Popular Protest in East Germany, 1945-1989 (Routledge Advances in European Politics)

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Popular Protest in East Germany, 1945-1989 (Routledge Advances in European Politics)

Popular Protest in East Germany, 1945–1989 Popular Protest in East Germany, 1945-1989 is a history of public protest in

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Popular Protest in East Germany, 1945–1989

Popular Protest in East Germany, 1945-1989 is a history of public protest in East Germany from the end of World War Two until the demise of the GDR in 1990. Gareth Dale, an active participant both in the citizens' movement and in the street protests of 1989, explores social movements in East Germany by: • • • •

Drawing upon interviews with participants and functionaries, as well as previously untapped archive materials. Including detailed studies of the popular uprising of June 1953; industrial relations; youth subcultures; and the church-linked 'grassroots groups' of the 1980s. Proposing novel interpretations of the 1953 uprising, of the 'socio-ethical' movements of the 1980s, and of the divergence between the 'citizens' movement' and the mass protests in the autumn of 1989. Rebutting the dominant interpretation of 1989 as the consummation of the 'aborted revolution' of 1953.

This lucid narrative history will be of particular interest to students of German Politics/History, European Politics and International Studies. Gareth Dale is a Lecturer in Politics at the University of Wales, Swansea. His research interests include international migration, social theory and German politics. He has recently published a monograph entitled Between State Capitalism and Globalisation: The Collapse of the East German Economy. His other publications include The European Union and Migrant Labour (edited, with Mike Cole).

Routledge Advances in European Politics 1 Russian Messianism Third Rome, revolution, Communism and after Peter J.S. Duncan 2 European Integration and the Postmodern Condition Governance, democracy, identity Peter van Ham 3 Nationalism in Italian Politics The stories of the Northern League, 1980–2000 Damian Tambini 4 International Intervention in the Balkans since 1995 Edited by Peter Siani-Davies 5 Widening the European Union The politics of institutional change and reform Edited by Bernard Steunenberg 6 Institutional Challenges in the European Union Edited by Madeleine Hosli, Adrian van Deemen and Mika Widgrén 7 Europe Unbound Enlarging and reshaping the boundaries of the European Union Edited by Jan Zielonka 8 Ethnic Cleansing in the Balkans Nationalism and the destruction of tradition Cathie Carmichael

9 Democracy and Enlargement in Post-Communist Europe The democratisation of the general public in fifteen Central and Eastern European countries, 1991–1998 Christian W. Haerpfer 10 Private Sector Involvement in the Euro The power of ideas Stefan Collignon and Daniela Schwarzer 11 Europe A Nietzschean perspective Stefan Elbe 12 European Union and E-Voting Addressing the European Parliament’s internet voting challenge Edited by Alexander H. Trechsel and Fernando Mendez 13 European Union Council Presidencies A comparative perspective Edited by Ole Elgström 14 European Governance and Supranational Institutions Making states comply Jonas Tallberg 15 European Union, NATO and Russia Martin Smith and Graham Timmins 16 Business, the State and Economic Policy The case of Italy G. Grant Amyot

17 Europeanization and Transnational States Comparing Nordic central governments Bengt Jacobsson, Per Lægreid and Ove K. Pedersen 18 European Union Enlargement A comparative history Edited by Wolfram Kaiser and Jürgen Elvert 19 Gibraltar British or Spanish? Peter Gold 20 Gendering Spanish Democracy Monica Threlfall, Christine Cousins and Celia Valiente 21 European Union Negotiations Processes, networks and negotiations Edited by Ole Elgström and Christer Jönsson 22 Evaluating EuroMediterranean Relations Stephen C. Calleya 23 The Changing Face of European Identity A seven-nation study of (supra)national attachments Edited by Richard Robyn

24 Governing Europe Discourse, governmentality and European integration William Walters and Jens Henrik Haahr 25 Territory and Terror Conflicting nationalisms in the Basque country Jan Mansvelt Beck 26 Multilateralism, German Foreign Policy and Central Europe Claus Hofhansel 27 Popular Protest in East Germany, 1945–1989 Gareth Dale 28 Germany’s Foreign Policy towards Poland and the Czech Republic Ostpolitik revisited 29 Kosovo The politics of identity and space Denisa Kostovicova

Popular Protest in East Germany, 1945–1989

Gareth Dale

First published 2005 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 270 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016 This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2006.

“To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to www.eBookstore.tandf.co.uk.” Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group © 2005 Gareth Dale All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data A catalog record for this title has been requested ISBN 0-714-65408-6 (Print Edition)

For my parents







Mass movements in the GDR’s early years



The June 1953 uprising



Labour heritage and collective action, 1945–53



Infra-political resistance and social movements, 1954–88



Techniques of domination, arts of resistance



Helsinki and Bohemia: emigration and youth rebellion



‘Politics in the bell jar’: socio-ethical movements in the early 1980s



The formation of political opposition


x Contents PART III

The revolution of 1989



The summer crisis



The autumn uprising



Intellectuals and workers




Notes Bibliography Index

194 224 244


During the long route from its original conception, this book has benefited from discussions with many individuals. I consider myself fortunate in particular to have met so many East Germans who were willing to introduce me to the ‘alternative’ GDR in the mid-1980s. It would be impossible to list them all, but Bert Konopatsky, of the ‘Environmental Library’ in Berlin, as well as Annette Büsse and Susi Menachem, should be mentioned as my most regular guides. Making sense of the fast-moving and turbulent events of 1989 was assisted immeasurably by Rosi Nünning, Volkhard Mosler, Werner Halbauer and Meredith Dale. On subsequent visits to East Germany, Steff Konopatsky gave invaluable insights into the workings of the Stasi, and Uwe Bastian, Perry Deess and Hans-Jochen Vogel gave helpful advice as well as loans of documents. Karl-Dieter Opp and his colleagues at the universities of Hamburg and Leipzig very kindly supplied a copy of their survey data. For incisive comments on earlier versions of the manuscript, and for encouragement to publish, I would like to record my lasting thanks to Olaf Klenke, Med Dale and Peter Grieder. For generously sparing time to correct the final text, and to suggest stylistic improvements, I am indebted above all to Med and Jonathan Dale, to Branwen Dale, and to Heidi Brown. Finally, I benefited from overseas fieldwork awards granted by the Economic and Social Research Council and by the Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst. Research for two chapters was completed during a spell as Morris Ginsberg Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology at the London School of Economics. I am grateful to these three bodies for the time and resources that contributed to the completion of this study.


In an oft-quoted passage from the Kleines politisches Wörterbuch opposition to the East German regime is dismissed as irrational. To oppose the regime was, so to speak, the political equivalent of pointing a loaded rifle at your own foot. ‘In socialist states,’ its readers were admonished, there exists no objective political or social basis for opposition to the prevailing societal and political order. Because the socialist state serves as both the embodiment of the people’s interests and the executor of its will, and because the power of the state derives from the people, because it serves the maintenance of peace, the construction of socialism and thereby the continuous development of both a comprehensive form of democracy as well as the perpetually improving fulfilment of the material and spiritual needs of all working people – because of this, any opposition against the socialist order would be directed against the working people themselves.1 My own interest in Eastern Europe and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) arose in the early 1980s. Given that the government under whose authority I lived patently did not serve the causes of peace and the ‘material and spiritual needs of working people’, the claims of other states to these elevated causes seemed to merit attention. In the course of numerous visits in the midand late 1980s, followed by a longer sojourn in 1989, I became familiar with several Eastern European societies, in the course of which I discovered that nonconformist behaviour, critical views of the regime and acts of everyday ‘refusal’ were in fact ubiquitous. In the GDR I was introduced to religious circles (mainly Quakers and members of Aktion Sühnezeichen), from whom I learnt of the courageous stand taken by conscientious objectors. I was invited to back-room exhibitions, where photographs and artwork depicted those aspects of life that official East Germany would rather be swept under the carpet, or which explored aesthetic forms that were frowned upon by the gatekeepers of culture. Regime critics introduced me to novels, such as Stefan Heym’s König David Bericht, which cryptically criticised Stalinism, or Victor Klemperer’s LTI, which offered techniques for deconstructing Orwellian newspeak. I became involved with a hitch-hiking subculture – the Tramper-Unwesen, in Stasi parlance – which endured



low-level but persistent harassment by the authorities. There were squatters and punks too, and, everywhere, satirical political jokes. In myriad ‘infra-political’ ways, individuals seemed to be testing and challenging the regime’s ability to regiment society. These activities and discourses had at least a whiff of resistance about them, if only because the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) drew such strict lines around the field of acceptable behaviour. To describe such acts of small-scale refusal and non-conformism, which had the effect of limiting the societal penetration of dictatorial authority, some historians borrow, from medicine, a German term for immunity: Resistenz.2 Whereas for Western historiography during the Cold War oppositional activity in Eastern Europe was commonly depicted as a David and Goliath contest between isolated dissident heroes and a repressive state, the tendency since 1989 has been to focus upon the complexity of patterns of accommodation and Resistenz, of conformity and critique, of resignation and refusal, both between and within individuals. The same person, writes Corey Ross, might ‘be willing to participate in a “socialist competition” at work out of a sense of occupational pride, yet protest against the introduction of stiffer work norms’. Another might be highly critical of the regime yet agree to act as a Stasi informant in the hope that this might help to keep spaces open for critical artistic expression. ‘On a more general level, admiration for the GDR’s generous social benefits could easily coexist with utter rejection of other areas of policy.’3 Recent research also tends to discriminate carefully amongst different types of resistance. Taxonomies have been drawn up that differentiate between nonconformism, low-level civil disobedience, articulated opposition and public protest, to mention but a few positions on a broad spectrum. Corey Ross, in a critical evaluation of the historiography of dissent in the GDR, speaks of a continuum ranging from criticism, non-conformist behaviour and passive resistance through to dissidence, political protest, and ultimately to opposition and open revolt.4 Ross finds the notion of a continuum serviceable because it highlights the potential fluidity between the various categories, and also because it lends itself to understanding dissent not as a static ‘type’ of behaviour but as a process, ‘a form of behaviour whose expression and continuation were dependent on circumstances, on the social position of the individual or group concerned, and on the response it elicited from the authorities’. By inducing changes in the self-identity of the agent, by influencing others, or by provoking a response from the regime, one type of dissent can trigger a sequence of events that gives rise to different forms. An illustration of this kind of phase transition may be seen in the experience of some protestors in June 1953 – a topic that will be treated in Chapters 1 and 2. Some individuals that took part in the events of that month perceived themselves as broadly supportive of the regime and were accustomed to showing outward signs of that stance. Theirs was a position closer to accommodation than to dissidence. Out of opposition to a particular policy (typically, a rise in work quotas), they then participated in strike action – a form of low-level resistance. However, because thousands of others were taking similar action on the

Introduction 3 same day, and because of the repressive response of regime forces, a generalised uprising ensued. In the process, the attention of actors turned from particular grievances to the system of power; they connected frustrations with specific issues to their comprehensive exclusion from the political process. Individuals whose dissent had been of a partial kind found themselves embroiled in collective action that posed a comprehensive challenge to the ruling order. In the brief course of the rising, possibilities for meaningful intervention in the political process opened up to thousands who had been accustomed to exclusion from public affairs. The expansion of political opportunities and the actions of protestors encouraged others to re-evaluate their attitudes to protest; oppression and injustice became popularly redefined as subject to change. (Doug McAdam has coined the term ‘cognitive liberation’ to describe this phenomenon.)5 Thanks to the work of contemporary historians and political scientists, more is now known of the differentiated techniques with which the regime tackled Resistenz and opposition. The traditional image of the regime as a totalitarian monolith captures an important facet but not the whole. The SED was frequently obliged to make concessions, or to abandon entire policy programmes. Cultural deviations from its value-system, for example, would often be countered with brute intimidation but could, equally, provoke the regime into moderating its position. When rock music began to become a mass counter-culture in the late 1960s, the regime attempted to neutralise the perceived threat by setting up ‘song clubs’ under the aegis of the Free German Youth (FDJ) and DT64, a youth radio station. In the process, its adamantine anti-rock position softened, and was ultimately abandoned. Similarly, histories of industrial relations in East Germany abound with accounts of planners and managers bowing to shopfloor resistance. In the wake of the 1953 uprising the SED was obliged to make substantial concessions on issues of wages, prices and work quotas. In the 1960s, as Jeffrey Kopstein has shown, workers’ resistance was a significant factor that contributed to the curtailment and ultimate collapse of a reform programme, the ‘New Economic System’ (NÖS). Again, in the late 1970s, a number of large enterprises failed to implement wage reductions: ‘[i]n order to ensure labor peace and continued cooperation, management preferred to place workers into artificially higher wage categories’. As a consequence of workers’ recalcitrance, Kopstein concludes, the history of labour in post-war East Germany did not resemble the imposition of a master plan of sovietisation so much as perpetual crisis management.6 These themes – of cultural nonconformism, of the management of labour, and of shopfloor resistance – are examined in detail in Chapters 3 and 4. From the founding of the East German state in 1949 until the 1970s, one may speak of endemic Resistenz, and of dissidence within the SED, but it makes little sense to use the term opposition, in the sense of organised currents that pose a political challenge to the regime. In the 1980s, that began to change, with the emergence of social movements, largely within the Protestant Church. These were small in scale and, for the most part, concerned with single issues (peace, the environment, women’s rights, homosexual rights and global justice) that are



sometimes brought together under the label ‘socio-ethical’. Individuals involved were subjected to pernicious discrimination and even, in some cases, expatriation. In part because open protest and wholesale critique of the ruling order attracted heavier sanctions than did inner-Church activities and partial criticisms, they tended to avoid the former and concentrate on the latter. Activists in the 1980s paid little heed to the potential for a future unified Germany, for pragmatic reasons and due to their criticisms of West German capitalism. Some commentators have regarded this as a fatal flaw. That they eschewed framing their dissent in national terms and accepted the GDR as a sovereign state, argues Christian Joppke, was tantamount to a position of ‘implicit loyalty to the rulers’. Even the most radical of the 1980s groups were not totally opposed to Communism and the GDR, and, as such, did not represent ‘genuine opposition’. ‘[E]ven intentionally genuine opposition,’ Joppke proposes, ‘had to turn into collusion.’7 Similarly, Corey Ross demands to know of the 1980s activists, ‘what, precisely, they were opposing before 1990: the GDR per se or merely the SED regime?’ The answer, undoubtedly, was the latter, leading Ross to conclude that the ‘extent of opposition represented by the grassroots groups was, therefore, rather more limited than is often assumed’.8 On the terminological question of whether the 1980s movements merit the label opposition, I take issue with Joppke and Ross. Merely opposed to the regime? In my experience of the 1980s groups, their members, while not ‘totally opposed to Communism’ or to the GDR, certainly were committed to the expansion of political freedoms; were highly critical of, and clashed with, the regime; strove for major reforms; and avidly desired an end to the SED’s monopoly of power. For this author, that warrants the label opposition. But of greater importance than this semantic issue are analytical questions concerning the development of protest, the ability of movements to reach out to and draw in wider layers, and the interaction between challengers and the regime. Does a particular act serve to weaken the regime? Does it strengthen the confidence and unity of oppressed and powerless groups? Chapters 5 and 6 explore these questions with regard to East Germany in the 1980s. How, it is asked, did the movements relate to the wider populace and to the state? How did they evolve? And to what extent do they warrant description as ‘new social movements’? The 1989 uprising appeared unrelated to the social movements of previous years. It took everyone by surprise, East German citizens and Western observers alike. Yet with hindsight one can begin to uncover threads that connected past acts of protest and Resistenz with the crisis and overthrow of the regime in that year. First, the 1953 uprising, together with small-scale acts of shopfloor resistance (sick-days, go-slows, refusals to participate in production competitions), led to the formation of an implicit labour contract, whereby industrial relations were stabilised on the back of wage levels that consistently overshot plan targets. This, Kopstein has argued, gave the East German working class ‘the power to restrict the range of plausible reforms at a later period’; in particular, it ‘restricted one path of capital accumulation (through wage suppression)’.9 The regime’s capacity to restructure the economy was impaired. For example, the introduction

Introduction 5 of a bankruptcy mechanism was mooted on several occasions, but rejected.10 Second, the late 1970s and 1980s witnessed a steadily growing number of individuals requesting permission to leave the country. In Chapter 4 this issue is introduced, Chapter 6 discusses the transformation of an aggregate of emigration applicants into a movement, while Chapters 7 and 8 tell the story of their role in precipitating the regime crisis of June to October 1989. A third thread consisted of the 1980s opposition movements. These, as shown in Chapter 6, gained strength in 1987–8, developed an increasingly political edge and, first and foremost in Leipzig, entered into a tactical alliance with the emigration applicants. Chapters 7 and 8 narrate the story of the opposition groups in 1989, paying attention to their part in the formation of the ‘citizens’ movement’ organisations such as New Forum, to the role these played in generating a ‘culture of protest’, and to their attitude towards the mass movement that was filling the streets of Leipzig, Plauen and Dresden. Famously, the slogan of the demonstrations in those and other cities was ‘we are the people’. But who precisely were ‘the people’ that rose up to topple Honecker’s regime? Which social groups were represented? Was the democracy movement driven by workers, or by members of the ‘intelligentsia’? These questions are explored in the final chapter, in the course of which a contrast is noted between the role played by workers in 1953 and in 1989. Why did a mass strike form the backbone of the earlier uprising but not the latter? In different guises, this contrast is a theme that wends its way throughout this book. It is there, in the background, in Chapters 1 and 2, appears again towards the end of Chapter 3, and resurfaces in Chapters 8 and 9, before some final reflections on the matter are presented in the Conclusion.

Part I

Mass movements in the GDR’s early years


The June 1953 uprising

In the GDR’s early years one popular protest event stands out above all others. On 17 June 1953 – or, more accurately, between 16 and 21 June – between 1 and 1.5 million people, 6 to 9 per cent of the total population, participated in strikes, demonstrations and rallies.1 Over 700 towns and villages were affected, and at least 0.5 million workers in well over 1,000 workplaces stopped work. If these statistics are arresting in themselves, recent research indicates that the potential scale of the rising was greater still. In many areas strikes were nipped in the bud thanks either to the timely response of SED or FDGB (the state-run ‘union’) functionaries, or to massive intervention by the security forces and the Soviet army. These made large-scale arrests, especially of strike leaders, they blocked factory gates, dispersed crowds and occupied urban areas.2 It used to be thought that the rising had already begun to peter out before the arrival of Soviet tanks, yet, although this claim is not without foundation, recent evidence emphasises the degree to which their appearance and the imposition of military law cut into a rising movement. There is also no question but that solidarity with the strikes extended well beyond striking workplaces. Wide layers of the workforce showed sympathy with the strikes in countless ‘turbulent meetings’, many of which were only dispersed by management’s blandishments and threats, sometimes by military occupation.3 Each new publication based on materials from the East German archives brings a rich collection of incidents of ‘substrike’ or strike-related activity, such as acts of sabotage, or brief work stoppages to honour colleagues who had been killed in previous days.4 It seems safe to conclude, in the words of a Stasi report quoted by Armin Mitter, that ‘the potential for protest and resistance was very much greater than the numbers actually on strike would suggest’.5 Measured by the yardstick of numbers involved, the rising was an uncommon event but not exceptional. Only a few years earlier, for example, West Germany’s Bizone was shaken by a strike involving over 9 million workers, almost four-fifths of the workforce, in support of demands for codetermination and the nationalisation of industries.6 What distinguishes the East German rising from those strikes across the border and similar events elsewhere is, first, its spontaneous character. With trade unions prohibited and the FDGB opposed to strike action, no established organisations existed


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years

through which the strike call could be spread.7 Second, events unfolded at an extraordinary tempo. In historical accounts of the event words such as ‘contagion’, ‘chain reaction’ and ‘wildfire’ crop up repeatedly. Most of the activity that will be narrated in this chapter occurred on one day, 17 June – and largely, indeed, in a matter of hours, between the morning shift clocking on and the imposition of martial law in the afternoon. Third, strike action and demonstrations gave way to large-scale civil unrest. Over 250 public buildings, including police stations, were stormed, and around 1,400 prisoners were freed from twelve prisons.8 Up to twenty functionaries and security force personnel lost their lives. Fourth, the suppression of the rising depended upon the deployment of ruthless military force. Between sixty and 100 civilians were killed by bullets from the security forces or were crushed by tanks.9 At least twenty others were summarily executed. Also, 12,000–15,000 protestors were arrested, thousands of whom were imprisoned.10 This was, in short, a rising that developed at a breathtaking pace and which could only be crushed by the merciless application of military power. In investigations of the uprising’s origins a common place to begin is with the economic problems, social privations and political grievances that fermented over previous years, which created a potent brew of discontent that then spilled onto the streets in June 1953. The story told is of a growing economic gap between East and West Germany, of the imposition of unacceptable burdens upon the East German population, of bottlenecks and consumption shortages in the year preceding the rising, and of repressive measures that became ever more onerous. In addition, accounts of the rising focus upon changes in the ‘political opportunity structure’ (POS) in East Germany as well as internationally. Following Doug McAdam et al., I take POS to refer to the ‘receptivity or vulnerability of the political system to organized protest by a given challenging group’.11 Explanations of social change that centre on shifts in the POS emphasise the heightened vulnerability to pressure from below of the regime under examination in a context characterised by political crisis at the international or domestic level, or by divisions within elites, shifting political alignments, a sudden or disputed shift in strategy, or a leadership change. As regards the origins of the 1953 rising, the POS-altering factors that are commonly cited include the changing ‘international opportunity structure’ that followed the death of Stalin and, related to this, a policy switch in early June 1953 that opened up divisions both within and between elites in Moscow and East Berlin, and which, in the latter city, plunged the apparatuses of power into uncertainty and confusion. In the following pages I shall briefly summarise the major economic developments and policy changes, as well as alterations to the POS in the interval between the arrival of Soviet tanks in German cities at the ‘zero hour’ of liberation and their reappearance on those same streets eight years later. The period may be divided into three distinct phases: the so-called ‘anti-fascist democratic transition’ of 1945–7; the restructuring of state and society along Soviet lines (1948–May 1953); and the ‘New Course’ of early June 1953.

The June 1953 uprising 11

‘Anti-fascist democratic transition’ The first phase began with the defeat of Hitler’s regime and the assumption of authority by the occupying powers. Politically, this was a period in which a power vacuum emerged, following the cessation of hostilities, but was gradually filled as the occupying armies consolidated their hold. Economically, it witnessed the repair of war damage, the recommencement of production, and the siphoning of a major part of the product, as reparations, to the USSR. Socially, it was a time of untold suffering and poverty for much of the population. Shortages of basic goods such as heating fuel and household supplies were acute (far worse, indeed, than in 1953). Chronicles of the time abound with horrific tales of hunger and disease, for example of starving citizens cutting meat from dead horses in the street. City dwellers were driven to wander the countryside searching for farmers with whom they could exchange potatoes or bacon, illegally, for their remaining possessions: clocks, porcelain or clothing.12 Desperate shortages of goods together with runaway inflation were propitious conditions for the growth of the black economy. Scarce commodities such as cigarettes challenged the mark as the currency of choice. Problems of infrastructural and economic collapse were exacerbated by vast population movements that ensued with the war’s end. In an outbound flow, some 10 million foreigners in Germany, including concentration-camp inmates as well as around 8 million imported slave labourers – many of whom had been tilling the fields to feed Germany’s urban population and armed forces – returned to their homelands, either voluntarily or under allied orders.13 Meanwhile, an inward stream arrived from Eastern Europe as the Red Army swept westwards. It comprised prisoners of war, Nazi officials and collaborators, alongside many more who were unwilling to live under non-German rule. In their wake came further millions of Germans expelled from territories occupied by the Soviet Union and by the new administrations of Poland and Czechoslovakia. Within two years, 4 million refugees and expellees had arrived in the Soviet zone – more than in any of the Western zones. They comprised around a quarter of its population; in some towns the figure was as high as 42 per cent.14 A further contributor to the chaotic conditions of the time was the disintegration of the institutions of state. In 1945, Germany was a country with no civil service, no education system, no executive and no judiciary. Throughout most of East Germany, as Gareth Pritchard has described, this created a vacuum of power which was filled only partially by the armies of occupation … In the cities and towns there was widespread looting by civilians and even, on occasion, by feral German policemen. In the countryside, hungry and often armed bands of former slave labourers and POWs rampaged at will, looting and killing as they went. In areas overrun by the Red Army, groups of drunken and violent Russian soldiers constituted a massive threat to civilian life and property. The cumulative impact of these


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years perils was to impose a reign of terror on the population, particularly in the smaller and more isolated towns and villages.15

Coming on the heels of an epoch of dictatorship and war, these conditions of demographic flux, social and economic collapse, and material privation that obtained in the immediate post-war years help to account for the political apathy and fatalism that were observed amongst wide layers of the population. City dwellers had been stunned by the experience of saturation bombing. The arduous task of ensuring physical survival and well-being commanded their energies. ‘Even now,’ wrote Isaac Deutscher in October 1945, ‘questions of high politics mean little to [German citizens] in comparison to urgent daily problems of personal security, for oneself and above all for one’s wife or daughter.’16 For its part, the nationalist section of the population was disoriented by their country’s defeat. Around half the population had sympathy with what they perceived to be the basic aims of Nazism, if not with its methods. Many millions of Germans had been influenced by twelve years of Nazi rule, regretted its demise and greeted the new order with suspicion or hatred. Amongst these layers, anti-Communism, anti-liberalism, anti-Semitism and other forms of racism (notably towards Slavs) were deeply ingrained. A sense of the attitudes circulating amongst the middle classes in particular is conveyed by this excerpt from a document prepared in December 1945: The major part of the population still remains politically reserved. In particular the middle classes, which lived through the period of the Wilhelmine system and the period of the Weimar Republic to their great disappointment, but which took fresh hope from National Socialism…have lost faith in everything. Trust in any new political movement does not yet exist amongst them.17 The Soviet occupying forces found themselves in a situation of social and economic breakdown, confronting a population that was not short of resentment towards the new masters in the land. The political apathy of much of the population may have helped the Soviet Military Administration and KPD (German Communist Party) to establish new power structures with relatively little opposition.18 Yet their base of support within the German population was slender. The institutions at their disposal were hastily put together and the personnel that staffed them were inexperienced. In such conditions, building a reliable power apparatus capable of executing decisions made in Moscow and East Berlin was no straightforward task. That too few reliable cadre could be found in the KPD to fill public positions helps to explain the ruling group’s concern to find other means to broaden its base, and why a relatively tolerant period, rather than a rapid transformation of the Soviet zone along Stalinist lines, ensued.19 That a Stalinist path was not taken in the immediate post-war years was also, and more importantly, dictated by the relative flexibility of Soviet policy-makers in what was a highly unpre-

The June 1953 uprising 13 dictable international context. It was unclear whether stability, either in international relations or in domestic affairs, would be achieved swiftly or whether the turbulence that had followed the previous world war would be repeated in Central and Eastern Europe. Would the populations of occupied territories acquiesce to the plans of their liberators, or would conflicts develop? How would the goals of the Great Powers evolve? Would co-operation reign, or would tensions and conflict dominate? In particular, whether Germany would be jointly administered by or divided between the victorious powers remained unclear. And, if divided, would it serve primarily as a source of plunder for the USSR, or could it be built up as a viable state? In the context of an uncertain geopolitical environment Moscow attempted, initially at least, to maintain the wartime alliance with Britain and the USA. In the absence of a clear strategy for Germany that would meet with the approval of the Western powers, it pursued a comparatively flexible politics in its zone, under the rubric ‘anti-fascist democratic transformation’. In 1945 Stalin instructed KPD leaders that, in the medium term at least, there would be ‘bourgeois-democratic government in Germany’. The KPD programme proclaimed as its paramount goal not socialist but ‘bourgeois democratic’ revolution. The first two years of the occupation were characterised by a modicum of political freedom and tolerance, and party pluralism. The KPD, one-time cadre party of the German proletariat, was refounded as a ‘people’s party’ (Volkspartei) in which farmers, housewives, artisans, Christians and even small-business people were, in theory at least, equally welcome.20 Although personnel decisions were supervised by the occupying authority and its East German protégés, with Communists allocated key portfolios such as police, personnel and ‘denazification’, influential positions were also offered to members of the ‘anti-fascist bourgeoisie’.

