Walls and Bridges
A Time to Commemorate or a Time to Struggle ?
It was twenty years ago that the Berlin Wall came down to the great joy of pacifists everywhere and a generalized hope that geopolitical tensions were ending and a harmonious era was beginning. Today, few would deny that these hopes were naïve at best and that much of the joy expressed was somehow perverse. Far from liberating us from fear and want, the end of the Cold War allowed the western capitalist governments to pursue imperialist policies with virtually no constraint. The much vaunted “globalization” — accelerated capital investment, deregulation of financial and commercial transactions, planetary integration of markets, global division of labor involving the relocation of industrial production to cheap-labor areas — was logically accompanied by a continuing series of brutal, high-tech wars in which civilian populations are the victims of massive, calculated attrition.
The wall came down in Berlin, but the bridges were destroyed as a consequence (the new wars — such as those against Iraq and the remnants of Yugoslavia — target infrastructures first). And then the walls began to rise again. In addition to the new walls between Palestine and the state of Israel, and between Mexico and the United States (not to speak of “gated communities” everywhere), there are others of a no-less-real nature newly erected between ethnic and confessional groups ; these are walls of fear and suspicion encouraged by imperial strategists in the time-tested effort to “divide and conquer”. No, if the fall of the Berlin Wall raised hopes and should be no cause for nostalgia for the fallen “socialist” regimes, the world is not a better place because of it. The reunification of Germany was in some important ways a necessary amelioration of a situation created by both capitalist and Stalinist authorities, but the past twenty years have seen a deterioration of the planet as a human and physical environment. The struggle against state terror and for a truly democratic social commonwealth is more crucial than ever.