Twenty-five years since the fall of the Berlin Wall

The real history of the German Democratic Republic’s heroic fight against fascism and imperialism.

Proletarian writers

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Proletarian writers

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The imperialist media have recently been extremely loud in celebrating the 25th anniversary of the pulling down of the Berlin Wall. The arrival of this date has provided the ruling class with a handy excuse to remind Britain’s hard-pressed workers of all the old anti-communist lies that were designed to keep us away from working for socialism.

‘Things are bad and deteriorating further,, but communism was so much worse,’ is the official mantra of every political editor and hack working in the lie machine. The baseline of accepted ‘truth’, supplied here by Wikipedia, is that:

The Berlin Wall was a barrier that existed from 1961 through 1989, constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off (by land) West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin until it was opened in 1989.

The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, which circumscribed a wide area (later known as the ‘death strip’) that contained anti-vehicle trenches, ‘fakir beds’ and other defences.

The Eastern Bloc claimed that the wall was erected to protect its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the ‘will of the people’ in building a socialist state in East Germany. In practice, the wall served to prevent the massive emigration and defection that marked East Germany and the communist Eastern Bloc during the post-World War II period.

Each individual hack then weaves a few extra gory details, generally false, into that story before pumping it out. It is official history in our schools, colleges and universities; a truth that doesn’t need any proof, since it is so ingrained in our brains. So is there really an alternative to this ‘truth’?

A little background information is needed here. At the Crimea Conference of 4-11 February 1945, Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt met to discuss what to do after the war to ensure that fascism and militarism did not rise in Germany again. At the end of that conference, a statement was issued, supported overwhelmingly by the US Senate and House of Representatives and unanimously by the UK parliament, to the effect that:

We are determined to disarm and disband all German armed forces; break up for all time the German general staff that has repeatedly contrived the resurgence of German militarism; remove or destroy all German military equipment; eliminate or control all German industry that could be used for military production; bring all war criminals to justice and swift punishment, and exact reparation in kind for the destruction wrought by the Germans; wipe out the Nazi party, Nazi laws, organisations and institutions; remove all Nazi and militarist influences from public offices and from the cultural and economic life of the German people …

Much of this was reiterated at the Potsdam Conference of 17 July-2 August 1945, along with the declaration that “It is not the intention of the Allies to destroy or enslave the German people. It is the intention of the Allies that the German people be given the opportunity to prepare for the eventual reconstruction of their life on a democratic and peaceful basis. If their own efforts are steadily directed to this end, it will be possible for them, in due course, to take their place among the free and peaceful peoples of the world.

This quote from the agreed conference statement was made in spite of the fact that the US, now represented by President HS Truman, had gone to Potsdam to propose a plan to permanently divide Germany into three parts, and, moreover, to treat Austria and Hungary as part of this divided Germany. But this new plan of the US’s contradicted an agreement reached in Moscow in 1943 that both Austria and Hungary should be restored to the status of independent states.

Not only did the Soviets dig their heels in to keep the position agreed at Yalta that a united Germany should be created after de-nazification, but many voices from within the imperialist camp also supported this view and helped put pressure on the US to back down.

It is telling that, while JV Stalin had told Soviet troops fighting their way into Berlin that the German people should not be mistreated (“we enter Berlin as liberators not conquerors”), the US politicians and generals had taken the exact opposite position, as represented by Truman in a directive to the US commander-in-chief of the occupation force on 10 May. And this difference in attitude was to be reflected in the way they administered the areas that fell under their control after the war ended.

The leaders of the Nazi party were put on trial for their war crimes, as agreed, and a number of them were executed. However, many others found their way to South America and elsewhere, to enjoy the protection of regimes that were puppets of the US, so that their ‘talents’ could be put to use in helping to suppress popular struggles for emancipation from imperialist and local comprador bourgeois oppressors.

Even more tellingly, in the French, British and US zones (unlike in the Soviet zone) of post-war Germany, the creators of Nazism – the huge industrialists who really ran the country – had nothing to fear in terms of their lives, liberty or power from the occupiers. While political, economic and social organisations set up by the Nazis were being disbanded in the Soviet zone and replaced by popular organisations, parties and trade unions run by anti-Nazi German working people, no such popular ‘political’ activity by the German workers was allowed by the western imperialist powers in the areas under their control. Not only did many of the Nazi-created organisations remain intact in West Germany, but few of their leaders were replaced.

The end of the war against fascism in truth saw the start of Anglo-American-led imperialism’s renewed war against communism. And, as a result, all kinds of intrigues and sabotage were instigated to try and cause problems in the Soviet sector. By 1948, the three imperialist powers – the US, Britain and France – had merged their sectors and declared the West German state under a puppet government.

This was in direct contravention of the Potsdam agreement and ended any hope that Germany would be allowed to reunite under an anti-fascist popular government. Within days of declaring the new Federal Republic of Germany, an attack was launched on the Soviet sector.

The currency throughout Germany was still the reichsmark, but the imperialists had secretly printed millions of new ‘deutschmarks’, which were issued in the new state and which meant that all the now redundant reichsmarks flooded into the Soviet sector through the open border in Berlin. Goods of all types now flew across the border out of the Soviet sector, bought with worthless notes, which naturally caused mayhem and shortages in the east.

