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An accurate poster about the Cold War

The Cold War ended a quarter of a century ago. Some are forgetting about it, others are never even learning about it. Many others are deliberately forgetting about the Cold War, because it, and how it ended, made them look bad. But the Cold War needs to be remembered. What it was. What it meant. And why it was such a good thing that the good side won and that the bad side lost.

Sights like this poster, I suggest, which I managed to photograph at Pimlico tube station yesterday before the train I was awaiting blocked it from my view, might help. It is advertising a German series now running on British TV, set during the final years of the Cold War:

Deutschland83Poster

I have not been watching Deutschland 83. Comments from any who have would be most welcome. If such comments materialise, I would not be surprised to learn that it contains many little touches of moral equivalence, inaccuracy, and deft little claims to the effect that the winners of the Cold War won it by mistake and that the losers of the Cold War lost it on purpose. I don’t know, but fear the worst on that front. (A little googling led me to this piece, which, with its typically snearing Reagan reference, does not reassure me.)

But meanwhile, the above poster struck me yesterday and strikes me still as a breath of fresh, clean, truthful air.

I particularly like the colour contrast. I further like that Marx and Lenin get blamed for this colour contrast. I like that there is barbed wire on the bad side but none on the good side, grim and grey sky on the bad side and blue sky on the good side, privation and militarism on the bad side and an abundance of tasty food, romantic pleasure and technological inventiveness on the good side.

Perhaps the makers of this poster – and if not them than at least some of those distributing it and displaying it in this country – thought that they were being ironic rather than truthful. Perhaps some of these people think that this poster does not so much present truth as mock the truthful opinions of people like me and my fellow Samizdatistas, for being “simplistic”. If so, to hell with such anti-anti-communist imbeciles. I prefer the truth about the Cold War and I rejoice that this poster proclaims that truth, especially to people who may not now be aware of it.

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75 comments to An accurate poster about the Cold War

  • jim jones

    Pretty boring TV series, NATO came over as the bad guys in my opinion.

  • Patrick Crozier

    I’ve only watched the first episode. In that the East Germans indulge in assault, blackmail, theft, the spiking of drinks and murder. The West Germans: smoking, barbecues, racial equality and world-weariness. Oh and the East Germans both accept the superior material prosperity of the West and come up with reasons why it’s a bad thing while at the same time trying to get their hands on it.

    I write all that and yet I’m still not sure.

  • OnKayaks

    Hi Jim,

    I was about to order the Deutschland 83 first season’s DVD. The idea of an East German Stasi spy who infiltrates the West German military at the height of the Cold War interests me, and the series has consistently raving reviews, like a 100% positive ratings. Now, your comment gives me pause.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    My favorite example of Western moral equivalency is the part in “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold” where the East German populace is outraged by the killing (by a British agent) of an East German border guard. After East Germany collapsed, it turned out the East Germans weren’t at all sentimental about their border guards.

  • Runcie Balspune

    I’ve watched the first two episodes and I am personally enjoying it, I share the sentiment of the “forgotten cold war” that I grew up with, plus I like 80s re-enactments because I was there and it’s funny somehow. The drama is actually quite good and being a “foreign film” it has a kind of freshness you don’t get with mainstream American/British drama.

    I’ve yet to see evidence of a pro-communist bias, it does show how many in the East were quite taken with the false patriotism and fear of the west (both real and imaginary). The second episode did show the East German spy master is also a leader of an anti-war movement and the spy ring does smuggle western goods for favours (Nescafe?), so that’s not that positive. The main protagonist is actually acting under duress to get his mother a needed operation (which at the time was routine in the west).

  • Mr Ed

    The Cold War ended a quarter of a century ago

    He says with the 25th anniversary of the start of Desert Storm falling tomorrow, I wonder what the Soviet high command thought as they saw the US Army chew up the Iraqi Army, apart from whatever is Russian for ‘Thank F*** we didn’t push it‘.

  • rxc

    I had three experiences with totalitarianism in the 70s that will stay with me forever. One was a visit to Dachau, passing thru that gate with the “Arbeit macht frei” sign.

    The second one was driving north from Munich to Berlin, thru East Germany. At the border, on the south end of the bridge, there were three wooden huts (Brit, US, and French)that were manned by one soldier and signs that announced “You are now leaving the American Zone”. The south bank of the river was green down to the edge of the water. The north bank had no vegetation whatsoever – barbed wire, tank traps, guard towers, ditches, and death strips back several hundred meters. There was a tower in the middle of the bridge (nominally part of the East), with a sign that said “5 km” speed limit, and a clearly visible mounted machine gun and gunner, pointing south, to enforce the speed limit. Very effective.

    The third episode was 14 years later, in Moscow, when I had my exit visa stolen, and could not get out. It was very unpleasant.

    More people need to be exposed to these sorts of experiences, to make sure that they understand what is at stake. Unfortunately, they are getting a mild taste of it with the airport security procedures, and they are letting it gradually become the norm.

  • Richard Thomas

    The east may have lost but I’m not so sure the west won.

    Once all the spying, control and authoritarianism was no longer held up as scary examples of what life in the USSR was like, it started to be implemented here in a hurry (though in truth, it was never far below the surface)

  • JohnW

    Still no sign of any traitors being outed by Cameron and his crew for working undercover for the commies in the UK?

    Funny that.

  • JohnW

    Still no sign of any traitors being outed by Cameron and his crew for working undercover for the commies in the UK?

    Funny that.

