I have got to teach a class within an hour so this is going to be very quick. They are celebrating in Berlin today. Angela Merkel, who grew up in the DDR, is marching around with Mikhail Gorbachev and Lech Walesa, along with the new Russian president, Dmitri What's his name, to celebrate the end of the "Berlin Wall," the triumph of "freedom" the "end of Communism." The crowds are chanting "Gorby, Gorby," as the old guy takes a Vaudeville bow. In the press, right-wing Americans are hailing these events as the triumph of Ronald Reagan's OK Corral diplomacy, while new Europeans look toward Gorby, German ostpolitik, and the superiority of West European consumerism to explain the "victory."
A victory for whom? The Yugoslavs, who found themselves dismembered in a bloody civil war, with NAT0 forces intervening to complete the destruction of the country. The Afghans, who faced the terror and murder of warlords and Taliban fights and more warlords after the 2001 invasion. The Soviets who saw their multinational socialist country dismembered and "shock therapy" jungle capitalism along with ethnic separatism used to drive the stake into the heart of the worlds first socialist state, to compel its people to accept a class system that teaches them to fight for money, fear their neighbors, and live in world of perpetual insecurity. Not to mention the billions of people who have experienced the "benefits" of IMF-World Bank "free market" policies, which to use a phrase that Franklin Roosevelt used against his conservative enemies in Congress, have provided more "relief of the greedy, not for the needy" probably than any period in modern history.
Of course, there are people who are much better off. Angela Merkel, who came from the DDR, is now head of reunified Germany as a Christian Democrat. Gorby has his foundation(he even did a Pizza Hut commercial at one point, as if to prove the truth of the last great joke of the Soviet Union after Yeltsin came to power: "Gorbachev is arrested for being a Communist, but the case is thrown out of court for lack of evidence). Walesa is also probably living well on the huge advance Rupe Murdoch gave him for his memoir(which few people read).
Late me rain on Angela's and Gorby's and Lech's parade by saying that the DDR was a state founded by German anti-fascists, a state which was completely free of the corporations and banks who supported both the Kaiser and Hitler in two world wars(including those who directly funded the Nazis) and remain in their present form dominant in the new Germany today. Those who became new capitalists in the nations where socialism was overthrown have certainly benefited, along with their servants but in terms of job and social security and even self worth, few serious analysts would say that the majority of people in these nations have seen their lives improve. Also, the destruction of the Soviet Union and its allies has intensified the worst forms of capitalist exploitation and social fragmentation, producing the present global economic crisis which is calling into question the whole capitalist system for hundreds of millions of people through the world.
Well I have got to go, but in the spirit of Monty Python, let me quote a "pundit" who warned that from 1989 we have seen in China the rise of "Leninist Capitalism" which has now replaced the Soviet menace as the main threat to freedom and democracy. What is Leninist Capitalism? Ask Monty Python.