Sunday is the 25th anniversary of the defining moment of my lifetime

11.30 pm, 9 November 1989, Bornholmer Strasse, Berlin:

At 11.30pm on November 9, 1989, Lieutenant-Colonel Harald Jäger was faced with a stand-off. For hours, some 20,000 East German protestors had amassed at Berlin’s border crossing demanding to be let through.

Lt-Col Jäger gave the order to 46 armed guards at his command to open the barrier and stand aside.

It was the moment the Berlin Wall fell.

Or as PJ O’Rouke put it:

“We won… We the people, the free and equal citizens of democracies, we living exemplars of the Rights of Man tore a new asshole in International Communism… The privileges of liberty and the sanctity of the individual went out and whipped butt.”

Someone out there will have access to the Bernard Levin piece he did on this. Would be good to see that again too.

How glorious it was to be alive that day.

62 thoughts on “Sunday is the 25th anniversary of the defining moment of my lifetime”

  1. It was glorious indeed.

    The 25th anniversary! And the TV and Radio will be full of this glorious event and nothing else because this was freedom’s day and…oh.

  2. What John Galt said. In hindsight we should have obtained as quickly as possible a Soviet ZSU-23-4, set it to maximum depression facing a muddy hillside, and utterly purged every institution west of the Iron Curtain of anybody who supported, either directly or indirectly, the Soviet Union or communism in any form.

    We should then have taken advantage of the chaos in Russia to launch a full-scale invasion and reform the whole place along the lines of post-war Germany, to ensure the population 1) understands where the borders of Russia lie and 2) at least has some basis to their perpetual whining that “the west wants to destroy Russia”.

  3. It was a glorious time. I remember how the wall fell and then the dominoes fell across the East.

    And even with Putin in charge, I’m reminded of the CS Lewis quote about tyrannies. He’s a bastard, a robber baron. but at least you have the ultimate freedom which is to pack your bag and leave.

  4. And now the ‘democracies’ have the same sort of control (though currently in the velvet glove) over their populations that the GDR had over theirs. Its just that the Western publics are sedated with flat screen TVs, X Factor and welfare.

    Who actually won?

  5. Jim,

    We did.

    X Factor? Yeah, it sucks, it’s rubbish. So what? Millions of people like it and none of that impacts on me listening to The Fall. Unlike the East Germans who were breaking the law by listening to John Peel and who couldn’t buy The Fall in the shops, and probably had a choice of an opera glorifying the proletariat’s increase in tractor production, or something composed before communism came along.

    And what’s wrong with flat screen TVs? My current one was cheaper than my first screen in the late 80s, bigger, more reliable and uses less power. it’s also internet enabled, allowing me to watch everything from a Taylor Swift video to The Battle of Algiers. Why would I want the crappy 3 channels I had 25 years ago?

  6. “We shouldn’t overstate the crapness of the modern UK in comparison to the Soviet Union.”

    Ok, we don’t have the Lubyanka (yet) but we do have imprisonment without trial, no freedom of speech, controlled media, the total destruction of private privacy via electronic surveillance, secret trials and State powers that are all encompassing if they choose to use them. The only real difference is that we have consumer goods that the Russians didn’t have in 1985, and thus the public are not rebelling. If they did the iron fist would come out of the velvet glove pretty quickly. It would be interesting to see what would happen if UKIP actually won an election, and threatened the status quo. I doubt they would be allowed to take over power. Something would ‘happen’ that prevented it I’m sure.

    If the USSR had embraced the market to provide the consumer goods, it would still be here today, like Red China is.

  7. Although, great though the fall of the Wall obviously was, for me this was the defining moment. It wasn’t the details of the treaty itself; it was the way they were acting like the best of friends, having a great time — which that article captures rather well.

    At the signing ceremony, Mr. Reagan emphasized the extensive verification procedures that would enable both sides to monitor compliance with the treaty. ”We have listened to the wisdom in an old Russian maxim,” Mr. Reagan said. ”Though my pronunciation may give you difficulty, the maxim is, ‘Doveryai no proveryai,’ ‘trust but verify.’ ”

    Mr. Gorbachev interrupted, laughing. ”You repeat that at every meeting,” he said. ”I like it,” Mr. Reagan replied.