  • Mr Ed

    In terms if the Soviet plans for an attack on the West, it seems that Soviet doctrine required a massive pre-emptive nuclear strike on the West, to (a) destroy the defenders and (b) give their side nothing to defect to. In this video of a talk from the Dole Institute in Kansas, (yes, Robert Dole), in response to a question at 58′ 43″ re nukes, the speaker (ex Us Army) recounts how in the 1990s a Ukrainian ex-GSFG Lt Col and a nuclear planner told him that in his brigade the Soviets planned to attack Denmark on Day 1 with a tank brigade by hovercraft as a supporting effort after dropping 500 nukes on Denmark (presumably the average ‘Ivan’ liked his bacon crispy).

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IQ_tihjHB3s

  • Laird

    I agree with Richard Thomas’ comment.

    I haven’t seen any of this series (and probably won’t). But with regard to Jim Jones’ comment that “NATO came over as the bad guys in my opinion”, they may have been the “good guys” in the aftermath of WW2 and through the Cold War, but today I have serious reservations.

  • John Galt III

    For those who have doubts about the Cold War, read “The Black Book of Communism” – 858 pages uncovering in detail Communism’s murder of 100,000,000 people, mostly its own.

    It starts with Communism’s promise to the peasants that they would get their own land and to the workers that they would get labor rights. It then quickly reports that the Communists lied about both promises and starved, shot or jailed the peasants and the ‘toilers’.

    If you have doubts after that, check yourself into the nearest insane asylum, or if one is not close a mosque will do equally as well.

  • Clovis Sangrail

    Can I nominate John Galt’s quote for an SQOTD? Or if not the whole thing then the bit which goes
    “…If you have doubts after that, check yourself into the nearest insane asylum, or if one is not close a mosque will do equally as well”!

    I have had to spend some time cleaning my screen after reading that.

  • veryretired

    I read a nice little book a while ago titled, “The Cold War—What We Now Know”, based on re-examining many Cold War issues and events in light of the release of the Soviet and other Warsaw Pact countries’ archives.

    As a crude summary, let’s just say that those who were concerned about an international communist conspiracy didn’t know the half of it. The levels of penetration into supposedly non-aligned groups, and funding for apologists and defenders of the soviets, were remarkable.

    The lying and covering-up by the supposedly objective media were also startling.

    Last but not least, the numbers and importance of people who had been recruited into the soviets’ intelligence and propaganda services were far beyond anything that the most fervent McCarthy-ites could have imagined.

    I was reminded of this recently when reading of a proposed law in Israel, which would require the various NGO’s and supposed human rights’ groups to reveal their funding sources, since it is a well-known secret that much of their money for anti-Israeli activity comes from outside Islamic sources.

    Similar funding sources would also be found if the question were examined in the case of many environmental, anti-fracking, and climate change watermelon groups.

    But, of course, the media would have to do some of that stuff—oh, what’s it called—oh yes, reporting, for any of that to ever happen. Fat chance of that.

  • OnKayaks

    veryretired:

    I was reminded of this recently when reading of a proposed law in Israel, which would require the various NGO’s and supposed human rights’ groups to reveal their funding sources, since it is a well-known secret that much of their money for anti-Israeli activity comes from outside Islamic sources.

    I am following the news on this project in the Knesset. I believed that the public funding for these NGOs was granted mainly by European governments, and by EU and UN’s agencies. I am genuinely interested, have you any link that suggest Muslim funding?

  • Laird

    veryretired, is the book you’re referring to “We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History” by John Lewis Gaddis? That one is published by the Council of Foreign Relations, so to me it seems unlikely that it would be as anti-communist as you suggest. But I can’t find anything else with the title you wrote.

  • I partied in Poland on New Years Eve with my wife, my sister in law, her partner. We had great food a lot of JRRT on a projection screen and even more Czech beer.

    Then fireworks. Wowsers!

    I can’t imagine this could have happened 25 years ago (or even been conceivable). But now it’s simples as a meerkat. Thank you Boeing (and not just for the 737-800), Ryanair, Ronnie and Maggie. May the final two names last forever. They gave us back about a huge chunk of Europe.

    It was a long weekend. I can take one half a continent away now and it’s like nothing. It’s brilliant.

  • AngryTory

    How communism ended made the West look bad — sure did: because every bad feature of communism was adopted wholesale by the “Welfare West” — welfare, benefits, state education, state heathcare, and on and on and on.

    We should have nuked ’em in 1950 like LeMay wanted to, and then purged the commies from the west like McCarthy showed we needed!

  • Laird

    “simples as a meerkat.”

    I have to say, that is not an expression I have heard before.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I think our NickM has what you might call an unusual mind. 😉

  • veryretired

    OnKayaks and Laird—

    The article I referred to was at a site called The American Digest or American Thinker, I perused both this afternoon, and was reprinted from an Israeli newspaper.

    As to the book, I think the title you mentioned is probably correct, but I didn’t remember it as being stridently anti-communist, just that it went through the various people and organizations, starting with the American Communist Party, who had also protested their independence from Moscow, and described the many entries in the archives describing the payments made to them, or how they were referred to as being active intelligence sources.

    My own observation was that the facts spoke for themselves, and the fantasy world that so many people assured us was real, and that there was no active communist subversion as claimed by “crazy right wing lunatics”, all turned out to be total BS. I knew some of this previously, but the confirmation of real sources is always desirable.

