Twenty Years After Germany’s Unification It’s Still Capitalism Vs Communism
by Beth Cherryman
“Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect. But we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in – to prevent them from leaving us.” President Kennedy’s ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech.
The “wall” is the Berlin Wall. And Kennedy’s “we” are capitalists. Now, I was not even born when the wall fell. I missed that piece of history completely. But, from what I’ve read about it, I have rather formed the opinion that the Berlin Wall was a bad thing. An ugly, hateful, obscenity cutting through a country like a scar. A concrete symbol of suffering, secrecy, and suppression.
Yet, 20 years after the unification of Germany, it would seem that there can be no similar unification of capitalists and communists. This is clearly illustrated in a plan to re-build the Berlin Wall.
The wealthy residents of Potsdam, a former East German city, are planning to rebuilt sections of the wall to keep out their less successful (financially) neighbours.
The famous fashion designers and film directors, who own the lakeside villas, take issue with public access to a footpath (former border guards’ path) by the lake. They dislike the ‘ordinary’ citizens spoiling their expensive views.
Undoubtedly, these people are the winners of the capitalist game. Consequently, I think it is fair to attribute them with all the values one might associate with capitalism. Certainly, this move does nothing to suggest otherwise. They have bought the footpath after outbidding the city. Potsdam’s politicians sided with the ordinary citizens and wanted to keep the path open to the public. They are seen to retain East German communist values in their hearts.
The Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989, amidst great joy and celebration on both sides. Yet that is not to say that East Berliners wanted to become West Berliners. They were proud of their achievements obtained under the communist regime. And West Berliners were similarly weary of their eastern neighbours. True to capitalism, while they were welcoming on the face of it, they did not want to share their achievements or wealth to the extent necessary for complete unification.
Indeed although unification of Berlin was supposedly successful by October 1990 there remained, for many years, an obvious divide. Westerners emanated an air of confidence and colour, while easterners retained their social conscience. Though 20 years on this split of personalities is increasingly blurred.
Thankfully, the plan to segregate a Potsdam has sparked protests. One protester told German TV: “Twenty years ago we fought to bring down a wall that kept the capitalists away from the East German proletariat. Now we have got a new wall that keeps the proles away from the capitalists.”
Frankly, I couldn’t have summed it up better.