Leave the Wall - Remember You Must Always Leave the Wall

In the fall of 1989, I was taking a course called “Comparative Socialist Politics” which dealt with the differences in political structure and political history among the various Communist countries, with a particular focus (as I recall) on Poland, Hungary and Yugoslavia. (We did quite a bit on the Soviet Union, naturally, a little bit on China, nothing at all on Vietnam, Cuba, etc.) At the start of the semester, this was a course in the Political Science department; by the end of the semester, it was offered for History credit.

In the fall of 1989, I was taking a course called “Comparative Socialist Politics” which dealt with the differences in political structure and political history among the various Communist countries, with a particular focus (as I recall) on Poland, Hungary and Yugoslavia. (We did quite a bit on the Soviet Union, naturally, a little bit on China, nothing at all on Vietnam, Cuba, etc.) At the start of the semester, this was a course in the Political Science department; by the end of the semester, it was offered for History credit.

Just kidding, of course, but it was incredible to suddenly see the entire curriculum become both instantly irrelevant – over the next few months and years, the countries that were our primary focus underwent radical political change, and were no longer “Socialist” (i.e., Communist) polities – and vastly more relevant – suddenly, it was actually useful to know something about the political history of these countries, because they were no longer Soviet satellites, presumed to be controlled from without; it actually mattered who was who in Poland, in Hungary. And that’s to say nothing of what happened in Yugoslavia.

That summer, I set out to see at least a little bit of history first-hand. I flew first to Prague, where I had pretty much exactly the Before Sunrise experience of my dreams, and so I remember almost nothing of the city. From there, I went to Berlin, where big chunks of the wall were still up.

I title this next image, “neo-conservatism enters its second, more aggressive phase.”

Probably my fondest recollection of Berlin was my encounter with a group of anarchists who had an encampment in the Potsdamer Platz on what was technically East German territory but on the West German side of the wall (a result, no doubt, of some kind of surveying or construction glitch). Because the territory was East German, the West German police had no authority to enter the little strip of land; because it was on the West German side of the wall, the East Germans, as a practical matter, could not get at them. And so a filthy little settlement thrived, after a limited fashion.

Of course, now that the wall was down, they had no future. Their anarchist paradise was destined to be paved over to put up a parking lot, a shopping mall, a cinema multiplex . . . etc. When I met them, their backs no longer against the wall, most of the anarchists were quite forlorn.

Except for this one. But I think he was high.

Okay, I’m no Christopher Isherwood. So sue me.