    As to the Islamic sources for funding some of the NGO’s etc., in Israel, pray tell what is the difference between that and the allegedly “impartial” sources you cite? The UN? EU governments? All things considered, direct funding from Iran or Saudi Arabia wouldn’t lead to any more prejudicial operations or reports on the part of some “rights council” that never seems to find any violations that it can’t blame on Tel Aviv.

    To paraphrase Instapundit, they aren’t for peace, or rights, or the environment—they’re just on the other side.

  • Julie near Chicago

    On Feb. 9, 2006, John Lewis Gaddis gave a talk before the Council on Foreign Relations on his book The Cold War: A New History, published in December, 2005.

    (Amazon has 150 readers’ reviews of the book:


    http://www.amazon.com/Cold-War-New-History/dp/1594200629/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1453006122&sr=1-1)

    The talk, “A New Look at the Cold War,” is about an hour long at

    You,Tube,dot,com/watch?v=0Khxmmq1eko .

    I haven’t watched it yet, however.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Very,

    Yes, and this reminds me of what somebody said about the anti-American American Left. Paraphrase,

    “They were not for or against anything in particular…they were just — against.

    At least, that’s the gist of it. I wonder if it might have been Alan Drury, in Capable of Honor. Did you read it? It was very good.

  • Julie near Chicago

    PS. Laird mentions above the book We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History, which was published in 1998.

    UT also has a video of a talk Prof. Gaddis gave to the CFR prior to the book’s publication. Recorded by C-Span, runs about an hour. The caption is, “Did the Soviet Union Want World Revolution? Rethinking Cold War History (1997).” I assume that the lecture covered material in the book that would be published the next year.

    Type in the usual UT domain, then paste

    /watch?v=gxKYLaSamhQ&spfreload=10

    Amazon has 34 readers’ reviews of the book:

    http://www.amazon.com/We-Now-Know-Rethinking-Relations/dp/0198780710/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1453008310&sr=1-1

  • James Waterton

    The major drawback of the unquestionably positive outcome of the West winning the Cold War is that in victory we’ve become soft, complacent and gun-shy – far too willing to pay the Danegeld instead of decisively confronting far weaker adversaries.

  • jim jones

    The series is on Kickass Torrents if you want to try it without any financial outlay

  • Gaddis’ book is very good, I can recommend it. I think it was this book which first revealed that Castro tried to persuade Khruschchev to launch a first nuclear strike on the US, which turned him white with shock as he realized what a crazed loon he was dealing with.

  • AngryTory

    Julie

    Yes, and this reminds me of what somebody said about the anti-American American Left….

    read the article. Turns out the Anti-American left were (and still are) in the pay of and under the direction of Moscow. These days, Beijing and Dabiq too. McCarthy was wrong only in that his estimate of the size of the purge was wrong by at least a thousandfold.

  • It was a ref to a very popular insurance ad in the UK.

  • Kevin B

    Slioghtly on topic, but has anyone else noticed the Iranian propaganda posters that the Beeb have been showing on their main news site front page for the last couple of days?

    I know that Iran is now a big friendly puppy that wouldn’t hurt a fly, but I still find it a bit creepy.

  • Slioghtly on topic, but has anyone else noticed the Iranian propaganda posters that the Beeb have been showing on their main news site front page for the last couple of days?

    The one showing American sailors kneeling with their hands on their heads? Yes and yes.

  • Mr Ed

    Slioghtly on topic, but has anyone else noticed the Iranian propaganda posters that the Beeb have been showing on their main news site front page for the last couple of days?

    Tim,

    I think that the posters referred to are on this article towards the bottom, advancing left to right, above some chaps in lab coats.

    I note:

    Iran is reportedly poised to buy 114 new passenger planes from the Airbus consortium

    Hmmmm….

  • llamas

    I was in Berlin several times in the 70s and crossed into East Berlin at least twice. While the poster us a little bit overblown, it captures the contrast perfectly. While West Berlin wasn’t quite a Nirvana of sunshine, puppies with wet noses, and joyful hippie-style free love – we’re still talking about Germany, after all – the contrast with the East was just about exactly like this. My recollections of East Berlin are of samp, grey, foggy decay, everything seemed to be half-falling-down and neglected. The people all looked as though they were being given colonoscopies twice daily, dressed in shabby tat and with (stuck with me all these years) terrible shoes. The whole place was suffused with an air of grey, damp hopelessness.

    When will the series show up on Netflix or similar?

    llater,

    llamas

  • Iran has a complicated constitution. Also they are not all complete nutters. I have thought for a long time and time seems to be proving me wise that their major foe is not Israel, the UK or the USA but Saudi Arabia. Iran may be unpleasant in that it’s a partial theocracy but Saudi is utterly vile. Yet we treat the latter as a buddy and the former as Mordor. Madness. The dark hearts of Islamic terrorism are Pakistan and Saudi.

    15/19 9/11 hijackers – Saudi. Remember that?

    bin Laden ensconsed walking distance from a military academy?

    And if anyone thinks IS isn’t funded from Saudi monies then they need a reality check.

    If these are “key allies in the war on terror” then we ain’t picking friends too well. Anything that pokes the House of Saud in the eye with a point’d stick gets my vote.

    Oh, and did any other country celebrate than Saudi Arabia celebrate 2016 with an orgy of beheadings? Well Islamic State probs. That Shia cleric had done nothing to my mind criminal.

  • llamas,
    I was in Berlin the summer just after the wall came down. I get your drift.

  • Kevin B

    Tim and Ed. The posters I was referring to were done in the old soviet heroic style and featured brave workers, steadfast soldiers and even a dove of peace. They seem to have been disappeared so it was all probably my neoliberal imagination.