    Interrupting, laughing, banter, and no international incident.

    I’ll always remember that Gorbachev’s signature was quicker than Reagan’s, so he finished first, and then sat twiddling his thumbs a bit, and then had a joke with one of his aides, and everyone, on both sides, were laughing and smiling. And then they swapped pens, as souvenirs.

    That was a great great day. After that, the Wall’s days were numbered.

  8. @Tim Newman:

    In hindsight we should have obtained as quickly as possible a Soviet ZSU-23-4, set it to maximum depression facing a muddy hillside, and utterly purged every institution west of the Iron Curtain of anybody who supported, either directly or indirectly, the Soviet Union or communism in any form.

    Sorry Tim, but that would make us as bad or even worse than the Commies were.

    But you are quite correct that there needs to be a purge of the institutions as the fact that Marxists and Watermelons exist almost purely by tapping off the public purse in funded government jobs (local and national) is truly galling.

    The issue here is that it is very difficult to do that without starting down the same road as the Fascists and Nazi’s in the 1930’s.

    So my only counter-proposal is to massively shrink the size of the state so that it has no place for them to live out their lives, fattened by the state while spewing bile upon those who are forced to pay for their largess.

    Equally, public funding of education should be based upon a return on investment, so Engineering would be fully funded, but liberal arts, women’s studies and equally useless degrees should recieve no funding of either the teaching of the students

    “Want to study Sociology? that will be £50,000 in fees please. Student loan? Sorry, not on the approved list. Go and see your Bank Manager.”

    There is a reason all of the lefties tend to work in Education you know…

  9. Jim,

    > The only real difference is that we have consumer goods that the Russians didn’t have in 1985

    Yes, that is definitely the only real difference between the UK in 2014 and the USSR in 1985. Fuckwit.

  10. “Yes, that is definitely the only real difference between the UK in 2014 and the USSR in 1985. Fuckwit.”

    Ah, such an intellectual riposte.

  11. Squander: Jim overstates the cases but is entirely right about the direction of travel. A country where the ruling BluShite gang are talking about criminalising peoples opinions –and they got voted in because they were going to undo the oppressive antics of the previous gang–is on a down-bound train.

  12. “Ok, we don’t have the Lubyanka (yet) but we do have imprisonment without trial, no freedom of speech, controlled media, the total destruction of private privacy via electronic surveillance, secret trials and State powers that are all encompassing if they choose to use them.”

    And we can protest against them. We can vote governments out that do these things that we disagree with. If you really don’t like those options, you can leave the country.

    As it happens, most people don’t. In fact, we have a huge debate going on about people coming into this country in large numbers.

  13. With the proviso that I’m talking about the USSR in the 1980s rather than the USSR in the 1930s (very different places), there is an awful lot of authoritarian shit that the UK state practices (and it’s getting worse) that the Soviets never did simply because it would never have occurred to them that it was worth doing. Outside the political sphere they simply weren’t interested: the problem was the political sphere was enormous and covered almost everything.

    So whereas we defeated the notion that people’s lives should be controlled in the interests of maintaining the hegemony of a political party, I don’t believe we defeated the notion that people’s lives should be controlled per se, and that we should be left the fuck alone.

    Quite the contrary: the political sphere is growing ever larger and more and more aspects of everyday life subject to a political test – exactly the same principles as were found in the USSR. The main difference is that the political ends are not in the interests of a particular party (as was the case in the USSR) but in the interests of a particular worldview which is not so well defined but can easily be described with a handful of examples of what is considered unacceptable and what is considered obligatory.

    To me, the people who are putting this in place in the UK hold no different principles than those who ran the USSR: this is my ideology, and everyone *must* follow it – or else. So whereas we defeated the communist ideology, we didn’t really defeat the principles that brought it about. That’s why I’m not sure we won anything.