High Stalinism By the turn of the decade the construction of a broad-based ‘people’s democracy’ had given way to a Stalinist agenda. The context for the policy shift was provided by the growing tensions between Moscow and the Western powers, exemplified in the unravelling of four-power plans for a unified German polity, the provision of Marshall Aid and the introduction of a new currency in the Western zones, followed by the Berlin blockade and counter-blockade of 1948. That Moscow had permitted a relatively tolerant and pluralist system in its zone had been, in part at least, the result of a calculation that democratic structures in Germany could conceivably provide a framework within which Moscow could achieve a substantial degree of long-term influence over the country as a whole. Gradually, that prospect had faded, with the SED’s disappointing election results in 1946 and with the hardening of Washington and London against an ‘all-German’ solution. The incipient division of the country prompted decisionmakers in Moscow to rethink their German strategy. No longer was their zone of primary use as a source of plunder and as a card with which to bargain for influence over Germany as a whole. Now, as the Cold War developed, the


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years

concern was to expedite the integration of East Germany into the Soviet bloc, a course of action that involved the Stalinisation of economy and society and which, in turn, deepened and confirmed Germany’s division.21 In the late 1940s, economic life in the Soviet zone was reconstructed along state capitalist lines, in close imitation of the post-1928 Russian model. The new economy’s genetic code, as it were, consisted of the following elements: nationalisation of industry, a high degree of industrial concentration, a concentration upon heavy industry, a high savings ratio, allocation by administrative decision, the extensive use of political incentives and ideological appeals to increase productivity, and the mobilisation of all resources towards the goal of enhancing the country’s military and industrial competitiveness. As in Russia, the subordination of society to the SED’s goals of state-building and capital accumulation was pursued by totalitarian means. Political repression was stepped up, and was justified by paranoias associated with the onset of the Cold War. The social and political rights that had been permitted in preceding years were rescinded. Workers were denied any legitimate means of organised collective bargaining. Artists and cultural associations were obliged to toe the SED line. Laws were passed empowering government to punish dissent and opposition. In 1950 alone, 78,000 sentences were handed down, fifteen of them as capital offences, for crimes that were defined, broadly, as political.22 One of those sentenced to death was a 19-year-old, whose offence had been nothing more than the distribution of leaflets that criticised the lack of fairness in the electoral system.23 The regime evidently feared that a tolerant attitude to even petty sleights against the state or to whispers of political criticism could trigger an avalanche of dissent. By the turn of the decade the SED had either abolished or taken control of all independent political and industrial organisations. The Christian Democrat and Liberal parties were transformed into ‘bloc parties’, servile allies of the SED. Where their leaders proved ‘un-co-operative’ with the Soviet Military Authority they were simply replaced. Alongside these, new parties – the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (NDPD) and the Demokratische Bauernpartei Deutschlands – were set up that, although ostensibly nonCommunist, were led by veteran Communists and functioned in effect as puppets of the SED. The NDPD was given the remit of bringing former Nazis into the regime’s fold. It appealed to an anti-Communist constituency through chauvinist rhetoric – such as the call to arms against ‘traitors to the German cause’, published in the first issue of its newspaper – but from a position that interpreted ‘the German cause’ as essentially the same as the SED’s. Peace was made with ‘little Nazis’ in other ways too, in the form of an amnesty and a declaration of their equal rights. Even the SED proffered the olive branch to former Nazis. Loyalty to its regime, and not ideology, was the touchstone. As Wilhelm Zaisser, Saxony’s minister of the interior (and future head of the Stasi), put it: ‘What is required is not the negative proof of non-complicity [with Nazism] but the positive proof of cooperation’ with the new regime.24 By the early 1950s, fully 9 per cent of SED members had belonged to the

The June 1953 uprising 15 Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP), and a further 6 per cent had belonged to one of its affiliated organisations.25 As the welcome given to former ‘little Nazis’ suggests, the SED was, in the late 1940s, detaching itself ever more from its roots in the German labour movement. Its agenda was set by the exigencies of state-building and of forced industrialisation, notably the imperative of sacrificing workers’ consumption in favour of industrial investment. Given these priorities, its capacity to mobilise support by appealing to citizens’ repugnance towards Nazism and the desire for a fairer world was eroding. The emphasis shifted instead, as Pritchard has written, to the manipulation of its supporters’ ‘petty ambitions, their jealousies and their narrow prejudices’.26 In order to adapt itself to this ‘revolution from above’, the SED was, from 1947–8, reconstructed as a ‘party of a new type’ on the model of the Soviet Communist Party (CPSU). Emphasis was placed, to an even greater extent than hitherto, upon the unquestioning adaptation by Party members to the twists and turns of policy as decreed by their leaders and, for the latter, by the Kremlin. In this new-edition SED there was no room for open discussion, still less dissent.27 The personnel files of Party members were scrutinised for signs of deviation or heresy, and the findings were passed to newly established ‘Control Commissions’. Disloyal or critical elements were purged from the Party on a mass scale to instil obedience, conformity and self-censorship in those who remained. Particularly suspect were those with Western connections or with a Jewish background.28 The SED leadership was itself disciplined. Those suspected of sympathy with heresies such as Titoism or social democracy were denounced (often as ‘agents of imperialism’) and demoted. Although fewer public show trials were staged in this period than elsewhere in Eastern Europe (or for that matter the USA), numerous leading SED members were expelled, pour encourager les autres. In 1950 Paul Merker was accused of ‘lacking trust in the Soviet leadership’ and of acting as an ‘agent of the imperialist western powers and of world Jewry’, and was expelled from the Party, along with many other veteran Communists.29 Of the fourteen members of the SED’s Central Secretariat of 1946, ten had been demoted or expelled, or resigned and fled the country within four years.30

‘Socialist construction’ In spite of a lengthy period, from 1948, during which state and society were systematically restructured along Stalinist lines, the GDR was not unambiguously and formally designated a full-fledged member of the Soviet family until 1952. Up until that year, Moscow equivocated between establishing the GDR as a strong and sovereign front-line ally and relinquishing it in view of its lack of economic and political viability. Even as the Soviet Military Administration had busied itself with the installation of a new ruling class and new institutions, attached to Moscow by a thousand threads, the door to German unification was kept ajar. In 1952, following the signing of the Paris Treaties by West Germany’s


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years

Chancellor Adenauer, this ambivalent situation was ended. ‘Organise your own state!’ Stalin advised the SED leadership, the ‘pacifist period is over.’31 Shortly after Stalin’s injunction, the ‘accelerated construction of socialism’ was announced, amidst great fanfare. If the term socialism may be judged by the measures that went under its name, it had come to denote a set of policies that centred upon rearmament, a rapid expansion of heavy industry, punitive taxation of private enterprise and the intensification of pressure on farmers to join collective farms. As in the USSR twenty years earlier, military requirements – here, the arming of a front-line state at the height of the Cold War – were an important factor in justifying the commitment of resources to heavy industry, the expansion of which was to be enabled by the release of labour power from the land that collectivisation promised. As in the USSR during its ‘revolution from above’ of the late 1920s, the projection of an external military threat served to justify placing society on a war footing. Militarisation was not restricted to the creation of a standing army and rearmament but was experienced at every level of society. Students in higher-education institutions, and functionaries of the SED and the mass organisations, were obliged to undertake military training. A national sports association was founded, the aim of which was ‘to support the government of the German Democratic Republic in the organisation of armed homeland defence and socialist construction’.32 National security, citizens were repeatedly warned, was under threat. The enemy was everywhere, sabotaging socialist construction and even preparing to launch ‘acts of terror’ against functionaries. Institutions that retained a degree of autonomy from the state, notably the youth organisation of the Protestant church, were accused of providing havens for terrorist activity. Invoking an omnipresent enemy, regime forces whipped up a moral panic that served to justify further restrictions on civil liberties as well as further instances of political justice (notably the show trials of innocents brought to court on trumped-up charges). The mass of the population was subjected to low-level but systematic terror, with tough laws on property crime and draconian sentencing. In 1952 the ‘Law on the Protection of National Property’ was passed, which decreed that even petty property crimes should be punished by at least a year in prison.33 This was no policy of deterrence by empty threat. Numerous examples exist of frightful sentences for trivial crimes: a year in prison for a shop assistant who had lifted a bottle of perfume worth two marks; a year for a poor man with seven children who had helped himself to one sausage in a shop; three years for a worker who had borrowed three-quarters of a litre of petrol from his own workplace.34 Sentences of this sort were not exceptions, and it is little wonder that the numbers incarcerated in the country’s increasingly overcrowded jails more than doubled to 61,000 between summer 1952 and spring 1953. The drive to compete with the advanced Western countries imposed immense strains on economy and society. Forced industrialisation combined with increased state exactions to produce inflationary crisis symptoms. Shortages of raw materials, labour and equipment proliferated, with the energy industry particularly badly affected. The enrolling of 150,000 men into the army exacer-

The June 1953 uprising 17 bated labour shortages and was, moreover, an expensive project: for the year 1952–3 alone, 2 billion marks were devoted to the military – 10 per cent of the state’s already strapped budget.35 To release funds for this extra expenditure a series of austerity measures was put into place, including the raising of taxes and prices, and the reduction or abolition of a range of welfare benefits. The upshot was a rapid deterioration of living standards for much of the population. These difficulties were compounded by a crisis in the countryside. The campaign to accelerate the collectivisation of agriculture, although by no means as brutal as the Soviet precedent of the late 1920s, involved the widespread use of coercion, including the imprisonment (as ‘political criminals’) of those who resisted. For many disaffected peasants, emigration to West Germany proved an attractive alternative to life as an employee of the state. As a result, the collectivisation campaign led not only to the movement of labour power into the factories, as intended, but also to the flight to West Germany of tens of thousands of farmers, including over a third of the wealthier ones. Over 10 per cent of arable land was left fallow, resulting in a slump in agricultural production and severe and growing shortages of meat, milk, fruit and vegetables. Empty shelves in shops now gaped absurdly behind the propaganda that trumpeted East Germany’s magnificent and uninterrupted economic progress.36 Rather than relax the pace of ‘socialist construction’, the regime sought to tackle the gathering crisis through a Flucht nach vorn that centred on a drive to raise the intensity of labour and reduce pay. In a series of initiatives of escalating momentum, the FDGB and SED sought to push through the acceptance of higher work quotas throughout industry. Initially, the effort involved campaigns to encourage voluntary acceptance, yet these elicited widespread and often successful resistance. By March 1953, the line between voluntary and compulsory was becoming rather blurred, and then, in May, the stakes were raised further still, with the announcement that a 10 per cent quota rise was to be imposed. Given the concurrent price and tax rises, real wages for many workers fell by a third within the space of a month. In the highly repressive conditions of the time, discontent with the social and political developments described in the above paragraphs generally took low-key or individualised forms. One recent study lists graffiti, threats against quotabusting workers, coughing during officials’ speeches, political jokes, and the airing of political complaints in anonymous arenas (such as on public transport) as exemplifying the forms taken by ‘private grumbling’ in East Germany at the time.37 In the factories there was low-level industrial conflict, typically involving small groups of employees demanding higher wages or better terms. There is also evidence from opinion surveys carried out for the SED’s Central Committee to the effect that, in early 1953, respondents were ‘disinterested’ in the work of the SED and often hostile to the measures taken by Party and government.38 A more obvious sign of disaffection can be seen in the rising stream of individuals who turned their backs on the country. Emigration to West Germany climbed steadily, reaching 166,000 in 1951 and 182,000 in 1952, before soaring to 226,000 in the first six months of 1953. As to public forms of collective action,


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years

there was relatively little to report, for reasons stated above. Yet significant outbreaks did occur. In the autumn of 1952 food riots broke out in several cities. The same period witnessed a rash of small strikes, which may have been related to the marked fall in the unemployment rate. In the building sector ‘a veritable guerrilla war was fought against the raising of quotas’, and, in the city of Magdeburg, the large plants saw thousands on strike (and no shortage of pickets).39 In spring 1953 sporadic strikes were reported in numerous Leipzig factories, at the Zeiss plant in Jena, the Stalinallee in Berlin, and elsewhere.40 From May into June their frequency accelerated.

The New Course Despite unmistakeable signs of economic crisis and mounting grievances, mass collective action was not inevitable. Had the quota rises and agricultural collectivisation been implemented by a cohesive state corps, and with unwavering determination, the grumblings and strikes might well have been contained. But at this point far-reaching changes in the ‘international opportunity structure’ intervened. In March 1953, Stalin’s death occasioned personnel and policy changes at the top of the CPSU. The new Soviet leadership, concerned for the stability of its front-line ally, concluded that the previous year’s ‘accelerated construction of socialism’ had been premature.41 In May, East Berlin was advised to relax the collectivisation drive. In early June, SED leaders were summoned to Moscow, where they were pressed to reduce the tempo of industrialisation and collectivisation. A package of reforms (the ‘New Course’) was duly announced, on 9 June, in a communiqué that publicly acknowledged that the previous year’s decision to ‘construct socialism’ had been mistaken. Policies were now reversed or altered, almost across the board. Price rises were revoked, and concessions granted to farmers and small businesses, students and Christians, and to ‘economic criminals’. Yet the overturning of the former hard-line approach was in one critical respect incomplete: the decreed rise in work quotas remained in place. The announcement of the New Course electrified East German society. The sudden and sweeping change of tack on the part of the hitherto resolute SED spoke of weakness and of divisions between or within the Communist leaderships of Moscow and East Berlin. The sharp and apparently arbitrary nature of the U-turn generated consternation and disputes throughout the Party and state apparatuses. Functionaries who had committed themselves to implementing forced industrialisation (‘socialist construction’) regardless of the human cost could justifiably feel aggrieved. Those who had been sceptical of the methods of High Stalinism and had advocated a gentler ‘German road to socialism’ or ‘Third Way’ felt confirmed. Many others were simply confused, unsure of the ‘party line’. Furthermore, the SED leaders’ implicit admission that a fundamental strategic mistake had been made – that the much trumpeted building of socialism had been premature – awakened widespread hopes that further reforms were possible. It left the regime in an exposed position; indeed, some

The June 1953 uprising 19 interpreted it as signalling that the SED’s time was up. Official ‘reports on the mood of the population’, according to Mary Fulbrook’s findings, indicate that the announcement of the New Course led to ‘widespread heightened expectations of major changes ahead: there was a mood of excitement and apprehension in the days preceding the uprising itself ’.42 Witnesses from the time describe a ‘tension in the air’ following the announcement of the New Course: the political situation had become a focal point of popular attention.43 Amongst workers in particular it was widely believed that the U-turn had resulted from the pressure of mass discontent, that it represented a victory of the masses over the functionaries, and that the quota rise should be reversed.44 Anticipation that this latter demand could be fulfilled was then fuelled in the days following the announcement of the New Course by mixed messages from regime spokespeople that appeared to indicate that the quota rise was open to revision. Against this background a series of strikes broke out at Berlin building sites and elsewhere between 12 and 16 June, in at least one of which the demand for a general strike was raised.45 For the discontent of East German workers to translate into nationwide collective action little was now needed other than a spark, in the form of a collective public act of resistance and the means to spread the word.

From strikers to rebels That focal point was provided by a strike by building workers on and around Berlin’s Stalinallee, an avenue of monumental buildings that had come to symbolise the ‘socialist construction’ of the GDR. Workers there were strongly positioned. Not only was the Stalinallee a prestige project; there was also a shortfall of some 40,000 building workers, and many could find work in West Berlin. The strikes on and near the Stalinallee, although in one sense ‘spontaneous’, developed from discussions concerning the quota hike and the New Course. At the Friedrichshain Hospital construction site, workers downed tools and held a meeting to discuss how to take their demands forward. A resolution was drawn up, addressed to Minister President Otto Grotewohl, which called for the former quotas to be reinstated. The New Course, it noted, annulled a series of measures that had penalised other groups such as farmers and therefore, it reasoned, workers should be accorded similar treatment. The quota rise, it concluded, should be repealed, at least for their site, and Grotewohl should respond by noon of the following day.46 Responding less to the resolution (which, according to some accounts, remained stuck in lower levels of the state administrative apparatus and, according to others, reached Grotewohl but was not taken seriously) than to general pressures, including the advice of the Berlin district SED, the Politburo did decide, on 16 June, to withdraw the norm hike.47 It even sent loudspeaker cars to broadcast the news to the people of Berlin. But the U-turn came too late. In the intervening twenty-four hours impatience had grown on the building sites in and around the Stalinallee. There remains some doubt as to


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years

precisely why a march then set off. According to some reports, the precipitating factor was the decision of striking workers at Block 40 to take a resolution collectively to the government. Others identify as the trigger a decision by the director of the Friedrichshain Hospital to lock the gates and shut the strikers in, an escalation of repression that was then reported to workers at Block 40 who proceeded to the hospital to free their colleagues.48 Uncontested, however, is that one of the placards carried read ‘Building workers demand quota reduction!’ and that the strikers’ intended terminus was the government headquarters at the House of Ministries. If the primary immediate concern of the marching building workers was to win relief from the quota rise, en route the emphasis began to shift. As they passed other sites the marchers brought out their colleagues. Thousands of others – including refuse collectors, tax collectors, and the passengers and drivers of passing trams – swelled the ranks.49 Even some policemen, their uniforms swapped for working clothes, joined in. These changes in the composition of the march were reflected in the chants intoned. No longer was the quota rise at the centre; the streets now rang to ‘Workers Join Us; Unity Is Strength!’ ‘We Want Free Elections!’ And, above all, ‘Wir wollen freie Menschen sein und keine Sklaven!’ [We want to be free human beings not slaves]. At the House of Ministries a crowd of some 10,000 gathered. An elderly building worker acted as chair of the gathering and instigated a chant of ‘We want to talk to the government!’50 The appearance of the SED leaders Walter Ulbricht and Otto Grotewohl was demanded, but, instead, only lesser officials emerged from the barricaded building to address the crowd. These all announced that the workers’ main demand, the revocation of the quota hike, would be conceded. An easy victory had, it seemed, been won. With Ulbricht and Grotewohl nowhere to be seen, some demonstrators began to disperse, perhaps content that a major concession had been granted so swiftly. But most appeared determined to wait. Some sat down on the ground. A group of building workers began to chant ‘Ul-bricht o-der Gro-te-wohl!’ and before long the square was ringing to the demand that these leaders be summoned.51 Reports of the gathering paint a picture of the building workers’ suspicion towards and alienation from the government that claimed to represent the interests of their class. For one thing, the invitation that a delegation be sent into the House of Ministries for talks was rejected. Government officials, the building workers insisted, should instead negotiate with them outside in the open. For another, junior officials who promised concessions were simply not trusted, and were told ‘We want to hear that from the government, from Walter Ulbricht himself.’ The point was made by one worker, when describing the reception given to the SED intellectual Robert Havemann: ‘He spoke Party-Chinese. We didn’t trust him.’52 A similar reception was given to Fritz Selbmann, a former miner turned minister. Stepping onto the improvised podium, he appealed to the strikers to return to work. After all, he pointed out, their demand for a quota reduction had already been met. However, according to one eye-witness,

The June 1953 uprising 21 the workers saw through his evasive intentions; they made it abundantly clear to him that the issue no longer concerned only the building workers of the Stalinallee, but that they were speaking for the workforce of the whole of East Berlin, indeed of East Germany.53 Despite a lack of support from his audience, Selbmann pressed on. ‘Dear colleagues,’ he continued, reminding the gathering of his earlier career down the mines, ‘I am a worker too!’ But his appeals earned little but mockery and derision. ‘But you’ve forgotten that!’ came a rejoinder from out of the crowd. ‘You’re not our colleague!’ shouted another.54 Other heckles came: ‘too fat, too fat!’, ‘boss!’ and ‘worker’s traitor!’ Another of those present claims to have shoved him aside with the words ‘You’re no worker. Your stories don’t interest us.’55 Faced with this unexpected animosity, Selbmann grew subdued. For one eye-witness the picture he presented was forlorn indeed: In the manner in which he stood there on the table he made, for a minister, a pitiable impression. His trousers had slipped, revealing a ten-centimetre wide strip of underpants. His gaze was lowered and his entire body trembled in agitation.56 The treatment by the crowd of Selbmann and the other officials was not cast simply in terms of ad hominem mistrust and rejection, in view of the fact that they were not top leaders, or that they spoke ‘Party-Chinese’. There was also a basic deliberative element to the occasion, whereby their proposals were discussed and judged upon by the audience. Thus, when one official claimed that ‘this country must have an army’, building workers chanted back ‘We don’t need an army!’57 Over time, Selbmann and the other functionaries were obliged to yield to speakers from the floor, and the agenda began to shift from repudiation of their arguments to questions of alternatives. One speaker in particular, an elderly worker in white builder’s overalls and a white cap, is singled out in most accounts. ‘If the entire event up until that moment had been the enterprise of a more or less headless mass,’ one eye-witness report enthused, ‘now it received in this man an absolutely ideal leader, who was to exert a decisive influence upon the further course of events.’58 The white-capped builder presented a list of demands: that the quota rises be rescinded, prices in the state-owned shops reduced, workers’ living standards raised, the rearmament drive abandoned, all political prisoners freed, and that free elections be held throughout Germany.59 ‘This is a people’s uprising!’ he continued, to loud applause. It isn’t about quotas and prices any longer. It’s about more than that. We haven’t just come from the Stalinallee, we’ve come from the whole of Berlin. We want freedom. The government must draw conclusions from its mistakes. A reversal of the quota rise is not enough. The government must resign. We demand free elections!60


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years

Following the white-capped builder, a younger colleague then climbed onto the podium and made an appeal that was to critically shape the further course of events: that those present march through the city to spread the call for a general strike. His suggestion was greeted with a ‘hurricane of approval’ and before long an improvised strike committee had been formed, and the march was underway, to chants of ‘we’re calling for general strike’ and ‘Berliners join in, we don’t want to be slaves’.61En route, the marchers encountered several loudspeaker vans that were broadcasting government propaganda, confirming that the quota rise had been rescinded and insisting that demonstrators return to work. One of these was turned over while the other was hijacked and its occupants (except the driver) turfed out.62 Commandeering the vehicle (described wryly by one of those present to be ‘now, genuinely people’s property’63) the strikers proceeded to use it to disseminate their own message. One of them, the building worker Alfred Brun, repeatedly broadcast the call for general strike, and an appeal for Berliners to gather at the Strausberger Platz the next morning at seven.64 The strike of the building workers, as Stefan Brant summarised in a book published shortly after the event, ‘required a demonstration and led to revolt. The first open clash of the rebels with authority required an appeal to the solidarity of the rest of the population and this was expressed in the demand for a general strike.’65 This accurately captures the instrumental logic behind the progression from strike to rebellion. But each stage of escalation, each clash with the authorities, also prompted a change in perceptions on the part of strikers. Consider for example the recollection of Werner Hoffmann, one of those who hijacked a loudspeaker car. ‘We felt such a wonderful feeling of strength,’ he recalls, ‘because we had dared to act like this in the face of that regime.’66 Through activities of this sort feelings of uncertainty gave way to a sense of strength, limited goals gave way to more adventurous ones, and petitioning the government turned into confrontation with the regime. From out of a strike a rebellion had begun to grow.

Spreading the word By the afternoon of 16 June protest was branching out in all directions. In Berlin, a series of further marches were convened. Meanwhile, strikers were spreading the word to workplaces throughout the city and beyond, either by telephone or in person, travelling by bus, car, tram and bicycle. Overnight, news of the gathering revolt spread nationwide, through radio broadcasts from West Germany and West Berlin, and by those with access to vehicles (truck drivers, building workers) or company telephone networks (notably rail workers).67 The biggest factory in Dresden learned of the Berlin strike thanks to a group of some thirty SED members who, having visited the Stalinallee on 16 June, returned to work on the next morning and reported what they had seen.68 Historians now agree that the course of events on 17 June in different towns was more varied than had previously been thought. Nevertheless, it remains

The June 1953 uprising 23 possible to sketch a typical progression of events. In the morning, wherever workers met – at home, while commuting or at work – the question of whether to ‘show solidarity with Berlin’ was discussed. Some arrived at work with the explicit intention of organising solidarity action and sought out others with similar inclinations.69 Building workers were commonly among the first to take action, as were employees in the larger Soviet- and GDR-owned factories, but all sectors were affected by strike action: agricultural labourers, civil servants, taxi drivers, tax collectors and technicians. Unanimity behind strike action was not automatic. In many plants groups of workers stayed at their posts while colleagues struck and marched.70 Frequently arguments of the ‘we’re only strong if united’ variety had to be put to persuade waverers.71 Given that the action was precipitated by the adventurously political call for general strike, the choice faced was of returning to work or escalating the action. In the Sachsenwerk factory in Dresden, after the workforce had gathered in a mass meeting some then returned to their workbenches upon hearing that the quota rise would be rescinded and that a government spokesperson would be called for. But others remained in the yard, hesitant. In this case, it was the shout of ‘we’re marching!’ that indicated a plausible alternative to returning to work.72 Here, as in numerous other plants across the country, workers proceeded to form themselves into a march that, to the strains of the ‘Deutschlandlied’ and the ‘Internationale’, wound its way past nearby factories, bringing out their employees along the way.