  • Alisa

    It’s too new to arrive on Netflix, but you can stream it from Amazon for a fee.

  • lucklucky

    “Iran has a complicated constitution.”

    Really, it is now how is it called? so in Britain if only the Tories, or only the Labour etc could run? What is complicated about that?

    Iran is a murderous regime and we are giving wins to the Ayatollahs like we had given to Hitler. So we will have more of that.

    I have nothing for Saudi either they are fruits of the same tree.

    Funny that you criticize Saudi beheadings as if something Iran does not do: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/iran-executes-hundreds-brutal-crane-hangings-mega-prison-outside-tehran-1508986

    Iran has one of the highest rates of executions in the world and Iran Human Rights (IHR) estimated at least 570 prisoners, 10 of whom were women, were hanged during the first half of 2015, with a rate of three executions per day. The figure has increased by 40% compared to the first half of 2014.

    or from wiki:

    In August 2013, a 12-year-old Iranian boy from the province of Kermanshah accidentally hanged himself while re-enacting a hanging with his younger 8-year-old brother. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the boy was “an unexpected victim of a culture of public executions that remains pervasive in the Islamic republic.” Whenever executions are carried out publicly in Iran, children are often among the spectators. Iranian journalist Mokhtar Khandani said, “In Kermanshah, where I reside, I see in many places that street executions are carried out. At such venues, unfortunately I see a lot of children who are there and witness the scene. In the eyes of some children, it might seem like a game.”

    http://www.rferl.org/content/iran-hanging-rights-un/25131488.html

    In the Media there is silence.

  • ifabloke

    At the time, we in the military in West Germany referred to it all as ‘the balance of mutual incompetence’.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes lucklady – Iran is a tyranny, the “Islamic Republic of Iran”.

    The talk of “moderates” versus “hardliners” is nonsense – to deceive idiots.

    In reality the Iranian “Hastener” regime is determined to continue to finance Islamic terrorism around the world – and it is determined to carry on developing missiles and nuclear weapons.

    And it will USE these nuclear weapons – to bring about the return of the “Hidden One”.

    Yes they may be insane – but they are intelligent, very intelligent indeed.

    And totally committed to the murder of millions.

    Israel should attack now – at once.

    And with whatever weapons are needed to destroy the buried Iranian regime nuclear bases.

  • Paul Marks

    Brian.

    I am no expert on Deutschland 83 – as I am presently watching “War and Peace” (which is on at the same time) although Tolstoy, as a political thinker, was not to may taste (someone who can not see the error between being for liberty but against large scale private property is in error).

    However, I have seen bits of Deutschland 83 – and it is a bit odd.

    Picking a man, without training, for an undercover mission is odd – to say the least.

    And, yes, the show perpetuates the myth that the Reds believed the West (specifically Ronald Reagan) to be planning an attack upon them.

    Plenty of talk of Cruse missiles and so on.

    None, that I have heard, about the Soviet SS20 missiles that were deployed first.

    Still bleep the Reds.

    They lost and we won.

    Suck that up Mr Obama – with your unpublished Columbia University Thesis (unpublished because Mr Obama was on the side of the Soviets).

    You will be out of office in a year – you will not have “fundamentally transformed” the United States into the socialist utopia.

    You have lost – just like your Comrades in the East Block lost.

  • Paul Marks

    I have just read Nick’s comment.

    No offence my friend.

    I did not mean to call YOU an idiot.

    The tactic of the Iranian Regime is “good cop” and “bad cop”.

    The “moderate” President is in fact an old servant of the Supreme Leader – he lied endlessly during previous talks on nuclear matters.

    I am as old as sin and twice as ugly.

    I am not fooled by these people.

    But people who are fooled by them are nice people – better people than me.

    After all I am prepared to use nuclear weapons to destroy the Iranian regime nuclear bases – if there is no other way of destroying them. Because I firmly believe that Iranian regime will use nuclear weapons against cities if they are allowed to develop them.

    Which means, if I am mistaken about their plans, I would be going to Hell after the judgement of God.

  • Darrell

    An interesting window on the times: Neil Young live in Berlin, early ’80s. The last song “Berlin” is evocative.

    The concert is on youtube, also on DVD and such.

  • Mr Ed

    And, yes, the show perpetuates the myth that the Reds believed the West (specifically Ronald Reagan) to be planning an attack upon them.

    Indeed, and as I have pointed out above, the Soviets planned their war to be an offensive war of nuclear annihilation (i.e. reduction to NOTHING, for that is what annihilation is), for example, peaceful, non-nuclear, essentially harmless, porky Denmark was earmarked for 500 nuclear strikes at the outset of a Soviet offensive against the West. What would the Soviets have put on the UK, France, Germany?

    And in 1982, the threat seemed very real, as contemporary accounts of British Forces in Germany showed. A typical reaction was to keep a car fuelled-up and loaded for a dash for the serviceman’s family to the Channel ports in the hope that at least his family might get away. 1982, when Kool and the Gang’s ‘Get Down on It’ was a new song.

    As for Iran, I hear the same crap that the ‘Sh*t-Eaters’ (as the Soviets might have called them) spouted about moderates and hard-liners in the Soviet Politburo about Iran, the difference is that the Iranian government, if genuine believers as 12-ers, would have no problem with a nuclear war as a religious duty. I do think, however, that just as when you see some terrorist X martyred, with his mates wailing and gnashing teeth, deep down they don’t quite believe it, or else why would they feel grief, if X has gone to ‘paradise’? The only feelings consistent with being 100% convinced of a martyrdom would be pride at the achievement, relief and a bit of envy.