  14. Tim N,

    > So whereas we defeated the communist ideology, we didn’t really defeat the principles that brought it about. That’s why I’m not sure we won anything.

    But those principles are just the way humans are and always have been. That’s not a defence of them — I am one of those people who oppose them — but an observation that they are not remotely unusual, were not unique to Communism, and were certainly not what we were fighting against in the Cold War. In the Cold War, we were opposed to an ideology that gave those inherent human attitudes a framework in which they inevitably led to mass murder and suffering on an unimaginable scale. In the UK, we’re back to the usual state of affairs, where those attitudes lead to lots of inconvenience and annoyance and a bit of injustice. It’s not utopia, but it was still a win.

  15. A quick question for those who think our lives today are equivalent on some way to 1980s Eastern Europe:

    You will be the same people who are concerned at Europe’s open borders and immigration today aren’t you. Can you offer me the Iron Curtain/ Berlin Wall 1989 equivalent?

  16. And what was the 1980s equivalent to Tim’s blog; the one which 1980s Russians used to opine that we should “hang the cunts now?”

  17. @Jim

    For goodness’ sake, get some perspective (or read a book if you’re under 40). Start with One day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

    In the USSR, people were murdered, starved to death, and imprisoned without trial in their millions.

    That is a very long way from where we are now.

    That doesn’t mean we’re gleaming – I wouldn’t be on this blog moaning every day if I thought it was – or that we should be complacent, or that watching telly and eating pizza is a great way to live an entire life (though it’s their choice), but to equate Britain with the Soviet Union is just utterly crass.

  18. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself how those dickheads in London would have been treated under Brezhnev. In the USSR they just disappeared you – and your family if they kicked up.

  19. I was in Berlin this week, my first visit there, they are erecting stages and seating on the Tiergarten side of the Brandenburg Gate ready for the events. Sign and posters all over the city, they are really pulling out the stops.

    The fall of the wall was certainly one of my defining moments in life, a great day to be alive.

    As I stood at the Gate two things went through my mind.
    1. Hitler may have touched the same stones I am touching now.
    2. Reagan’s voice as if he was standing next to me “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

  20. I was staying in the brand new Marriott hotel in Warsaw watching the wall come down on CNN. Surreal experience.

  21. Squander:

    “But those principles are just the way humans are and always have been. That’s not a defence of them — I am one of those people who oppose them — but an observation that they are not remotely unusual, were not unique to Communism, and were certainly not what we were fighting against in the Cold War. In the Cold War, we were opposed to an ideology that gave those inherent human attitudes a framework in which they inevitably led to mass murder and suffering on an unimaginable scale. In the UK, we’re back to the usual state of affairs, where those attitudes lead to lots of inconvenience and annoyance and a bit of injustice. It’s not utopia, but it was still a win.”

    True as far as it goes. But things don’t stay the same–matters are either going up or down. And we are going down. We have a long way to go to reach the 1930s–but we get nearer every day. Extreme Control Orders=your opinion is a crime–that is where we are now. We are on the way and can pick up speed very quickly if we are not active in stopping the momentum.

    Tim Newman:
    “And we can protest against them. We can vote governments out that do these things that we disagree with. If you really don’t like those options, you can leave the country.”

    Yeah we have the rich choice of ZaNu or BluLab. We can still, even today, buy the cigarette paper that we can’t squeeze between them.

  22. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself how those dickheads in London would have been treated under Brezhnev. In the USSR they just disappeared you – and your family if they kicked up.

    Not really, under Brezhnev. The police would have given you a good shoeing, and if you were a serious threat you’d have been locked up somewhere unpleasant, possibly with a certificate saying you were insane, but the USSR under Brezhnev was a lot different from the USSR under Stalin. Not good, but a hell of a lot better, to the point whole families were not dragged off to the gulags on a whim.