Strike committees Before work or during the morning break, mass meetings would be called, commonly by lower FDGB officials or by well-known militants. After deciding whether or not to strike was the next step, in many striking workplaces and in a good few non-striking plants too, was the election of ad hoc strike committees. Recent research by Heidi Roth suggests ‘that there were many more groups that acted as strike committees, supervisory bodies or workers’ delegations than has been assumed hitherto’.73 Elected by mass meetings, the committees tended to comprise lay union officials, individuals who had played an influential role in standing up to management in past years, or those whose voices had answered the claims of official spokespeople and SED ‘agitators’ in the morning’s discussions. The make-up of many committees was influenced by pre-existing personal connections that had developed either within labour movement organisations such as the SPD, trade unions and Vereinigung der Verfolgten des Naziregimes (VVN), or in the army. ‘From out of personal connections of this sort,’ Manfred Hagen has noted, ‘strike committees and delegations would form very quickly.’74 In some workplaces, notably in Berlin, the sheer pace of events overwhelmed attempts to construct a collective decision-making process.75 But where functioning committees were established, they commonly evinced a remarkable fusion of democracy and authority. They were, Roth observes, ‘very careful to


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stick to democratic rules. They allowed proposals to be made and voted upon, and recommended that experiences be shared with other workplaces.’76 One of the committees’ first tasks involved redrawing the frontier of workplace control. In hundreds of factories they took charge, frequently occupying the ‘Workplace Party Organisation’ offices and in some cases even disarming the company’s security force. Some went as far as the formal ‘socialisation’ of their workplace. Thus, workers at the Zschopau motorbike plant transformed it into a co-operative, while the strike committee at the Geising tin mines socialised their workplace.77 Elsewhere, activity centred on negotiation with management, with the committees demanding the reinstatement of sacked workers, the firing of hated officials, and new elections to factory SED and FDGB positions. The scope of their powers has been summarised by Roth: to a certain extent the strike committees temporarily became ‘organs of power’: they took on the coordination of enterprise activity…they conveyed resolutions to the superordinate authorities, they led the negotiations with factory managements. They also took responsibility for maintaining peace and order in the workplaces, they protected property from damage and prevented attacks on individuals; in some cases picket lines were organised too. We have even learnt that in some workplaces the strike committees negotiated with management as to which parts of the production process should be kept going during the strike. In countless workplaces the committees coordinated the spread of the strike to neighbouring factories, as well as the marches to town centres and sometimes, even, further activities in the local region.78 A second task for the committees was to spread the strike. As in Sachsenwerk, mentioned above, this typically occurred as marches from strikebound workplaces passed through industrial areas. In addition, committees would take control of the telephone exchange and make contact with other workplaces, or would commandeer company vehicles for the purpose of picketing. In Magdeburg, a group of flying pickets had to break down the doors of the ‘Karl Marx’ plant in order to bring out the workers inside.79 There was even picketing across the Cold-War front-line: West Berlin transport workers helped to bring out their Eastern colleagues, while delegations of Easterners crossed the border to call (in vain) for solidarity strikes. Third, the committees took responsibility for collating demands. Given the welter of issues raised, there is scope for differences of interpretation amongst historians of the rising. Of the classic accounts, Stefan Brant’s emphasises political aims: ‘There was not a factory…in which the Government’s removal was not the cardinal demand.’80 Arnulf Baring, on the other hand, suggested that the focus was initially upon material issues; that ‘it was not until the workers had massed on the streets and their ranks were swollen by passers-by that they felt sufficiently elated to call for political changes’.81 This difference of emphasis is repeated in the recent literature. Karl-Wilhelm Fricke, for example, maintains

The June 1953 uprising 25 that workplace demands were essentially of a social and economic nature, and that overtly political demands only arose on a large scale when strikers merged with the wider public on the streets.82 Others insist, by contrast, ‘that the workers’ primary focus was not the demand for the revocation of the ten per cent norm hike, but rather comprehensive criticism of the politics of Party and government in its entirety’.83 There is no doubt that a central demand within workplaces was the lifting of the quota rise,84 that other work-related issues were prominent, for example that cuts in wages, shift-work bonuses and holiday allowances be rescinded, for the eight-hour day, or for paid leave for single mothers, as were demands oriented to the defence of the strike itself, notably that strike days be paid and that no reprisals against members of the strike committees occur. In some workplaces the reinstatement of sacked workers was called for, as was equal pay for women, the abolition or restriction of ‘scientific’ quota-allocating, and even the call for the Leistungslohn (performance-related pay) to be replaced with hourly pay rates.85 On the other hand, there is also a wealth of evidence that suggests that explicitly political issues were raised in most workplaces from a very early stage. In a highly centralised system with a largely nationalised economy the connections between questions of quotas and high politics were hard to overlook.86 The state was the single employer of the vast bulk of workers in industry and, to a growing extent, in agriculture; the attacks on wages and conditions in early 1953 and the price rises of the same year thus emanated from the same institution that was, in its role as employer, introducing austerity measures and raising quotas.87 It did not take much for discontent with one’s employer to lead directly to the call for resignations of state leaders. As one shipyard worker said, in response to an SED official’s admission that mistakes had been made by the government: ‘Yes, mistakes have been made. Now, colleagues, when we make mistakes we face the consequences. Why are these people not called to account?’88 Strikers also drew attention to the connections between work-related and political issues – for example to the relationship between the costly build-up of the security forces and wage reductions for workers. Lists of demands drawn up in the workplaces tended to touch upon local and national, ‘merely material’ and overtly political, issues. By way of illustration, consider the demand that police pay be reduced to an average worker’s wages, or the ubiquitous ‘We don’t want an army: we want butter!’89 Other, equally ubiquitous, demands that were heard at an early stage, before the strike had developed into a rebellion, included the call for free elections, the legalisation of strike action, freedom for political prisoners, and the removal of the occupying forces from Germany.90 At one Magdeburg factory, to give a typical example, the catalogue included workplace issues – that the quota rise be revoked, conditions in the factory improved, and the pay gap between technical specialists and unskilled workers reduced – but also the demands for the government to resign and for political prisoners to be freed (including those arrested that morning).91 Clearly, strikers were already becoming ‘rebels’ in the earliest stages of the rising. Nonetheless, the process of politicisation did progress much further during the next phase of the rising, in


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years

the process of insurrection and the ensuing confrontations with the organs of state and imperial power.

Insurrection Returning to the narrative of the typical sequence of events, in the towns affected by the revolt marches would form, usually from striking factories. En route, other sectors of the population would join in – workers from smaller firms, housewives, school students (sometimes with their teachers’ support) and the selfemployed. The marches were initially peaceful, relaxed and hopeful in mood. Those present speak of the feeling of ‘liberation’, of ‘being able to breathe’. One Hennigsdorf steelworker recalls the remarkable contrast between their march and official demonstrations – ‘this time we’re not forced to go. Not like on May 1st.’92 The march in Berlin evinced ‘an inner, natural discipline’, according to one eyewitness, that contrasted with ‘the dull, apathetic orderliness of the usual compulsory demonstration’.93 In Magdeburg florists recall gifting their flowers to demonstrators.94 In the cities of Saxony, a ‘veritable carnival atmosphere’ reigned.95 Fears and anxieties evaporated, especially when the passive attitude of the security forces gave the appearance that the battle had already been won. Upon reaching the town centre a rally would be held, or demonstrators would turn to occupying centres of municipal power. In Leipzig, for instance, much of the town centre was taken over, including the broadcasting system, newspaper publisher, and FDGB and FDJ (‘German youth’ organisation) headquarters. With the exception of a pitched battle for control of the FDJ headquarters most of this proceeded with considerable alacrity, and already by lunchtime success was being celebrated, with protestors dancing to tunes from a piano that they set up in the market square.96 The strike and its dissemination, the march culminating in a rally in the town centre; these forms of collective action seemed as if winged by a feeling that ‘something should be done’, a miraculous sense of purpose. A consensus could form, often with a surprising degree of resolution, as to the course of action to be followed. As an example, consider the march at 7 a.m. in Berlin: a mass of workers, men and women, some of them arm in arm, it led off and continued without pause to the House of Ministries. It may be thought that a demonstration beginning to move might not deserve attention, but perhaps it should.97 After all, no destination had been announced in advance. Who was to say where it should go? On the previous day the practical intention of the building workers’ marches had simply been to deliver their petition to the government. On 17 June the purpose of marching was much less clear. And yet proceed it did. Somehow, a collective opinion formed to the effect that marching was an appropriate means of protest and government buildings a worthwhile objective. Beyond the phase of the rising dominated by the strike, march and rally, the sense of clear and common purpose waned. There were three main reasons for this. First, questions as to the appropriate course of action became more complex. As the simple tasks of winning over colleagues to strike action and

The June 1953 uprising 27 marching to the town centre gave way to assaults on centres and symbols of power, new and difficult issues arose: What are our priorities? Which building to target? Where does power lie? Second, the initial forms of protest were initiated and developed by groups of workers many of whom were known to one another and who could communicate and come to binding decisions with comparative ease. As the rising spilled out onto the streets, the relative strength of such networks declined. Finally, and crucially, although most marches and rallies had developed peacefully, the security forces were now sent in to disperse crowds and defend centres of state power. Heavy fighting, of protestors with troops of the KVP (‘Kasernierte Volkspolizei’, forerunner of the East German army) and with police, was breaking out around the country, often to the disadvantage of the latter. Although the security forces were by no means always the winners in these confrontations, their intervention did sharply raise the costs of protesting, multiplied the uncertainties that faced participants, and contributed to a fragmentation of the sense of unity that had marked the rising’s earlier stages. A wide variety of insurrectionary and riotous events occurred on the afternoon of 17 June. Town radio stations and loudspeaker systems were taken over, and used to broadcast calls to rally. Over 100 offices of state institutions (SED, FDGB, Stasi, FDJ) were ransacked; files were opened and in many cases seized or destroyed. In one town the Stasi headquarters was occupied and ‘the whole building was completely taken apart from top to bottom’.98 Other popular targets were police stations and prisons, dozens of which were stormed. Over 1,300 prisoners were freed. In some towns, such as Dresden, Halle, Leipzig and Görlitz, protestors launched assaults on main post offices (which included telecommunications centres), but these were beaten back. ‘The authorities invariably secured [key institutions] from the start,’ Stefan Brant observed at the time, ‘on the other hand, local government and Party offices, even prisons, were often surrendered without a struggle’.99 Generally, however, protest did not involve assaults on power centres but concentrated on what Hagen calls ‘symbolic liberation’, such as the stripping of propaganda from walls, or on attacking representatives of the regime.100 School children threw Russian textbooks out of school windows, and FDJ ‘agitators’ were pelted with mud or thrown in rivers.101 The SED mayor of Thale was forced to remove his Party badge.102 In many towns Stasi officers and informers were captured and interrogated. Demonstrators occupied the Stasi’s Jena headquarters and took an employee into the market square for questioning by citizens gathered there. In Niesky protestors smoked Stasi officers out of their building (despite threats that live ammunition would be used), and locked them in a kennel with a bowl of dog food placed in front.103 In Brandenburg a hated judge and public prosecutor were arrested and taken to the market square for interrogation by the citizens gathered there.104 In the frenzy of these events, in the theatrical ritual of some of them, and more generally in the sense they convey of protestors ‘turning the world upside down’, a carnivalesque quality may be seen. This is not atypical of revolutionary situations, especially in societies in which the political views of subaltern classes


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are systematically stifled, where the gap between what James C. Scott calls the ‘public transcript’ of official political life and the ‘hidden transcripts’ circulating below decks is great, where swathes of the population hold views that they are not permitted to voice in public. Both revolt and carnival, Scott suggests, ‘are times of license and liberty when the hidden transcript may be disclosed, the latter with masks, the former in full view’.105 On 17 June the ‘public transcripts’ of ubiquitous SED propaganda were stripped from the streets and hidden ones emerged in their stead. For example, the popular nicknames for the GDR’s leaders – never previously voiced in public – appeared on placards and in rhyming slogans, such as ‘Goatee, Specs and Stout, the people want you out!’106 Similarly, the Berlin strikers’ desire for quota cuts now appeared as a slogan written on the reverse of a ‘public transcript’, namely propaganda material declaring that the building workers were ‘voluntarily’ raising their quotas. That such acts of protest, which had been taboo, were now suddenly practicable contributed to the Rausch of the June events. To borrow a phrase from Scott, they exemplified ‘those rare moments of political electricity when…the hidden transcript is spoken directly and publicly in the teeth of power’.107 Acts of ‘symbolic liberation’ were a vital part of the uprising. They functioned to mobilise protest and to undermine the confidence of loyalist forces. However, they did so without directly affecting the sinews of state power. The rising’s Achilles’ heel was that, having developed suddenly and in conditions of dictatorship, no forethought or preparation as regards the possibilities afforded by an insurrectionary turn of events had been possible, whether through agitation within the security forces or through deliberation as to which targets would make most sense to occupy. ‘ “Strategic considerations” played only a limited role,’ the East German historian Torsten Diedrich has pointed out: ‘There were few activities that were aimed specifically at restricting the operational ability of organs of state … the protest movement developed largely in a spontaneous manner and lived from the moment, rather than from detailed preparation and organisation.’108

Inter-factory strike committees In most affected towns and cities the insurrectionary phase of the rising proceeded haphazardly, with demonstrators pursuing immediate, limited aims and with fragmented forces. There were, however, exceptions to the rule. Where strike committees linked up to form inter-factory, or even regional, committees, the movement began to take the form of a co-ordinated revolutionary rising. Joint strike committees were established in Hennigsdorf, Görlitz, Cottbus, Gera, on the building sites of Rügen, and above all in the densely industrialised triangle between the rivers Saale, Mulde and Pleisse – in the towns of Leipzig, Halle, Merseburg, Bitterfeld-Wolfen and Schkeuditz. Where such bodies formed promptly they were capable of exerting a very significant influence. One example occurred in Halle district, around the giant factories at Leuna and Buna. At the Leuna chemicals plant a mass meeting saw

The June 1953 uprising 29 shop delegates elect a central strike committee. A similar event was occurring meanwhile at nearby Buna.109 The two sets of workers, some 30,000 in all, joined forces and marched towards nearby Merseburg where a demonstration of around 70,000 gathered. On the fringes of the rally a joint strike committee was established, which quickly got to work, sending units of workers to occupy offices of the town and local authorities, as well as of the SED and Stasi. ‘Directed from loudspeaker vans by their strike leaders,’ writes Brant, they ‘ransacked Party offices, stormed the police station and broke into the prison, where they destroyed the files and released the political prisoners.’110 Hearing word that a factory had been sealed off by police, shutting in the workforce, the joint strike committee organised their liberation.111 By 2 p.m. the town was firmly in its hands. Its final decision was to call upon workers to occupy their workplaces, in the belief that this was an appropriate tactic to defend and continue the revolt. While most workers returned to occupy their workplaces, a delegation was sent to the nearest major city, Halle. As in Merseburg, this industrial city witnessed the formation of a joint strike committee, which included factory representatives as well as a student and a tradesperson, and which took on some of the functions of a provisional town government. It developed an ‘action programme’ and set about occupying the local radio station and a nearby newspaper print shop (in order to produce a leaflet).112 The decisions it took were conveyed to the crowd outside.113 Although less successful than the joint factory committees in smaller towns such as Merseburg, the degree of organisation on display was considerable nonetheless. A third, and particularly impressive, example of co-ordination by joint strike committee occurred in Bitterfeld-Wolfen. Here, around 30,000 workers from the major factories streamed together into the town square, where the strike committees from the largest plants had organised a rally. A joint committee, formed from representatives of all the major workplaces plus a housewife and a student, was elected. It organised units of workers to carry out the tasks necessary to wrest power from the existing authorities. They proceeded to take over the town, each one backed up by tens or even hundreds of protestors. They took control of the prison, where an official was charged with producing a list of political prisoners (including those convicted of ‘economic crimes’) for release, and even with preparing release certificates for them.114 They occupied the post office, town hall, SED offices, telephone exchange and Stasi headquarters. In the name of the committee the mayor was arrested, officials taken into protective custody, police officers arrested and disarmed, and the police chief locked up.115 Police files were opened and the names of collaborators read out to a mass meeting. Meanwhile, the committee directed the fire brigade to cleanse the town’s walls of propaganda, and ensured that food and energy supplies were in rebel hands.116 In short, it usurped both economic and civic authority, in a matter of hours and with élan. Next, it extended its influence into neighbouring areas, sending delegations of workers by train and truck to nearby towns to spread and co-ordinate action. ‘For several hours Bitterfeld was firmly in the hands of the strike committee,’ Hagen observes.


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years Here we find activity of a revolutionary nature: for half a day a perfectly organised leadership body acted, instructed, appointed, proclaimed, and all in constant (and technically almost flawless) communication with the tumultuous masses in the streets, and in contact with other centres of the uprising.117

Finally, the Bitterfeld central strike committee sought to take the revolt forward, onto the national stage. It called for the further generalisation of the strike, and sent nine demands to the ‘so-called German Democratic Government’. These included: that it resign and, pending free elections, be replaced by a provisional government; that the army be dissolved; and that the borders to the West be razed.118 The only town to rival Bitterfeld-Wolfen in the degree of organisation and control attained was Görlitz. Here the enormous size of the rally thwarted the mayor’s plans to effect its dispersal by the deployment of police. From amongst the demonstrators a committee of popular rule and an (unarmed) ‘workers’ militia’ were formed, which ‘unleashed and directed a series of revolutionary activities’, including the occupation of the local courts, police stations, the town hall, the offices of SED, FDJ, Stasi and the regional newspaper, and the railway station.119 The radio station did not need to be occupied, as its workforce went over to the rebellion.120 The police chief was deposed and a replacement appointed. The mayor was sacked too, and arrangements were already begun to arrange for the election of a replacement.121 Political prisoners were released. Perhaps most extraordinary was the fact that the committee met simultaneously and in interaction with a mass rally, enabling input from the latter. ‘Everyone was able to put their demands’ recalled one demonstrator.122 Tape recordings of the meeting, according to Heidi Roth, reveal that committee members obviously deliberated in the meantime, and communicated their decisions immediately to the gathering. These, in turn, contributed their wishes and also corrected or amended the suggestions of the strike committee. Despite the improvised nature of the rally, the inter-factory strike committee, together with the demonstrators, succeeded in making important decisions.123 Three factors would seem to account for the distinctive course taken by the rising in the towns surveyed in this section. One is that, with the exception of Halle, all were either large towns or small cities. The logistical challenges that joint strike committees confronted were reduced. A second factor, which applies especially to Merseburg and Bitterfeld-Wolfen, is that events were dominated by employees of several large factories. Given the existence of informal networks amongst colleagues and acquaintances, communication and organisation were facilitated. This, moreover, provides part of the explanation as to why, in the words of a West German government pamphlet, ‘where workers succeeded in keeping an overview and control over the protest marches, everything occurred in an organised fashion’.124 Third, timing mattered, both in respect of the speed with which protest events were

The June 1953 uprising 31 organised and the number of hours that elapsed between the onset of strikes and the arrival of Soviet tanks. Thus, in Görlitz, the mass rally gathered earlier than in most other centres of the rising. Co-operation amongst strikers and other protestors arose relatively quickly, and leadership organs acted decisively and democratically, enabling all major centres of power to be occupied within a short space of time. In addition, martial law was not declared until 5.30 p.m., several hours later than in Berlin or Magdeburg.125 On this point Görlitz may be usefully contrasted with the nearby city of Dresden. Although in Dresden’s large factories the process of initiating a joint strike committee began promptly,126 its prospective members delayed in actually meeting, agreeing instead to negotiations with local apparatchiks. Eventually an ‘illegal strike committee’ was established, consisting of delegates from five factories. But by this stage martial law had already been declared. The delegates were arrested even before the committee’s first formal meeting.127

‘It’s a question of them or us’ The revolt of 17 June was entirely unexpected and delivered the SED a colossal shock. For Party members, schooled in a determinist philosophy that interpreted their reign as a necessary, progressive and inevitable milestone in world history, and one, moreover, that reflected the objective interests of the East German working class, it was unthinkable that a mass rising could occur at all, and still less one that centred on the factories. On 16 June, SED leader Walter Ulbricht adopted a tone of bravado when he addressed a meeting of the Party’s Berlin district, dismissing the strikes and demonstrations at the Stalinallee and in the city centre as the misdeeds of a ‘group of building workers’ together with ‘provocateurs from West Berlin’. To resounding applause he declared that all that was needed was for the Party to ‘go over to full mobilisation’; that members ‘in the workplaces, in the neighbourhoods, in the institutions’ would root out the ‘provocateurs’.128 By the following morning, however, the bluster and bravado had evaporated, yielding to an atmosphere of panic. ‘The situation is extremely serious now,’ the head of the Stasi, Wilhelm Zaisser, warned, ‘it’s a question of them or us.’129 Apparently fearing defeat, Ulbricht allegedly instructed the FDJ leadership to make plans for the evacuation of the families of SED leaders to the Soviet Union.130 The leaders themselves were summoned to Soviet military headquarters in the suburbs of East Berlin, from the safety of which they observed events that were escalating beyond their control. According to Soviet reports, the Politburo and government were in a state of paralysis for two days.131 That the GDR’s security forces were unable to contain the rising can be put down to a number of factors. In the case of the Stasi and the KVP, they were, in 1953, still in the process of construction. The KVP was a new and inexperienced force. A lack of preparedness undoubtedly played a role too; for although the security forces and SED had been aware of widespread discontent and of the ripples of industrial action in preceding weeks, nobody expected such a considerable section of the East German working class to defy its supposed leaders.132 A more important factor was that the New Course had enveloped the


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apparatuses of power in a cloud of uncertainty, contributing to confusion, even paralysis, in sections of the security forces.133 From the earliest phase of the rising it was apparent that the security forces faced an uphill task. In Berlin on the morning of 17 June the police force, charged with preventing demonstrators from marching on the government headquarters, could do little but look on as unexpectedly large crowds encircled and overran their lines, trashing police cars as they passed. Elsewhere, demonstrators often succeeded in disarming the security forces. It was not uncommon for armed police or KVP to be beaten and disarmed by citizens equipped with only fists or tools. That this could occur is in part due to the determination of the protestors but also in some cases to vacillation in the ranks of the security forces, which reflected not only the impact of the New Course but also the fact that the rising was a popular event and, as such, capable of exerting an influence upon members of the police (and, to a lesser extent, KVP). In numerous towns and cities a small but significant minority of police mutinied, deserted or even crossed over to the enemy. One worker marching out of the Leuna factory tells of how ‘two policemen approached us. We…wanted to disarm them, but they were unarmed. “We’re joining in” they said, and marched alongside.’134 In Brandenburg, police were unable to hold a prison despite the use of firearms. In a report by a KVP member one can see the sorts of problems that they faced: A policeman in the front line…was suddenly called upon by his parents to come with them immediately, or else he would be in trouble. We were unable to prevent him as he handed over his weapon, as well as holster and ammunition pouch, and followed his parents.135 As regards the other branches of the East German security forces, the Stasi was simply too small to make a decisive impact. In some parts it failed to function efficiently, and its officers were often on the defensive.136 Only the KVP posed a serious threat to the insurgency. Unlike police officers, KVP personnel lived together in barracks, set apart from the rest of society. They rarely left the military environment (one student at the KVP’s officer training school left the institution only four times in the course of one year, and even those were compulsory trips to the theatre).137 Contacts with Westerners were forbidden. The aloofness of KVP units from the population at large was exacerbated by salaries that could be thrice that of the average manual worker. For these reasons the force was basically loyal to the regime on 17 June and often effective against protestors. Yet it was by no means always successful. Initially, KVP commanders were reluctant to send units against civilians lest they fraternise. Also, out of fear of sparking an explosive reaction, they were at first instructed not to use arms. (In Gera this reticence led to the ignominious defeat of a KVP patrol at the hands of protestors, who were reportedly ‘furious at the deployment of workers’ sons against the workers’.)138 However, after KVP commanders’ initial confusions and hesitations had been overcome, helped by the fact that Soviet tanks were gaining control of the streets, the force did go on the offensive, applying its weaponry to deadly effect.

The June 1953 uprising 33 Although East German forces played a part in the defeat of the rising, ultimately only the deployment of Soviet troops and tanks proved adequate to the task. Even their intervention met resistance, with a minority of demonstrators assailing tanks with cobblestones, climbing onto them in the hope of tearing off an aerial or of wrenching open the observation slits, inserting slats of wood down the barrels or paving stones between the wheels. In Jena more successful tactics were used, with trams utilised as anti-tank barricades, and with rows of seated women blocking the streets. Yet, against overwhelming force, and given the lack of organisation on the side of the insurgency, these could not but be desperate acts. By the evening of 17 June the Soviets, with KVP assistance, had gained the upper hand and by 18 June the unrest was largely contained.