  • AngryTory

    in Britain if only the Tories, … could run?

    umm, that would be a sensible capitalist democracy, my friend. Well Tories and UKIP anyway. do you really want a party funded by Moscow, Riyadh, and Dabiq in parliament, let alone in government?

  • JohnW

    After all I am prepared to use nuclear weapons to destroy the Iranian regime nuclear bases – if there is no other way of destroying them. Because I firmly believe that Iranian regime will use nuclear weapons against cities if they are allowed to develop them.
    Which means, if I am mistaken about their plans, I would be going to Hell after the judgement of God.

    As a Yorkshireman I obviously start off a lot closer to perfection than most people but in all modesty even I have to admit I’m not quite there yet.
    Nevertheless, I would nuke Iran and Saudi Arabia tomorrow given half a chance.

    I’m not sure why anyone would want to be supernatural zombie for all eternity but suppose some sort of after-death existence were possible – what difference would the climate make?

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    ISIS wants to be a world-embracing Kaliphate, in which there would be no room for Saudi monarchs, so I do not believe that the Saudies are funding them. However, it’s easy to believe that Iran might try to stir such groups up, until they get their own nukes.

  • Upt to a point I was playing Devil’s advocate – someone has to but the major international tension in the ME is Iran/Saudi. The former we indulge and the latter we demonize. Iran is not evil – parts of the government of Iran are but there is enough sanity in Persia to perhaps prevail. Sometimes you have to choose the least worst guys to at least have a chat with. The Saudis are not that. They are unspeakably vile. Egypt and much of the Maghreb is utter chaos. Syria and Iraq are fucked and Turkey unless Erdogan is rapidly given a long walk off a very short pier is not helping. I really liked Turkey when I was there a few years back and I think what Erdogan has done is dreadful. OK. I only saw the West but it was polite, civilized and cool. Oh, and you could have a drink and my wife could walk round unhijabed without any agro. The loss of that would be cultural tragedy.

    Iran possibly coming back into the fold even with baby-steps is to be welcomed. OK, Early days yet but I am an optimist. It wuld be great to go to an Iran that was more like the Turkey I visited and this can happen. I hold no such hope for Saudi Arabia. The depth of cultural stagnation is just too much. There is also the simple fact that Persia/Iran has a cultural continuity and shit-holes like Saudi don’t.

    Russia was mentioned. Aren’t moderately cordial ties with Russia better than the days of Able Archer? And no I don’t think they were monolithically aggressive as some due. They were paranoid and that is worse. Ronnie played them at that and won and we are all better off for than and for Maggie and Gorby. I am glad we in the West talked softly and carried a big stick and utterly out-cultured the Sovs. We still are… My wife lived in Moscow for a year and is of the opinion Russian cheese is dreadful. Pooty has banned the import of EU cheese. Folks are running cheese on the QT into Russia like Levi jeans and bootleg “Then Jerico” tapes in the ’80s. Soft power is not to be underestimated.

    The “culture bomb” can work. Nobody can tell me life under Mo’s sandal is as fun as in mine. Nobody can tell me a complete ban on mixing of the sexes is fun or not being able to have a shandy or having to read Marx or having a Trabant (if you were lucky) not a VW Golf.

    It is that power the gits fear more than F-16s. It worked against the Warsaw Pact. It may take time but it works.

    Every fire needs a spark. Just one.

    One of my specific things at university was combustion theory – specifaclly the translation from deflagration to detonation (when a fire goes BANG!). I have seen that happen socio-politically in my lifetime (I’ve spent a fair bit of time in central Europe). I have seen it here in the UK. I have seen in a remarkably short space of time homosexuals being derided figures of “comedic” ridicule on prime TV to being heroes like Captain Jack (technically bi-) or Madame Vastra (technically a reptile). Very quick. Culture shifts are quick. Look at fashion. Look at music or computer games. The later perplex me these days. Well, the kid’s ones do. I was gen gapped by 35. But then my first gaming was on a “wooden” Atari. I am still unbeaten on Warlords.

    And can we lighten-up? For God’s sake!

    Of Elgar’s First Symphony Newman wrote this, “There is no programme beyond a wide experience of human life with a great charity (love) and a massive hope in the future.”

    I grok that. I love Elgar. We need more Elgars and fewer Mahler’s who was a professional miserablist st the best. I got into Mahler as a teen around the same time a lot of kids my age were listening to The Smiths. If you don’t know of their work one of their most uplifting ditties is, “Girlfriend in a coma”.

    Mahler is worse. Listening to his 4th Symphony is like circumcising oneself with a windy pick whilst listening to William Shatner playing a Chas and Dave medley on my shitty corrugated broadband laxophone without even the courtesy of a BT Reacharound.And the least said about those Barney Blunts the sooner their bloated corpses won’t surface in the Mersey. I mean I like a hint of bootock cleavage as much as anyone. I like it on a Minogue and not a BT minion fucking about with a green box to no fucking discernible porpoise. I have never seen a sweaty-arsed man in a high-viz (and it is very Viz) and felt a tenting.

    2015 saw a smaller percentage of the human race in absolute poverty than ever before. And I mean eating dung poor. So just listen to Elgar please. I love this site but we have IMHO a fair bit of Private Frazer.

    I have a massive hope for the future. Mainly because it is a an undiscovered country. Now that is fun isn’t it? Leif thought so.