The German committees and organisations who worked in tandem with the Soviet military in their sector solved the problem by adding postage stamps to the value of the banknote and refusing to accept unstamped notes. In effect, those stamps saved the German people in the Soviet sector from complete ruin.

Traffic across the Berlin border now had to be restricted and checked to safeguard the economic life of the east German zone from this financial assault as goods started to come back from the West at astronomical prices in an imperialist-inspired black-market trade.

The Soviet forces at no time stopped the passage of goods from West Germany through East Germany and into West Berlin. However, the imperialists claimed that this was happening and stopped all freight traffic from West to East, cutting off West Berlin, and then started an airlift to supply food and other necessities, falsely claiming that the Soviet Union was trying to ‘starve out’ the West Berliners.

When the Soviet administration offered to drive in tons of food to West Berlin and to supply electricity the offer was spurned. The western media played the situation up for all it was worth and the idea that the ‘Berlin airlift’ saved the people of West Berlin from Soviet-induced starvation has become as much a part of the ‘undeniable history’ myth as the reasons for the wall itself.

Meanwhile, the popular organisations created by the German workers and anti-fascists in the Soviet sector were growing in confidence and ability. On 4 October 1949, the Executive Committee of the Socialist Unity Party decided to “enter into discussions with the other democratic parties and mass organisations on the formation of a provisional government for a democratic German republic”. On 7 October, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was founded.

Meanwhile, the forces of imperialism, under the leadership of the USA, were revving up their war engine. The situation in Germany was seen as one possible avenue for the triggering of a war against the Soviet Union and all the people’s democracies. Ernst Reuter, the first mayor of West Berlin, described that part of the city as a handle to “push open the door to the East”, a “thorn in the side of the Soviet zone” and “the cheapest atom bomb”.

However, an uneasy peace prevailed between and within the two Germanys and the two Berlins until 1953. The GDR had been trying to build up heavy industry in order to ease its economic situation, but this measure had itself created somewhat harder conditions for workers – in the short term at least – as resources were diverted away from the immediate supply of non-essential consumer goods.

The leadership misjudged the popular mood and level of consciousness, however, and its call for a general minimum increase in work quotas of 10 percent was not well received. Following some discussion and criticism within newspapers and at workplace meetings, the government decided to withdraw the call on 9 June. However, the withdrawal of this measure was not known about quickly enough to prevent some demonstrations and strikes occurring.

Imperialism saw its chance, and, on 16-17 June, US tanks drew close to the border in Hesse and Bavaria. They also lined up on the border in Berlin, creating a steel barrier across the city. Slipping through that barrier from West to East were large numbers of secret agents, saboteurs and other provocateurs. They were directed by radio stations in West Germany and especially by a US radio station in West Berlin.

These imperialist mercenaries set about burning down buildings, destroying public transport, plundering shops and warehouses and murdering East German workers going about their duties and their daily lives. Disinformation was flying around East Berlin, with, for example, rumours that the GDR government had decided to punish workers for having gone on strike.

Fortunately, there were sufficient sane voices within the workplaces to carry the day, and workers joined the Soviet army and GDR police in rounding up the infiltrators. During the suppression of what amounted to an invasion, 16 people died, according to Red Cross figures. The majority of these were from West Berlin and five were found to be West Berlin police officers in civilian clothes.

While the worst of these provocations were taking place, West German politicians, whether Social-Democrat or Christian-Democrat, jumped at the chance to get in front of a microphone and denounce the GDR.

On 23 October 1954, the Federal Republic of Germany was admitted into Nato, amidst heightened talk of war with the Soviet Union and its allies, including the GDR. It was in the face of this increased threat that the Warsaw Treaty Organisation was established on 14 May 1955.

The language of war was now being deployed daily by the paid political puppets of imperialism, and the FRG had built up a million-strong army, operating side-by-side with the British and American forces stationed in West Germany. Roughly a million people a day crossed between West and East Berlin and a smuggling ‘business’ had been built up to destabilise the GDR, inflicting great costs on the country, along with the ceaseless spying and wrecking missions.

West German leaders started talking quite openly about their wish to destroy the GDR and to drive East, added to which, the US military put its forces on a state of preparedness. It was in this situation that the imperialists woke up on the morning of 13 August 1961 to find that a brick wall had been laid overnight along the border, cutting Berlin in two. It was against the background of such provocations and attacks that the ‘Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart’ (wall) was quite rightly built.

In spite of this real history, which isn’t too hard to find if one is actually interested in knowing the truth, the Trotskyists, social democrats and other traitors to socialism openly shared in the jubilation of the imperialists on the day that the wall came down and the socialist GDR fell. Twenty-five years later, these same traitors are still peddling the lies of imperialism. The surprise, of course, would be if they were not!

One day, the true history of that time will be taught in our schools, and the GDR will once again receive the honour from the international proletariat that it is due.

Further reading

E Trory, Socialism in Germany, 1978

Prof A Norden, Thus Wars are Made, 1970

R Palme Dutt, articles in Labour Monthly, 1944-46