By Victor Grossman
BERLIN: Remembrance Days are rewarding for journalists, especially since Google made research digging so easy. And how the German media love such days!
We are again blessed with one such year. Not German unification, a 29th year is not round. But November 9th fits the bill, a full 30 years after the Berlin Wall was breached. So we must ready our nerves for weeks of speeches, articles, memory dips and PR stunts.
At one such event miles of big domino stones were pushed down, at another, thousands of brightly lit balloons sent floating upward. Such celebrations usually end up near the Brandenburg Gate with giant fireworks and fervent singing of the all-German anthem, “Deutschland über alles”.
Why is the 20th century’s tragic history so distorted? And why, in Germany, are unrelenting salvos still fired at a sunken vessel, the GDR, aimed at any broken spars still visible above the waves? Why, after thirty years, is it still being kicked, like the corpse of a deceased workhorse? Do some still fear it might yet kick or bite?
But sarcasm is inappropriate when recalling how thousands, in total euphoria, poured through the suddenly opened checkpoints of the Berlin Wall. At last, they could freely visit friends and relatives – with no restrictions or limitations. They could soon join eager lines to admire Mona Lisa, climb the Leaning Tower, ride cable cars in Frisco’s Chinatown or camel backs to Gizeh’s pyramids, try their luck in Monaco or Vegas. After 28 years of feeling walled-in, they could now breathe joyfully the fresh air of the free world. Their tears of joy were genuine.
And yet today’s atmosphere, especially in the five eastern, former GDR states, somehow seems to lack the esprit of past remembrance days. The reasons? Wages have still not caught up with West German levels, hours are longer and jobless figures are higher than those in the West.
In both East and West, the jobs are more often insecure, temporary, part-time, lower-paid. Germany’s powerful economy, based on exports of cars, machines, chemicals, is weakening.
The scandal at Volkswagen and then most other carmakers, with lying cheaters at the top poisoning the atmosphere with their gas emissions while raking in millions, is cutting export figures.
A likely break-away of Britain with its Brexit can hit export trade sharply and weaken the entire European Union which Germany has been increasingly dominating. It, too, is currently torn by dissension and the increasing stubbornness of its eastern members, also rescued 30 years ago from diabolical totalitarianism but now turning ever more clearly to the right, from Warsaw and Budapest to Sofia and Kiev.
Even thirty years have not accustomed all ex-GDR citizens to seeing youngsters in the streets with their ragged dogs and paper cups for charitable donations, concert violinists begging money with Mozart in cold subway stations or, on icy nights, homeless huddled figures in sleeping bags on the stations’ concrete floors – although some may “not even be Germans” but only immigrants from other liberated regions such as Poland or Bulgaria.
The Fall of the Wall and the demise of the GDR which followed had other consequences. For the first time since 1945 Germans in uniform engaged in military battle when, defying the UN and international law, Tornado fighters fired NATO missiles against Serbia, a land Germany had violently attacked in both world wars. Following this historic breakthrough was the deployment of soldiers and pilots to Afghanistan and Mali and sailors to the Mediterranean.
At least as alarming are the manoeuvres around northern Russia. Last year it was “Trident Juncture 2018” with 50,000 troops from 29 countries, 150 planes and 60 ships in Norway and Arctic waters, the biggest NATO manoeuvres since the Cold War ended.
Next spring it will be “Defender 2020” with 37,000 American soldiers, 20,000 flown in from the USA to join 17,000 already stationed in Europe and with Germany serving as a hinge with “convey support centres” to help transport them eastward. Aside from sending its own troops, top officers and weapons, Germany will spend billions to guarantee that its highways, railroad lines and waterways can withstand the rapid transport of 130-ton tanks, artillery and other modern weapons eastward to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland – perilously close to Russia’s second metropolis, St. Petersburg.
This time, of course, the German giants had to accept being junior partners of their transatlantic rescuers, partners and sometime rivals. But their goals were not dissimilar, they joined hands when it seemed advantageous. A symbol was the merger of Monsanto and Bayer, two war criminal firms joining to force the world’s farmers to buy their variety-strangling seeds and as deadly poisoners of milkweed, monarch butterflies – and humans.
Doors could be opened wider to sister monopolies, ever fewer in number but richer in dollar and euro billions, with almost no barriers to their lucrative efforts to cripple and poison the world, from the Sacklers with their opioids, soft drink moguls with their diabetic-obesity refreshments and electronic mind conquerors, now gaining ever tighter control over our daily needs and our most personal thoughts. Others pushed to terrestrial destruction of oceans, archipelagos, glaciers, and ice-caps and all the magnificent opulence and beauty Nature had given us, from tiny, exquisite frogs and beetles to savannah rhinos and mountain gorillas, from delicate orchids and exotic cacti to giant redwoods and tropical rain forests.
Most dangerous by far were firms like Krupp with its submarines, Rheinmetall with its tanks, BAE with warplanes and Heckler-Koch with assault rifles, all boasting more than a century’s bloody experience, which joined with Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman and Boeing to enjoy the billions awarded them long after the Fall of the Wall. And when products get manufactured they clamour to be used – and to be replaced, whether insulin syringes or guided missiles.
Yes, recollections on this coming Remembrance Day are a mixed bag. Some things were gained, others lost on that memorable occasion thirty years ago. What about the future?
The biggest German party, the Christian Democratic Union (with its Bavarian sister), greatly weakened in popularity, is busy seeking a successor to its long-lasting leader, Angela Merkel, and some forces in the party want to push it further right, even to closer ties to the AfD. Its coalition partner the SPD (Social Democrats), decimated in votes and members, is fully occupied with choosing two new leaders, a man and a women, who can save them from total downfall. Seven duos are competing for the party congress decision in December, and a few are seen as leaning leftwards – whether by principal or for pragmatic reasons.
The LINKE, or Left, alone consistent in opposing all foreign involvement and defending working people’s rights, has suffered damaging defeats and a major loss of confidence in its main stronghold, eastern Germany, where it is too often seen as “part of the establishment”. In seeming contradiction, it hopes on October 26 for a favourable vote, indeed a victory, in Thuringia, where it polls strongest, with close to 30%, and thus far heads the government.
The LINKE now plans a national strategy conference in Kassel for February 29-March 1. It has invited all members to submit ideas on how to break from its present low level of 8% in the national polls, how to join or lead campaigns mobilizing against rumbling tanks and soaring rents, against racist attacks and environmental disaster, how to reach former supporters and a far broader section of the population without abandoning the party’s basic goal, not to “save this system” but to achieve socialism. This will certainly involve weighing lessons from the past, not least of all those from that dramatic event and episode just 30 years ago. (IPA Service)
Courtesy: People’s World