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November 16, 2009 / Lukasz Cerazy

Celebrating the Fall of Communism

As the world commemorate a very significant historical event that took place 20 years ago, it came rather unexpected at the time. The West German chancellor, Helmut Kohl, was out of the country when the Communist Government announced that they would modify their travel restriction. The fall of the Berlin wall was the symbolic manifest but what had really fallen was in the minds of people – the oppression, tyranny and division in Europe. It signalled an end that had been brewing for a long time, one that was already underway in other Central European countries, and is best remembered for its joyous moments in Berlin. It is the most remarkable political event of my lifetime! It gave millions of people economic and political freedom in the form of democratic governance and more open markets. In the late 80s workers in Central and Eastern European countries united and protested against the communist government. It was not the kind of revolution Marx envisioned when he described class struggle. The insurgence was rather a demonstration of discontent with a totalitarian governance that was completely rotten from within. If it had intended to make everyone equal it succeeded in doing so by significantly reducing people’s living standard compared to similar countries in the West. The best example of that is of course Germany after it was divided, where the gap between East and West increased year after year. The population was equally poor and only dreamt of the the products the west could enjoy. Freedom comes with economical well-being and political freedom. Communism’s central planning failed on the first account with its inability to providing economic growth. On the second account it failed even more severely, as it nurtured a police state that was corrupt and gave power to those on the inside of the system, making some more equal than others. Spying on its own population became the norm and anyone who had any opinion that was critical of the communist party was considered an outlaw for corrupting the nation’s moral. Freedom of Speech is a notion we take for granted in the developed world and it should be valued and admired because individuals should have the right to express their opinion. Censorship and repression can only lead to manipulation and exploitation. The government having property rights, controlling production, press, education, communication and transport find it remarkably easy to exercise power to achieve goals for its own interest groups. How is that struggle different to the one between the land-owning and the working class in Marx’s analysis? The answer is that it is not and the conflict which he was addressing took on another form but was not resolved. That is why individual, not any central form of governance, should have these rights and exercise these functions.

Central and Eastern Europe’s fate was not predetermined in any way. It was rather based on historical events and path-dependence. The division and iron curtain that split East and West came after distinctive developments where both sides went through conflict but one was taken by the mesmerising offensive force of Marxian though. Personified in by and large Joseph Stalin. Marx’s described a class struggle between the capital owning class and the working-class and cried out for his fellow working-class comrades to unify and revolt against the capital-owning class. The analysis was, however, based on assumptions that were flawed, most significantly in the description of the two classes. It assumed that capital and thereby innovation and development comes free without any opportunity cost. This aspect was however already known as David Ricardo before him had described it albeit in the context of trade. Marx presented his ideas but never produced a blueprint to the way in which these goals would be reached. He knew that the socialist state would lead to class struggle and ultimately the removal of the capital-owning class was necessary. A moral dilemma Stalin took into his own analysis with bloody consequences. This single characteristic of the communist agenda is what makes it disgraceful and is the biggest intellectual void in pursuing such an outcome. Stalin’s interpretation resulted in mass murder and the instalment of concentration camp to achieve his regime and to remove anyone who would oppose him. The secret additional protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which was an agreement between Germany and Russia to invade and divide Central and Eastern Europe between them was the onset of the Second World War when it was lunched. Stalin implemented sovietisation in the newly conquered region with Marxian doctrine and rhetoric which resulted in one of the most dire and dark moments in history as the capital-owning class, now extended by Stalin’s analysis to include intellectuals and officers were murdered. One of the most horrific was the Katyn massacre. Stalin did not refrain from executing his fellow countrymen either. He set up many concentration camps across the Soviet in his fight against the top class. This attitude of restraining anyone from acting as entrepreneurs was sustained and rights to land still monopolised all the way up to the blatant fall of communism in the late 1980s. When that wall came down on the 9. of November 1989, it should stand as a firm reminder of the dangers of internalising on government scale and resolving class struggle by Marxian ideals.

Unfortunately individuals who benefited from the communist rule did not want to give it up so easily, so the virus is still circulating in these former communist countries, under the name of socialism, they now adopt policies which are alarmingly close to those formulated under communism, bribery still common and political and industrial bias prevailing. When faced with glorifying pictures and rhetoric of the communist leaders in today’s political debates it is disturbing how these ideas are portrait as morally justifiable. Marx, always being indebted, was not a good economist and his contribution was a costly exercise in demonstrating how planned economy fail. Depicting Stalin and other Marxian political leaders as salvationist of the miseries of the working class is equally incorrect. The goal of greater equality does not excuse execution despite it being a noble one. Let us always be reminded by these events and pursue personal freedom and rights by encouraging decision making to be based on the widest flow of information which can never be comprehensive by total government control.

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One Comment

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  1. guvenermis / Nov 17 2009 08:01

    I dissent. I am gonna write soon about Marx. But thanks to you we see different idea. Looking forward to hear an essay about Turkey-EU,share your opinion with us, Lukasz.

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