30 years after the Berlin Wall’s fall, the dangerous ‘cuddly socialism’ myth has returned

Thirty years ago, most observers were convinced that socialism was finished. I certainly was. The fall of the Berlin Wall – an event we conventionally date to 9 November 1989, when the East German authorities announced that people would be allowed to cross into West Berlin without risking the guns, the dogs and the mines…

Thirty years ago, most observers were convinced that socialism was finished. I certainly was. The fall of the Berlin Wall – an event we conventionally date to 9 November 1989, when the East German authorities announced that people would be allowed to cross into West Berlin without risking the guns, the dogs and the mines – happened to coincide with my gap year.

When I saw what was happening on the news, I changed my plans and set off to spend some time in what, in those days, we still called “Eastern Europe”.

To cross into the GDR that winter was to enter a world of pinched, grimy wretchedness. The local equivalents of Burger King and McDonalds were vans selling greasy sausages between slices…

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