Aftermath The uprising burned too fiercely to be quelled at once, even by blanket repression. Unrest smouldered for a week or more. All fifteen districts of the country reported new and continuing strikes, sit-down strikes, petitions and go-slows, and in all areas rumours of an imminent general strike were rife.139 The date 18 June witnessed an increased level of protest activity in the countryside, with meetings, rallies and clashes with the local authorities. On that day, despite military rule that saw public places and workplaces occupied by Soviet troops and tanks, over 44,000 demonstrated, and all districts of the country witnessed new or continuing strikes, involving well over 100,000 workers (including many who had not participated on 17 June). On subsequent days fresh strikes broke out in areas far from Berlin, in workplaces that had been reluctant to strike on 17 June, and in response to the arrests of strike leaders. In many cases these occurred in direct defiance of military occupation of the workplace.140 In spite of the military crackdown, activists in some factories maintained their organisations and planned further activity. Even with the return of a semblance of routine life, the restoration of ‘order’ in strikebound workplaces was not always easy. In some factories Soviet Army occupation was insufficient. Resort was even made to threatening strikers with the death penalty in order to encourage a return to work.141 Evidence of this sort attests to the strength of the rising, indicating that sections of the workforce were not easily cowed. According to a report prepared for the FDGB district leadership in Leipzig in late June, workers remained confident, continued to air critical views with frankness, and made sense of the recent events in these terms: ‘We sure showed them that they can’t just do whatever they like with us.’142 In the aftermath of the rising, poor-quality work (so-called sabotage) abounded, as did absences on grounds of ‘sickness’. In the more militant plants majorities of workers had the gall to vote against official resolutions that condemned the actions and activists of 17 June. Senior SED functionaries toured the factories giving pep-talks, but were commonly received with no interest. At Buna a meeting of this sort, according to the Stasi, ‘degenerated into a rowdy provocation’.143 When the FDJ leader Erich Honecker visited the ‘Karl Marx’ plant in Potsdam, workers ostentatiously ‘fell asleep’, and when Walter Ulbricht visited an eponymous factory at Leuna he was met with


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ironic shouts of ‘Long live the workers’ leader!’ Then the assembled workers, showing considerable mettle, set out their demands: freedom of speech, freedom for political prisoners, fresh elections of FDGB officials, and the separation of the trade unions from the SED. Aftershocks continued into July. In the first weeks of that month a mini-strike wave broke, typically involving sit-down strikes. Centred on Carl-Zeiß-Jena and Buna, it also affected workplaces in Wolfen, Tahle and Schwerin. In Jena, a petition calling for the release of a strike leader was signed by at least 1,300 workers, and led to a sit-down strike involving 2,000.144 A few days later the strike in Buna lasted for several days and included at least a third of its 16,000 workers. According to one report it exceeded that of 17 June, and this despite the fact that many of the militants who had been associated with the strike in June had either fled or been arrested, and that the plant was under permanent armed occupation.145 Equally remarkable is the political nature of several of the core demands: for the release of all political prisoners, for free elections throughout Germany, the reduction of the KVP, and the transformation of the FDGB into ‘a fighting organisation for all workers’.146 Thanks to the spectacular intensity of the uprising, the persistence of strikes in the teeth of military occupation, and the material concessions that were delivered in its wake, its defeat was not experienced as total. Nor could repression rob participants of the experience of the protest itself – the euphoria and solidarity, the ‘liberation from enforced hypocrisy and imposed pseudo-harmony, the possibility of speaking freely’.147 In the short run, as interviews conducted by Stasi officials at the time indicated, ‘a decisive politicisation of broad layers of the population’ occurred.148 There is also evidence that for years afterwards there was talk of the coming of a ‘new 17th June’.149 As one historian has put it, the day ‘was often referred to in subsequent years as a symbol of the population’s potential power’.150 Its popular and insurrectionary character left an indelible impression in the memories of those who had participated. Even in the 1990s the oral historian Lutz Niethammer and his colleagues could find, in Bitterfeld, individuals who recalled the protest there. ‘Our town had never seen a demonstration like that,’ one interviewee told them, ‘there was such an incredible spirit of enthusiasm.’151 To some extent, memories were also kept alive collectively, as ‘hidden transcripts’. As Armin Mitter and Stefan Wolle have described, When, in workers’ pubs, you would ask about what had actually happened on the 17th June 1953, the whispered reply would come: ‘we had one hell of a go at them up there’, and, quietly continuing, ‘and one day it’ll go up again, only next time we’re going to do it better’.152

Lessons learned The uprising shook the SED to its foundations. It had come perilously close to toppling the regime, and could quite conceivably have developed into a serious

The June 1953 uprising 35 challenge to the Soviet position in East Germany. In the immediate aftermath, and amidst uncharacteristic hand-wringing and apologies, SED leaders felt obliged to concede that swathes of the working class were ‘embittered’ and alienated from the Party, and that some at least desired their removal. Erich Honecker’s report to the Politburo that demonstrators had subjected some of its number to ‘a barrage of stones and mud’ surely underscored the latter point.153 The mood in the Central Committee was graphically described by one of its number. ‘We are sitting here like the defeated! What is the matter with the highest organ of our party? It’s as if we have done something in our pants!’154 In the longer term, the uprising came to symbolise to the SED the potential threat to its rule if hardship should afflict the masses or if laxity and disunity should weaken the regime’s core support and institutions. It starkly illuminated the constraints upon the regime’s room for manœuvre, in particular the limits of working-class subservience but also its existential dependence upon the USSR, facts that seem to have impressed themselves with force upon the collective consciousness of the nomenklatura.155 It shook their self-confidence and deepened their sense of insecurity. Ulbricht himself was apparently tormented by the fear of a repetition,156 and other SED leaders are reported to have voiced similar anxieties. Hermann Axen, for example, confided to Egon Bahr, a senior figure in the West German SPD, ‘that no SED leader would ever forget what took place on June 17’.157 As a collective memory it haunted the ruling class until their last days; if it happened once, they feared, it could always happen again.158 When Erich Honecker met Mikhail Gorbachev in June 1989 the latter assured the East German leader that ‘there will be no repetition of 1953’.159 Four months later, the Stasi’s soundings amongst ‘progressive forces’ reported with concern that the country was already ‘in a situation like that which preceded the counter-revolutionary events of June 17, 1953’.160 And when the Berlin Wall was stormed in November the senior SED functionary Kurt Hager impressed upon the Central Committee that the situation was ‘more extreme, more serious than in 1953’.161 But SED leaders also learnt from the rising. It taught them, if any lesson were needed, that the repressive apparatuses must be capable of monitoring, containing and suppressing resistance. It showed the potency of brute repression as a line of defence against subversion. As Honecker was later to boast, the summary execution of ‘counter-revolutionaries’ had worked formidably well as a means of intimidating protestors.162 The rising also signalled, however, the dangers inherent in repressive as well as reforming strategies, and reminded them that great skill was required in managing the affairs of state (and its dealings with the workforce in particular). A final lesson learned was that the public airing of elite divisions should be avoided at all costs. That these were the lessons learned could be observed in the regime’s response to the rising, as developed over subsequent days, months and years. In the short term, concessions were made on economic issues, but not on political ones. Whereas the tendency of the protests had been for political and material issues to intertwine, the thrust of the regime’s response was to insist that the two were entirely separate. A typical example of this twin-track strategy, as implemented at


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years

the Hennigsdorf steelworks, has been described by the historian Annette Leo. ‘Economically, the workers had won a victory,’ she writes. Not only was the quota rise retracted, but also pay deductions that had already been made were compensated. ‘However, politically, [employees] were reprimanded and disciplined.’163 The authorities generally sought to construct a distinction between the majority of reasonable workers who had been drawn into the protests due to ‘understandable’ economic grievances and a seditious minority that had whipped up the events in order to open a breach for West German ‘revanchism’. Although the majority of ‘ringleaders’ arrested and imprisoned were ordinary East German workers, a stupendous effort was made to give the impression that the rising had been the work of West Germans, former Nazis164 and ‘lumpen’ elements.165 In terms of longer-term responses to the revolt, three main initiatives were pursued. First, the apparatuses of power were disciplined. A greater, not to say paranoid, emphasis was placed upon the loyalty and unity of the SED and its mass organisations (FDGB, FDJ, etc.). Following victory in a fierce power struggle (in which he was very nearly toppled), Ulbricht consolidated his position through renewed purges in the SED, FDGB and the ‘bloc parties’. In some cases a near clean sweep was made. For instance, around two-thirds of SED district and regional chiefs were removed.166 The second involved a thorough revamping of the apparatuses of repression and surveillance. Tougher laws were passed, the police force bolstered, the Stasi reorganised and greatly expanded, and ‘factory militias’ (paramilitary brigades of regime loyalists) established. Third, concessions were made on social issues, with significant improvements in pay, working conditions and welfare, as well as price cuts on over 12,000 items.167 ‘Due to the trauma of the 17 June 1953 uprising,’ Detlef Pollack has argued, the SED made great efforts to raise living standards and to avoid abrupt alterations in pricing as well as in the stipulation of work quotas and incomes. It became an important aim of the SED’s policy to satisfy material needs by freezing basic food prices, rents and fares, by setting up kindergartens, by protecting against unemployment, and so on.168 On the industrial relations front the SED, FDGB and company managers felt obliged to hold back, and found great difficulty in regaining a commanding position. Their ability to hold down pay had been severely dented, and raising quotas by central edict was taboo from 1953 onwards.169 In the following two years average wages rose by 68 per cent rather than the planned 31 per cent. For decades afterwards, as a result of the SED’s fear of ‘a repetition of the June events’, Kopstein has suggested, ‘labor peace could be bought only at the price of long-term stagnation in labor relations, wage structures, and productivity incentives’.170 In conclusion, the uprising had a lasting impact upon social and incomes policies. The extreme inequalities and wage differentiation of the 1948–53 period began to be ameliorated, and the GDR gradually developed into a welfare state – a consequence less of the regime’s plans than of its responses to movements from below.


Labour heritage and collective action, 1945–53

At the beginning of Chapter 1 some of the background factors that provided the context for the 1953 revolt were addressed. They told a story of intensified coercion and poor living standards, of exactions imposed upon East German citizens in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Yet to explain how these factors may be taken to have caused the event is no straightforward task. One possible chain of reasoning proceeds as follows: assuming that the intensification of exploitation and the curtailing of liberties generates grievances, and the greater the intensity of discontent, the greater the magnitude of strife,1 the explosion of 17 June may be explained as a function of the accumulated discontent that had amassed over the preceding period. This is a line of argument that not only appears to account for the causes of the rising but also for an aspect that astonished and puzzled contemporaries, namely the startling rapidity with which the strikes and protests spread – the fact that insurrectionary acts, including the establishment of town and inter-factory councils, were organised within the space of a few short hours, between the morning shift clocking on and the imposition of martial law in the afternoon.2 For regime loyalists, the speed of the rising’s take-off coupled with the considerable congruence of the slogans raised across the country, sowed suspicions that these ‘had been created in advance’ or even that the rising must have been prepared in advance by the ‘class enemy’.3 Official GDR historiography explained the rising as a planned ‘putsch attempt’, with ‘illegal counter-revolutionary groups’ receiving instructions from ‘radio stations and agencies’ in the West.4 By contrast, an explanation based upon ‘accumulated discontent’ can dispense with this myth, and account for the demonstrable lack of planning, the spontaneity of the events, in terms of the exceptional degree of oppression and exploitation experienced in East Germany resulting in a population that was seething with anger, a mass of dry kindling that awaited only a spark before its inevitable explosion. On an intuitive level the ‘accumulated discontent’ line of argument appears perfectly logical, yet it faces some well-known and oft-aired difficulties. The most fundamental of these is that no automatic transmission mechanism exists to translate discontent into resistance. ‘The mere existence of privations,’ as Trotsky once remarked, ‘is not enough to cause an insurrection; if it were, the masses would always be in revolt.’5 The downtrodden and the starving may


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years

direct their energies towards public acts of political protest but more commonly subsist in private misery. A corollary of this is that the degree of deprivation – even if one may assume that this were amenable to some form of measurement or at least approximate estimation – can do little to explain either the extensity or intensity of an outbreak of collective action. The processes requiring attention, therefore, are the more complex ones of how privations are politically interpreted and acted upon: why they come to be viewed as problems that demand remedy, why individuals withdraw their faith in the abilities of existing institutions to offer satisfactory solutions, how those individuals come to perceive that they have interests in common with others, and how they come to grasp, prise open and utilise opportunities for successful collective action. In approaching these issues I would like first to consider the ‘wildfire’ character of the uprising, by which I mean the fact that, in spite of the lack of prior preparation, collective action spread swiftly, as if driven by the wind. Aside from the flawed ‘accumulated discontent’ angle, the phenomenon can be approached in a variety of different ways.6 One might point to structural characteristics of Soviet-type societies, such as the centralisation of economic and political power in the hands of the Communist Party Politburo, or the relative absence of institutions that mediate between the public and the state.7 One might examine the transformation of the political opportunity structure in June 1953, the ‘New Course’ discussed in Chapter 1. But an additional factor, one that I shall explore in this chapter, is the participants themselves as deliberating subjects. It was particular individuals and groups that initiated collective action, in conscious and organised fashion. Although these interventions were in a sense ‘spontaneous’ (i.e. impromptu) reactions to a developing situation, they were, equally, socially and politically determined, they were shaped by the previous experiences of the actors involved. Spontaneity, as Rick Fantasia observes, is itself structured, and provides the basis for organised behaviour that, in turn, gives shape to further ‘spontaneous’ activity.8 The ‘structured’ nature of the spontaneity of 17 June can be seen in the actions of those who instigated protest. It was not automatic. There were many cases of strikes that were prevented thanks to the presence and arguments of regime loyalists. Conversely, the occurrence of many others depended on the presence at workplace meetings of militants who actively persuaded colleagues to down tools, arguing the case for picketing, and the formation of strike committees.9 Such acts of persuasion and leadership served to ‘structure’ the spontaneous development of the rising, and so did the widespread receptiveness towards arguments for strike action. The key concept here is solidarity: with the building workers, ‘with Berlin’ or, simply, with the factory down the road. Most accounts give a sense of the tremendous influence of this concept. Of how waverers were persuaded to participate by the argument that ‘United we are strong’. Of speakers receiving loud applause when appealing to its importance.10 Of SED members who were unable to argue against the slogan ‘Solidarity with the Berlin workers’.11 One of the more memorable descriptions is Stefan Brant’s: ‘solidarity leapt from Berlin to Brandenburg and it assumed the force of law’.

Labour heritage and collective action 39 In this light, the ‘wildfire effect’ appears to be, in part, the product of the presence and confidence of militants, and of the receptiveness of wide layers to arguments for collective action. The question that this, in turn, begs is: whence this receptiveness, this consciousness, this militancy? Although the concepts of strike and insurrection are familiar ones, and although the norm of solidarity tends to emerge in the process of collective action itself, it is hard to believe that the almost intuitive manner in which these ideas and practices were exhibited on 17 June is explicable in these terms alone. The well-defined forms of collective action on that day suggest that the performance had been preceded by at least a degree of rehearsal, that many of those who engaged in strikes and marches had either done so before or had learned of such practices – not merely through history books but from relatives, through an immersion in the culture of the German labour movement. It has long been held, by Stefan Brant, Arnulf Baring and others, that the heritage of the German labour movement was evident in those June days, that the repertoire of contention – strikes, strike committees, marches, songs – together with the co-ordination and commitment displayed testifies to already acquired values and practical skills, to ingrained labour movement traditions that remained influential despite the abolition, or annexation by the state, of independent workers’ organisations. The case has been put succinctly by Klaus Ewers and Thorsten Quest: In the disciplined and purposeful manner in which the strikes, demonstrations and factory occupations proceeded, one could perceive the traditions of collective action of the labour and trade union movements. Also, the experience of all those old labour movement ‘cadre’ who participated, and who were active in the strike leaderships, contributed to imparting the spontaneously erupting strikes with a certain organised solidity.12 In the rest of this chapter we pursue the questions of whence these traditions came, who these ‘labour movement cadre’ were, and why they turned against a regime that laid claim to the same heritage.

The revival of labour movement traditions In searching for the sources of the labour traditions that surfaced in the 1953 rising, the most obvious place to look is in the trade union, socialist and Communist movements of Wilhelmine and Weimar Germany. It is perhaps germane that some of the most radical movements of these periods occurred in the area of Germany that was to become the GDR. In the early 1920s ‘[t]he council movement in the Halle-Merseburg area’, according to F.L. Carsten, ‘was one of the most vigorous in the whole of Germany’ and developed an especially radical approach to the issue of workers’ control and participation.13 Leuna in particular was known for its militancy; famously, in 1921 it was occupied by armed workers. Although only a small proportion of the Reich, the area boasted


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years

a relatively high concentration of members of the SPD and KPD. In the late Weimar period it contained at least a third of KPD members (100,000–120,000) and an astonishing 60 per cent of SPD members (581,000).14 The HalleMerseburg area was a KPD stronghold, as were, to a lesser extent, Leipzig and Berlin. These two cities were also SPD terrain, as were cities such as Magdeburg, Görlitz and Dresden, all of which were centres of the 1953 uprising. It is relatively straightforward to identify geographical congruences between labour movement influences in 1953 and those of the Weimar period. Establishing causal connections is less so. A major difficulty is posed by the fact that twelve years of dictatorship and war divided the two periods. During those twelve years, countless trade unionists and socialists became demoralised and depoliticised; some even joined the NSDAP. In addition, the colossal population movements that preceded and followed the war’s end had swept numerous former militants out of their workplaces and communities and brought in others. Trade union strongholds were ‘diluted’ with peasants from former German territories in the East. Nevertheless, there were also millions of citizens, especially industrial workers in the major towns and cities, who demonstrated considerable immunity to the ideology of Hitler’s regime.15 There were trade unionists and socialists who maintained labour movement identities and beliefs through the Nazi era. Groups of friends, neighbours and colleagues, in workplaces and on housing estates, kept labour movement traditions and values alive. In the working-class districts of cities such as Leipzig there survived, in the words of Detlev Peukert, memories of the times when ‘our side’ was strong; hopes for a society in which ‘everyone would be equal’, as in the Russia of Communist Party propaganda (and, more importantly, as in the dreams of many Germans); speculations about the day when the violent overthrow of the regime would come; lively interest in every news broadcast about the civil war between the Spanish workers and the fascists – these features all demonstrate a certain ‘Communist’ day-to-day consciousness.16 A courageous minority, including some 150,000 Communists, took part in illegal resistance.17 Factory groups were set up during the war, whose main activity was listening to foreign radio broadcasts and spreading the news among fellow workers. In 1941, Allan Merson has written, a number of groups in the Mansfeld-Halle-Merseburg region were sufficiently well organised to ‘link up into a wider, regional organisation which called itself “The Anti-Fascist Workers” Group of Central Germany’.18 In addition to the Communist resistance organisations, there were rebel youth groups and, in 1936–9 especially, industrial unrest. Generally, older activists with experience of campaigns in the Weimar period combined with previously apolitical or inactive individuals; traditions and ideas were exchanged in the process.19 Whereas much of the population had experienced the sequence of Nazism, war and defeat as demoralising and depoliticising, for these groups of

Labour heritage and collective action 41 Communists, social democrats and trade unionists the defeat of Hitler’s dictatorship bore the promise of a more equal, peaceful and participatory society. For them, the recent experience of the Depression and war were signs of the enervation of capitalism. Some made their views visible at the war’s end, with red flags hoisted to greet the Soviet liberators. Such individuals, whom, following Pritchard, we shall term the ‘active minority’,20 helped to re-establish labour parties, notably the SPD and KPD, the combined membership of which in the Soviet zone rose to 1.3 million by 1946.21 They threw themselves into the reconstruction of the economy and public infrastructure, tasks which were initially organised by ‘antifascist committees’ (henceforth ‘antifas’) and enterprise councils. Antifas were established throughout Germany, particularly in industrial regions and larger towns. It was a large-scale movement. Fifty-four were counted in the area around Gotha, fifty in the Mansfeld region and sixty-eight in the Dresden area.22 And while some of these involved only handfuls of individuals, those in the larger towns registered thousands or even tens of thousands of members.23 The genesis of many antifas lay in the pre-liberation period.24 Some emerged from out of resistance circles, such as the Anti-Fascist Workers’ Group of Central Germany.25 Others sprang up as if from nowhere as the front approached. For the most part their tasks were limited to leafleting and sabotage, and in a few cases acquiring arms. As the front drew closer they would seek to persuade Wehrmacht units to lay down their weapons and civilians to hang white flags in their windows. In some parts they instigated local uprisings, seizing control of towns and villages, occupying town halls and NSDAP headquarters, and rounding up leading Nazis. Although belated and small in scale, these uprisings added a significant indigenous element to the liberation of Germany. Elsewhere, the antifas emerged only after the collapse of the regime. The chief concerns of the antifas in the weeks and months that followed the war’s end were reconstruction and social order. They supervised rubble clearing, food distribution and the rebuilding of infrastructure, including schools and hospitals. They redistributed property owned by leading Nazis, sacked them from their administrative positions and directed them to productive work. Police forces comprised of known anti-fascists were formed in order to enforce these policies, to quell looting and in certain cases to prevent attacks on civilians by soldiers of the occupying armies. It is no exaggeration to claim that many antifas exercised de facto state power.26 In some towns they even took steps of a revolutionary kind. In Meissen, for example, Factories were expropriated and proclaimed to be ‘socialist property’. The homes and apartments of the wealthy were seized from their owners and handed over to working-class families. Throughout the town, buildings were bedecked in red flags and five-pointed Soviet stars.27 In terms both of influence and duration the antifas were surpassed by a second popular movement of the period, the enterprise councils. Like the antifas, these functioned as instruments developed by the anti-fascist ‘active minority’ to


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years

combat economic and social disintegration. Both types of body, but especially the councils, were typically initiated by skilled workers with pre-1933 experience in the trade union and socialist movements. According to an FDGB report, enterprise councillors had invariably already held the same position before 1933, and a large proportion had belonged to the SPD.28 They were much more firmly implanted in workplaces than were the antifas in the communities. An index of this is provided by the annual elections to the councils, in which participation rates were extremely high, at around 85 per cent of the workforce. The councils initially arose as the response of workers to the materially degraded and organisationally dislocated condition of the workplaces. Not only had buildings and equipment been damaged by war and looting, but the proprietors and managers of many firms had fled too. Elsewhere, the uncertain prospects for profit-taking in the context of political upheaval led capitalists to postpone the recommencement of production. In still other instances, workers ‘took a stand against the former owners and chased them out of the factories’.29 Whether in partnership with existing management or as de facto directors, the enterprise councils’ paramount aims, initially, were limited to overseeing the reconstruction of plant and the restarting of production in the absence of the normal management structures. But many developed into durable organs of industrial democracy. In many factories they organised labour recruitment, welfare provision and the remuneration of the workforce. Some even organised complex systems of inter-factory and industry–agriculture exchange that involved both market and administrative mechanisms.30 In some firms, particularly in the arms industries, they adapted equipment to produce consumer goods. Even from this brief conspectus it is apparent that in the weeks and months that followed the liberation, a counterpoint existed to the apathy of the ‘passive majority’ in Germany’s Soviet zone. Alongside the trade unions, whose membership grew rapidly following the war, the councils were classrooms in the arts of industrial action; they formed sites in which labour movement traditions could regenerate. These, and the antifas, testified to a powerful revival of shopfloor strength, trade union consciousness and egalitarian values. Egalitarianism was manifested above all in antagonism towards performance-related pay that led many councils to abolish piecework (which had been favoured in the Nazi’s labour regime). Trade union consciousness found its fullest expression in the enterprise council-led resistance to management hierarchy in favour of co-determination. As to shopfloor strength, workers exerted ‘considerably more leverage over their own factories and workplaces than had ever been the case during the Wilhelmine or Weimar periods’, in the judgement of Gareth Pritchard. Given the record of German labour before 1933, with its enterprise councils movement and a trade union federation of over 8 million members, this was no mean feat. To illustrate the scale of workers’ power in the post-war period, Pritchard quotes a report from a visitor to the zone in 1947 who was told quite bluntly by the shop stewards’ committees in several factories that ‘ “nothing happens here without our consent” ’.31

Labour heritage and collective action 43

Bringing labour into line One might have expected the Soviet occupying forces to have welcomed the revival of labour movement traditions, and the antifas and enterprise councils in particular. After all, were not equality and popular participation central components of Soviet ideology? And the tasks taken in hand by the antifas and enterprise councils, such as the restitution of social order, the reconstruction of infrastructure and the recommencement of production, were at the top of the agenda for the new masters in the land. Communists, moreover, played important, often dominant, roles in many of these bodies. One would think that Soviet and KPD leaders would have welcomed the antifas and councils, and initially they accorded them a degree of toleration, even support, yet their stronger instinct was to mistrust any organisation ‘from below’. Slowly but surely, grassroots initiatives were either suppressed or brought under the command of centralised institutions. Local trade union groups, established as early as May 1945, were slotted into the central union structure; the ‘Party of Workers’, set up by former concentration-camp prisoners, was dissolved; SPD and KPD groups that had formed spontaneously at war’s end were wound up. The antifas, too, met with more than a modicum of suspicion. They could, it was feared, become alternative centres of power at the local level, and were, moreover, suspected of harbouring discontented Communists, social democrats, and sundry ‘sectarians’ who believed that socialist revolution was on the historical agenda.32 Although in some areas they were initially tolerated during the first month or so of occupation, elsewhere they were suppressed, and it was this line that came to prevail.33 From the first week of June the tasks that the antifas had taken on were usurped by official institutions. Numerous antifa activists were appointed to public positions – to perform ‘more important tasks’, as Ulbricht saw it – while others withdrew into private life.34 A different type of problem was presented by the membership of the KPD. Upon war’s end the Party was far from being a steeled organisation, the obedient arm of its leadership (and, by extension, the Kremlin). Conformity to the Party line had been eroded during the Nazi dictatorship, an era spent in the underground, during which many Communists in Germany had had little alternative but to learn to think and act for themselves.35 In addition, those twelve years had been experienced by Communists in sharply divergent ways. Amongst the many divisions, the most important were between those who had endured the Nazi dictatorship and those who had spent the period in exile. Within the latter group, a divide existed between those who had sought refuge in the West and others who had escaped to the USSR. A further split opened up after liberation ,between veterans and new recruits. Finally, the sharp swerves in Comintern and KPD policy, and above all the Nazi–Soviet pact, had served to challenge the faith of Party members in their leadership and in the USSR. The cohesion, discipline and malleability of the KPD membership was not restored immediately following the liberation in 1945, and for many this was itself a chequered experience. On the one hand, the Russians had overthrown the most oppressive of regimes, initiated progressive reforms and established a


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years

democratic space in which popular input in the political and industrial spheres was once again permitted. On the other, the Soviet army was notoriously barbaric in its treatment of the local population. In reaction to the mass rapes and wholesale arbitrary arrests of the first weeks of occupation ‘the anti-Soviet mood of the general population was even common amongst Communists’, according to the former KPD leader Erich Gniffke.36 To some, the Soviet priority of removing East German industry was understood as exploitation rather than reparation. In parts of the country Communist workers even formed united fronts with social democrats to resist the dismantling of industry by their Russian comrades.37 Those who had greeted the arrival of Soviet tanks as the starting signal for a revolutionary transformation of society were set to be disappointed. In the KPD’s founding manifesto the word socialism was noticeable by its absence. Its approach, in all zones of Germany, was to co-operate with the occupying powers in restoring an environment supportive of capitalist reproduction. The KPD’s economic policy was modelled less on the experience of Lenin’s Russia than on the prescriptions of Adam Smith; its programme proclaimed the ‘absolutely unhindered development of free trade and of the initiative of private entrepreneurs upon the foundations of private property’.38 The conditions for socialism, Ulbricht told his followers, were far from ripe; they would not be so until ‘the workers of all of Germany, as well as the progressive democratic forces, are united’.39 Those comrades who aspired to move directly to a socialist transformation posed a threat; they were ‘a destructive tendency, to be condemned and combated’.40 In accordance with this ‘moderate’ perspective, dissident currents were purged. Because dissent was more likely to come from veteran Communists, these were treated with particular mistrust. Although some of the KPD’s older membership were appointed to influential positions in the apparatuses of government and state, veterans were commonly passed over in favour of officials who had served under Hitler’s regime or former Wehrmacht POWs (with particular preference being shown towards officers who had been captured and re-educated by the Soviet army).41 In addition, their specific weight within the KPD was deliberately diluted by means of mass recruitment drives and by the promotion of younger, more pliable cadre.42 By these means, alongside schooling programmes and the restoration and firming-up of chains of command, a more malleable Party was created, one whose members were adept at following the twists and turns of government policy. It also had the effect of reducing the proportion of SED members with a leftist background to only around a fifth of the total.43 With the KPD on the way to becoming a reliable tool, its leadership next sought hegemony over the ‘active minority’ as a whole by way of an ‘arranged marriage’ with the SPD. A merged Party offered the prospect of eliminating the KPD’s most significant political rival in the Soviet zone and providing the regime with a broader base of support, without undue compromises being required. It was a marriage for which there was a degree of genuine consent. To begin with, the programmes of the two contracting parties had converged. The KPD (and Comintern) had swerved rightwards, as manifested in the ‘popular front’ strategy

Labour heritage and collective action 45 of 1934–47 and the advocacy of a ‘German Road to Socialism’. The SPD had swung a little to the left, following the shocked reaction of its membership to the terrible consequences of their Party’s passivity when faced with the rise of Nazism, a reaction to which the SPD’s leadership in Germany responded in the mid-1930s by re-emphasising the Party’s revolutionary Marxist roots and the imperative of working-class unity.44 Furthermore, a desire for unity was encouraged by the practical experience of co-operation between activists of the two parties in the antifas and enterprise councils.45 That the marriage between the parties included an element of consent is related, in addition, to the bureaucratic character of the SPD. It was a party whose officeholders prioritised above all the maintenance of their own apparatus and displayed a profound mistrust towards self-directed (or ‘spontaneous’) grassroots activity.46 It had long been characterised by a dependence of grassroots members upon their functionaries, and this trait was particularly pronounced during the post-war year in which the question of merger arose. Ordinary SPD members were lacking in political confidence as a cumulative result of the defeats of the early Weimar years, their party’s passivity in the face of Nazism, and twelve years of totalitarian rule. Although fiercely opposed to Nazism and committed to some sort of socialist future, the average member did not tend to possess a coherent or confident set of political ideas. As Pritchard has suggested, it took time for them to learn once again how to develop their own ideas in free and open debate with others. As a consequence…there was a very strong tendency amongst rank-and-file Social Democrats…to be very dependent on their local functionaries.47 Its bureaucratic traditions rendered the SPD’s political development peculiarly sensitive to the attentions of the Soviet Military Administration, which devoted the economic and political resources under its control to encouraging the integration of the two parties. SPD functionaries, rooted as they were in a political culture that prioritised the occupation of positions within and negotiation with existing institutions, were preconditioned to accept offers of positions within the Soviet zonal administration – and indeed to respond favourably to what Pritchard wryly describes as Soviet-style ‘corporate hospitality’.48 Those who campaigned for merger were rewarded with ‘payoks’ – parcels of cigarettes, alcohol and chocolate, which, being exchangeable commodities disbursed at a time of drastic shortages and hardship, were highly valued and provided the authorities with a powerful method of securing support and of placing their social democrat recipients in invidious, compromised positions.49 The supply of carrots was vigorously supported by the application of the stick. For example, Soviet military representatives were sent as ‘observers’ to tacitly intimidate SPD meetings, while functionaries who chose the path of co-operation were surely encouraged to do so by the fates of those who resisted: thousands of their less tractable comrades were arrested, some of them were deported to Russia while others were jailed in Soviet-run prisons (including two situated at the former


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years

concentration camps Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald).50 In short, SPD functionaries were bribed, cajoled, tricked and bullied into acceptance of the merger, while the bulk of ordinary members were inclined to trustingly follow them into the ranks of the new Party.51 Following the suppression of the antifas, the disciplining of the KPD and the incorporation of the SPD, the next remaining centre of actually or potentially autonomous labour movement traditions to be tackled was the enterprise councils movement. As in the case of activists in the antifas, enterprise councillors, even when not themselves Communist, were often well disposed towards the Soviets. Unlike the antifas, the Soviets and Communist leadership chose not to confront them swiftly and decisively. There were several reasons for this. First, as described above, the councils played a vital role in the recommencement and reorganisation of production, and to an extent their interests therefore coincided with those of the Soviet Military Administration. Second, being organisations rooted in workplaces and with an essentially workplace-specific remit they appeared to the Soviets as less of a political threat than the antifas. Third, over half of enterprise councillors carried SED party cards, and the SED leadership hoped to retain its strong foothold inside the working class. But above all, many of the councils were firmly established bodies within the workplaces and were generally well supported. In view of these last two factors, any frontal attack on the councils’ position would have carried high risks. There were limits, however, to the forbearance of the Soviet administrators and Communist leaders. As described above, the councils revived and extended practices of workplace co-determination and were imbued with an egalitarian ethic. They spearheaded resistance to management’s promotion of an atomised and competitive workplace culture, opposing the reintroduction of piecework and other types of performance-related pay. As Kopstein describes, The tendency among enterprise councils was to level existing differences, not only among workers but between workers and technical experts. As part of the entire process of wage levelling, enterprise councils, almost without exception, opposed the reintroduction of wage practices common before 1945 … Workers and enterprise councils spontaneously eliminated piecework and often removed time clocks at plant entrances as symbols of work speedups and other distasteful aspects of [liberal- and Nazi-]capitalist industrial life.52 Sooner or later, such behaviour was bound to clash with the regime’s interests in capital accumulation and militarisation, particularly as the state was itself becoming the employer of an ever greater proportion of the workforce. By 1947, Pritchard has written, ‘the authorities were stressing the need for “productivity” and “efficiency” in terms which would not have sounded out of place on the lips of a capitalist entrepreneur’.53 The regime required a disciplined, obedient and pliable labour force, and its mission to encourage these traits ran up against the councils’ continued influence over conditions of work and their ability to effectively challenge management prerogative.

