08 November 2009

Roger Kimball On The Fall Of The Berlin Wall

Was there ever a more fitting monument to tyranny than the Berlin Wall? Conceived in desperation, this brutal barrier was erected in 1961 by the state not for the protection but for the incarceration of its citizens. . . . [It] was also an inescapable indictment, not just of a particular society but of an entire world view, the world view of Soviet Communism with its rhetoric of justice and class struggle in one hand and its reality of the Gulag and the systematic obliteration of human freedom in the other. . . .

What, finally, brought down the wall? The candidates for that honor are many, from the impersonal operation of History to the people-power of movements like Solidarity and the spiritual leadership of Pope John Paul II. Among Western academics, the role of Mikhail Gorbachev enjoys pride of place. His mantras of glasnost and perestroika ("openness" and "restructuring") became favored terms in English. In the late 1980s, Gorbachev, the true-believing Communist, was the hero. Never mind that he wished to salvage the Soviet empire: he spoke to the hearts and minds of the Western intelligentsia in a way Ronald Reagan never did. Reagan, after all, had the temerity early on in his tenure to describe the Soviet Union as an "evil empire." How the liberal establishment recoiled from, how it ridiculed that phrase. "The Western diplomatic firmament," William F. Buckley Jr. recalled in 1990, "shook with indignation." Then came "Star Wars" and Reagan's military buildup. How the Left scorned that. How the Soviets scrambled to keep up. After one of his chummy sight-seeing tours of Moscow in 1984, the Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote an article about his trip for The New Yorker. The Soviet's "great material progress" impressed him, as did the look of "solid well-being of the people on the streets."
Death to tyranny & tyrants wherever they may be found. And may their enablers, like John Kenneth Galbraith, hang their heads in shame.

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