By John Ruberry

If you know a millennial who craves communism, then I suggest that you sit that person down to watch the documentary Karl Marx City by Petra Epperlein and her husband, Michael Tucker, which was released last year. Epperlein was born in 1966 in Karl-Marx-Stadt, East Germany, which is now, as it was before, the city of Chemnitz.

And as it is was when she was a child, the most noticeable feature of her hometown is the giant bust of Karl Marx, which looks over the dwindling population of Chemnitz. Its bulk makes it too expensive to remove from its perch on the former Karl-Marx-Street.

The Marx monument is the ideal metaphor for the former East Germany. Just as Big Brother is always watching in George Orwell’s 1984, the Ministry for State Security, colloquially known as the Stasi, was watching too. Cameras were seemingly in every public space, as were Stasi agents and informants. In a nation of 17 million people, there were an astounding 90,000 Stasi agents aided by 200,000 informants. In contrast, the FBI employs a paltry 35,000.

What was the Stasi looking for? Everything. Just grab whatever information that can be found and use it for a case later. Because not only was everyone a suspect in this worker’s paradise, everyone was probably guilty. And if they weren’t guilty they likely would be soon.

Early in Karl Marx City Eppelein tells us that her father, 57, committed suicide in 1999 after washing his company car and burning his personal papers. Afterwards her family discovers cryptic typed letters anonymously mailed to her father that accused him of being a Stasi informant.

Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

Shot in black and white, perfect grim communist hues, Epperlein, looking similar to Liv Ullmann’s mute character in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, in a bit of twisted humor wanders the decrepit and mostly empty streets of the former Karl Marx namesake town holding a massive boom microphone and wearing vintage headphones while we listen to her voiceovers–in contrast to the clandestine recording done by the Stasi.

Epperlein visits the Stasi archives in Chemnitz and Berlin where we see file after file on multiple floors. She’s looking for her father’s file, but we learn that the German Democratic Republic didn’t organize its files in the manner that Google stores information on mainframes where we can instantly retrieve volumes of information on just about anything. Instead there’s something here, there’s something there.

We see a grainy Stasi film of a couple walking on sidewalk. The man picks up an object. Then he puts it down. Why did he do that? Another man picks it up. The object turns out to be a knife. He keeps it. Why?

Epperlein tracks down a childhood friend who was a true-believer in communism. Now she worships trees. Her father, a retired Stasi agent, recounts his regular break-ins at apartments. What was his most common discovery? Handwritten schedules of West German TV shows and small bags containing a tooth brush and other personal hygiene items, just in case the occupants are arrested–or forced to escape to the West.

Many political prisoners were indeed locked up for subversion. Many ended up in the West, but rather than this being an innocent Cold War liberation, we learn they were sold by the workers’ paradise for ransom to the West for much needed hard currency.

The suicide of Epperlein’s father was hardly an anomaly, taking one’s own life in the GDR was common after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Recently Chemnitz had the lowest birthrate of any city in the world.

One of the experts interviewed for the film scorns the Oscar-winning film, The Lives of Others. While Oskar Schindler of Schindler’s List was real, there was no Stasi hero fighting back against oppression.

Near the end we learn the truth about Epperlein’s father.

Karl Marx City is available on Netflix and on Amazon.

John Ruberry, whose wife was born in the Soviet Union, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Hillary Clinton represents an existential threat to the nation. She would perpetuate the liberal dumbing down of America, attempt to load the courts with more leftists, and redefine our unalienable rights to match the progressive agenda. Under no circumstances would I endorse or even remotely consider voting for her.

That’s the preface necessary to set the stage for dissent. As I wrote previously, questioning Trump’s policies will not make you a #NeverTrump Clinton supporter. We can see Trump as a leftward lurch by the GOP or we can view him as an opportunity to take a malleable candidate and show him why fiscal conservatism is the right direction for America if we want to thrive today and be sustained into the future. I’ve held to the hope that the latter can come to pass but recent trends point to the former being the more likely scenario.