Labour heritage and collective action 47 To an extent, the balance between regime and councils swung in favour of the former as if automatically. Following an initial period of post-war economic breakdown, in which the councils played a significant role not only in reconstructing workplaces but also in organising the transfer of goods between factories and as payment for the workforce, the authorities extended central control over the economy. With money replacing goods as the medium of remuneration and of exchange between plants, the ability of the councils to influence workforce remuneration and inter-plant exchange was eroded. However, deliberate attempts were also made by state institutions and businesses to gain greater control in industry by reasserting the principle of hierarchical management and curtailing the councils’ power. Firms that remained under the direct control of enterprise councils were designated ‘firms without owners’. Individual directors were appointed, management hierarchy restored and the councils’ powers trimmed. Second, enterprise councillors were raised above the shopfloor, in terms of both the locus of their activity and their salaries. Direct representatives of the workforce were thereby accorded the rather different role of officials mediating between management and workers. Troublesome representatives were replaced by fiat; others were corrupted with packages of scarce consumer goods and other perks. This, Pritchard comments, ‘tended to drive a wedge between functionaries and their less privileged workmates, which is precisely what the authorities intended’.54 These moves, however, met widespread and at times successful resistance. For example, when a series of firms in eastern Saxony were transferred to their former owners, strikes involving tens of thousands of workers in over 100 factories broke out, forcing the decision to be overturned. In general, it is fair to say that until 1947 the councils remained a power capable of contesting management prerogative in many workplaces.55 In 1948, within the general context of the Sovietisation of state and society described in the previous chapter, a harder line was taken, which centred on the usurpation of the councils’ tasks by the FDGB, the leadership of which was firmly under Communist control. The FDGB was assigned the task of creating its own factory bodies (known as BGLs) to rival the councils. Whereas the councils’ remit was to represent the workforce, and many works’ councillors had been Social Democrats and trade unionists before 1933, the position of BGL was far more likely to be held by a disciplined Communist, whose primary loyalty was to the Plan. In 1947 these had appropriated the task of drawing up lists of candidates for enterprise council elections, giving privileged place to FDGB candidates. Once again, these tactics encountered resistance. For the most part this involved passive and individualised acts such as ballot-spoiling, but more open and tenacious forms occurred too. At enterprise council elections workers would insist that the lists be changed, and in the elections themselves non-FDGB candidates did surprisingly well, often receiving the highest vote. Some workforces were able to ensure that FDGB-imposed slates for BGL elections were reopened, thus enabling enterprise councillors to be elected to the post of BGL.56 Against the intentions of SED and FDGB leaders, numerous BGLs retained elements of the culture of the councils. Where the posts of shop steward or BGL were occupied by former


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years

enterprise councillors, they formed a cadre of seasoned trade unionists who were, according to a contemporary report, ‘very close to the workers and totally independent from the Party’.57 Such nuances notwithstanding, by the end of 1948 the relentless pressure to supplant the councils with FDGB bodies had succeeded, and the councils were finally abolished. With the councils no longer a threat, the way was clear for the SED, FDGB and company managements to launch a battery of measures attacking workers’ pay and solidarity, lengthening the working week, and extending managerial control over the labour process through the application of Taylorist techniques and productivity-raising campaigns. Schemes of ‘socialist competition’ were introduced in which workers (and work brigades) were pitted against one another – and were obliged in the process to commit themselves ritually to ‘the Party and its production goals’. In late 1948 an ‘activist movement’ was initiated, in which individuals and brigades were rewarded for setting a brisk pace. These most diligent (or sycophantic) of employees – ‘activists’, ‘modernisers’ and ‘heroes of labour’ – earned handsome bonuses, and ‘Brigades of Best Quality’ were showered with publicity and prizes. Constant comparison with quota-busters was encouraged by means of ‘personal accounts’, whereby an employee’s ‘performance’ was posted on a noticeboard to indicate how far it lagged behind that of the ‘activists’. The chief lever of socialist competition, however, was incomes policy, embodied above all in piecework and performance-related pay. Piecework enabled an employee to receive as much as six times the pay of a colleague on the same job; its main effect was to place a premium on sweat and undermine solidarity. Whereas pay differentials had decreased until 1948, they rose sharply thereafter. Despite considerable material incentives the spirit of socialist competition (Wettbewerbsgeist) only caught on amongst sections of the workforce. Others referred to the competitions as Wettbewerbsdiktaturen and engaged in what one labour historian describes as a ‘permanent guerrilla war against the activists’, the methods of which included stealing tools and ostracism.58 Those who went along with managerial ideals of ‘activism’ and quota-busting ‘tended to be despised and isolated by the rank-and-file employees’. According to SED reports cited by Kopstein, ‘many foremen could not be stopped from putting all the piecework tickets in a common urn in order to ensure equality of reward’.59 In one firm, workers were able to influence the scoring system, and ensured that points were not lost just for the usual absences or indiscipline but also ‘for behaviour that goes against camaraderie at work’.60 In another, ‘the building workers were ashamed of the medals they received, but gladly accepted the money in order to drink it with colleagues’.61 Resistance, often involving former enterprise councillors, was mounted against the government-sponsored drives to differentiate pay rates and to Taylorise the labour process, and also against its campaign, in 1951, to implement ‘collective contracts’ – supposedly consensual agreements between management and workforce whereby a comprehensive, detailed, labour regime would be introduced, typically involving poorer conditions and lower bonuses.62 This initiative provoked such uproar in union meetings (notably at Leuna and the large factories

Labour heritage and collective action 49 in Magdeburg), and even amongst SED members, that the government was forced to retreat. It then returned to the wages front in early 1953, first with a campaign to bully workers into the ‘voluntary’ acceptance of substantial quota rises and later with the ill-starred decree that catalysed the June rising.

Estrangement between ‘workers’ party’ and working class This brief survey of the relationship between the state and the ‘active minority’ in 1945–53 has drawn attention to two aspects of the political interpretation of social and political problems by East German workers that were of critical importance to the 1953 uprising. One of these concerns the survival of labour movement traditions, and will be examined below. Related to this was the weakening of the SED’s influence in workplaces. In the immediate post-war years the KPD, SPD and their successor were mass parties and attracted considerable support. Even after the SED’s popularity was clearly waning it was still able to gain 49 per cent of the vote in free elections in the region of Saxony in October 1946.63 Its core base in this period lay in the working class, and in most workplaces the SED could rely upon a solid body of support. Yet relations between the SED and this constituency grew steadily more distant. In part this followed from the SED’s changing social makeup. ‘As working-class members were promoted to positions of responsibility in the party, state and industry,’ Pritchard has written, and as the new generation of apparatchiks emerged from the party schools, so the class composition of the SED was gradually but fundamentally altered. From being a party of the industrial proletariat, it was increasingly becoming a party of managers, bureaucrats and officials, who enjoyed all kinds of perks and privileges which were unavailable to the people they were supposed to represent.64 From a party that was strongly rooted in the working class and at least tolerated those institutions (first and foremost the enterprise councils) that retained a commitment to the democratic representation of workers’ interests, the SED mutated into a managerialist organisation, one that, along with its ally the FDGB, was dedicated to jacking up productivity and enforcing labour discipline. As it turned to a greater reliance on coercion and a concomitant distrust of grassroots organisation, the SED frittered away its support in the workplaces. Veterans of the labour movement, who had fought for workers’ rights, wages and conditions in Weimar, or new recruits, who had signed up out of a commitment to social justice, were now asked to justify the curtailment of workers’ rights and to campaign for lower wages – and many were reluctant to do so. The SED’s reward for its success in marginalising the enterprise councils was that its candidates received a minority of the vote in the council elections of 1947.65 In the post-1948 period the alienation between ‘workers’ party’ and working class deepened further. Forced industrialisation relied upon a repressive labour


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years

regime and required the transformation of the SED into a ‘party of a new type’. During this sharp shift hundreds of thousands of members resigned or were expelled. The late 1940s saw the expulsion of some 200,000 former SPD members and this was followed, in 1950–1, by that of 150,000 dissenters and deviants of various descriptions.66 As a result of mass resignations and expulsions the SED’s membership plummeted from 2 million in 1948 to 1.2 million in 1952. It is especially significant for the argument in this chapter that the plunge was steepest amongst manual workers, a group which comprised 55 per cent of total membership in 1946 but only 41 per cent in 1951 and 39 per cent in (December) 1953.67 On the shopfloor, as these figures suggest, the SED’s presence was inexorably eroded, to the extent that, in early 1953, it was skeletal in many workplaces. Numerical decline was accompanied by the demoralisation of party activists. In the late 1940s and early 1950s there was a pronounced tendency for ‘the local groups and factory cells of the SED to become increasingly inert and lifeless’.68 In early 1953 articles in the (SED-controlled) press were openly admitting that the Party had lost touch with the ‘broad mass of workers’.69 It appears, then, that the June uprising came at the end of a cumulative process in which the regime had become increasingly estranged from the support base within the working class that it had earlier enjoyed. This impacted upon the rising in various ways. If one views the matter from its negative side, there is abundant evidence to suggest that, in workplaces where the Party faithful were present in numbers and confident, they would mobilise against strike action, arguing with their colleagues and standing up to the ‘troublemakers’. Their presence tended to act as a chock, as it were, that prevented potential strikes from taking off.70 Such ‘trustworthy comrades’, however, were thinner on the ground than in previous years. In many workplaces, especially on the shopfloor, members who had resigned or been expelled even outnumbered those with party cards. And where reliable Party members were present in large numbers, they were likely to be less confident and less vocal than had previously been the case. In the event, far from forming a phalanx of determined cadre opposed to the strikes, the SED split from top to bottom. There was, of course, a very significant minority that actively supported the regime and assisted the Soviet army in crushing the revolt. These included new recruits, many of whom had risen rapidly in the ranks of Party and state, but also many a veteran socialist who had accommodated to Stalinism.71 But a larger section vacillated. These individuals were loath to support the rebels but were equally reluctant to oppose them. In one workplace near Leipzig, for example, of which 110 of the 800-strong workforce were SED members, a mass meeting on 17 June voted to demand that all Party members depart the site. All of them abided by the decision, and ‘went to their homes to hide’.72 But there was also a significant minority that joined the strikes and demonstrations73 – in the words of one SED report they ‘gave in to the provocateurs and simply capitulated’.74 Thousands tore up their party cards, joining the ranks of former SED members, a ‘very high’ proportion of whom were active participants.75 In some plants and towns a majority of SED members – even as high as 80 per cent – took part in demonstrations and

Labour heritage and collective action 51 strikes.76 In Leipzig fully two-thirds of SED members in strikebound workplaces joined in.77 Numerous documented accounts of acts of rebellion by SED members in June 1953 exist – including, to take three of the more evocative examples, the fire brigade chief in a town near Brandenburg who scaled the walls to remove his own party’s propaganda, the protestor in Apolda who tore down the red flag at his party’s headquarters, and Kurt Unbehauen, who participated in the storming of public offices in Jena before making a citizen’s arrest on a middle-ranking functionary.78

1953: traces of labour movement traditions The division within the SED membership was representative of a wider split within what was earlier referred to as the ‘active minority’ – that layer of the anti-fascist population that was favourable towards socialist or otherwise egalitarian politics. Far from lining up en bloc to support the ‘socialist’ regime on 17 June, individuals from this sector of the population participated in, and in many cases helped to instigate, collective action. Their presence could be observed in the plethora of demands of an egalitarian nature: for lower salaries for ‘the bosses’, the police or the intelligentsia, or for the ‘abolition of class distinctions within the workforce’.79 It was audible in slogans calling for ‘butter, not guns’, in those that demanded ‘Away with Ulbricht and Adenauer, we’ll only deal with Ollenhauer’,80 and in the appeal ‘workers: aim for power!’. It could be heard in the accusations that the SED had become distanced from, or even betrayed, the working class.81 It was visible, too, in the attempts to reclaim labour movement traditions and symbols: in the red flags carried by protestors; in banner slogans such as ‘workers of the world, unite!’; and in songs from the socialist canon (‘Brüder zur Sonne zur Freiheit’ and the ‘Internationale’).82 And it could be seen in the refusal by a section of the protestors to allow their fellows to tear down pictures of former Communist leaders, such as Lenin or Ernst Thälmann (the KPD leader of the 1930s).83 The sources of these symbols and ethics evidently lay in the labour movement cultures of Wilhelmine and Weimar Germany, and the literature on the rising is replete with accounts of the words and deeds of trade unionists, socialists and Communists whose political identities had been formed in those earlier ages. Consider, by way of example, the white-capped Berlin building worker, around 50 years in age, who spoke to the crowd gathered before the House of Ministries, excerpts from whose speech were quoted in Chapter 1. His opening words have been variously reported as: ‘He had sat in concentration camp for having stood up for workers’ rights. Now he sees it as his duty to defend those rights once more’, and ‘Mates, I did five years in a concentration camp under the Nazis. But I’m not afraid of doing another ten under this lot.’84 His intervention was remembered by witnesses as having given impetus and direction to events, in particular through his articulation of specific demands. In this respect the white-capped builder seems to have been representative of his age cohort. It has long been suspected, and recent accounts based upon


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years

newly available materials confirm this, that ‘older, experienced’ workers were influential in the formulation of strikers’ demands (notably those of a defensive nature – for instance that no reprisals be taken against strikers).85 On the basis of her extensive research into the June events in Saxony, Heidi Roth has concluded that a certain type of individual tended to stand out in the strike committees: those who, ‘as a result of their experience of industrial and political struggles before 1933 and after 1945…knew what to do and what to avoid’, seasoned campaigners who were prepared to ‘take responsibility on the spot, take risks upon themselves and make impromptu decisions’ amidst what was an extremely fast-moving and unpredictable rush of events.86 The opening of the East German archives has also enabled historians to confirm and augment a thesis that has been propounded since 1953 itself, namely that specifically social democratic traditions were in evidence, both in the dissent that preceded the rising and during the event itself.87 It has been established, for example, that in Bitterfeld, Leuna, in Bernburg and elsewhere ‘SPD workers’ committees’ were formed, and that resolutions were passed, graffiti was painted and banners inscribed with the demand for the legalisation of the SPD.88 In Görlitz, an ‘SPD Revolution Committee’ was set up (already on 17 June), and SPD ‘initiative committees’ were formed in workplaces, including an optics factory and the hospital.89 It may not be a coincidence, moreover, that Görlitz, alongside Berlin, Leipzig and Eastern Thuringia, were centres of the rising and traditional social democrat strongholds,90 or that some of those factories in which strikes were especially well organised, such as LOWA and EKM in Görlitz and Carl-Zeiss in Jena, had long been known to the authorities as centres of support for social democracy.91 Even in the subsequent mini-wave of protests in July, SPD supporters could be heard (such as the man at the head of a march in Dresden who chanted ‘Long Live the SPD!’).92 More is also known of individual participants, particularly strike leaders, who identified themselves with the SPD. Consider the case, for example, of Otto Reckstatt. Having been an SPD town councillor in 1933, he joined the SED after the war but was kicked out in 1950. Reckstatt was one of many former SED members who instigated or otherwise led strike action on 17 June – in his case at the Abus factory in Nordhausen.93 Another illustrative example is that of Walter Kellner. A trade unionist since 1921 and from a social democrat family, Kellner had signed up to the Reichsbanner and later joined the SPD.94 On 17 June he supported collective action but observed that, in his factory ‘the workers didn’t know how to articulate their discontent and protest’. As a result of his experience as a trade unionist he felt that it was incumbent upon him ‘to draft a resolution and present it to the workforce’.95 A more celebrated case is that of the Görlitz social democrat (and SED member) Max Latt. His speech at the mass rally there gives a glimpse of the range of historical experience upon which labour veterans were able to draw: “Friends, I’m old man Latt. Since 1904 I’ve been a member of the Social Democratic Party. I’ve taken part in three revolutions – in 1918, in 1945, and now in the revolution of 17th June 1953[.]”96

Labour heritage and collective action 53 The reassertion of specifically social democratic traditions on 17 June was less visible in the younger generation than it was amongst veterans such as Reckstatt, Kellner and Latt. Nevertheless, some of the cohort who came to political maturity during or after the Nazi dictatorship did identify with social democratic positions. Within this minority, a number of tributaries of social democratic culture may be identified: there were those who had joined the SPD during its short year of independent existence in 1945–6, and others who joined the SED later on but learned from those of its members who were able to retain distinctively social democratic identities. Overlapping with this one, a further group had imbibed SPD culture from relatives, friends or colleagues. On 17 June, some of these individuals played key roles. It is known, for instance, that the 29-year-old Bitterfeld strike leader Horst Sowada hailed from an SPD family (and had been interrogated by the Gestapo at the age of 14).97 Another well-documented case is that of Heinz Neumann, a strike leader in the Thuringian town of Schmölln. Like Sowada, Neumann’s family were social democrats and he himself, at the age of 24, joined the Party when it re-formed in 1945. Briefly a BGL, he was expelled from the SED in 1951.98 On 17 June, after heading a march into the town centre, he gave a short speech at the subsequent rally, declaring solidarity with the building workers of Berlin, and led the crowd in singing the SPD anthem ‘Brüder zur Sonne zur Freiheit’.99 If Neumann represents those social democrats who had broken with the SED, there were also youthful participants in the rising who identified with social democracy yet retained their SED membership. Heinrich Schlothauer, for example, was a young recruit to the SPD in 1945. Full of enthusiasm at first, his faith in the Party, following its merger with the KPD, steadily waned. Although his commitment to the values that he had held in 1945 remained strong, the SED, in his view, no longer represented them. Although still formally a member in 1953, on 17 June he penned, printed and distributed leaflets that accused his party of betraying the peasantry and working class.100 As regards KPD veterans from the Weimar period, it would seem unlikely that greater numbers sided with the rebellion than did former social democrats. For one thing, the latter had been considerably the larger of the two parties.101 For another, KPD veterans had witnessed their comrades become the key players at all levels of the SED and, one may surmise, were less likely to have balked at the Sovietisation of East Germany in general and at the purges of social democrats in particular. That said, there is evidence to suggest that veterans, many of whom had joined the Party in the revolutionary period of its infancy or during its ‘ultra-left’ turn (1928–32), were overrepresented in the ranks of those who disapproved the post-1945 ‘bourgeois-democratic’ party line.102 And although some were reconciled to the Party thereafter, either through career advancement or through support for the SED’s turn to what was euphemistically referred to as ‘heightened class struggle’ in the late 1940s, a significant number were not. ‘Many older comrades turned their backs on the party,’ one of them recalls, ‘because they were not prepared to tolerate the policies of Walter Ulbricht.’ At official


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years

demonstrations ‘they would watch from the sides of the streets as bystanders.’103 There is evidence of participation by KPD veterans in the June rising, in the form of reports of veterans who belonged to strike committees, and of others who used the opportunity to voice long-held criticisms of the SED leadership.104 The building worker Walter Strak, for example, was involved in a variety of activities on 17–18 June in the Brandenburg region. Strak had been a Communist sympathiser in the 1930s, and had been imprisoned for having harboured a KPD printing press.105 A more celebrated case is that of Wilhelm Grothaus, an influential militant in Dresden who instigated the formation of an inter-factory strike committee there. Grothaus’s political biography, in brief, ran as follows: first experience of strike action as a 12-year-old, in 1905; joined the SPD in 1919 then the KPD in 1933; engaged in the underground resistance to the Nazi dictatorship, was arrested in 1944, tortured and sentenced to death; having escaped from prison, rejoined the KPD in 1945 but was later to resign. After quitting the SED, Grothaus had maintained contact with other disillusioned comrades in his factory, and also within the (mainly Communist) VVN, and it was, in the first instance, upon the basis of this existing network that the committee was formed.106 It is well established that veterans from the Weimar or even Wilhelmine periods such as Grothaus and the social democrats mentioned earlier played influential parts in certain workplaces, and certain towns and cities on 17 June. Yet it would, I think, be a mistake to assume that the evidence of labour movement traditions on that day – the receptiveness of workers to arguments for ‘solidarity’, their familiarity with the repertoires of industrial action, the reclamation of socialist and Communist symbols as signs of workers’ power – was wholly a consequence of the presence of old-timers. Rather, I would suggest, these traditions had been kept alive and passed on. As detailed in earlier sections of this chapter, socialist and Communist political cultures had, although drastically weakened, survived the Nazi dictatorship. Many of the carriers of these traditions either passionately supported or reluctantly acceded to the SED’s Weltanschauung but labour movement norms, beliefs and symbols had also been kept alive outside the SED. They existed in West Germany and in West Berlin, and there is little doubt that younger workers in the GDR were aware of and learned from the experience of successful industrial struggles there.107 In the East, more importantly, they were revitalised in the 1945–8 period. It was a period that witnessed the resuscitation and reinvention of trade unionist and socialist practices and identities, with former union activists and officials relearning their trade, and in which younger workers encountered and acquired the techniques of political action and industrial struggle. Thus, when egalitarian motifs were heard in workplaces and in public squares on 17 June these will of course have been connected to pre-1933 labour culture, but as mediated through the 1945–7 councils movement and the subsequent struggles against pay differentiation. And when the slogan Akkord ist Mord (‘piecework is murder’) was heard on 17 June, its original source may be traced to

Labour heritage and collective action 55 pre-1933 campaigns against piecework, but it surely appeared more readily and more widely as a consequence of their post-war heirs.108 On a similar theme, it is known that some of the leading activists on 17 June, such as Paul Othma, a strike leader in Bitterfeld, had been involved in the antifas in 1945.109 There are also good grounds for perceiving an imprint of the councils movement. Many former enterprise councillors had, after the abolition of the councils, gone on to become shop stewards, and it is fairly well established that shop stewards tended to play prominent roles in the strikes and strike committees on 17 June.110 There are cases where the connections between post-1945 movements and the June rising can be seen more directly. In Carl-Zeiß-Jena, for example, the post-war years had witnessed severe tensions between organs of the regime and management, on the one hand, and the enterprise council, on the other, which culminated in the abolition of the latter. In his discussion of this case, the journalist Heinz Voigt has suggested that the bitter memories of this defeat fed a desire for revenge on the part of Zeiß workers when the opportunity presented itself in 1953. The abolition of the enterprise council and its replacement by an FDGB body [BGL] appointed by the SED were recent memories for the workforce. Only this can explain why it was workers specifically from Zeiss who demolished the FDGB offices, throwing thousands of files onto the street, and why the word ‘strike’ seemed – so suddenly in 1953 – to possess a magical force of attraction for the 15,000 workers of Carl-Zeiss-Jena.111 In Magdeburg, to give a second example, some factories had, in late 1952, experienced wars of attrition over the ‘frontier of control’ and major bouts of industrial action that, according to Volker Koop, ‘far exceeded the dimensions’ of those in June.112 In the process, ideals of workers’ co-determination were drawn upon and found wide support – to the extent that some participants in June would claim that the uprising represented the culmination of a movement the very aim of which was workers’ rights to co-manage workplace affairs.113

Conclusion In the interpretation of East Germany’s early years in this chapter I have discussed the ways in which pre-1933 labour movement traditions were resuscitated in the immediate post-war period and then impacted upon the June events. The emphasis was placed upon the construction of collective identities, on the existence of wellsprings of solidarity, on the distinctive labour movement cultures that served to facilitate risky protest action and which provided ‘frames’ through which grievances were interpreted politically. It was suggested that the familiarity of sections of the workforce with the industrial action repertoire and with trade union norms were factors that contributed to the widespread and swift resort to strike action and to the receptivity of a large section of the population to arguments in favour of ‘solidarity with Berlin’. And it was shown that trade union


Mass movements in the GDR’s early years

and socialist traditions that were critical of the SED party line survived, to some extent at least, outside the SED. This was an era of East German history in which class consciousness was ingrained amongst substantial sections of the working class (at least in a ‘corporate’ form, whereby ‘a worker identifies himself and his interests with the corporate body and the interests of the working class as a whole’).114 In other words, it was an age in which it came quite naturally to many to frame their identities, grievances and political positions with reference to their class position – for example in the slogan ‘Away with the SED government, the exploiter of the working class!’, written up on a factory noticeboard in mid-June, or the slogan ‘Workers, this is our goal: Away with Ulbricht and Grotewohl!’ chanted by young marchers in Thale on 17 June.115 It was a period, moreover, in which the SED’s claim to represent working-class interests was commonly challenged from alternative socialist perspectives. For example, in one workplace in Brandenburg, opinions collated in late June included several of this type: ‘If the SPD were here, things would be different’; ‘Marxism in the form realised here is wrong’; and ‘We don’t want Russian socialism, we want German socialism’.116 By the time a second major uprising shook East Germany in 1989, the generations that had witnessed and participated in the movements of 1945–53 had moved on. Their children had taken their place. Memories and traditions had faded. Ideas and cultures had evolved. The next four chapters will explore the major changes occurring in East German society in this thirty-six year period, devoting particular attention to the evolution of resistance and opposition.