    *At least it wasn’t Will.i.am Shathere – under the wainscoting whatever the fuck that is. With the pipe. I claim my Cluedo win!

  • Eric

    It starts with Communism’s promise to the peasants that they would get their own land and to the workers that they would get labor rights. It then quickly reports that the Communists lied about both promises and starved, shot or jailed the peasants and the ‘toilers’.

    My biggest disappointment about The Way Things Are Today is the extent to which Communists were able to escape responsibility for that giant mountain of bodies and the millions forced to play Havel’s green grocer. Not just the people directly responsible, like Stalin, but also sympathizers in the press, Hollywood, and academia. I’ve never understood why labeling someone a Nazi is the nuclear bomb of insults while you can easily find people who self-identify as communists – to me they’re just flip sides of the same totalitarian coin. If anything the commies are worse.

  • Les

    I have watched the series.
    It is good but you do have to suspend belief at times in order for it to progress, picking out an East German Border Guard to be a West German General’s aide with no training/background, he would be spotted in 5 mins.
    It does highlight the casual brutality of the East German side and their willingness to pretty much anything in order to achieve what they see as the greater good.
    The whole series is about the build up to Operation Able Archer in 1983 and how the combination of Andropov’s paranoia and the unwillingness of the Stasi/KGB to offer up any opinion, other than the one they have been told to find evidence to support, that the Russians very nearly launched a preemptive strike.
    The total confusion in the Stasi when presented with a 5-1/4″ Floppy Disk was entertaining.
    It shows the Stasi involvement in the Peace Movement in the West and that a Jar of Nescafe was seen as a worthwhile gift.
    I would say ignore the errors, watch the series and enjoy the music.

  • In August 2013, a 12-year-old Iranian boy from the province of Kermanshah accidentally hanged himself while re-enacting a hanging with his younger 8-year-old brother. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the boy was “an unexpected victim of a culture of public executions that remains pervasive in the Islamic republic.” Whenever executions are carried out publicly in Iran, children are often among the spectators. Iranian journalist Mokhtar Khandani said, “In Kermanshah, where I reside, I see in many places that street executions are carried out. At such venues, unfortunately I see a lot of children who are there and witness the scene. In the eyes of some children, it might seem like a game.”

    Catherine Merridale, writing in her book Night of Stone: Death and Memory in Twentieth-Century Russia, tells us of the consequences of the enormous number of executions being carried out by the Tsarist government following the failed revolution in 1905:

    The problem was that playground games of “death penalty”, inspired by the prevailing culture, sometimes went out of control. In one case, a girl of five accidentally strangled her three-year-old brother after condemning him to death in a mock trial in their nursery. In others, school bullies would stage larger-scale “courts” (sometimes they called them “military courts”) and condemn fellow pupils to “death”. If the children panicked, or the bully went too far, the “sentence” was carried out all too realistically before the eyes of terrified onlookers.

  • The total confusion in the Stasi when presented with a 5-1/4″ Floppy Disk was entertaining.

    There’s a great anecdote in the back of Anne Applebaum’s Gulag about how a huge chunk of the Soviet archives found their way West. A visiting American academic or diplomat showed up in the early ’90s with a laptop and hand scanner, confident none of the people he was meeting with would have a clue what either was. He scanned away merrily, and nobody knew what he was doing.

  • By the way, The Lives of Others is a superb film based on the Stasi in East Germany.

  • Rational Plan

    Former child of BAOR here, living in Berlin was certainly interesting and My Dad had a few storeys about the border patrol. I was to young to remember much about Berlin except the border crossing by train to Hannover. But I do remember a disastrous trip to Mid 80’s Romania on a cheap package Holiday from Germany. I was in a purpose built complex with all the hotels named after Greek Gods, ours was the Apollo. The hotel was okay and the weather and beach superb, but the rest was so Soviet. The food, oh the food was so terrible. I remember the first meal with a plate plopped down with a brown leaking splodge ( a meat of some type), a green leaking splodge and a white leaking splodge, we did not eat that night. In fact we never ate another full meal for the next two weeks.

    The beach BBQ was inedible and we did not have enough hard currency to go anywhere decent. We ended up sharing out tic tacs in our hotel bedroom, bought from the hard currency shop and then counting out each one to savour. By the end I was drawing out meals I’d eat once we got home.

    We lost so much weight, my ribs were showing. Remember this was a German tour group so the lack of food was volubly discussed. My Dad had missed all this by being on mannouvers, but when we got back to Dusseldorf airport we did not go home we went to our favourite Hungarian restaurant while still in our holiday clothes, for some reason my father did not stop laughing for days.

    My mum did become adept at black market trading of items we owned for reductions in various purchases though.

    Years later I remember our Sixth Form getting a visit from two Czechsolvakian MPs and myself getting withering look from my Politics tutor for asking them about their chances of not splitting up. They were certainly not dressed to the standard I’d expect from a middle class professional. One of them could almost pass, but I remember almost embarrassed about the terrible cheap plastic shoes on of them was wearing, something I’d be embarrassed for a 5 year old to be seen in. It was all I could do not stare while I was trying to talk to him.

    Little things I know, but I say you can a real feel of what a system or country can do from such encounters rather than dry accountings in books.

  • Tim,
    Alan Bennett did national service. He thought (due to his education and all) he’d got an easy berth when posted to intel rather than Malaya or something. What he wound-up doing was translating documents that had been used by the Red Army in East Germany as bum-fodder. The Sovs had a chronic lack of Andrex and British intel had an East German gong farmer on the pay.

