Carlos Alberto Montaner
On November 9, 1989, the demolition of the Berlin Wall began, together with the disappearance of communism in Europe. Thirty years have passed since that extraordinary episode. I remember it as the happiest days of my life.
It is impossible to forget the image of these jubilant young people tearing down with sledgehammers the wall that would prevent them from entering a luminous future carved with their own effort. Freedom was that––to be able to fight for a better destiny without a State deciding for us, without a Party making our choices, without the eyes of the political police permanently perched on our necks.
What would have happened if Gorbachev had invoked the “Brezhnev Doctrine” and launched the “Warsaw Pact” tanks against the protesters, assassinating 10,000 Berliners? Nothing would have happened. That was what the Chinese reformist comrades did that same year of 1989 in Tiananmen. They killed thousands of dissidents and “the Chinese spring” dried up immediately. If Gorbachev had resorted to violence, communism would have continued to rule in the USSR and in Eastern Europe.
Why didn’t Gorbachev do it? First, for psychological reasons. Gorbachev was not a bloodthirsty man. His main ideologist, Alexander Yakovlev, told me that they rejected violence. They were communists and patriots, but not murderers. In addition, they thought that “Russia had to be freed from the weight of the USSR” and that could be done without coercion or retaliation.
Only keeping the Cuban satellite afloat had cost Moscow’s treasury more than 60 billion rubles over the years, without including the military equipment, the same amount of the deficit they had the year in which the USSR was dissolved. And on top of that, Fidel Castro, in addition to what Cuba cost to the Soviet Union, did not stop conquering absolutely unproductive countries that hung insensibly from the Moscow budget––Nicaragua, Angola and Ethiopia, while plotting against “perestroika” and “glasnost” and applauded the Soviet military presence in Afghanistan. That was intolerable.
Gorbachev wanted to transform Russia into a truly developed, prosperous and free nation, but without private ownership of the means of production, governed by a planned system, in accordance with the Marxist collectivist project.
However, he abandoned Leninism, because of its repressive character, forgetting that Marx had proposed “the dictatorship of the proletariat.” Somehow, Lenin, and then his disciple Stalin, had limited themselves to creating the methodology to implement that kind of dictatorship advocated by the German philosopher.
“Why did Gorbachev fail?” I asked Yakovlev. My question also included him in the disastrous end of perestroika. He thought for a moment while looking at the window. He hit his wooden leg––a testament of his status as a World War II hero––with his pipe and, finally, he said with certain melancholy, “Because communism does not adapt to human nature.”
It was true. That is why it had failed in all latitudes––Germans, Latins, Christians of various denominations, Muslims, Asians––and with all kinds of leaders––educated, agrarian, proletarian, crazy and sane, cautious and adventurous. There were no exceptions.
On the other hand, the superiority of the Western model, the liberal democracy, was evident. Why? Exactly because of the contrary––it was an expression of human nature. Liberal democracy had given birth to South Korea. Collectivism and planning, to North Korea.
Liberal democracy admitted the diverse variety of people, which involved different habits, behaviors and results, features that caused an inevitable social stratification. It accepted the market and rejected the small world conceived by the planners. Far from rejecting and persecuting the entrepreneurs, it applauded and exalted them, because the constant improvement of the environment was due to the competition, although it was known without a doubt, since Joseph Schumpeter, that the market was fed by the bodies of the most inefficient ones.
Thirty years after its disappearance in Europe, collectivism, intertwined with drug trafficking, is making a comeback and shows its hairy ear in some Latin American countries. It is no longer about creating paradise on earth, but hell. It will not prevail. Nor does it adapt to human nature.
*The opinions published herein are the sole responsibility of its author*
The author publishes very soon Without going any further, his personal memories. Editorial Debate, a seal of Penguin-Random House.