The Secret Police and the Revolution: The Fall of the German Democratic Republic

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oltrapanuncon.ml: The Secret Police and the Revolution: The Fall of the German Democratic Republic (): Edward Peterson: Books. oltrapanuncon.ml: The Secret Police and the Revolution: The Fall of the German Democratic Republic: Edward N. Peterson.

LOG IN. Journal of Cold War Studies. In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: Journal of Cold War Studies 6. If you would like to authenticate using a different subscribed institution that supports Shibboleth authentication or have your own login and password to Project MUSE. West Germany retained the Nazi anti-homosexuality law that imposed a long prison sentence on gays who even looked at another man in a lewd manner, they retained the ban on abortion, and state and church promoted and enforced highly conservative roles for women and girls.

So how did this look from over in the East? We need to remember that they did not have the benefit of hindsight that we have now. Britain had promoted an anti-communist civil war in Greece, and was fighting communists in Malaya. The Cold War became a real war in Korea that left millions dead. Nor were expectations of the benefits of a state-owned economy unreasonable. Free market capitalism had seen worldwide depression in the s and had led to fascism and war. It is also necessary to understand the degree that the German communists had been traumatised and brutalised.

source site Some like Horst Sindermann had survived the Nazi death camps, others had endured long exile and war. They genuinely feared and hated any sign of fascist revival. The social experiment they sought to engage in to construct a socialist society was in the worst possible circumstances.

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Cities had been destroyed, almost the entire population was homeless; three and a half million ethnic Germans had been driven West from land now lost to Poland and the USSR. Millions of German men were in prisoner of war camps, some returning as late as , people were living crowded into cellars and among ruins; women were raped, there was no food, people were dressed in rags and had no shoes. Famine and disease threatened catastrophe. A generation of children were orphaned and had witnessed Apocalypse. Leading East German Communist Party the Socialist Unity Party, SED member Manfred Ushner described how as a seven-year-old boy, along with his four-year-old sister, he had seen his grandmother hit by an incendiary bomb and burnt before his eyes, and the next day they had to crawl over mountains of burned corpses after Britisg air raids on Magdburg.

Popular social attitudes in both Germanys remained anti-democratic, racist and anti-socialist for many years. Large numbers of middle-class professionals: school teachers, doctors, lawyers and engineers were members of the Nazi party. The East German experience of de-Nazification was rather more complex than the state-sponsored amnesia in the West; because the communists promoted an acceptance of German guilt for the war suffering, but externalised that blame to the fascists.

A number of former Nazis were rehabilitated as individuals, but the social structures and institutions that had sustained fascism were torn up by the roots. Despite the lack of any long-term objectives for their zone of occupation, the USSR and their few German allies carried out a dramatic and rapid social revolution. Farms over a certain size were collectivised along with all land owned by former Nazis.

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The Junker s [landlord] class was dispossessed; industry and finance were nationalised; and the education system systematically favoured the children of manual workers and peasants. By the economy was almost entirely socialised. This social revolution had taken place not only without the support of the population, but largely without any reference to it. In particular the local populations became bound to the occupying governments through simple dependency; and this dependency transferred onto both the German states -- without direct state assistance the both peoples would have had no shelter, and would have starved.

The Anglo-American interest was in technology transfer and economic aid inwards towards Germany. I ignore the experience of the French zone for simplicity here.

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But from the point of view of Eastern Europe, despite the war devastation, Germany still had higher levels of capital investment and concentrations of modern technology. Germany and Austria were plundered to transfer high technology eastwards, where it contributed to a net increase of productive capacity. East Germany was already less industrially developed, and was part of an economic bloc with less access to capital to invest, and less access to new technology.

The most important social gain was the guarantee of full employment.

The Secret Police and the Revolution: The Fall of the German Democratic Republic

A highly progressive tax system also taxed white-collar workers, managers and supervisors more than manual workers, to the degree that shop-floor workers often took home more than their bosses. Remember that for the first 16 years after the war, the border was open. The discrimination for university places in favour of the children of manual workers and peasants meant that many middle-class youths went to the West instead.

The passage was not all one way, gay people, single women wanting to be sexually active without stigma, pensioners, Jews and socialists went from West to East, and around a quarter of those who fled from the East to the West changed their minds and returned. Paradoxically, the professionals and managers moving West opened up social mobility and advancement; and a layer of working-class university students could never have enjoyed such an education or prospects in the West. The East German leader Walter Ulbricht is a real paradox.

Famously he provoked the uprising by demanding an extraordinary rise in productivity to support the drive to heavy industry announced in Complaining and petitioning were encouraged and led to the development of extensive social networks that both allowed consumers to work around the shortages but also almost comically reduced the presumptions of the state to be in control of production and distribution -- particularly given the culture that developed of good-humoured sarcasm in letters of complaint.

But there was also a devolved repressive participation in the Stasi, that had mass popular support in enforcing social conformity. It is important to understand that social non-conformity was regarded to be the danger, not open political disagreement. Into this mix we need to add the deliberate destabilisation and sabotage from the West German government. Remember, the initiation of a divided Germany came from the West, but once the eastern state was established, the Federal Republic engaged in diplomatic sabotage, refusing trade and diplomatic recognition to other countries if they had friendly relations with the GDR, the East Germans were blocked from membership of international sporting, cultural and scientific organisations.