    I guess the moral to this tale (which did reveal a lot about Soviet troop movements) is being a spy isn’t all driving an Aston Martin.

  • RP,
    I got you. It is the little things as you say. I went as a kid to Yugoslavia (it still was Yugoslavia) and what was weird was all the waitresses wore identical shoes. The food was dreadful apart from the fish. It wasn’t dreadful but just unremittingly dreary. When a couple of years later all Hell transpired I put it down to utter boredom.

  • Mr Ed

    I guess the moral to this tale (which did reveal a lot about Soviet troop movements)

    Surely it revealed more about Soviet troops’ movements?

  • David Graeme

    Following up on rxc’s comment above – post A-levels, I passed through Lubeck in summer 1971 on my way to Denmark (the hitch-hiking thing, can’t imagine doing it now) and stayed for a couple of days with the cousin of a schoolmate. The cousin told me that when I took the ferry from Lubeck to Denmark, I would pass some pristine Baltic beaches east of the mouth of the harbor. He explained that these were in the DDR, and while the West German Baltic beaches were all thronged with people in the summer, the DDR beaches would be all completely empty, not a single person to be seen, no matter how sunny the weather or warm the water. Turned out that all the DDR beaches were thickly sown with anti-personnel mines. He then told me that a few years before, the citizens of Lubeck awoke one morning to hear what sounded like heavy artillery fire to the east (NOT a good sign), but what was happening was that the DDR security troops were detonating all the mines. It seemed that the mines had all been set with fuzes that would trip if a weight of 2 Kg hit them, but that rabbits hopping across the beaches would occasionally land on a mine, and boom. So, rather than dig them up, they simply ran bulldozers up and down the beaches and then re-sowed the sand with mines with fuzes that required a weight of 10 Kg to be tripped. Never forgotten that.

  • Edward MJ

    I haven’t seen the series yet, but one of the ads for it on TV has a shot that is particularly striking. The East German mole is shown staring in bewilderment at the grocery section of a supermarket, seemingly awestruck by the dazzling array of colors and choices in produce available to him.

    A voiceover of the Reagan “Evil Empire” speech is also used to great effect with the C.S. Lewis quote:

    The greatest evil is not done now in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not even done in concentration camps and labor camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried and minuted) in clear, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.

    But perhaps that last line should be amended to account for the grooming habits (or lack thereof) of this not so smooth-shaven slob.

    Speaking of dirty old socialists, perhaps we should also send Bernie Sanders back to East Berlin circa ’83 and see how he likes having only one choice of deodorant.

  • Mr Ed,
    Yeah, OK. There has also got to be a “stool pigeon” joke in there somewhere.

  • llamas

    Nick M wrote:

    ‘ . . . had an East German gong farmer on the pay.’

    For the win. I thought for sure that I would be the first and only Samizdata commentator to ever employ this fine Elizabethan term. How wrong I was!

    llater,

    llamas

  • llamas

    @ Nick M. wrote

    ‘I went as a kid to Yugoslavia (it still was Yugoslavia) and what was weird was all the waitresses wore identical shoes. The food was dreadful apart from the fish. It wasn’t dreadful but just unremittingly dreary. When a couple of years later all Hell transpired I put it down to utter boredom.’

    That’s odd. I travelled through the former Yugoslavia, on a motorcycle, in a group, in the early 1980s. I found the food excellent and plentiful, the libations superb, cheap and endless, the scenery delightful, and the standard of female pulchritude uniformly in excess of all expectations. I travelled the entire route in a pair of Lewis boots that had lived a long and hard life already (one zipped up with duct tape) and I felt as though I was shod like winged Mercury compared to the locals.

    llater,

    llamas

    Since I notice shoes, however (as I previously commented about East Berlin) I will concur with you that the footwear standard was well below that of the West.

  • Mr Ed

    I went to Communist Yugoslavia three times, two trips on a train transiting to/from Greece and Turkey, in its final years before disintegration.

    The food: Zagreb in August, no end of corn ‘kebabs’ roasted by old ladies at the roadside, and some weird hot cottage cheese in pastry thing. Otherwise, a Norwegian on a train tapping a sonorous loaf with a 12-inch hunting knife, and saying ‘This bread, it is like wood.‘. This was a time of rampant inflation, I still have a 50 Dinar note somewhere, which was about 7 decimal points behind its former exchange rate by my next visit.

    Free World Greece had cold moussaka as its counter to Tito’s pantry. a German train mate said he had never been served a hot meal in Greece. Turkey had far better food than Greece, although I mainly ate bread pretzels.

    Algeria around this time had an Eastern Bloc flavour, food shops with nothing but tinned fruit in syrup, and a backstreet bar that sold beer and fried egg sandwiches at prices that were at the official rate ludicrous, but at the unofficial rate was great value. Very good pastry shops though, and Air Algeria had great in-flight food (as far as it goes).

  • Alisa

    Turkey still has much better food than Greece 🙂

  • Laird

    I was enjoying NickM’s comment at 1:00 AM today, until I get to that incomprehensible paragraph about Mahler. I think the meds wore off.

  • rxc

    Two other anecdotes about the cold war. In 1976, when I first traveled into Berlin, I took a day trip into the Eastern Zone. It was actually risky for me, because I was, at that time, a member of the US Navy. As a US military member, I had the right to enter the eastern zone without going thru any of the passport contraols, etc, but I did not have a uniform with me. My girlfriend wanted to see what it was like, so I went in as a civilian, which potentially subjected me to the punishment of being shot by the Russians (as a spy), or by the Americans (for violating regulations).