    But your point stands, the USSR and UK are not comparable. But what grates me is that the Soviets at least had the balls to say “We’re in charge, don’t you fucking forget it, and if you do, you’ll regret it”. They never denied their intentions or their brutality. Contrast this with our latest lot, who never miss an opportunity to state how much they “care” whilst at the same time the sneaky shits are generating more and more laws to get us locked up on a whim for the slightest infraction. The Soviet citizens knew they were up against a bunch of cunts, and that in part led – eventually – to the collapse of the system. The citizens of the west seem to be falling over themselves for more please, and faster.

  23. Tim Newman:
    “And we can protest against them. We can vote governments out that do these things that we disagree with. If you really don’t like those options, you can leave the country.”

    I never said that! :-/

  24. bloke (not) in spain

    “And we can protest against them. We can vote governments out that do these things that we disagree with. If you really don’t like those options, you can leave the country.”
    Mmmm…
    Well, I can remember the disquiet about some of the stuff “Jackboots” Jaquie Smith had on the menu. So you threw that lot out & got…Theresa “Kitten Heels” May. Now show me the liberty you gained.

    “As it happens, most people don’t. In fact, we have a huge debate going on about people coming into this country in large numbers.”
    And this debate is going to affect the number of people coming to the country in what way?

    Sorry, but middle-class armchair libertarians celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall makes me want to vomit. Those 20,000 E. Germans were confronting a system had form for brutal repression of dissent. That day could have ended with the dead stacked high. Yet when it comes to the liberties of armchair libertarians in their own country…. At least the left do take to the streets. See the post on Brussels burning.
    I despair.

  25. “Can you offer me the Iron Curtain/ Berlin Wall 1989 equivalent?”

    Thats the whole point of my argument. The Iron Curtain/Berlin Wall wouldn’t have been necessary if the Communists had delivered the masses what they wanted – cars, TVs, all the consumer stuff the West had. Just as the masses don’t care about politics and the constant erosion of their freedoms in the UK today, the masses wouldn’t have cared about freedom in the 1985 USSR if they had had Levis, MacDonalds, pop music, a TV and a car. Just as you can have all those things (and more) today in Red China, which a one party State, which still locks people up for intellectual dissent, and indeed effectively runs a system of gulags. Nobody cares because it affects a very few and the masses have their consumer sh*t.

    Panem et circenses, its control method as old as man. And it works, whether you are a an absolute emperor, a communist dictator, or a ‘democratic’ political leader.

  26. Tim Newman,

    “To me, the people who are putting this in place in the UK hold no different principles than those who ran the USSR: this is my ideology, and everyone *must* follow it – or else. So whereas we defeated the communist ideology, we didn’t really defeat the principles that brought it about. That’s why I’m not sure we won anything.”

    To echo Squander Two, that’s how some people are. Defending freedom requires eternal vigilance in whatever way.

    These people are always opening up new fronts, trying to find new ways to impose their will. It’s why I’m very suspicious of environmentalism – it’s where the statists went when all the communist statistics were shown to be lies. They could no longer say that the state produced more of what people wanted, so they now changed the message to say that producing more would destroy the planet.

  27. Jim,

    “Just as you can have all those things (and more) today in Red China, which a one party State, which still locks people up for intellectual dissent, and indeed effectively runs a system of gulags. Nobody cares because it affects a very few and the masses have their consumer sh*t.”

    most of China don’t have lots of consumer sh*t. Most of China is still peasants on little more than subsistence living. The people working in Apple factories in Shenzen are the rich people in China, in the same way that people who got jobs working on the railways in the 19th century in England were.

  28. So no perspective…and no understanding of the point either.

    Look, up until 25 years ago half of Europe was imprisoned physically and mentally by an evil idiology that needed to punish it’s people for not believing or, crime of crimes, trying to escape. Today we sit in our comfortable homes writing absolutely whatever we want and complaining because our borders are too open and too many people find it too easy to come a enjoy our prosperity.
    And we think there is an equivalence? In any way? Even the smallest way?

    It’s grow up time.

  29. Today we sit in our comfortable homes writing absolutely whatever we want…

    Until you make an “offensive” remark on Facebook, and then plod arrests you and chucks you in jail (this happened).

