[…] The collapse of the Berlin Wall was another such occasion best swept under the leftist carpet. All over the world million rightly celebrated whilst many on the Marxist left grumbled privately among themselves. Instead of raising a glass of cheer to the overthrow of the totalitarian regimes of Easter Europe they rued what might have been and predicted gloom and doom “under capitalism” for those who lived in the former Communist Bloc countries.
Many on the left still harken back nostalgically to a time when supposedly progressive leftist regimes created repressive obscenities like the Cheka (December 1917) and the Stasi (1950). How could such a state of confusion exist? What do secret police and surveillance and repression of political opponents have to do with progressive politics? Are universal suffrage and free elections not the foundations stones of democratic progress?
How could the left have become so blasé about democracy? Lest we forget Chartists and Suffragettes had given their liberty, and even their lives, to prise universal suffrage from the grasp of a privileged elite. It is on their traditions and gains the modern progressive leftist stands. Only an obsolete antideluvian left would be as politically disorientated as to utilise the methods and ideology of revolutionary movements which took place in pre-democratic eras.
For the progressive left the concepts of freedom and democracy need to be positioned at the centre of everything. The real challenge is to find new innovative ways to extend and deepen democracy into every area of life – economic and social – rather than undermine it through a contemptuous attitude towards its current failings. It’s a challenge that will sort out the liberationist wheat from the authoritarian chaff.
UPDATE: For the antidote, read this wonderful short post about 1989 at Facing The War.
UPDATE 2: From the new Socialist Review: Mark L Thomas, Mike Haynes and Colin Barker look at the tumultuous events of 1989 that brought down the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe and Russia, and the impact of market capitalism which replaced them. Chris Harman looks back at the fall of the Berlin Wall and the continued relevence of the theory of state capitalism.