The East German state was blocked from accessing Western finance capital. West Berlin was massively subsidised to destabilise the economy and social stability of the East, and automatic citizenship and a welcome payment were made to any East German defecting. The tragic building of the wall and closing the border in was the result. This was the result of a number of factors. The big social changes restructuring the economy were coming to an end, and had just seen the final wave of collectivisation in agriculture.

As with any big change in agricultural policy this impacted on food supplies, and although East Germany was almost unique among advanced industrial societies in achieving food self-sufficiency, there were bread shortages in As the economy stabilised, there was also a reduction in prospects for rapid personal advancement. Generally there was a disappointing perceived failure of the youth to enthusiastically support the government, even though they had grown up in the socialist education system.

New perspectives

It stabilised relations between the two Germanys, and led to a period of reform within the GDR. The interesting contrast of course is Yugoslavia, whose citizens could travel freely to the West. Instead I have sought only to show how the divided Germany and the Berlin Wall were the result of policies by both of the Cold War power blocs, and the actions of both of the German states.

November 12, -- Socialist Worker USA --The fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago was one crest in a wave of revolt that overturned governments across half of Europe at the end of Tyrannies that were seen as exercising total control over the people -- he ultimate Big Brother-style police states -- fell with incredible speed, one after another, when faced with massive mobilisations demanding democracy and justice.

The revolutions against the regimes of the Eastern bloc were a vindication of a basic principle of socialism -- that the working-class majority in society has the power to defeat even the most repressive ruling class.

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In the same speech before parliament, he said: Such methods are alien to a state ruled by law. Protestkundgebung , , From the collection of: Robert Havemann Gesellschaft. The first protest had taken place in early September. Young people wanted desperately to travel, it is true, but their chances of being able to were already improving. The federal high court, which reviews sentences, ordered in November that Modrow stand trial again because the sentence "was too mild. A number of politicians, jurists, and liberal journalists pleaded for a general amnesty for crimes committed by former DDR leaders and Communist Party functionaries.

But that's not at all what most people think about The conclusion drawn for them by the Western media and political establishment is that the fall of the Berlin Wall symbolised the failure of socialism and the superiority of capitalism. Capitalism's defenders naturally celebrate that interpretation. Many on the left have the same understanding, but with the opposite reaction.

They believe the revolutions against the regimes of the Eastern bloc were a cause for despair -- a step backward, possibly orchestrated by the CIA, from societies that, however flawed, at least rejected capitalism. Both views share the mistaken belief that what existed in Eastern Europe was socialism. On the contrary, these societies -- like the USSR after the rise of Joseph Stalin, on which the Eastern bloc satellite regimes were modeled -- were ruled by a small minority, while the experience of the working majority wasn't of freedom and democracy, but of exploitation, oppression and alienation from any kind of social and political control.

When you strip away the rhetoric of how the rulers of the East described themselves, what you see are systems that reflected the basic features of capitalism as we know it in the US -- with a small minority having preemptive control over what happened in society, what resources were used, and who enjoyed greater privileges and power.

The countries of Eastern Europe shared something else with Western-style capitalism -- a working class driven by the experience of exploitation and oppression to question, to organise and to resist. The rich history of struggle and revolt in the Eastern bloc began with the formation of the USSR satellite states after the Second World War and continued to the revolutions in When the dam burst, the revolution spread fast.

The Suppressed Revolution of 1953

At the beginning of , there were six countries in the Eastern bloc aligned with the USSR -- East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria -- along with Yugoslavia and Albania on its margins, but considered behind the iron curtain. By the end of , the former Stalinist rulers were out of power in all six satellite states. One year later, East Germany was no more, reunified with the West.

Another year later, and the USSR itself was breaking apart, ultimately into 15 successor states, and the former Yugoslavia had started to collapse. The revolutions thus marked a turning point in history. They didn't produce socialism -- in every case, the new order was a step sideways to a different form of capitalism.

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But the immense struggle from below that finally swept away the dictatorships of Eastern Europe remains an inspiration today. The revolutions of were rooted in an economic crisis that spread through the Eastern bloc once the Stalinist system expanded past a certain point of development.

In the USSR itself, the annual growth rate slowed decade after decade, from an annual average of 5. Meanwhile, the drudgery and alienation of work and the stifling of culture and intellectual life created the tinder for an explosion to take place. By the s, sections of the USSR bureaucracy recognised that some kind of reform was needed. Mikhail Gorbachev, installed as the leader of the Communist Party in the mids, launched a program of economic restructuring called "perestroika". As a necessary complement to the economic agenda, Gorbachev initiated political reforms called "glasnost", meaning "openness.

Once the lid was lifted slightly by the bureaucracy, the simmering brew in Eastern bloc societies pushed it further off. In Russia itself, nationalist struggles broke out in the USSR's allegedly socialist republics -- in reality, oppressed nations locked into the Soviet empire. In the Eastern European satellites, opposition activity grew bolder. In Hungary, for example, 10, people gathered in March for an illegal demonstration to demand "democracy, free speech and freedom of the press".

It was a stunning show of strength for dissidents. As one East German radical later recalled, "A feeling arose that things had to change. Still, the speed and sweep of what took place at the end of remained unimaginable.