WEEKEND WEB: We must not drop our guard against such menace rising again

The Berlin Wall two years before it came down
The Berlin Wall two years before it came down
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Last Monday marked an important day in world history; it is a cause for celebration by all of us who cherish the triumph of freedom over tyranny that the Berlin Wall has now been down for longer than it stood.

Built by the East German Government in 1961, the Wall stood for 10,316 days until its demolition – foreshadowing the fall of communist regimes across Eastern Europe – in 1989.

During that time, it potently symbolised the grim enslavement of millions, creating – as President Reagan put it in his speech before the Brandenburg Gate in 1987 – “a surrounding totalitarian presence that refuses to release human energies or aspirations.” Its checkpoints and watchtowers – so often the hallmark of oppressive regimes – sought to monitor, control and terrorise every aspect of East Berliners’ lives.

It is small wonder that more than 100,000 chose to flee to the West in the hope of a better life. At least 270 of them died as they attempted to escape, as East German soldiers were ordered to shoot any whom they suspected of defection.

Despite East German leader Erich Honecker’s boasts that the Wall would be “standing in 50 and even in 100 years”, the memorable events on November 1989 transformed an edifice of fear into a place of hope.

But we must remember that the deplorable communist legacy of Marx and Engels still affects vast numbers of people today. The North Korean dictator denies his people all knowledge of the outside world, subduing them with mass starvation, torture and public summary execution.

In Venezuela, a socialist regime, which sits on the largest proven oil reserves in the world, robs its citizens of their liberty, leading inexorably to mass shortages of food, healthcare and clean water.

Time and time again, these reckless, ahistorical “experiments” – rejecting the civilising influence of the wisdom of ages – leave those forced to live through them in abject poverty and misery.

Milestones such as last week should keep us alive to the vital lessons to be learned from history. There is no excess of which mankind is not capable, and those who seize total power will routinely use such excesses to maintain their control. We must be constantly vigilant against any prospect of such menace rising again. The scars left by the Berlin Wall demonstrate how appalling the damage can be when we drop our guard.


Commons at its best when party politics are put to one side