    Love is a strong emotion, however, so we went in, visited the museums on the Museum Island, and has a sausage (you had to spend at least 10 marks (I think) in those days, as a condition for entry). The museums were filled with amazing stuff, but the buildings were still showing bullet holes from 1945. There were whole blocks that were still just rubble, including one of the churches next to the Permagon Museum. The sausage was very dry and unpleasant.

    The west, by contrast, was bustling and busy, no ruins anywhere except for the rememberance church that was left in ruins as a reminder. Amazing contrast between two societies.

    Then, 13 years later, when I lived in Paris, I had to attend a meeting in Moscow for a week, in April, just before the first election. As a foodie, I normally seek out the food markets. In Moscow, in 1989, the markets were glamorous palaces of marble and stone, but the food was excreble. My cats would not have eaten it. They served cabbages that were hacked off of frozen blocks of ice, and sausages(again) were hacked off of long lengths that were sitting in open wooden crates – no packaging or any sanitation whatsoever. I contraseted this with the market I had seen the previous summer in a hill town in Turkey – it was lively, full of all sorts of fruit, veggies, meat, cheese, everything you would expect in a western market.

    It made me think that Russia was basically a third-world country, with nuclear weapons. Except that I had been in third-world countries that fed their people considerably better. Maybe Fourth-world.

    These are the sorts of experiences that shape opinions. No academic who has not seen this sort of thing can ever convince me that “better planning and redistribution” will eliminate inequalities, or poverty, or any of the myriad ills that they see in the capitalist societies, and therefore use to despise and demonize capitalism.

    When you look at the hard socialist systems, they fail in every culture (N. Korea vs S. Korea, E vs W Germany), at every scale (China vs Hong Kong vs Taiwan, US vs Russia), and even when they are isolated, whether they have a relatively rich patron or not, or have lots of mineral riches (Albania, N. Korea, Cuba, Venezuela). The academic analyses that “demonstrate” their superiority are just plain wrong.

  • NickM

    Laird,
    Mahler was a miserable git was the point.

    Alisa,
    I second you on Turkish over Greek food.

    llamas,
    Well, from my experience of Yugoslavia (as was) the women looked OK (I was early teens so anything with XX chromosomes…) except they didn’t shave their legs. Possibly razors were in short supply. Orwell mentions razor shortages in “1984”. It is also mentioned by Laurens van der Post in his 1964 “Journey into Russia”. As I said, “small things”.

  • Rich Rostrom

    NickM – January 18, 2016 at 2:44 pm:

    There has also got to be a “stool pigeon” joke in there somewhere.

    Major Vladimir “Popski” Peniakoff wrote in his memoirs of a French intelligence officer he worked with in Tunisia in 1943. The Frenchman had an agent in the Italian HQ who sent him documents (some of them highly secret) retrieved from the latrines. Popski quoted one document which had been passed to him and kept as a souvenir.

  • Laird

    NickM, Mahler may indeed have been a “miserable git” (from all accounts, Wagner was even worse), but his music is wonderful. His First Symphony is one of my favorites.

  • Laird

    Also, I note that this time around you were able to make that point in five words which, in combination, actually were comprehensible. As I said, check your meds.

  • Mr Ed

    And when you thought that the Cold War had ended, some remnants of the Baader-Meinhof Gang have been out robbing with Kalashnikovs again (but without success).

    And they have left DNA at the scene, reportedly. One theory is that their money has run out, so they went robbing for more, in order to finance a new urban guerrilla campaign.

  • Paul Marks

    Nick – your thinking is based on certain assumptions, most of which (not all) I share with you.

    But the Iranian regime (including the so called moderates) do NOT share those assumptions – their assumptions are quite different (and utterly evil).

    John – let us assume (for the sake of argument) that God and Heaven and Hell do NOT exist.

    I am prepared to use any weapons necessary to destroy the Iranian regime nuclear bases.

    There is no way that the use of certain weapons will not cause civilian casualties.

    Now let us say (again for the sake of argument) that I am WRONG about the Iranian regime. That the bases buried under towns or in the sides of mountains are for table tennis or something (they could be – I have not been inside these bases).

    Does this not make me a mass murderer?

  • JohnW

    Paul, You say that in principle you would be prepared to nuke Iran and the KSA – and so would I.
    But in practice, given the current political situation what would that actually mean? If you were PM it would mean you would be arrested by agents of an international court, you would be tried, convicted and sentenced to either death or life imprisonment, the country would be disarmed in a frenzy of collective guilt and shame, reparations would follow and Iran and the KSA would use the money to buy nukes.

    As for the problem of civilian casualties – suppose this country became an Islamic theocracy and a threat to civilisation – if we were nuked by some foreign secular power like the USA who would you blame, them for their action or us for enabling and necessitating it?

  • Mr Ed

    If you were PM it would mean you would be arrested by agents of an international court, you would be tried, convicted and sentenced to either death or life imprisonment,

    One has to doubt whether any international court would dare try that on with the leader of, say, the Russian Federation. Were it to happen, the host country of the Court would probably become a target.

    It is, under UK law, a specific criminal offence to cause a nuclear explosion. other than in the course of an armed conflict.

    And, what’s more, this law applies not only to UK nationals, but Scottish Partnerships, even accountants.

    (2) So far as it applies to acts done outside the United Kingdom, section 1 applies to—

    (a)United Kingdom nationals,

    (b)Scottish partnerships, and

    (c)bodies incorporated under the law of any part of the United Kingdom.