On 15 August 1961, 19 year old trooper Conrad Schumann was photographed taking flight to freedom. The image is an icon, and demonstrated to the east, as well as those enamored with the Marxism that has nowhere to lead but to totalitarianism, that the “people’s revolution” hardly represented many of the people at all
That young, newly trained NCO was there to guard the construction of the barbed wire barrier that was to become the Berlin wall, then in it’s 3rd day. He, like scores of east Germans knew what was coming. We might be able to see it all again in Venezuela quite soon. In Bolivia, it’s already starting. The “Revolution” must be guarded from losing all of its’ Revolutionaries.
To quote Bertolt Brecht’s reflection on the East German uprising of 1953:
Stating that the people had forfeited the confidence of the governmentSuch as it was with that ironic humor, that “Berliner Schnauze,” of a man who himself a believer in the DDR could never bring himself to renounce his Austrian citizenship, went the notion of listening to Communists make arguments about their states, the ones trapping people inside and making it functionally unlawful to criticize nearly anything meaningful the state does – to listen to them argue that they were the true democracies and held the keys to the freedom of people from tyranny.
And could win it back only by redoubled efforts.
Would it not be easier in that case for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?
Reflecting on that uprising, the leaders of the DDR proved to be true to form:
Ulbricht and Pieck had plenty of experience talking to the workers, but not talking with them. Moreover, demonstrations that were not organized by the state were beyond their ken. In their eyes, this was revolution, or, more accurately, counterrevolution,...Which is to say that it was a thing that they were rather good at repeating a contrived and rationalized narrative about, but wouldn’t recognize in any real terms if they had to face it: a people speaking out on their own volition, a democracy, the notion that they are in power at the will of the people, or even the very idea that they possess any free will. All the people were to them were instruments before who one made an argument that you though that they could parrot back to you.
As was repeated then to the point of drawing mockery was an overarching truth: they simply couldn’t grasp the idea of freedom that America proved could be theirs’ too. Given the continued venality of the public politics on the continent, the poor regard held broadly about the lack of concern for the philosophical meaning and the virtue of people knowing that they are as free as they reasonably can be over their fate - it remains true.