    The point is not that the two places are the same, but that the mindset that brought about the USSR appears to be gathering momentum in the UK.

  30. bloke (not) in spain

    “the mindset that brought about the USSR appears to be gathering momentum in the UK.”

    But the mindset brought down communism isn’t, is it?
    The USSR & it’s satellite stooges expended enormous energy in attempt to subvert the West. It’s arguable they’ve actually succeeded.
    You talk to people who were dissenters in the Eastern Bloc, they’ll tell you they got FA support from the West. A few fine words delivered from comfort & safety. What they achieved they did all on their own.

  31. bnis,

    “Well, I can remember the disquiet about some of the stuff “Jackboots” Jaquie Smith had on the menu. So you threw that lot out & got…Theresa “Kitten Heels” May. Now show me the liberty you gained.”

    Not much. Maybe people will find someone else. But what’s your better alternative?

    “And this debate is going to affect the number of people coming to the country in what way?”

    Well, it probably won’t, but that missed my point.

    “Sorry, but middle-class armchair libertarians celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall makes me want to vomit. Those 20,000 E. Germans were confronting a system had form for brutal repression of dissent. That day could have ended with the dead stacked high. Yet when it comes to the liberties of armchair libertarians in their own country…. At least the left do take to the streets. ”

    And how successful has that been for them? Whose ideology is more popular today? That of Russell Brand and Owen Jones, the march/rally people, or Milton Friedman, who wrote books and gave speeches expressing ideas?

    Marches only really work with a disenfranchised or oppressed group, because it’s all they’ve got.

    In a fairly free country, “Armchair libertarianism” is all that works. Convincing people that something makes sense, and then getting them to demand that of the politicians.

  32. Indeed.

    Most exciting television I have ever watched or expect ever to watch.

    Let us drink a toast on Sunday to three great leaders: Maggie, Ronnie, and Pope John Paul II, and also to the brave people of East Germany (especially the people of Leipzig) who refused to be cowed.

  33. Here’s the thing: I didn’t say twat who right vile shit about murdered little girls should be jailed. I do say that finding an equivalence any equivalence between their twatty little cases and suppression of free expression in Eastern Europe is re divulges. Until you can find an example that someone somewhere could legitimately find not to be offensive then you can’t begin to make a case about “the same mindset”.

  34. bloke (not) in spain

    @Tim Almond
    “And how successful has that been for them? Whose ideology is more popular today? That of Russell Brand and Owen Jones, the march/rally people, or Milton Friedman, who wrote books and gave speeches expressing ideas?”

    You’re serious, aren’t you?

    Jeez.

  35. I’m reading Bloodlands at the moment.
    However awful you think things are or were, have a look at Order 00447 and you’ll see the depths it’s possible to reach.

  36. Absolutely marvelous book. And dear god, so depressing. The stat that astonished me was that a non-Jew Pole living in Warsaw had a higher chance of death 1939-1945 than a German Jew, 1933-1945 (that slightly coloured by the way that many German Jews left in the early Nazi years). And the little stories of those about to be executed brought on tears at times.

  37. Jim,

    > Just as you can have all those things (and more) today in Red China, which a one party State, which still locks people up for intellectual dissent, and indeed effectively runs a system of gulags. Nobody cares

    Oh, yes, good point: no-one in China cares about freedom. I saw loads of them not caring on the news just the other week.

    > The Iron Curtain/Berlin Wall wouldn’t have been necessary if the Communists had delivered the masses what they wanted – cars, TVs, all the consumer stuff the West had.

    Yes, another good point: if Communism had not in fact been Communism, the people living under it would have felt differently about it.

    > Thats the whole point of my argument.

    That’s quite a strong claim: that you have an argument, and that it has a point.

  38. Tim N,

    > Until you make an “offensive” remark on Facebook, and then plod arrests you and chucks you in jail (this happened).
    > The point is not that the two places are the same, but that the mindset that brought about the USSR appears to be gathering momentum in the UK.

