The fall of the Berlin Wall: 20 years later
Written by Alan Woods
Monday, 09 November 2009
....Like many other East Germans, Ralf Wulff said he was delighted about the fall of the Berlin Wall and to see capitalism replace communism. But the euphoria did not last long. “It took just a few weeks to realize what the free market economy was all about,” said Wulff. “It's rampant materialism and exploitation. Human beings get lost. We didn't have the material comforts but communism still had a lot going for it.” (Reuters report)
Hans-Juergen Schneider, a 49-year-old trained engineer has been unemployed since January 2004. He has sent out 286 job applications since then, without success. “The market economy can't solve our problems,” he says, “big business is just grabbing the profits without accepting any responsibility.” He is not alone. A poll by Der Spiegel stated that 73% of East Germans believe that Karl Marx's critique of capitalism is still valid.
Another poll published in October 2008 in the magazine Super Illus stated that 52% of people in Eastern Germany think that the market economy is “inept” and “rundown”. 43% would prefer a socialist economic system, because “it protects the small people from financial crises and other injustices”. 55% rejected banking bailouts by the state.
Of young people (18 to 29 years), who never lived in the GDR, or did so only briefly, 51% want socialism. The figure for people 30 to 49 years old is 35%. But for those over 50 years it is 46%. These findings are confirmed in interviews with dozens of ordinary easterners. “We read about the 'horrors of capitalism' in school. They really got that right. Karl Marx was spot on,” said Thomas Pivitt, a 46-year-old IT worker from East Berlin. Das Kapital was a best-seller for publisher Karl-Dietz-Verlag, selling over 1,500 copies in 2008, triple the number sold in all of 2007 and a 100-fold increase since 1990.
“Everyone thought there would never ever again be any demand for 'Das Kapital',” managing director Joern Schuetrumpf told Reuters. “Even bankers and managers are now reading Das Kapital to try to understand what they've been doing to us. Marx is definitely 'in' right now,” he said.
The crisis of capitalism has convinced many Germans, both East and West, that the system has failed. “I thought communism was shit but capitalism is even worse,” said Hermann Haibel, a 76-year old retired blacksmith. “The free market is brutal. The capitalist wants to squeeze out more, more, more,” he said. “I had a pretty good life before the Wall fell,” he added. “No one worried about money because money didn't really matter. You had a job even if you didn't want one. The communist idea wasn't all that bad.”
“I don't think capitalism is the right system for us,” said Monika Weber, a 46-year-old city clerk. “The distribution of wealth is unfair. We're seeing that now. The little people like me are going to have to pay for this financial mess with higher taxes because of greedy bankers.”
Even more significant than opinion polls were the results of the recent German elections. The Left Party registered a significant advance, getting almost 30% of the vote in the East. In the East there is now no majority for the bourgeois parties. What this shows clearly is that the people of East Germany do not want capitalism but socialism – not the bureaucratic totalitarian caricature of socialism that they had before, but genuine democratic socialism – the socialism of Marx, Engels, Liebknecht and Luxemburg.
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