A recent poll should shock every fiscal conservative in the Republican Party. 85% of Republicans surveyed said that free trade has cost the U.S. more jobs than it has created, compared to 54% of Democrats. Let that sink in. The party of Reagan that has witnessed the tremendous benefits of a free market economy and the absolute need for free trade as a hallmark of our fiscal plan has reversed its perspective in a single election cycle. I don’t care how charismatic of a salesman someone is – this should not have been even remotely possible.

There’s a difference between believing that our current free trade agreements can be improved and believing that free trade is bad. Free trade is not bad. It has always been the driving force for our economic prosperity. Today’s communication and infrastructural advancements make this the perfect opportunity to take advantage of trade in ways that we have never been available to us.

More importantly, we are no longer the only consumers nor are we the primary producers. The global economy is expanding and the United States needs to lead it, not break away from it. The fear of globalism is a righteous fear. It’s the primary reason that we need to maintain as much control of global trade or risk losing our place as the main benefactors.

Here’s a short video from 2010 that explains it quite nicely:

The biggest argument against free trade is that it means more jobs are sent overseas. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of economics. In a thriving free market economy driven by free trade, the “loss” of jobs is an opportunity to replace low-yield employment with higher-yield employment. As companies rightfully send certain jobs, particularly manufacturing jobs, to places where they can be done more cost effectively, the nation’s economy becomes more stable. With stability comes the creation of more industries and increased domestic employment requirements within those industries. Jobs aren’t lost. They are traded. They are replaced. As a consumer-driven nation, the need for better employees rises with free trade. As a technology-driven nation, the need for higher-skilled employees rises with free trade as well.

“Fair” trade is part of an anti-growth economic system. It’s a short-term bandaid that forces companies to keep jobs and production facilities in the United States. This concept is being sold as a good thing. Unfortunately, it’s only a good thing in the beginning. As revenues dry up due to increased production expenditures, costs of goods rise for consumers. Whether through tariffs or forced domestication of production, the benefits for a few are taken from the wallets of the masses. For example, let’s say Apple was forced through tariffs or mandates to produce the iPhone in the United States. That would bring a huge number of jobs back; over a million people contribute in some way to iPhone production worldwide. It’s a win, right? The problem is that production costs would skyrocket. The already-overpriced iPhone would need to retail over $2000 to make up some of the difference. As sales volume drops, so too would jobs.

If you’re thinking that Apple makes enough money already and should bring those jobs to the United States without raising prices, you’ve already taken your first steps towards a socialist mentality.

The GOP has been more responsible over the years when it comes to fiscal planning… at least that’s what we’ve been led to believe. I contend that the GOP isn’t pushing to the left because of Trump. Instead, it has always wanted to be the moderate populist party for the sake of winning elections rather than a party that believes in the tenets of fiscal conservatism.

The shift away from free trade is reminiscent of a lesson in George Orwell’s 1984 that doesn’t get as much attention as others. In the dystopian novel, we learn of the dangers of an overreaching government and how “Big Brother” can make our lives miserable for the sake of a perceived good to the oligarchy. We all know about doublespeak. What gets less attention is the lesson of controlled perceptions. In the book, Oceania is in a constant state of war with either Eurasia or Eastasia. The question of who the enemy is at any given moment is dictated by the leaders and maintained in false perpetuity, including in the past. If Oceania is at war with Eurasia at any given moment, it has always been at war with Eurasia. If the government shifts and declares that they are at war with Eastasia, then they have always been at war with Eastasia and have never been at war with Eurasia. Attempts to say otherwise are punished.

Somehow, the electorate is believing the manufactured reality that the Republican Party is now against free trade. If you were to question some of the 85% of Republicans who believe this, I would wager that a majority would say that the party has always been against it. Sadly, they may be inadvertently correct.