    Is it, though? Over what timescale? If that little shit had published what he did fifty years ago, would he have been punished more or less severely? How about a hundred years ago? He was publicly posting sexually graphic material, which was, until quite recently, illegal regardless of whether it was about real or fictional people. He was also doing it in a forum open to children, where we have fairly reasonable regulations. I bet he could have said the same things in an 18-rated film without going to jail. Not that anyone would have funded him.

    You look at the UK over the last few hundred years, and we have quite consistently become more free. Our speech has become a lot more free. Progress is never a straight line, and there are always points where things get a bit worse, but it’s generally two steps forward, one step back. I think we’re currently stepping back, but to compare that to a brutal despotism goes way beyond merely overstating the problem and well into the realms of paranoid lunacy.

  39. Jim,
    Really.

    A couple more flaws in your argument:

    1) Most behind the Iron Curtain didn’t know the extent of what they were missing out on. The borders and the media were controlled remember? Despite this, many, either through dissent, or trying to jump the wall or whatever, still risked their lives trying to get out

    2) It was NOT POSSIBLE for the Soviets to provide what we had in the West, not just a mistake that they didn’t. Examples:

    Elections
    Satire
    Free(ish) speech
    Baywatch

  40. Jim,
    Really.

    A couple more flaws in your argument:

    1) Most behind the Iron Curtain didn’t know the extent of what they were missing out on. The borders and the media were controlled remember? Despite this, many, either through dissent, or trying to jump the wall or whatever, still risked their lives trying to get out

    2) It was NOT POSSIBLE for the Soviets to provide what we had in the West, not just a mistake that they didn’t. Examples:

    Elections
    Satire
    Free(ish) speech
    Baywatch
    Free Movement

  41. “no-one in China cares about freedom. I saw loads of them not caring on the news just the other week.”

    Not enough of them to make a difference. There’ll always be a few who value freedom, and agitate for it, but the masses have to be onside for the State to be toppled.

    ” It was NOT POSSIBLE for the Soviets to provide what we had in the West”

    Yes it was, the Chinese have done it. The Chinese Communist Party are still in charge, they still lock up dissidents, and run a system of labour camps. But they’ve given the masses some economic freedom, and thats all most people want. The freedom to make some money and buy some sh*t, not write A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (which I have read by the way, and it wasn’t set in 1985, which was my point of reference. I’ve also read Gulag by Anne Applebaum so I know very well how many people died in Soviet Russia thank you very much).

    My point is that the masses don’t want satire, freedom of speech and intellectual freedom. They want consumer goods, full stomachs, a few beers, and whoever is the boss at work (whether No 1 Tractor Factory or a call centre in Romford) not giving them a hard time. And the Powers That Be can be anything from a Communist State to the government of the UK in 2014, they don’t really care, as long as they get those things.

    Anyone who cares to read the 2004 Civil Contingencies Act will know that we are now only a few steps away from a dictatorship, and there’s bugger all we can do about it. The only thing stopping us being 1985 USSR is that the pols haven’t been threatened and feel it necessary to use the vast powers they have to repress the public. One day they will feel threatened, and then you’ll see what they’re capable of. We already see how the US government (The Land of the Free – ha ha) views its population – they’ve armed their police to the teeth with weaponry that wouldn’t look out of place in a warzone.

    Once the UK gets its EDOs then that will be the last piece in the jigsaw. It won’t be long before websites like this are closed down on the grounds they are fomenting hatred.

  42. @sq2, one of the few things that brings me close to tears. That and Regan’s “open this gate, tear down this wall” speech.

    What we have here and now there in its place, on both the national and supranational level is very far from perfect, but those who all too regularly equate it with nazism/communism/totalitarianism are so unbelievably wide of the mark that it is hard to believe they can even take themselves seriously. And those malcontents likewise are free to pack their bag and leave. No one is forcing you to stay in not-Somalia.

  43. Jack C

    I think you’re mistaken on your first point. There was plenty of opportunity for those in the east to know what they were missing. Family ties to the west among, especially among people from Poland, Hungary, CSSR and the GDR, hard currency shops, and trade fairs attended by westerners in their good clothes and fabulous cars all introduced a breath of the outside.

