By Francisco Sánchez
EspañolWhen we talk about the Berlin Wall and the story of its fall, we ought to reference not only the lifeless physical structure itself but the ruthless totalitarian system that existed in the former German Democratic Republic.
This inhumane and totalitarian regime used terror as a tool to control the population, generated distrust among the public, and established ruthless forms of torture to suppress human aspirations. These days, self-proclaimed champions of human rights hardly utter a word about this wicked attempt to create “paradise on earth.”
In fact, there were a significant number of Chileans who left for East Germany as a result of exile or self-imposed exile, after the collapse of the Popular Unity political project. Astonishingly, Chilean progressives to this day are hardly critical of East Germany’s horrors.
The collective amnesia of progressives as it relates to this authoritarian regime suggests they not only view the regime as justified but as an example to follow. In a similar manner, they justify repressive regimes in Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea, as they manufacture an historical account favorable to their political objectives and quests for power.
The German Democratic Republic was, in fact, a regime where the state played the role as the main driver and controller of everyday life — a police state with a large network of agents, informants, and collaborators who generated distrust among neighbors, friends, and family.
The latest records have provided tangible evidence of how terror, torture, and arbitrary trials were everyday events. The objective was to keep the population under control, fearful, and “loyal to a cause.” This would supposedly allow for the establishment of “paradise on earth” under the slogan of “class struggle.”
Although tragic, the stories of the hundreds of citizens who successfully made it over the Berlin Wall should not remain in obscurity. These brave souls recounted the horrors they faced in the so-called paradise that many others saw as a model to emulate.
They bore witness to the resistance movement’s presence in secret reading circles, in meetings listening for radio signals coming from West Germany, and how the irrepressible human spirit waited for the right moment to exercise freedom.
It is important to recognize that the fall of the Berlin Wall was not only the result of a decision made by high-ranking officials in the Eastern Bloc, but a social uprising that these very officials could not contain even in the short run. The spirit of the people who craved for liberty — in spite of the terror, the mechanisms of control, and the hunger imposed from above — was ultimately able to topple one of the most cruel totalitarian systems in the history of the world.
When I was a child, I still remember seeing these people perched on the Berlin Wall singing, hugging each other, drinking, and cheering. Although incomprehensible for me at that moment, I remember the wise words of my father: “The world has changed.”
That’s how it went, but apparently this memory continues to be fragile and conveniently dismissed by those who still wave the flag of “class struggle” and “irreversible processes.”
Twenty five years may have passed since that fateful day, when the world stood still for a moment and began to believe in humanity again. We still need to reflect on how these authoritarian regimes fell and how new ones could potentially rise again. This is exactly what Thomas Jefferson referred to as the “price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”
Hence the importance of reminding our youth who want to bring about a Marxist “paradise on earth,” that it is actually made of wired fences, concrete walls, and terror. Even in our times there are still some walls in existence that are being built and reinforced by populism and demagoguery.
As these walls go unnoticed before the eyes of many, it is necessary to stay alert and be aware that liberty is something that must be fought for every day.
Francisco Sánchez Urra is a researcher at the Foundation for Progress, a senior researcher at the Austral Citizen, and a member of the Academic Board of the Jean Gustave Courcelle-Seneuil Social-Thought Group at the University of Chile’s School of Law. Follow him at @fsanchezcu.
Translated by José Niño. Edited by Fergus Hodgson.