Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Checkpoint Charlie

Given that I was writing about communism in my last blog entry it seems fitting that I've now come to Berlin which was of course divided between the capitalist West and the Soviet East. I'm staying in a hostel that is two minutes' walk from where the Berlin Wall once was and about five minutes walk from Checkpoint Charlie which was the most famous gateway between the two sections of the city. Near the checkpoint there is a long section of display boards which give a pretty detailed history of the wall. It was put up by the (USSR-controlled) East German government in 1961 to stop its inhabitants from fleeing to the west - over two million had done so since the end of the Second World War when East Germany came under Soviet control. From then until its fall in 1989, several hundred people were shot trying to make the crossing, while many others managed to succeed.

I sat in a cafe right near the checkpoint and watched tourists having their photos taken with fake guards, and had a coffee while contemplating the rise and fall of communism. I know this is hardly the deepest of insights in political theory but it keeps occurring to me that if only they hadn't been so repressive, it might have worked.

Part of the preserved Berlin Wall


  1. Err, no as you say everyone kept trying to leave, and would have succeeded had the system not been so repressive, so therefore the repression was an inseparable part of communism.

    What is succeeding, at least in economic terms, is China's blend of capitalism with Communism. They have cheerfully designated the free market a 'great socialist experiment' without any apparent irony. But by keeping the repressive gvt they are able to keep wages very low and the currency artificially low as well, thus preserving great trade advantages.

  2. I tend to agree with James-had they managed a strong economy under the communist system, the people would have been relatively happy, and would not have had to be repressed.But no body has worked out how to have a strong economy whilst at the same time preventing private profit driven individual enterprise. I'm a bit rusty on my Marx, but remember thinking when I reas some of it that he clearly did not understand human nature and the urge to "do well" as an individual, as opposed to as a society.

  3. Simon I sent you an email about Saturday, ie how to get to us from Harwich - did you receive it?