Part II

Infra-political resistance and social movements, 1954–88


Techniques of domination, arts of resistance

In the epoch that lay between the extraordinary years of 1953 and 1989 no large-scale protests took place in the GDR. The savage repression of the uprising, not least through the prison terms meted out to thousands, together with the subsequent beefing-up of the security state unquestionably heightened the risks of mass collective action, demoralising potential participants. The effect is well illustrated by the words of one worker in the early 1960s: ‘Just stop talking about striking,’ he moaned to colleagues, ‘everyone who strikes gets locked up. I was also locked up on 17/6/1953’.1 With the revolt crushed, the normal mechanisms that subordinated the mass of society to the rule of the nomenklatura could take hold once more. But what exactly were these mechanisms? One that has often been adduced to explain the generally subservient behaviour of East German citizens is the persuasive power, or even the hypnotic utopian appeal, of Communist ideology. Thus, in the view of Jaroslav Krejci, the GDR ‘was able to satisfy her subjects neither with affluence nor with personal freedom, but she gave them a collective purpose, an almost eschatological idea of building an ideal society in the future’.2 The SED, some would suggest, exploited its control over education and information, and modern propaganda techniques, to indoctrinate citizens, to encourage them to believe what the Party required them to believe. But there are good grounds for treating this approach with scepticism. Its weaknesses were highlighted by the collapse of Eastern European Communism, but even before 1989 it was apparent to anyone with more than a passing familiarity with East German society that, although values of a broadly socialist nature – egalitarianism, common ownership, popular control – may have been widely held, these were all too often perceived as contrasting with the lived experience of ‘actually existing Communism’, with its class divisions, distributive injustice and absence of democracy. Even authors sympathetic to the SED would note with concern that ‘the most sophisticated efforts to transmit socialist values – through the schools, the media and the arts – are quickly destroyed if the practical experience of daily life contradicts those values’.3 In Eastern Europe, as in the forms of capitalism analysed by Nicholas Abercrombie, Stephen Hill and Bryan Turner in their critique of the ‘dominant ideology thesis’, workers may have accepted the class-divided economic order ‘at a factual level, as an enduring system’, but this


Social movements, 1954–88

did not necessarily involve ‘normative acceptance or indoctrination. Habituation and a realistic appreciation of the strength of the existing order do not add up to any form of commitment.’4 Shared ideological commitments did undoubtedly play an important part in ‘system integration’ but this was less by way of instilling normative cohesion in the mass of the population than by providing what Jan Pakulski has described as: the backbone of the political formula adhered to by the political elite and the top layers of the political-administrative ‘apparatus’.…[It] structured elite consciousness by providing justifications for their rule and by blocking the articulation of alternative world-views.…It was also important in legitimizing the rulers in the eyes of their crucial external constituency – the Soviet leaders.5 In respect of these functions – notably that of blocking alternative worldviews – the actual substance of SED ideology mattered little. That school curricula and newspaper editorials disseminated the teachings of so-called ‘MarxismLeninism’, and that SED formularies played such a visible part in public life (on mass demonstrations and at other spectacular events, on street corners and in shop windows), may have provided education or even edification to interested citizens, but also symbolised the SED’s monopoly of power, impressing upon the population that its worldview was the official, legitimate one.6 But if ideology played at most a very partial role in ensuring social integration in general and the subservience of subaltern classes in particular, where might one look for alternative reasons? If the SED’s ideology was shared to only a limited extent by the mass of the population, what would explain the acquiescence towards its rule displayed by most citizens most of the time? Could compulsion be the answer to these questions? Writing of ‘late capitalism’, Abercrombie et al. suggest that compulsion remains an important condition of system integration and of pragmatic apathy as an element of the subordinate culture. Compulsion is most obviously founded in the structure of economic relations which oblige people to behave in ways which support the status quo and to defer to the decisions of the powerful if they are to continue to work and live.7 Although in its economic structure East Germany was hardly a typical example of ‘late capitalism’, the nomenklatura did function in practice as collective capitalist: as a class, it owned and controlled the bulk of the means of production (land, factories, offices and the like), while the class of employees, in possession of no significant exchangeable value but their own labour power, had little alternative but to sell it for a wage.8 Wage workers in the GDR, as elsewhere, were order-takers, denied significant influence upon either the purpose or process of production.9 They, the task-executing majority, depended for their existence, income and occupational position on the nomenklatura, the decision-making

Infra-political resistance 61 minority. In the GDR, as in all capitalist formations, the subordinate social, economic and political position of workers followed from their propertylessness. (As Marx once put it, if ‘workers could live on air, it would not be possible to buy them at any price’.)10 At the micro-level, in the workplace, workers were subordinated to management. The power of the latter lay not so much in the ability to fire the former – for the ‘whip of unemployment’ carried little sting from the early 1950s onwards – as in the possession of a panoply of sanctions. Employees’ transgressions were recorded on cards that had to be presented with any job application. Managers possessed the power to demote employees, or to withhold bonuses (which could be a very substantial proportion of one’s income). Firms were also important sites of welfare provision, including housing, holidays, medical and childcare services. ‘All these functions,’ Janos Kornai has observed with regard to Soviettype societies in general, gave ‘the firm and the factory managers enormous power over their own employees.’11 An employee’s transgressions (or conformity) in one area could therefore be punished (or rewarded) in another. ‘Since most privileges are tied directly to one’s employment, especially among the intelligentsia,’ Bradley Scharf has written, ‘there is great incentive to avoid any action that might jeopardise one’s job.’12 That the nomenklatura collectively owned the means of production posed particular problems for social control. As mentioned in Chapter 1, the fact that the state was the repository of the major means of production, as well as being the centre of educational and cultural organisation, meant that criticism, of whatever aspect of the system, tended to concentrate towards the centre. In economic life the chains of dependency ran upwards from work teams to forepersons and line managers, upwards through General Directors and ultimately to a single control room in Politburo headquarters. All the work teams of the land were in this sense placed in a common relationship. The centralised and tightly knit organisation of the apparatuses of power combined with a lack of democratic legitimation to maximise the dangers posed by dissent, as dramatised in June 1953. In response, the regime was continually at work developing and refining its methods of disaggregating what was a potentially united and rebellious population. That modern class societies rely upon the disaggregation (or ‘atomisation’) of the lower orders is an argument that has been associated especially with the Hungarian philosopher György Lukács, in his Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat and in his Lenin. In the latter pamphlet he writes of how the ensemble of capitalist institutions, including the ideological separation of politics and economics, the labour market, the bureaucratic state, and citizenship, has the effect of preventing the formation of an independent ideology among the oppressed classes of the population which would correspond to their own class interests; of binding the individual members of these classes to the system as single individuals, as mere ‘citizens’, to an abstract state reigning over and


Social movements, 1954–88 above all classes; of disorganising these classes as classes and pulverising them into atoms easily manipulated by the bourgeoisie.13

A similar angle upon techniques of ‘pulverising’ the lower classes is also to be found in Marxist accounts of social control in Soviet-type state capitalism. For Jacek Kuro n´ and Karol Modzelewski ‘the rule of the monopoly bureaucracy’ rested on its capacity to ‘disorganise social forces and to atomise the working class’.14 Autonomous organisations that were capable of posing a challenge to the Party were either suppressed, as with the enterprise councils, incorporated into state-controlled institutions or, in the case of the churches, subjected to intensive surveillance and policing. The public sphere was colonised by state institutions, from the media to the ‘mass organisations’ (e.g. the FDGB and FDJ), such that when individuals joined collectives in the public sphere their recognised commonality lay in their belonging (and assumed commitment) to organisations of the state. Although individuals were able to create spaces within the mass organisations for relatively uncoerced, even at times subversive, discussion and collective action,15 their intended purpose and primary effect was to encourage conformity and patriotism. The structure of state–citizen relationships changed over time. Particularly in the 1950s and 1960s, when the SED was bent upon social transformation, the emphasis was upon the suppression of independent organisations that could threaten that project. In these early decades the cast of the regime was totalitarian, in that state power was actively and vigorously deployed to mobilise citizens behind the SED’s aims of uprooting previous class structures and traditional cultures, and constructing a new, Soviet-style society in their place. Characteristic features of this period included, for example, Walter Ulbricht’s propagation of a new ethics based upon ‘Ten Socialist Commandments’,16 as well as the attempt to transform work brigades into instruments of the advancement of socialist culture, with workers pressured to pay obeisance to the ruling ideology in the shape of ‘personal pledges’ to their colleagues – ‘I shall endeavour to enthuse my wife for our good cause’; or to ‘take the Ten Commandments of socialist ethics and morality as the guiding principles by which to act within the family in a socialist manner’.17 If the GDR’s early decades were characterised by systematic attempts at rootand-branch transformation that entailed an intrusive colonisation of the public sphere by the SED and the mass organisations, the emphasis shifted as the years went by. Rapid economic growth generated sweeping changes in society. Swathes of the population experienced occupational upward mobility. Peasants and housewives became workers and a significant minority of workers became functionaries and professionals, a trend that necessitated an enormous expansion in tertiary education, with admissions climbing steadily to 44,000 in 1971. The proportion of unskilled and semi-skilled workers in the workforce declined steadily, from 76 per cent in 1945 to 25 per cent in 1977.18 Over the same period, East Germany gradually developed into a consumer society. From the mid-1950s a modest minimum of material welfare was guaranteed to all; in the

Infra-political resistance 63 1960s the five-day week arrived; and by the 1970s televisions, white goods and cars were coming within the reach of ever-growing numbers of households.19 It would not be altogether inaccurate to suggest, as many studies of the GDR do, that improving living standards helped to earn ‘the SED a greater measure of popular support and respect’.20 And it is certainly the case that biographies of East German workers who entered the labour force in the 1950s and 1960s suggest that a correlation existed between improved life-chances and an increased tolerance of, or loyalty to, the regime.21 Yet it would be misleading if this process were conceived of in terms of the SED passively reaping support from its increasingly well-fed subjects. Rather, the regime assiduously exploited its command over a growing ‘pot’ of resources, via a range of pressures, incentives and opportunities, to encourage the political co-operation of citizens through bribes and bargains. This pragmatic strategy of domination, generally known by the term clientelism, was the SED’s characteristic modus operandi in the GDR’s later decades, and may be contrasted with forms of coercion or ideological persuasion that were emphasised in the earlier period. It involved appealing to values of self-interest rather than conviction; its techniques centred not on mobilisation but on private negotiations with citizen-clients (albeit with the proviso that the negotiations, though glossed by the state as co-operative, were between vastly unequal partners).22 If, in totalitarian guise, functionaries resembled cogs within a centralised machine, in clientelist mode they acted within an undergrowth of personalised relationships of patronage, in which citizens were rewarded for their co-operation and loyalty with promotion and perquisites.23 One of the most acute analyses of ‘late socialist’ clientelism has been penned by Charles Maier in Dissolution, his magisterial account of the decline of the GDR. For Maier, clientelist techniques of rule are conceived of as one element in the broader process of the ‘corruption of the public sphere’ that affected societies on both sides of the Cold War divide from the 1970s onwards. While in the West this took the form, among other things, of ‘the growing role of private wealth for political participation and the replacement of debate with simplified slogans and images of personality’, in East Germany it centred on the domination of the public domain by clientelism and privilege; a good deal of the domestic politics of that country was of the pork barrel variety. The state, Maier writes, sought to govern by concluding private bargains with each citizen.…[I]t sought by the pervasive manipulation of privilege and complicity to transform supposed citizens into clients – and clients in both the ancient and modern senses. That is, late socialism encouraged a traditional clientelism in its encouragement of needy and cowering subordinates who craved the protection of a powerful mediator; and it simultaneously created clients in the newer sense of dependents who were subsidized and counseled by the case workers of a modern welfare (and secret-police) bureaucracy.24 Privilege became a pervasive way of rationing valued aspects of life, ‘so that the regime could get the credit for doling them out. Travel and publication were


Social movements, 1954–88

transformed from generalized rights to negotiated favors: the Party expected gratitude for its watchful care of those in its charge.’25 The disbursement of differential rewards, Maier continues, was but one element in a wider range of techniques that had the effect of atomising civil society. Although ostensibly committed to the virtues of solidarity, ‘the regime survived precisely by undermining solidarity with differential rewards such as travel and education, even by dividing up its supposedly loyal proletarian supporters into competitive work brigades, and by rewarding snooping’.26 At a more basic level, the distribution of differential rewards operated through the labour market. At the top end of the scale, senior functionaries and some intellectuals were able to negotiate bespoke contracts, with salaries, bonuses and pensions that dwarfed those of workers – indeed, income differentials were similar to those in contemporary Western societies.27 In addition, these elite groups received perquisites and preferments in a variety of forms: access to special ‘intelligentsia shops’, extra rations of fuel and electricity, better food at work, premium health cover, cheap loans, extra tuition for their children, and longer holidays. Furthermore, they were more likely to benefit from personal connections with officials, which could open doors to superior housing and to other scarce goods. At the bottom end of the scale rewards were low, but competition amongst enterprises for labour power did produce considerable variations in levels of basic pay and especially of bonuses (which could take monetary or non-monetary forms, including the provision of housing). By the 1980s some firms working on high-tech projects were offering bonuses of up to 600 marks that, given basic pay rates of between 800 and 1,000 marks, were highly attractive.28 That said, the wage-depressing effect of labour-market competition was blunted by persistent labour shortages. These lent employees a certain ‘tacit power’, and obliged managers and officials to rely upon alternative methods of undermining solidarity. Most important of these was the introduction and generalisation of piecework in the 1950s – which workers were enticed to accept with the promise of low quotas29 – followed by other forms of performance-related pay from the 1960s, as well as the ‘socialist competition’ campaigns discussed in Chapter 2.30 In addition, employees were differentiated into status groups, and considerable efforts were made to foster divisions, mutual suspicion and stereotyping between the various groups, notably clerical and manual workers.31 Alongside company management, it was to the FDGB that supervision of many of these tasks fell. Subordinate to management and the SED, the FDGB bore a close resemblance to company unions in market economies. Its functionaries, writes the North American sociologist Linda Fuller, ‘were reluctant to deal with economic and production matters’, for these were seen as the prerogative of the management–SED nexus.32 They acted as propagandists for productivity-raising campaigns and the organisers of ‘socialist competition’. And although in these tasks a degree of stick-wielding was involved, it was backed up by carrots in the form of support for cultural activities, and the provision of holiday trips as well as other parts of the ‘second wage packet’ for which the

Infra-political resistance 65 FDGB was responsible. ‘Here and there,’ moreover, ‘it conceived its role as the representative of the “socially disadvantaged” and would seek to arrange the provision of a place in a creche or the fair allocation of a flat.’33 Amongst its membership the FDGB was widely seen as ‘a travel bureau for the disbursement of health cures and vacation places, or, at best, a society for mutual back-slapping and the creation of enthusiasm’, as the trade union official at the centre of Stefan Heym’s fictional account of the 1953 uprising expressed it.34 Similar views were aired in the 1980s by workers interviewed by Fuller. The FDGB was ‘nothing but an insurance agency’, said one, ‘a social service agency’ was the phrase of another, and ‘more or less like a travel agency’ said a third.35 Few saw the mass organisation as performing trade union functions. According to one survey of building workers, 74 per cent answered in the negative when asked whether ‘the union on the construction site stands up for you’.36 In reports prepared by both Stasi and FDGB officials the same words repeatedly crop up: ‘the workers complain that the FDGB does not stand up for them’; ‘the FDGB does not represent workers’ interests’, and innumerable variations on the same theme.37 The terms Fuller’s interviewees chose to describe FDGB officials’ relationship with workplace management and the SED are revealing: ‘Assistants, appendages, mascots, helpers, partners and third fiddles.’38 Within the structures of the FDGB, particularly at the shop level, spaces did exist in which a relatively free discussion of grievances could take place. The authorised expression of these, however, was limited to private, individualised activities constructed on clientelist lines, most notably the sending of petitions (‘Eingaben’ ) to FDGB headquarters, more on which below. A degree of criticism could find its way into workplace ‘union’ meetings, but these were generally run according to rigid formulae that were designed to encourage anything but rankand-file interest and input. At FDGB forums members would be ‘subjected to dry, pedantic monologues, in the form of long-winded, prepared speeches, which functionaries read page-by-page and word-for-word before their glazed-eyed worker audiences’.39 Workers who stood for election to the offices of the FDGB generally did so at the behest of management.40 Not only was rank-and-file input into the selection of FDGB officers minimal, but also ‘autonomous union activity’ of all kinds was ‘extraordinarily difficult and often impossible at GDR worksites’, thanks to the multifaceted personnel overlap between FDGB, SED and management.41 Those activists who did take the FDGB’s role of workers’ representative seriously and sought to breathe vitality into proceedings would, according to Fuller’s research, invariably become ‘resentful’, ‘discouraged,’ or ‘politically burned out’. They ‘tried repeatedly to effect some change’ but ‘had never seen any results’. In their different ways, both grassroots activists and passive members suffered under the dead weight of the FDGB: for forty years, formalized and centralized union political practice, the political dependency of the unions, the union retreat from economic and management matters, and the brand of union leadership that flourished when the rank and file was denied input into the selection of its officers had


Social movements, 1954–88 smothered workers’ creative energy and imagination under a pall of resignation, indifference, timidity, and cynicism.42

Resignation and Resistenz In so far as the techniques listed above were successful in atomising the lower orders and crushing resistance, they tended to produce in the lower classes a widespread pragmatically based compliance as well as resignation, apathy and helplessness. In Fuller’s analysis of the experience of work in East German industry in the 1980s emphasis is placed upon the disempowering experience of wage labour. Expected to work hard for long periods (often involving overtime) workers received little reward and the feeling of being undervalued was widespread.43 Many were subjected to humiliating forms of personal managerial control and some, Fuller speculates, suffered from ‘a debilitating loss of selfrespect’.44 In addition, frustrations at the lack of adequate materials and at poor organisation of the labour process were ubiquitous. Day in and day out workers saw their ‘efforts and their sense of accomplishment and contribution subverted by chronic disorganization at work, and this bred a paralyzing frustration and sense of personal ineffectiveness’.45 Stressed and exhausted, and perceiving their labour time to be undervalued, East German workers were chronically disgruntled. Had avenues existed whereby workers’ industrial and political concerns could have been properly represented, these frustrations and grievances might have been mitigated. As it was, the perception of being excluded was widespread. Thus, one survey of ‘low-status’ workers found that over 90 per cent felt that their interests were ‘barely represented’ at the national level, while another found that only 2 per cent of over 600 skilled workers answered the question ‘are you able to participate in decision-making in your section of the workplace’ in the affirmative.46 These arrangements, in Fuller’s assessment, ‘fostered a withdrawal from and a distaste for politics among large segments of the working class’, and there is certainly evidence to corroborate her judgement. One Stasi report from the 1980s, for example, noted that ‘many workers’ appeared to be interested in little but ‘their own personal affairs’.47 The prevailing modes of working-class consciousness, particularly after 1953, were variants on the themes of ‘withdrawal’ and ‘accommodation’. They may be categorised as deferential (‘I won’t rattle the cage, it is the property of my superiors’), patriotic (‘I won’t rattle the cage, it is our protector’), privatised (‘the cage is of no interest to me’), and careerist (‘I can prosper by climbing up the bars’).48 In short, far from bringing into being a politicised society, the SED dictatorship had, to borrow a phrase from Timothy Luke and Carl Boggs, ‘depoliticized the masses by systematically blunting the expression of class consciousness and impeding any crystallisation of political opposition.’49 The lack of power at the base of society, the absence of means of influencing workplace decisions or the public political realm, had a corrosive effect – and is a reminder that amongst the masses it is not power that corrupts but the lack of it.

Infra-political resistance 67 As the West German critic Hans-Magnus Enzensberger has observed, ‘impotence leads to resignation, the retreat into the diminutive realm of the private, political apathy. What counts is to avoid decisions, practise mimicry and to withhold every criticism and every initiative.’50 Unable to exert influence in the public sphere, East Germans withdrew into private ‘niches’. Hidden from view and isolated, these posed no direct threat to the regime; they may even have performed a legitimating function, not unlike the ‘civic privatism’ of liberal democracies.51 In the workplaces the typical niche formed within the workplace ‘collective’, or team. In many ways the experience here would be recognisable to employees anywhere in the world. They were sites of friction. The pressure of raising productivity impacted upon the collectives, and could spur personal resentments and tensions. With their narrow boundaries, the collectives were no natural hives of resistance.52 On the other hand, within these lower levels of the workplace authentic and trusting relationships could develop, and political discussion could occur that, in its broadness and frankness, contrasted sharply with that of the official domain.53 Informal group solidarity tended to be generated within the collectives too. Here, workers would grumble about management and discuss ways of avoiding impositions. The collectives could thus function as arenas for the voicing of ‘hidden transcripts’; they fostered ‘infra-political’ cultures of satirical humour, subversive anecdote and critical discussion.54 In many workplaces, moreover, overtly political discussion was commonplace (‘It was like the weather,’ one elderly worker remarked, ‘everyone talked about it, but no one did anything about it!’).55 The fact that one of the Stasi’s major functions was to detect and counter the emergence of informal oppositional groups in workplaces may indicate a reason why ‘no one ever did anything’ but, by the same token, suggests that solidarities between critical or oppositional workers were widespread.56 It would be misleading to depict GDR workers post-1953 simply as powerless, atomised and resigned to their lot. The suppression of the enterprise councils and the crushing of the 1953 rising had not left workers utterly devoid of leverage. In bargaining over wages and conditions, their position was strengthened by the tautness of the labour market and a relatively high degree of job security.57 If an opening was available elsewhere a dissatisfied employee could up and leave. In the typical case this form of pressure was passive and individualised, but there are documented cases in which groups of workers buttressed their demands with the threat of collective resignation.58 In some periods levels of labour turnover were high. Labour turnover functioned as a market mechanism for the redistribution of labour power between firms and sectors of industry, but in conditions of labour shortage they tended to promote wage drift. In response, managers would build unauthorised bonuses into pay packets, giving rise to a wage pyramid that deviated markedly from that laid down by central planners.59 Workers’ ‘tacit power’ was particularly marked in the 1950s, a decade during which East Germans were not only able to compare wages and living standards directly with those obtaining in West Germany – strikes for pay rises were commonly justified with reference to better conditions there – but also


Social movements, 1954–88

were able to move there without undue difficulty.60 All told, over 3.5 million people emigrated between 1945 and 1961. It was an exodus of enormous dimensions, and placed strict limitations upon the regime’s incomes policy. ‘The constraint of the open border before 13 August 1961,’ as one SED theorist dryly summarised the problem, ‘resulted in wage-fund excesses.’61 Alongside the acts of departing one’s workplace or country, an endemic expression of discontent that was simultaneously a source of pressure available to workers was Bummelei, meaning time-wasting at work, or ‘labour indiscipline’ in general. Its extent is of course impossible to assess with any degree of precision, for when is a pause, or a relaxing of the pace of work, a result of exhaustion, and when is it premeditated time-wasting or indeed a collectively agreed ‘go-slow’? Against what yardstick is the pace of work measured, that of an ‘activist’ or an ‘average’ worker? And what of those activities, such as clocking off early or work-time shopping trips, which some would class as labour indiscipline but which could be sanctioned by management? Such difficulties of measurement notwithstanding, there is abundant evidence to suggest that Bummelei flourished. Its prevalence reflected the high degree of job security and bargaining power, and also expressed frustrations such as those arising from disruptions to the labour process or from low wages.62 The latter, indeed, were widely held as justifying Bummelei, as summed up in the aphorism ‘We only pretend to work – they only pretend to pay us!’ Bummelei should not, however, be seen simply as a symptom of a disgruntled and alienated workforce. It was a form of action, and could be applied to a range of ends: as a defensive response to work speed-ups or to increased work quotas, for instance, or as a means of ensuring that overtime (and hence higher rates of pay) would be unavoidable.63 At the limit it shaded into the repertoire of organised collective action, such as the go-slow or work-to-rule. There is a risk of exaggerating the extent of Bummelei, and of contributing to the ‘myth of the idle East German worker’.64 Nonetheless, Bummelei, at least as defined by functionaries, clearly did reach epidemic proportions in certain periods. In the late 1950s a chorus of complaints that a ‘Go-Slow-Movement’ was underway prompted officials and managers to instigate a campaign that sought to dignify labour discipline.65 In the 1970s and 1980s, Bummelei became, if anything, a worsening problem for company managements.66 In many cases it even became legitimised in the shape of ‘housekeeping holidays’ that were negotiated and agreed with management and which, Kopstein has suggested, ‘really amounted to legalized work slow downs or strikes’.67 In addition to labour turnover and Bummelei, a third type of infra-political resistance was theft or sabotage. Of these Luddite arts the most widely practised was the taking by the people of the ‘People’s Own’ property. Workplace theft was ubiquitous throughout Eastern Europe,68 and East Germany was no exception. As the dissident and chanteur Wolf Biermann put it, in the GDR, ‘there exists a highly developed form of workers’ Selbsthilfe [denoting both ‘self-help’ and ‘cooperative’], in that workers personally enrich themselves at their workplace’.69 Sabotage, while less common than theft, was more likely to involve calculated

Infra-political resistance 69 acts of resistance. If the proposed installation of new equipment or the supply of particular materials were used by management as a justification for raising work quotas, it could appear rational to ‘eliminate’ them.70 Some of the most imaginative cases of sabotage were those that targeted quota assessors, those widely despised Taylorists. The West German researcher Axel Bust-Bartels reports one memorable instance in which a quota assessor encountered a team of bricklayers. Seeing him approach, two sturdy chaps guessed that he had come in order surreptitiously to time them. They shoved him to the edge of the scaffolding, whereupon one of them whipped his stopwatch from its chain. They proceeded to place the watch upon the masonry, poured cement over it, and laid bricks on top.71 Finally, an institutional framework for the voicing of grievances existed in the Eingabe. The Eingabe represented a state-sanctioned right to the expression of discontent in a form that encouraged a focus upon specific complaints as against general political issues. Although the authorities could take note of them, they were not under a legal obligation to do so. They also served as a source of information for the Party and state leaderships. Should they therefore be seen as a mechanism for stabilising the dictatorship? The Berlin-based labour historians Olaf Klenke and Bernd Gehrke argue that there was more to the phenomenon than that.72 For one thing, ‘a long-term conflict would commonly be concealed behind these pieces of paper’. They tended to be seen as a final resort for addressing an issue after other methods had failed. For another, Eingaben were rather more than supplications. Especially if backed by the threat – for example to resign from the FDGB – they gained a more demanding edge. Third, they could involve collective discussion. This was self-evidently true of collective Eingaben but these were rare. However, Klenke writes, many an individual Eingabe was preceded by extensive discussion amongst colleagues. What is at once apparent even from this brief survey is that, following the crushing of the enterprise councils and then of the 1953 rising, East German workers still retained an array of alternative means with which to exert leverage. The tight labour market underlay a shopfloor bargaining position that was in some periods sufficiently strong for one researcher, Jeffrey Kopstein, to conclude that workers possessed a ‘virtual veto power over wages, prices, and work norms’. They maintained, he continues, an amorphous, disorganized power that, even with a good dose of Stalinist terror could not easily be diminished.…It was not the power to strike, organize or bargain collectively, but as the [high] rates of absenteeism illustrate, it did entail the power to withhold services.73 Others go further. ‘Being a blue-collar worker was easy’ in East Germany, Lutz Niethammer has claimed. ‘[T]he shop floor represented a liberated milieu where people could move around freely, could criticize, and could even go shopping


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during working hours.’74 In his choice of words (‘easy’, ‘liberated’) Niethammer is, uncharacteristically, allowing polemic to distort an otherwise sound point. As discussed above, industrial sociologists and anthropologists such as Bust-Bartels, Fuller and Müller have shown that East German workers were subject to authoritarian workplace conditions, and that the ‘myth of the idle East German worker’ was just that, a myth. And although workers were at times free to leave the workplace, leaving the workplace without permission could be punished, even with a custodial sentence.75 Nonetheless, a consensus does exist amongst historians of East Germany that the bargaining power of employees at the shop floor level was generally quite high – in certain respects higher than in liberal democracies.76

A succession of crises At the infra-political level, workplace resistance was endemic, but at times of general social and political crisis, it tended to proliferate and generalise, and could even break into the public sphere. Between 1956 and 1982 East Germany experienced a series of crises, each of which was distinct in both scale and nature but all of which included most of the following elements: a significant political turn in Moscow and/or Berlin, open divisions between the CPSU and SED leaderships and/or within the SED, the emergence of organised opposition, a significant upturn in industrial action, and economic crisis. In 1956 East Germany did not witness open rebellion but failed to escape the general crisis that swept Eastern Europe in the wake of Khrushchev’s secret speech. Growing divisions at the summit of the SED encouraged a wave of dissent amongst intellectuals and also in workplaces, as expressed in turbulent FDGB meetings, in leafleting and strike threats. Debates that wracked the universities and academies – how to reform the Stalinist model, whether the personality cult around Ulbricht should be rejected – sizzled in the workplaces too, and helped to spark a small strike wave.77 Calls for solidarity with the uprising in Hungary, and discussion of the June 1953 uprising, were reported in some instances. The regime responded by offering concessions in the form of co-determination: in December, ‘workers’ committees’ were set up in pilot factories. Although these were granted merely an ‘advisory role’, even this was to fuel wider expectations. Reports speak of an upsurge in interest in workplace issues by hitherto apathetic workers, and of high hopes in the committees.78 That the situation did not escalate was largely due to the coincidence that in Hungary a similar train of events had already travelled further and faster, and the resistance there had been broken by a full-scale military crackdown that laid the basis for an authoritarian settlement. The conservative conclusions drawn by East German functionaries from the Hungarian events served to weld them behind Ulbricht, giving the elite sufficient cohesion and strength to marginalise opposition. The workers’ committees were burdened with trivial issues and the few that remained were dissolved in late 1957.

