We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Why Did East Germany Really Go Under?

Click here to access article by Victor Grossman from CounterPunch.

With the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall approaching in November, we find some articles written by people on the left questioning how the fall of self-identified socialist regimes happened. They began with so much idealism and promise for better, more fulfilling lives in a peaceful world, but ended up on the scrapheap of history as people under their regimes seem to have easily fallen for the propaganda of Western consumer values. 

Grossman who left the US long ago as a harassed political refugee and fled to East Germany, is one such person who wonders how this could have happened. Here are some of his conclusions:
...the GDR had to compete with one of the world’s most prosperous economies, West Germany. It was never able to match the swift innovation pace of competing corporations whose ups and downs may have cost many tears in lost jobs and ruined plans but meant a constant stream of chic, modern products – above all good cars. Like people elsewhere, GDR citizens thrilled at enticing advertising. .... Envy was widespread. It was worsened by often old-fashioned tastes of the men ruling the roost – and rule it they did, almost to the end.

I think most of those aging anti-fascists retained their original hopes, their ideals based on socialism. But as they grew older, accustomed to central rule and constantly flattered by the careerist Yes-men who always gather where power and perks are found, they increasingly lost touch with much of the population. Many freedoms were indeed curtailed, worst of all for the media which were, when political, dull, rigid, one-sided and self-laudatory.
Other people merely complain of disillusionment as we find in this article entitled "Freest Under Czech Communism! Former Czech Dissident, Now Against the West". But what seems to be missing altogether in these reviews of history is any discussion about what these "socialist" failures imply for future revolutionary attempts to create much better social-economic systems and societies.  

With many nations armed with nuclear weapons, with capitalist regimes pursuing aggressive actions for world domination, and with impending destruction of our human habit caused by the relentless pursuit of more profit and power by capitalist gangs, this search for a better alternative is more urgent than ever before. Have we given up? Are we passively arriving at the end of (human) history, not the phony one promoted by Fujiyama, but the end of the human race?