    Western TV was watched along much of the border territories and the blocking of BBC and RFE radio signals was sporadic.

    That apart, the urge for freedom was in some as strong as you suggest. As a small boy I remember watching at night from the West German Baltic resort of Travemünde how the dark and depopulated GDR coast on the other side of the Lübeck bay occasionally came to life with tracer fire as some poor wretch tried to swim to freedom.

    A decade or so later saw me regularly in the GDR, facing the hostility of people in uniforms and being observed and bugged by people without uniforms. They used to bus Polish prostitutes down to the Leipzig fair to ensnare the foolish.

    Anyone who can appreciate how basic freedoms were once curtailed in the east can be a little sad at how many freedoms we are today voluntarily and mindlessly surrendering in the west.

  44. You look at the UK over the last few hundred years, and we have quite consistently become more free.

    I’m not entirely convinced, and as I said, nor am I convinced we are heading in the right direction. I’d love to see a comparison of arrestable offences in 1920 and 2014, for example. I know my father, a lawyer, told me an arrest could only be made for a limited number of serious offences, and that twat Blair expanded them to include almost everything. Nowadays the process is the punishment, something else that we have in common with the USSR which we didn’t before. And having lived in 7 countries in the last 11 years and visited around 40, I would trust a British policeman probably less than any other save a Nigerian. Their whole body language just reeks of entitled power, which scares the hell out of me.

  45. All you youngsters who don’t remember Russia invading Czechoslovakia in 1968 (because Dubcek and Svoboda were moderate Communists) let alone Budapest in 1956 (they only got away with the latter because Dulles, who didn’t fight in WWI stabbed Eden, a WWI hero, in the back using the excuse of an almost unloseable presidential election) …
    *My* defining moment was in 1951 when (some of – all, as far as I could see) the local socialists told their sons to beat up any Conservatives – if you think you can’t win an honest election: cheat by frightening the voting parents to abandon their principles! – so I learned to fight by trial and error. That shaped my life because I have hated bullies ever since and throughout the ’50s I came across examples of Labour thugs attacking opponents, occasionally beating up kids, more often throwing stones through windows that displayed posters for Conservatives.

  46. Having lived through the 80s, for me the fall of the Wall alleviated the constant awareness that any confrontation between the superpowers could result in a very nasty nuclear exchange, and provided a possible end to the proxy wars being fought all over the globe.

    What threats are around today are chickenfeed compared to what could have been. The ragheads will never be able to muster any kind of terrible weaponry that the commies could have, and they’re more likely to use it on each other anyway. Even the emerging conflict in Ukraine is likely to merit a lukewarm response from the West, having Putin tied up there is good for business, it is no missile crisis.

    As the great Mr Carrot remarked, the worst thing about a nuclear war would be the CND hippies running around afterwards bleating “I told you so”. Thankfully the Russians loved their children too and we will never see that happen.

  47. I was in Berlin those special days, and setting aside subsequent politics and disappointments, it was, as Tim says, a glorious day. We shared an almost incommunicable sense of the triumph of the human spirit. And, yes “we” had won. The sense of triumph persisted. A year later, checking in at Tempelhof Airport, I mentioned to lady checking me that I had been in Berlin during those special days. And almost instantly we both teared-up, such was the retained intensity of emotion. A bizarre sight: a middle aged businessman and a young check-in girl momentarily sharing in tears the the memory of a moment that had enhanced and enriched our lives. Still does.

  48. Bloke in Costa Rica

    One of my abiding regrets, one of the things I really do wish I could hop in a time machine and correct, is not acting on my first impulse and taking a trip to Berlin as the wall came down. I was in the first few weeks of my physics degree, and I thought it wouldn’t be ‘responsible’ to bunk off and join in the celebrations. What a tit I was. A few poxy lectures vs. participating in one of the most important events of the 20th century, and I made the wrong choice. If there was one silver lining it’s that it made me much less cautious about making decisions, which has redounded to my good fortune since.

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