Infra-political resistance 71 Barely had one crisis subsided than another arose. In 1958–61 a geopolitical crisis – in which a Soviet diplomatic offensive aimed at pressing the Western powers to recognise the GDR – intersected with a sharp economic downturn, the resumption of the drive to collectivise agriculture that had been shelved in 1953, and a major emigration wave. There are certain obvious respects, notably in regard to the economic crisis and exodus, in which the conditions in these years resembled those of 1952–3. In addition, the late 1950s had witnessed significant numbers of strikes, often involving scores or hundreds of workers, and which elicited widespread concerns amongst managers that ‘syndicalism’ was taking hold.79 In 1960 close to 200 strikes occurred and, although not a huge figure, this may well have added to the sense of crisis.80 The situation is ‘visibly deteriorating,’ Ulbricht admitted to the Soviet ambassador in the summer of that year. If nothing is done about the open border, he warned, ‘an explosion is bound to come’.81 But in spite of similarities between the two conjunctures the differences were critical. For one thing, the uprising of 1953 had been brutally crushed, and some hesitation could be expected before East Germans would attempt a reprise. For another, divisions within the CPSU and SED leaderships in 1953 and 1956 had yielded to a greater unity, one which was symbolised when Khrushchev sanctioned the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Of the settlements that followed these periodic crises in the GDR’s history, that of 1961 was the most starkly drawn. A determined and successful assertion of its rule, the Wall elevated the confidence and cohesion of the nomenklatura. Although, inherently, a concrete symbol of the regime’s unpopularity, in the short term it reinforced its stability and, in terms of the perceptions both of other governments and of the public, its ‘legitimacy’. In its economic consequences, the Wall’s chief effect was to dam the outflow of skilled labour; and although in conditions of labour shortage this did not annul workers’ shopfloor bargaining power, it did diminish it. The building of the Wall, in short, ushered in a period of political stability during which the regime was generally perceived as strongly positioned and in which threats to order were for the most part successfully marginalised. At the end of the decade, Ralf Dahrendorf observed that the East German regime, ‘it would appear […], is quite legitimate in terms of the assent, or at least the absence of active dissent, on the part of its citizens’.82 Yet recent research has shown that beneath the appearance significant incidents of popular protest occurred. In the revolutionary year of 1968 the GDR was no hotspot but did witness protests, including strike threats, small demonstrations, acts of sabotage, graffiti and leafleting, against the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces. According to one prominent historian of the GDR, Acts of protest were not restricted to students and intellectuals, but rather emanated from all quarters of the population, ranging from the offspring of high SED functionaries, through the circles of the academic and creative intelligentsia, right into all levels and areas of the industrial workforce.83


Social movements, 1954–88

Shortly thereafter, in 1970–2, economic crisis and the imposition of austerity measures, including the reduction of subsidies on basic goods, cutbacks in the health service and the scrapping of planned improvements in work conditions, stimulated a chorus of discontent. In the autumn of 1970 the FDGB leadership was beginning to show a serious concern at the growing signs of discontent in workplaces, and the number of industrial conflicts was rising sharply, albeit from a very low base.84 Workers’ vexations over goods shortages and speed-ups began to spill over into political criticisms, and these were seized upon by opponents of Ulbricht in what was becoming a campaign to unseat him. As one leading functionary recalled, ‘Ulbricht sought to raise certain prices’ despite growing signs of social discontent, ‘and that was the proximate reason why trust in him was withdrawn.’85 Even as Ulbricht’s rivals were plotting his demise, a workers’ rebellion broke out in Poland, and there is evidence to suggest that East German citizens paid close attention to it.86 In ruling circles, a senior government adviser of the time recalls, the fear of a repetition of ‘17 June 1953 was on everyone’s mind, everyone’s!’87 The settlement that emerged from this particular crisis was shaped in its main contours by the nature of Ulbricht’s ouster. The new leadership, under Honecker, was particularly concerned to achieve what one Politburo member has described as a ‘détente’ between the working and ruling classes.88 The economy, Honecker now proclaimed, is ‘a means for the ever-improving satisfaction of the growing material and cultural needs of working people’.89 Workers, it was declared, deserve a respectable living standard and ‘in exchange’ should work harder. New social programmes were announced, including increases in welfare benefits, house-building and pensions. Wages rose significantly, particularly at the lower end of the scale. Against this background it is perhaps no surprise that support for the government (and for ‘socialism’) appears to have peaked during the early 1970s. Opinion surveys conducted at the time indicate that ‘the welfare-political programme had a very positive effect on public opinion until 1975/6’.90 When responding to a question concerning their attitude to socialism’s global prospects, one survey (of ‘young workers’) found that whereas only 35 per cent answered that they had ‘complete faith’ in the system in 1970, that figure had climbed to 56 per cent only five years later.91 If an unwritten social contract existed through much of the GDR’s existence, with the regime presiding over guaranteed employment and rising living standards in exchange for compliance or support, this was the period in which it was most widely acknowledged. But the social contract threatened to backfire on the regime if its side of the bargain could not be properly fulfilled. As Thomas Baylis put it at the time, it served to cement a relationship between rulers and ruled in which legitimacy became ‘based essentially on popular approval of the regime’s success in bringing about economic growth and satisfying popular demand for goods and services’.92 Emphasising that improvement in the living standards of the masses was a central project of Communism tended to turn the nomenklatura into hostages to the material fortune of their subjects, and this, moreover, at a time

Infra-political resistance 73 when the fortunes of the world economy, including East Germany’s, were turning downwards. In response to pressures on economic profitability, the regime began to renege on the spirit of the social contract. From about 1976 persistent efforts were made to slow the rate of income growth and to intensify labour. These modifications to the social contract, combined with worsening consumer-goods scarcities, tended to undermine workplace morale.93 Discontent surfaced at shop counters too, and not only as grumbling but, at times, as collective protest. In 1977 a sharp rise in the price of coffee, together with its adulteration with chicory and rye, occasioned widespread anger that was communicated to the authorities in the form of a flood of Eingaben.94 The discontent, Klenke writes, poured out in FDGB meetings; rumours of strikes spread in the South of the GDR. There were even sporadic protests on the streets, some of which led to rioting. The heaviest street fighting occurred in Berlin, where two police officers and one young person lost their lives.95 Two years later sharp price rises covering a range of goods provoked another wave of popular indignation, prompting the regime to hastily repeal the measure, and indeed to follow it up with the announcement of general wage rises and a cut in the working week.96 Then, in the early 1980s, the world economy sank into its second major recession within six years. Given soaring interest rates and oil prices, and a credit crunch, the GDR was severely affected. As foreign exchange earnings fell, planners and managers responded by diverting goods from domestic outlets for export to the West, cutting imports and pressing the workforce harder. ‘The economy has become the key arena of the class struggles of our epoch!’ SED leaders proclaimed, in a rather desperate attempt to dress their appeals for self-sacrifice by East German workers in the guise of a noble cause.97 But propagandistic exhortations of this sort could not disguise the empty spaces in shop windows, or the wider sense that the social contract of the early 1970s was wearing thin. According to Günter Simon, a senior FDGB functionary, state leaders were obliged to recognise that ‘the people are enraged’, as they leafed through the reports arriving on their desks that warned of ‘young people looking to the West’, workers ‘turning against the state’, and supermarkets earning the satirical label, in popular parlance, of ‘sex shops’ (because the shelves were naked).98 During these years, as in the earlier crises discussed above, a small but significant increase in strike activity was observed, with stoppages occurring in response to the shortages of consumer goods, wages and bonuses, and even in order to prevent the opening of Intershops.99 It is noteworthy that several strikes thematised the gap between living standards in East and West Germany. Building workers at an Intershop in Karl-Marx-Stadt went on strike to demand that they be permitted to purchase the Western goods on sale there with GDR marks. In industries producing for Western markets, demands for the part payment of wages in Deutschmarks were backed by strikes and strike threats.100


Social movements, 1954–88

But it was not the smattering of strikes on home territory that perturbed SED and FDGB leaders so much as the mass strikes across the border in 1980–1.101 They responded to the rebellion in Poland by drastically curtailing opportunities for East Germans to visit that country, and launched a virulent media campaign ec´ that played on racist stereoagainst the independent trade union Solidarnoé■esé■ types in a shabby attempt to dissuade East Germans from drawing inspiration from their Polish counterparts.102 Anti-Polish jokes and chauvinistic interpretations of the mass strikes circulated widely – not least in SED circles.103 Many East Germans, however, were immune to anti-Polish chauvinism. Poland was a favourite tourist destination, and personal contacts existed too.104 Of these, ec´ with suspicion because it symbolised the however, many viewed Solidarnoé■esé■ ec´ threat of social ‘chaos’.105 There were others, however, for whom Solidarnoé■esé■ exerted a positive appeal. The Polish events occasioned the resignation of some ec´ favourably with their own soFDGB members, others compared Solidarnoé■esé■ called trade union, and in some plants the demand for free trade unions was ec´ to raised.106 In at least one factory employees were inspired by Solidarnoé■esé■ launch a manifesto for democratic rights. Elsewhere, strikes occurred that took their cue from the Polish events.107 Clashes between police and young people who sympathised with the Polish union took place too.108 And although for some of the embryonic church-based opposition it was a taboo subject, there were also dissidents and activists who took heart from the Polish workers.109 The promiec´ nent dissidents Robert Havemann and Stefan Heym spoke up for Solidarnoé esé■ ■ and protested its prohibition in December 1981, while in some towns leaflets were circulated in its support. In Jena, one peace movement activist, Roland Jahn, attached a Polish flag with the words ‘Solidarity with the Polish people’ (in Polish) to his bicycle – an act that might seem innocuous but for which he received a twenty-two month custodial sentence.110

Polish comparisons For the purposes of the argument in this book, comparison between the GDR and Poland is highly instructive. In both countries the economic and political systems were basically the same. Both witnessed a similar shift in emphasis from totalitarian to clientelist methods of rule. In the factories and offices of Poland, workers were subjected to similar types of oppression and compulsion as existed on the other side of the Oder-Neisse. In both countries independent workers’ organisations were obliterated in the late 1940s and replaced by a state union, and lateral connections amongst workers were systematically suppressed.111 As regards trade union representation in workplaces, the Polish experience was possibly even more debilitating than that in East Germany.112 There are also marked parallels to be found in the experience of mass struggles in the two countries: in Poland in the mid-1940s workers set up independent enterprise councils and trade unions, which were abolished and incorporated respectively, although not without considerable resistance;113 in the mid-1950s the country was shaken by labour unrest, which culminated in

Infra-political resistance 75 a rebellion in the city of Pozna´n; the 1960s, in Poland as in the GDR, was a decade of relative quiescence.114 Yet from 1970 the Polish experience of popular protest began to diverge, quite sharply, from that of the GDR. The years 1970 and 1971 saw strike waves, protest marches and riots in the cities of the Baltic coast of greater dimensions than those of 1956–7. In Sczezcin a citywide strike committee was established, and ‘a series of brief general strikes were called, during which workers’ militias patrolled city streets and strikers published their own newspapers and broadcasted their own radio programmes’.115 In 1976 further workers’ uprisings occurred, centred on the region around Warsaw, in Radom and in ¸ód´z. In the next four years something like a thousand strikes took place, and these culmiec´ nated in the strike waves of summer 1980 from which the Solidarnoé■esé■ movement for independent trade unions grew, and which broke the Communist Party’s monopoly of power.116 In Poland, the development of workers’ organisation tended to curve upwards from 1956 to 1980–1. In terms of geographical scope, the 1956 movement was concentrated in a few major plants in the big industrial centres only; that of 1970–1 centred on the coastal belt around Gdansk and Szczecin, and reached workplaces elsewhere; in 1976 perhaps three-quarters of the country’s largest plants were affected, while in 1980–1 the movement expanded rapidly across the whole country. The greater duration and success of the latter revolt was connected to a development in organisational form: In 1956, the protest took the form of spontaneous and open demonstrations in the streets of Poznan and Warsaw. In 1970, the protest was guided by strike committees, but street demonstrations were its very important element; they ended in setting fire to buildings of political authorities, with the resulting intervention of the armed forces and a loss of human life. The protests in 1980 consisted in sit-down strikes without any street demonstrations whatsoever. No life was lost. The organisation of the protest was excellent, and so was the discipline of the strikers.117 As to why the Polish experience was so distinct from the East German, numerous arguments have been put forward. The SED liked to pretend that different national cultures were the root cause, but this argument was belied by the 1953 uprising (which proved GDR workers to be every bit as capable of organising independently of state institutions, and of innovating tactically, as were their counterparts in Poland). More serious accounts tend to highlight differences between the two societies in their social organisation and economic fortunes.118 In Poland, greater liberties were granted – to intellectuals and to private farmers, for example – and the state’s hold over society was correspondingly weaker. In the GDR social conditions were never quite so desperate, and neither did it experience the roaring boom followed by a sharp crash that so destabilised the Polish economy in the 1970s. Others stress that, following the caesura of 1953 and 1961, the GDR’s greater stability and its legitimation as the


Social movements, 1954–88

‘anti-fascist’ half of Germany (and the related difficulties posed to those who would oppose the SED from a nationalist stance), together with the substantial support afforded the regime by members of the intelligentsia, all contributed to the consolidation of a unified elite around a relatively successful Communist Party, which organised a higher proportion of the population than almost all of its Eastern European sister parties. In addition, the different resources available to workers should be highlighted. In the GDR, given its exceptionally tight labour market, more could be achieved through factory-level bargaining. In Poland, external resources for the assistance of workers’ movements were present to a greater degree. The Catholic Church was a more powerful institution than were the East German Churches, and afforded some protection to the movement for independent trade unions. Workplace-based movements, being relatively strong, drew radical intellectuals behind them, enabling workers to draw upon their skills and resources.119 Supporters of KOR (Committee for the Defence of Workers), to take a prominent example, helped to produce the underground newspapers and leaflets that provided Polish workers with crucial means of information and communication. But what really marked Poland out was the degree to which networks of militants succeeded in keeping alive collective memories of protest movements. As in East Germany in 1953, the familiarity of sections of the workforce with the industrial action repertoire and with trade union norms were critical factors contributing to the success of strike action in the 1970s and 1980–1. Thanks to the research of Lawrence Goodwyn, Roman Laba and others, we know that the series of uprisings (1956, 1970–1, 1976 and 1980–1) was no mere litany of disconnected events. Although to outside observers they seemed to erupt as if from nowhere, in fact each followed upon months and years of intricate organising.120 Even during periods in which levels of industrial activity were low, groups of militants in certain factories and regions succeeded in maintaining contacts with one another. Memories of past struggles were kept alive, discussed, and lessons learned. An accumulated memory of strategic knowledge, tactical repertoires and organisational skills came to be embodied in such networks. It was particularly amongst these groups of militants, who had gained their ‘selfeducation through self-activity’,121 that class identities were kept alive and those tactics developed and tested, notably the sit-down strike, which were to prove so successful in challenging the regime in 1970–81. Why, Goodwyn asks, did Lech Wae¹sa and other militants at the Lenin shipyards act with such assurance in 1980? Because they had a wealth of experience, and had been discussing ‘the politics of self-organisation’ since the massacre of 1970 if not before.122 Summarising the findings of Goodwyn and Laba, Cyrus Zirakzadeh has described how the strikes of 1970 and 1976 were etched on the collective memory of the Polish working class. For years, workers’ groups wrote letters demanding the reinstatement of co-workers who had been dismissed on grounds of illegally striking … Workers’ associations in several towns held marches and rallies to

Infra-political resistance 77 demonstrate their solidarity with local imprisoned activists. In some towns…workers doggedly petitioned the government to construct memorials to honour workers killed in past struggles. The ‘ongoing warfare between workers and the party-state’, he concludes, especially the strike waves of 1956–8, 1970 and 1976, ‘played a key role in the political education of the future leaders of Solidarity’.123 This is an argument that is echoed by Linda Fuller, in her detailed comparison between workplace politics in the two countries, from which the following excerpt is taken: Polish workers amassed a tremendous, varied, and interconnected store of political knowledge and skill…over the decades before 1980. Among the most visible lessons they learned were organizational ones. They learned quite well how to pull off round-the-clock sit-down or occupation strikes at their workplaces.…They envisioned the interfactory strike committee and then turned it into an organizational reality, which linked worker delegates from multiple workplaces who planned and coordinated efforts across larger geographical areas. They learned how to construct their own communication networks by printing posters, flyers, and leaflets.…[Moreover, they] absorbed other equally important lessons about political process. For instance, they learned how, where, when, and with which management and party personages to negotiate, and they discovered that sometimes talking with the other side was less effective than breaking dialogue.…But beyond this, workers learned some more subtle lessons about one another as individuals, upon which the success of their next action sometimes hinged – who did what well and not so well, who could be counted on for what, who had the personality for which tasks. Workers also learned who they most trusted to lead them. Thus…a working-class counter-leadership was developing in the decades before Solidarity. By 1980, some of these were veterans in this role.124 In the GDR, the trajectory of workplace-based protest could scarcely have been more different. From 1953 it tended to run downwards, and there may well be some truth in Axel Bust-Bartels’s contention that it was from around that time ‘that the tendency towards withdrawal into the private sphere, and accommodation within the existing relations began to prevail’.125 It is certainly the case that from the early 1960s until late 1989, strikes were few and far between. In the 1980s only a smattering occurred, almost all of which were defensive in nature (for example protesting the imposition of harsher working conditions, or the retraction of a Sunday overtime premium).126 They were generally small in size, lasted only a matter of hours, rarely involved shop stewards, and remained restricted to individual workplaces.127 In this period it was far more common for grievances to be expressed in individualised, officially sanctioned forms, such as complaints procedures and Eingaben.128 It would be misleading to suggest that the workforce was thoroughly atomised or individualised. Camaraderie was a natural part of most workers’ conditions of


Social movements, 1954–88

life, based upon an awareness of common conditions and grievances as well as their strong shopfloor bargaining position and endemic ‘infra-political’ resistance. Despite the quashing of open resistance, wars of attrition were endemic in the workplaces. Attempts by managers and the SED to introduce Taylorist measures or productivity drives would run up against resistance that was largely of a fragmented and localised sort but could be quite tenacious, and commonly resulted in compromises by management.129 Productivity campaigns and schemes of ‘socialist competition’ would often be accepted by a workforce only in exchange for concessions that undermined their effects. In the course of these struggles new forms of workplace bargaining developed. The ‘work brigades’, although introduced in the GDR as elsewhere in the USSR and Eastern Europe to provide a framework for management imperatives to be transmitted to the shopfloor more flexibly via brigade leaders rather than directly from above, proved susceptible to adaptation into organs with which workers placed demands upon management.130 By the late 1950s decentralised, factory-level bargaining between management and work teams had become a – and perhaps the – pivotal industrial relationship, partially displacing the FDGB.131 Over subsequent decades industrial relations in East Germany settled into a pattern that Kopstein has described as ‘a continuous, yet hidden battle over work norms and wages’, in which neither workers nor employers gained clear-cut victories.132 As a result of workplace resistance ‘a conscious frontal antagonism towards management prevails amongst the majority of industrial workers’, in the words of one prominent sociologist of East German industrial relations.133 It was entirely unlike – or even opposed to – the ‘class struggle’ of official politics (which denoted allegiance to nation and Soviet imperium). But it did involve a rudimentary class consciousness, a sense that the life-chances of ‘us down here’ (on the shopfloor, in the working-class neighbourhoods) and ‘them up there’ contrasted sharply and that the interests of the two groups were at least strongly divergent if not diametrically opposed. A basic class consciousness could be heard in the ubiquitous grumbles that the privileges and isolation of the nomenklatura blinded them to the real situation of ordinary people; that ‘[t]hose right at the top…have their luxury suites [but] don’t know how bad it is for those at the bottom’.134 It could be heard in the frequently voiced opinion that managers and functionaries were to blame for economic mismanagement such as bottlenecks and other problems hindering the production process, the costs of which would be unfairly borne by workers. ‘There is a widespread view,’ one Stasi officer reported, ‘that the proposed productivity increase will be achieved only at the cost of workers and cooperative farmers.’135 Another noted that: Failures and disruptions arising in the process of production have to be compensated for by additional physical exertion of the workers and also in part by risking blatant defiance of health and safety laws. There is a widespread opinion that the required increase in economic productivity will only be achieved at the cost of workers.136

Infra-political resistance 79 Similarly, inflation in the 1980s was commonly seen as a means by which ‘flaws in economic policy are “ironed out” at the cost of the workers’.137 Workers’ efforts, it was held, were undervalued by parasitic employers, and the former received a pittance while the latter received fat privileges. An abundance of studies detail comments by workers that express a basic class consciousness, at least vis-à-vis management. ‘With our working hands we create the wealth,’ one put it, ‘while you are unproductive.…You make life more difficult for us and extract your profit from us for your political frippery and bosses’ luxuries.’138 ‘Why should us down here work shifts but not them up there?’ was another popular view, as was: ‘Them up at the top of the company should work down here so they can learn how to think in the real world!’139 When Fuller mentioned to a group of workers that the pay gap between managers and themselves was, according to a recent announcement, due to rise further, their reactions spoke volumes: ‘Many…shook their heads and frowned.’ Another exclaimed: ‘Managers getting more pay? More money? [as if she had misheard me] What for? You mean managers? [again incredulous] They don’t earn enough already?’140 In its range, the class consciousness of which I am speaking was not defined in terms of shopfloor camaraderie and opposition to injustice within the workplace alone. A sense that wealth and life-chances in society as a whole were unfairly distributed between ‘them up there and us down here’ was ubiquitous too. The privileges of the intelligentsia in particular were resented. ‘Many workers believe that social injustice is apparent,’ one SED regional secretary commented, in their privileges; ‘they can afford everything, such as driving away on trips abroad, spending the nights in Interhotels, etc.’141 Few workers failed to appreciate the irony of their inferior status in a ‘workers’ state’: of all classes of the population, theirs was accorded the lowest degree of control over their own work time and received the least material rewards (pay, housing, and so on).142 Attitudes such as that expressed in this comment, by a group of young workers to elder colleagues, were legion: You worked so hard and saved the economy while others went to college and got into politics. Now they sit behind big desks, boss you around and pocket fat salaries. Just think what you will get as a pension and what theirs will be.143 However, the class consciousness that I have been referring to did not necessarily reflect self-confidence.144 The East German working class could appear, as it did to Robert Havemann, as ‘cynical, without hope, robbed of its power.…They said: Whatever the system, we are the ones that are crapped upon.’145 There was little sign of what I referred to in Chapter 2 as corporate class consciousness, let alone hegemonic consciousness (in which ‘a worker identifies the revolutionary interests of the working class with the interests of society as a whole’).146 Beliefs of this sort tend to gain ground in periods when workingclass organisation spreads beyond the walls of individual workplaces, and above all where workers’ movements directly confront the state. These conditions, as


Social movements, 1954–88

discussed in chapters 1 and 2, existed during the Wilhelmine and Weimar periods, in the immediate post-war years and, momentarily, in 1953. But folk memories of the labour movement achievements, values and norms of these periods only survived in forms sanctioned by the SED. Maintaining collective memories of the 1953 rising was all but impossible; even whispered exchanges were tracked down and punished by the ever-vigilant Stasi. By way of illustration, consider the case of a group of Leipzig textile engineers, as recounted by Annegret Schüle. To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the rising, and in particular their arrested colleagues, a group of engineers met at their local hostelry. That was all: they met in a pub. But even this was enough for the Stasi, having got wind of the event, to launch a surveillance operation that culminated in a two-year prison sentence, on a charge of ‘seditious propaganda and agitation’, for one of the engineers.147 Connected to the relative absence of corporate or hegemonic class consciousness, moreover, was the eclipse of memories of pre-1933 labour traditions. Social democracy, having survived Nazism albeit in a drastically weakened state, was progressively marginalised in the late 1940s by its incorporation into the increasingly Stalinist SED. Social democrats experienced the early years of the GDR in variegated ways. Some distanced themselves from the SED, some joined and then resigned or were expelled, while others prospered; of this last group, many were appointed to posts in technical (as opposed to political) management.148 The coopting of social democrats into positions of power may have contributed more effectively to the demise of their traditions than the repression directed against those who resisted. Grassroots SPD members witnessed, from 1946, SED policy being explained and defended by well-known functionaries from ‘their own’ camp. And when the SED turned to overt attacks on labour, responsibility for this was shared by former social democrats. As Tobias Dürr has explained, in his study of the traditional SPD stronghold of Schmölln: The author of the compulsory measures as well as of the conditions of life and work that are experienced as unsatisfactory was the very same organisation that also claimed to stand, as ‘party of the working class’, in the tradition of social democracy.149 Against this sort of encroachment from within, social democracy’s immune system proved rather weak. Whereas niches of social democratic culture had survived frontal attacks by the Nazi dictatorship, their cultivation in the GDR was less straightforward. In the 1950s and 1960s identifiable social democratic heritage and identities gradually faded away. Even in their traditional strongholds, established networks of social democrats slowly fragmented and dissolved, as some took positions as functionaries in economy, state, SED or FDGB while others retreated from political life altogether.150 The outcome of these trends was that, although low-level forms of industrial action were endemic in East Germany, and although managerialist and quotabusting behaviour was generally frowned upon, and egalitarianism and solidarity

Infra-political resistance 81 were positively valued,151 organised socialist (or syndicalist) currents that were distinct from and critical of the SED were marginalised. By the 1980s, only a small minority of the workforce had hands-on experience of strike action. Even thinner on the ground were workers with experience of independent trade unions or enterprise councils. Following 1948 in the case of councils and 1953 in the case of strikes, memories of these forms of contention had faded and died. Thus, whereas the shipyard workers of Gdansk in 1980 remembered 1976, 1970–1 and 1956, either on their own account or in the form of practical knowledge kept alive by networks of militants, their counterparts in Rostock or Warnemünde did not.


