In November 1989, the Berlin Wall riveted the world’s attention. German crowds from east and west used hammers, pickaxes and bare hands to destroy the obnoxious appendage of a Stalinist bureaucracy and its police state. Euphoria ruled as thousands flooded across the hated border and reunited with loved ones.
That year strongmen fell in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia. Women demanding higher wages and reproductive rights lent power to the uprisings.
Pundits celebrated the “death of communism.” But what existed in the USSR and the Soviet bloc was never communism, although it was convenient for the U.S. to label it as so in its 70-year aggression against the workers states. These states provided a vision, even though disfigured by Stalinism, of the possibility of a socialist world based on human needs.
What millions across Eastern Europe wanted was democracy and decent lives. Instead, they got brutal privatization of nationalized economies with former bureaucrats as the new capitalists. The last three decades have proven that capitalism is no antidote to austerity and police terror. Socialism is still needed, and it will only become real by being international.