The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall has been a poignant reminder of how seemingly indestructible tyrannical power can be overthrown by popular movements peacefully. It’s also given liberal commentators the chance to “remind” us all of how “unworkable” socialism is. A prime example was a recent BBC phone-in held by Nicky Campbell on the question of “Is socialism dead?“.
It’s typical of the mainstream media to frame the issue in this way. It is unimaginable for example that the BBC would ask the question “Has corporate capitalism failed?” or even “Has liberal democracy failed?”. The debate was at least a fairly open one with many people pointing to the absurdity of the original premise. The question Campbell should have been asking wasn’t whether socialism was dead or not. It should have been, “Why hasn’t socialism been realised yet?”.
The collapse of communism is frequently cited by liberal commentators and the right as “proof” that socialism doesn’t work. But you don’t have to be a political scientist to see that communism had absolutely nothing to do with socialism. Whichever particular brand of socialism you believe in, two of the most fundamental characteristics of a truly socialist system are worker control of the means of production and redistribution of wealth. The communist system had absolutely none of this. The East German system was – like corporate-capitalism in fact – run by a greedy elite who espoused socialist principles of solidarity and equality but practiced none of them. In reality, East German state-communism had more in common with corporate-capitalism than socialism.
The fall of the Berlin Wall was a victory for a brutally oppressed people against a totalitarian regime. By helping remove the fraud of communist “socialism” from the world map, it was one of the biggest victories of the 20th Century for those who believe in genuine socialism.