Another side of the Berlin Wall
Published Nov 20, 2009 11:10 PM
Twenty years ago, a labor organization was on strike under very difficult
This workers’ organization and its leadership were castigated by the
corporate media. The bosses threatened, cajoled and bribed people to cross the
picket line. Scabs were brought in.
The heads of the international union colluded with the capitalists to undermine
Eventually, the strike was lost. But that wasn’t enough for the
Not satisfied with lowering the workers’ wages and benefits and breaking
the union, they sent their state apparatus after the strike leaders with
accusations of heinous crimes. The former president was driven into exile to
The labor organization in question was Amalgamated Transit Workers Union Local
1202, which went on strike against behemoth Greyhound Bus Lines in February
But everything written above also applies to the German Democratic Republic
–socialist East Germany–and the fall of the Berlin Wall a few
months earlier, in November 1989. Both the capitalist class and some
misinformed progressives have been crowing over the 20th anniversary of that
Picket line means ‘Do Not Cross!’
Ask anyone who’s been on strike if it is ever okay to cross a picket
line, and you will likely hear a resounding “No!”
The Berlin Wall–so maligned and condemned by war-making imperialists and
hand-wringing liberals alike–was nothing but a picket line on a much
The wall was erected in 1961 in response to provocations from U.S. imperialism
and its West German junior partner meant to destroy the attempt to build
socialism in eastern Germany. These provocations included infiltrating East
Berlin with anti-communist agents, military threats, and bribing specialists
whose labor was need by the workers’ state—the so-called
The disgusting myth that the Berlin Wall was erected to destroy the freedom of
Berliners, immortalized in President John F. Kennedy’s famous speech, is
just the opposite of the truth. The capitalist powers wanted to crush the
working class’ freedom to build a society unchained from the profit
The Berlin Wall was a world away from the apartheid wall built by Israel around
Palestinian population centers, the U.S./South Korean military wall that
separates family members from North Korea, or the expanded U.S. wall against
immigrants on the border with Mexico.
What is the difference? Those walls are aimed at repressing the workers and
The Berlin Wall, by contrast, was built in defense of the workers and
Socialist Germany’s accomplishments
The GDR wasn’t the product of a classical revolutionary uprising. It was
formed by an alliance of German communist, socialist, and workers’
movements that had resisted Nazism and survived World War II, and the Soviet
Red Army that liberated the eastern part of the country, all under the military
and economic pressure of the U.S.-initiated Cold War. It was only established
after U.S. imperialism and their new allies in the vanquished German ruling
class had begun to build up West Germany as a bulwark of aggression against the
USSR and its allies.
In some ways, it was a halfway house of socialism.
But whatever its faults, the GDR was a workers’ state that provided jobs,
housing and health care for all its residents. It provided aid and support,
including military and medical aid, to national liberation movements throughout
the world, including the struggle against apartheid in southern Africa.
The GDR provided a safe haven for refugees from fascist terror in countries
like Chile and Argentina. Socialist Germany also provided jobs and education
for guest workers and students from Asia, Africa, and the Middle
East–many of whom were terrorized or driven out by fascist attackers in
the early 1990s after reunification with imperialist West Germany.
East Germany was far ahead of any country in the world in lesbian/gay/bi/trans
rights and freedoms. The gay liberation movement as we know it grew up within
the German socialist and communist movements of the 19th and early 20th
Regarding women’s rights to education, jobs and housing, and especially
in establishing extensive child care, the GDR made enormous strides. Much of
this progress was wiped away when the GDR fell.
The German Democratic Republic had a right to defend its sovereignty from
imperialism, all the more so since the border between East and West Germany was
also the border between the imperialist and the pro-socialist world camps.
Those who cannot or will not defend the right of a workers’ organization
to defend itself—whether it is a union, a resistance movement or a
workers’ state—will never be able to carry out a successful
Sincere revolutionaries have to learn this lesson, and it is incumbent on those
of us who lived through those terrible setbacks to help educate new
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