on the western side of it.
In 1982, the leftist intellectual journal Semiotext(e) published the German Issue, more than 300 pages dedicated to the then-split nation. Now, on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the journal is reissuing it ...

It is fascinating not just for its content -- it includes pieces by Michel Foucault, Martin Heidegger, Heiner Müller, Cristo, Jean Baudrillard and William Burroughs -- but also for its nature as an artifact. It is suffused with the leftist idea of political revolution, envisioning a Marxist/socialist idyll over exploitative capitalism...

Even as contributors wrote about the troubling issues of surveillance and control, there is a sense that a communist state was to be desired...

The underlying assumptions are exposed in the conversation between [editor] Lotringer and [film maker] Schlöndorff, which took place in June this year.

"The German Left in general," Schlöndorff says, "always suspected that what was on the other side of the wall, in East Germany or in all the socialist countries for that matter, was not really socialism.... 'If you are not happy here, why don't you go to the other side?' the conservative and bourgeois press kept asking them. And I must say, in retrospect, that it was a very valid argument.... But the Left would not accept the argument. There was a complete blindness, especially in West Berlin, on the true nature of the system in the East."

After the wall fell, Schlöndorff went to East Germany to lead UFA, a once-famous film studio that had languished for decades. "I came to realize that this socialism that we had dreamt of not only had destroyed the economy, the habitat and the environment -- it had really destroyed the people; it had broken their back ..." [L.A. Times]
Too bad they didn't realize it before then -- perhaps from the number of people being shot trying to flee the East, and the very need for a Wall to keep them in.

Intellectuals will believe, truly believe, any idea that builds up their intellectual self-esteem -- a fact as true today as then.

I might mention, as an aisde, that right now here in Manhattan, New York City, there is a KGB Bar that is a favorite of the literary and intellectual set. Curiously, there is no Gestapo Bar, for some reason.

Today the Berlin Wall is replaced by the U2 Wall, pertty much in the same location...
Organisers of a free concert by the rock band U2 to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall have triggered an outcry after they erected a 12ft barrier to keep out anyone without a ticket.

The irony of the erection of a "wall" covered in white plastic sheeting almost identical to the colour of the wall that divided the German capital for almost 30 years was lost on no one... [Telegraph]
But at least this one comes with music, and will be torn down after only a day.