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Socialism Sucks
Socialism Sucks

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In 1989, the most famous link in the Iron Curtain was about to fall. It was a fall long overdue. For nearly thirty years the Berlin Wall had surrounded West Berlin, an ugly concrete barrier separating East Germany’s people from freedom. Construction began in 1961, shortly after East Germany’s president stated publicly, “No one has any intention of building a wall!” The thousands of East Germans disappearing into West Berlin evidently changed his mind, and soon barbed wire was being strung along the streets. A complicated construction of reinforced concrete, watchtowers, bunkers, mesh fencing, and patrolling sentries soon followed. According to eastern propaganda, the wall went up to prevent westerners from buying up cheap state-subsidized goods. Any German with an ounce of common sense, however, could see that the guns and guards were all facing east.

For the next 27 years, thousands tried to get past the wall. Most were successful, but the unlucky ones were unhesitatingly shot by border guards. Statistics vary from 98 victims to at least 200. Peter Fechter, an 18 year-old, was shot just a few feet from the western edge of No Man’s Land and bled to death in full view of a videocamera. The event horrified the west and embarrassed the East German government, which afterward suggested that guards try not to shoot in such ‘public places’.

1987 was the year Ronald Reagan came to visit, and gave his famous demand. The President had arrived to commemorate Berlin’s 750th anniversary, and spoke near the Brandenburg Gate on June 12th. “We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace… General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Whether Mr. Gorbachev wanted to or not, the tides of freedom would force his hand. All over Europe, refugees were streaming across the border to flee to the west, where opportunity and freedom waited. After nearly half a century, the Soviet people were making it clear that their government had failed them. They were willing to risk death to escape it. And so, bowing to reality, the empire withdrew. November of 1989, the East German government formally declared that anyone could cross the wall without permission. Not long after, the wall came tumbling down.

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