Helsinki and Bohemia Emigration and youth rebellion

For most of the 1980s the East German regime appeared to be relatively stable. Closer relations with West Germany enabled the SED leadership to score significant media-political successes, the pinnacle being a state visit by Honecker to Bonn in 1987, where he was given a red-carpet welcome. Western academics and commentators for the most part accepted that the regime was growing in stability and popularity. Some went further. Theo Sommer, editor of Die Zeit, reported in 1986 that ‘movement is replacing stagnation’ in the GDR, ‘the greyness is everywhere yielding to friendly colours, the oppressive gloom has lifted…above all the country appears more colourful, its people have become happier’.1 Whether Sommer’s lyrical speculations on the general happiness of the population were accurate or not is impossible to ascertain, but evidence can be adduced to contest the more specific case, that the regime was becoming more popular and more stable. A strong claim can be made, in particular, that from the mid-1970s several of the regime’s key sources of stability and legitimation were encountering difficulties or being undermined. That claim will be explored in this chapter, beginning with an examination of three issues that challenged, vexed or undercut the SED’s support. These were the truncation of the informal social contract, a decline in social mobility and the erosion of East Germany’s isolation from its Western neighbour.

Shortages, inflation and stalled social mobility In the last chapter it was noted that, by committing itself to overseeing steadily rising living standards, the SED regime mortgaged its legitimacy to the material fortunes of the populace.2 It was also noted that in the late 1970s, as the GDR’s economic growth rates turned down and global competitive pressures heightened, Honecker’s regime began to renege on the promises it had made at the beginning of the decade. In the 1980s, although nominal wages grew steadily so too did consumer-goods shortages, obliging citizens to accumulate cash savings simply for want of goods to spend their earnings on. In effect, wage rises were held down by inflation, expressed in shortages.3 Although by some yardsticks, such as housing, colour televisions and white goods, living standards appeared to

Emigration and youth rebellion 83 have risen, the per capita consumption of numerous other products declined,4 largely as a result of shortages. The ‘social contract’ of the early 1970s had benefited low-income groups especially, and its truncation was to impact upon these groups disproportionately. The 1980s witnessed increasing differentiation in terms of income as well as in work conditions and regional disparities.5 Those at the bottom of the scale, pensioners, saw their income decline from 57 per cent of the average salary to 49 per cent. Industrial workers fared poorly too.6 Others, including small-business owners (who were granted greater freedoms in 1976), and those with access to hard currency – such as plumbers, electricians, car mechanics, functionaries, some intellectuals and Stasi informants, as well as any citizen with generous relatives in the West – did rather better. Academic research in the GDR in the late 1970s found that ‘social differentiation…is tending to increase!’ and added, perhaps predictably, that ‘the more favourable conditions (income, housing, possession of consumer durables) are concentrated amongst groups of the intelligentsia; the less favourable amongst workers’.7 These trends were directly and indirectly encouraged by the state. This was done directly by attempting to induce productivity increases through a greater use of incentives. Egalitarian ideological elements were played down, and yielded to a reappraisal of the utilitarian benefits of inequality (‘social disparities as the driving force of economic growth’, as it was formulated by official sources).8 This was done indirectly by easing restrictions on citizens’ contacts with, and on visits and gifts from, Western relatives. In addition, ‘Intershops’ were established that supplied Western goods for Deutschmarks, as well as ‘Exquisit’ and ‘Delikat’ shops where Western and high-quality Eastern goods could be purchased at high East-mark prices. Intershops, the authorisation of Deutschmark ownership and growing flows of visitors from West Germany increased the inflow of Western goods but access to these – not to mention actual permission to visit ‘non-socialist countries’ – was highly variable between individuals and groups, and became a potent symbol of status. Functionaries and other members of the intelligentsia benefited especially,9 as did those with wealthy relatives in the West, gifts from whom, as the dissident philosopher Wolfgang Harich observed dryly, encouraged Marx’s dictum concerning distribution during the initial stage of socialism, ‘to each according to their labour, to be revised in the popular mind to “to each according to where their aunt lives” ’.10 A factor that, in the longer term, undermined the SED in the GDR’s final two decades was the termination of that surge of upward mobility that had seen large sections of the generation which had come into the world in the twentieth century’s second quarter climb the income, status and education ladders, as peasants emigrated to the towns, housewives joined the labour force, and workers were promoted to professional, managerial or functionary positions. Of this cohort, some had suffered considerably under the Nazi dictatorship, in wartime and in its aftermath. In comparison to their parents’ (or their own previous) experiences of poverty, dislocation or the lack of occupational


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prospects, those who benefited from upward mobility were more likely to accept the SED regime as a tolerable framework for the pursuit of personal fulfilment.11 In the 1960s all this began to change. The process of class restructuration, in which capitalists, managers and professionals who had emigrated after the war were replaced with functionaries, managers and professionals promoted from lower classes, came to a close. Construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 put an end to the brain drain that had created so many vacancies in the 1950s. Elite groups increasingly recruited endogenously, passing on their privileged positions to their children via educational advantage. The hypotheses of endogenous elite recruitment and stalled social mobility were widely discussed by Western scholars in the 1970s12 and have been confirmed by recent researchers, whose findings ‘show that social mobility had come to an almost complete halt at all levels by the 1970s’ and that ‘social mobility between the generations was also on the wane’.13 Figures presented by Freya Klier show that on many degree courses, students with parents who were graduates ranged from 53 to 82 per cent even though graduates made up only 21 per cent of the population as a whole.14 In certain subject areas, she found, not a single student came from an unskilled working-class background.15 The transformation was especially marked in the field of further and higher education, where admissions peaked in the 1960s and early 1970s respectively.16 In 1970 admissions to higher education were, at 17 per cent of the relevant age cohort, higher than in West Germany. By 1980 this figure had slumped to 10 per cent, even as the equivalent for West Germany soared.17 That is to say, those born in the 1960s were considerably less likely to gain a qualification at tertiary level than their cousins born in 1950 had been. Given that education for the masses, and in particular affirmative action for the children of workers, had always been held up by the SED as epitomising its egalitarian agenda, the reduction of access to tertiary education, combined with the closure of ‘workers’ and farmers’ faculties’ and the termination of other compensatory measures aimed at helping less advantaged groups, not only placed obstacles in the way of upward mobility but in so doing also violated one of the regime’s core self-justificatory claims.18 For many, moreover, the experience of stalled mobility was exacerbated by a stark gap that opened between the demand for skilled labour and its supply. In the 1970s and 1980s one in four or even as many as one in three workers in industry and on co-operative farms were employed in jobs beneath their skill level.19 Under these circumstances it is perhaps no surprise that researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Berlin found that, whereas a majority of members of the intelligentsia remained largely loyal to the regime, ‘the proportion of loyal workers decreased from 27 percent in the group born around 1930 to 16 percent in the group born in 1960’.20

Ostpolitik and emigration The Cold War thaw of the 1970s did not lead to an all-round strengthening of the Soviet regimes of Eastern Europe. Indeed, some analysts have even

Emigration and youth rebellion 85 suggested the opposite was the case: that the Communist parties’ monopoly on political space was ‘definitively broken’ in this period.21 And although that certainly could not be said of the SED, its experience of détente was indeed ambivalent. On the positive side détente brought tacit recognition by Bonn, a flurry of diplomatic approaches from other Western states, and UN membership. It also facilitated access to Western technology and markets. Yet it posed challenges too. Worldwide recognition may have cemented the GDR’s sovereignty and boosted the self-confidence of the nomenklatura, yet it rendered the country’s separation from West Germany in certain respects more problematic. For one thing, it became that much more difficult for East Berlin to claim that ‘revanchist West German imperialism’ presented a major impediment to world peace. In connection with the goodwill exhibited both by Honecker and his Western counterparts during his state visit to West Germany, Stasi intelligence gatherers warned that young people were asking subversive questions such as ‘do we still need a Feindbild [hate figure]?’ and ‘is the Wall still necessary?’22 For another, the evolving relationships with the world economy and the FRG in particular were rather one-sided; and, once entered, the currents pulling towards closer relations with the West proved difficult to control, let alone reverse. At the level of high politics, the growing dependence of the East German state upon transfers and loans from Bonn exposed it to unwanted pressure to liberalise its border regime. At the societal level, increased trade and cultural contacts, hard currency shops, improved telecommunication links, and the easing of restrictions on the reception of Western television all tended to effect changes in cultural perceptions, not least by enhancing the immediacy of East–West comparisons. Telephone calls between East and West Germany rose from 700,000 in 1970 to 23 million a decade later. Cross-border travel flows swelled too. Whereas only 1 million West Germans and West Berliners travelled to the GDR in 1969, annual visits soared to 7.8 million in 1975 and remained above the 5 million mark in each subsequent year.23 And, albeit from a much lower base, flows in the opposite direction also rose. Those granted for urgent family visits alone soared from 100,000 per year in the early 1980s to 1.5 million in 1988.24 Connections of this sort led to West Germany taking on a sort of ‘shadow existence’ within the GDR, a source of gifts, information and cultural products towards which many East Germans were continually oriented.25 Occurring during a period during which the gap between living standards in East and West was widening further, this intensification of contact and communications posed particular problems. Everyday complaints over consumer-goods supplies or wages could all too readily lead to comparisons with Western conditions. The quality of goods displayed by ‘aunts’ and Intershops heightened Easterners’ sense of their second-class status and this, in turn, impacted upon their perception of economic arrangements in their country. Some telling points on this count were conveyed to the SED leadership in 1988 by Walter Friedrich, director of a Leipzig institute that specialised in surveying opinion amongst the young. In listing the major factors that had ‘greatly dampened hopes in the future amongst the GDR population’ Friedrich’s report mentions the ‘growing


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influence of FRG: economic, cultural, fashion, information. The FRG and other Western countries are, in secret, increasingly the trend setters in respect of living standards’. And it was surely no coincidence that the next factor listed in the report was this: the shortcomings and weaknesses in our own country (e.g. problems with supply of consumer goods and spare parts; media policy; rose-tinted perspectives; real democratic participation, etc.) are coming increasingly into focus and subjected to sharper criticisms. To a growing extent, doubt is cast on the superiority of socialism.26 The Stasi’s reports told the same story: grievances over domestic issues were becoming ever more directly linked in the popular mind to East–West comparisons. One, from 1987, describes how discussions of consumer supply questions are being influenced by individuals who have returned to their workplace from visits to the FRG with stories of the ‘overwhelming’ range of commodities available…or with reports of East German goods on sale there at knock-down prices.27 In addition, the government’s clientelist deployment of its control of the sluice gates of East–West travel in order to reward a select few did nothing to strengthen its legitimacy in the long run. Using privileged access to the West and to Western goods as rewards represented an implicit acknowledgement of their value, even superiority, and patently exacerbated social divisions. From the 1970s it became common practice to grant artists and intellectuals leave to travel freely to ‘non-socialist countries’, while those whose works sold in the West were permitted to receive payment in hard currency or ‘Intershop cheques’, a circumstance that was widely seen as iniquitous. One FDGB report lists three typical comments that circulated in workplaces, concerning the sales of Western goods in Intershops as well as differential access to Deutschmarks. In this country, said one, ‘the West is cursed constantly, but our state wants West German money so badly that it’ll sell you anything for it’. Another remarked that ‘the drive to get hard currency shows that our money is worth nothing’. A third commented, ‘There are second-class citizens in this country, just like in the past, namely, those who have neither hard currency nor an occupation that enables them to earn it.’28 Amongst the manifold processes of rapprochement that come under the heading of détente, the one which brought the trickiest problems for the SED was its participation in the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) talks, which culminated in Honecker’s signing of the Helsinki Declaration in 1975. The Helsinki Final Act bound signatory states to mutual recognition of territorial integrity, including respect for existing borders. To this extent it was entirely consistent with the SED regime’s foreign-policy goals, and represented a major diplomatic success. However, the ‘third basket’ of the Final

Emigration and youth rebellion 87 Act contained pledges to uphold rights to international travel, family contact and freedom of information, and to promote cultural exchanges. The SED leadership sought to play down this human rights ‘basket’, but published the full text of the treaty in Neues Deutschland. Try as they might they could not prevent sections of the citizenry from drawing their own conclusions, especially in respect of travel rights. When East Germans learned that the Helsinki Final Act guaranteed freedom of movement, the number of individuals requesting exit visas skyrocketed, and many of them cited Helsinki in their applications.29 Gradually, word spread that some exit visas were being granted. In the late 1970s the average year saw 7,200 first-time applications and the granting of 4,600 exit visas. As potential emigrants came to perceive emigration as attainable, their number snowballed. By the early 1980s the figures had climbed to 12,600 applications and 7,000 visas issued. In 1984 they then leapt to 57,600 and 29,800, before falling back a little in 1985–8 to average annual figures of 40,900 and 16,600 respectively.30 In dealing with the pressure from exit-visa applicants the government was placed in a dilemma. Permitting a percentage of the most disgruntled section of the population to depart performed a safety-valve function – ‘exit’ could be used to undermine ‘voice’. It also allowed the government to appear to be at least partially abiding by the norms of the CSCE regime. In addition, tens of thousands of political prisoners were ‘exported’ to West Germany, with Bonn paying around 70,000 Deutschmarks per head, a peculiar trade that became a tidy earner, bringing in 3.4 billion Deutschmarks and helping to mitigate the GDR’s financial crisis. Yet permitting so many citizens to leave legally set a dangerous precedent. It signalled that, although the defences of the Wall itself were becoming more secure in a technical sense, politically it was becoming ever more porous. In the long term, the threat arose of the general public coming to support the right to emigrate. This was seen as a real worry, as indicated by this report, prepared for the Central Committee in 1988. The necessary commitment to preventing attempts to emigrate is not yet present in many Party branches, workplaces and [FDGB] collectives, or amongst citizens. The required prevailing atmosphere of opposition to these phenomena has not yet been achieved. Even Party members, FDGB functionaries or brigade leaders sometimes state that they fail to understand why these citizens are not permitted to emigrate.31 In addressing the emigration problem, the regime’s strategy was to grant applications selectively and with long delays. Sustained pressure was applied to applicants to withdraw their applications. The process itself was designed to be demeaning and frustrating, and was often unsuccessful; applicants faced the prospect of years of waiting for a leaving date that might never arrive. And the waiting room was not a pleasant one. With the exception of Asian or African Gastarbeiter, the applicants suffered the most baleful discrimination of any social group. They were condemned to life on the fringes of society. At work, they


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would face the sack or demotion. The gates of universities were closed to them too. Forced to give up their passports, some were even denied the right to travel within the country. Among those I met in the mid-1980s, a few had even experienced rejection by friends or family, who perceived emigration to be the desertion of ingrates from their proper place within state, family or both. Unlike emigration in the 1950s, the decision to quit the country in the 1980s was no longer a private one, a matter of private ‘exit’ as opposed to ‘voice’. It entailed a courageous and public rejection of the patria. Oppressed, frustrated and eager to accelerate their exit, applicants tended to find one another, exchange experiences and concoct strategies for hastening their departure. As Stefan Wolle describes, ‘The prospect of being able to turn their backs on the prison-state gave them confidence.…applicants gathered together, and used church services and meetings of the emergent opposition to draw attention to themselves.’32 Treated as pariahs, they were a frustrated group, yet, having nothing to lose, they were prepared to take risks in pursuing their personal quest, and often showed considerable imagination, not to say impudence, in the process. One couple in Schwerin placed ads in eleven department stores offering to exchange copies of Honecker’s autobiography (with which bookshops were stocked to overflowing) for Gorbachev’s Perestroika.33 Some decorated their cars with white strips of cloth or affixed the letter ‘A’ prominently on the windscreen.34 Out of a group of frustrated individuals a social movement began to emerge. A major breakthrough occurred in 1984, when a group of six citizens occupied the library of the US embassy and demanded political asylum, an event that gained worldwide publicity (thanks to journalists having been tipped off in advance). Shortly thereafter a larger group of twenty-five citizens occupied the West German embassy in Prague. In both cases the regime relented. That same year also witnessed a huge rise in legal emigration, one which only served to heighten the expectations and frustrations of remaining applicants.35 The ranks of emigration applicants included a vocal minority of activists who sought to broaden the issue beyond their personal fate to the political demand that their desired aim should be a right for all. As early as 1976 a public petition calling for the legalisation of emigration was launched by applicants in the Saxon town of Riesa. The petition called upon the government to honour the Helsinki agreements and appealed to other international actors (including the United Nations) to press for the same.36 It also encouraged others to adopt public tactics of the same kind. In 1983, an organised group of applicants in Jena began to hold vigils, which attracted up to 180 people, in support of their call for legalised emigration. The form of protest was significant, for it signalled that the applicants’ movement was learning from the peace movement. In some parts of the country-church circles and opposition groups, notably the Initiative Frieden und Menschenrechte [Initiative for Peace and Human Rights; henceforth IFM] began to show solidarity with the applicants. In 1987, applicants formed a Citizens’ Rights group, which was later to affiliate to IFM. Before long it had attracted several hundred members, and began to spread nationwide and organise public protests in several towns and cities. Applicants were making their presence felt as the vanguard of public protest.

Emigration and youth rebellion 89 By the late 1980s the authorities were at a loss as to how to deal with the applicants. With much to gain in West Germany, where they would receive automatic citizenship, welfare benefits, job referrals and housing preferences, with little to lose in the GDR, and hopeful that participation in provocative acts of resistance might hasten their exit, the ‘protest threshold’37 of applicants was exceptionally low. Their defiance – their recalcitrance, refusal to play the bureaucrats’ game, and willingness to engage in public protest – engendered helplessness and resignation amongst even the most hardened of functionaries.38 The granting of increased numbers of exit visas in the mid-1980s, followed in 1988 by a decision to prioritise applicants who had participated in public protests, only encouraged others to apply and to protest, and this, in turn, put greater pressure on the authorities. The movement was pushing doors open. As Bernd Eisenfeld relates, ‘The scale and spontaneity of demonstrative actions, and the obstinate commitment of the applicants, repeatedly forced the SED power apparatus to make concessions on travel and emigration issues in order to prevent…massive, uncontrolled eruptions.’39 It was quite apparent to an embattled SED that this issue was becoming an intractable problem. In one report delivered to the Security section of the Central Committee it is conceded that, ‘The emigration problem is confronting us with a fundamental problem of the GDR’s development. Experience shows that the current repertoire of solutions (improved travel possibilities, expatriation of applicants, etc.) have not brought the desired results, but rather the opposite.’ This challenge, it warned, ‘threatens to undermine beliefs in the correctness of the Party’s policies’.40

‘The dictatorship of petit-bourgeois taste’ In the period under discussion in this chapter there is some evidence to suggest a declining degree of support for the regime and its values. Helmut Meier, an assistant director of the Academy of Social Sciences in East Berlin, described the process to me thus: In the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s there were perennial shortages and problems. But there was always the hope that these were merely growing pains. You see, there were always also signs that in other areas – in economic growth or international recognition for example – things were improving. ‘It’s going slowly, but it’s going forwards’ was the watchword. But by the 1980s this confidence was dissolving. People began to lose faith that the problems facing socialism could ever really be solved. In the opinion surveys that philosophers and others in the Academy supervised – asking, for example, whether the socialist system was seen as the perspective for the future – we could see these signs, could hear the alarm bells ringing. According to some East German sociologists, citizens were deriving ever less satisfaction from the public world of work, in contrast to a rising emotional investment in the private sphere of the family.41 Western journalists observed


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that discontent appeared to be growing, not least in response to ‘the country’s poor economic showing compared with the capitalist Germany next door’.42 A lack of hope in the future, whether for the social system or the self, was especially marked amongst the young. Jokes expressing the sense that a dead-end career beckoned abounded: ‘In socialism, everyone has the opportunity to become what they want to be, whether they want to or not.’ From research conducted by the Central Institute for Youth Research there is some evidence of a ‘silent breaking’43 with the regime and its ideology. For example, the proportion of apprentices in one opinion survey who identified ‘strongly’ with MarxismLeninism fell steadily from 46 per cent in 1975 to 14 per cent ten years later.44 Frustration and disillusionment amongst the populace do not of themselves lead to legitimation problems for regimes, nor to social movements. The East German regime was, throughout the period under discussion, firmly ensconced in power. Political and economic chains of command operated reasonably smoothly. Citizens, most of the time, acquiesced to the demands of their superiors. Despite pervasive complaints about economic and social problems, few doubted the fundamental stability of the system. The Zeitgeist was not especially critical or oppositional. Discontent with the social system and with one’s own future prospects can lie behind all manner of negative phenomena, including alcoholism, vandalism and even suicide (rates of which in the GDR, already among the highest in the world, rose in the 1980s, prompting one doctor to lament that ‘suicide is becoming fashionable’).45 Resignation can gnaw away at self-confidence, undermining the will to resist perceived injustice. It is a state of mind that, in the words of the dissident and author Jürgen Fuchs, ‘does not simply slouch around [but] settles in and makes its little peace’. Persistent indignities and discouragement from above, he adds, ‘do not just provoke dignity and courage, but also bear conformist fruit’.46 And of this particular fruit there was a plentiful and especially bland harvest in the GDR during its final decade. One researcher who conducted hundreds of interviews with young people in the 1980s was troubled to discover that most were apathetic, and evinced ‘a depressing lack of questions and desires’. Rather than pushing against its limits they seemed to accommodate to the ruling order by restricting their horizons, with girls in particular harbouring few aspirations other than to found a family.47 However, counter-tendencies towards a pronounced and often spirited assertiveness vis-à-vis figures of authority were observed in the 1980s too. For Walter Friedrich, the research into young people’s attitudes conducted by his institute pointed to the following trends: People nowadays are emphasising self-respect, their own ‘self-worth’, and expect in return greater respect for and recognition of their demands and personalities. They wish to be ‘fully’ acknowledged as partners with equal rights … In consequence certain trends are developing: sensitivity towards and rejection of prescriptive, tutelary, condescending, domineering and officious attitudes … To some extent this shades into exaggerated antiauthoritarian forms of behaviour. The consequences are: clashes with

Emigration and youth rebellion 91 authorities of all descriptions (parents, teachers, self-righteous functionaries [etc.]). In this connection there is a critical relationship towards (or even rejection of) formal institutions and associations where they do not cater to the demands, needs, suggestions and special interests of young people. Conversely, this explains the tendency towards the formation of informal groups, cliques, movements [and] certain types of deviant behaviour, hooliganism, the rejection of the police, of other guardians of order and of authoritarian adults and also to some extent the desire to drop out or to emigrate.48 The concerns of these ‘cliques, anti-authoritarians and deviants’ often centred on issues of morality, lifestyle and fashion. Like Stalin’s Russia in the analysis of the historian Sheila Fitzpatrick, East Germany may be conceived of as an ‘educational dictatorship’.49 It had, rather like Victorian Britain, something of the school ‘of the strict type, probably a boarding school’ about it; a closed institution with its own conventions and discipline. School spirit, the local form of patriotism, is inculcated. A social gulf separates teachers and pupils; tattling to the teachers is prevalent, but disapproved of in the pupil community. Teachers often speak in homilies, recommending virtues such as cleanliness, quietness, politeness, and respect for elders and school property that pupils may or may not inwardly accept but in any case regard as suitable only for the teacher-dominated public sphere, not for private intercourse with fellow pupils. Many activities in the school that are described as voluntary are in fact compulsory, and in general pupils often observe and privately ridicule the hypocrisy of the school’s public discourse and the divergence from it of the teacher’s conduct.50 In East Germany there was a Victorian feel to the pious and patronising manner in which functionaries (and school teachers) would preach the virtues of pursuing a career, founding a family, and working diligently and uncomplainingly for the good of the country. Although exemplified in the ‘Ten Socialist Commandments’ of the late 1950s, the sermonising tone was ubiquitous in later decades too. Honecker himself excelled at it. He delighted, for example, in admonishing his flock that ‘Our German Democratic Republic is a clean state, in which there are unshakeable standards of ethics and morality, of propriety and decorum.’51 By the 1980s, the fervour had faded but the pieties remained, contributing to that stolid, stiff and stuffy quality that characterised official East German culture in that decade – Stefan Wolle’s term ‘Socialist Biedermeier’ captures its flavour very well.52 As in ethics, so too in aesthetics: the Party line was generally conservative, not to say stuffy. In the words of the Leipzig-based philosopher Ernst Bloch, it imposed ‘the dictatorship of petit-bourgeois taste in the name of the proletariat’.53 The tone was set in the late 1940s and early 1950s with the declaration of Socialist Realism as the prescribed aesthetic. Artists were adjured to


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elevate tradition, their works were to exude Volksverbundenheit [national/popular rootedness]. They tended to resemble High Victorian kitsch.54 Modernist aesthetics were vilified. Experimental and innovative and, in its avant-garde versions, committed to a utopian fusion of art and life, Modernism was antipathetical to the SED. With their disruptive, dissonant and interpolative techniques, Modernist works presented a reality riddled with contradictions and alive with conflict. Modernists could be unsparing in the presentation of life in all its shades, misery and pessimism included. Their protagonists were less likely to be resolute and heroic than uncertain and questioning, or flexible, empty personalities (as in Brechtian drama). Their depictions of individuals would be denounced by the authorities for portraying the ‘deformed’ and ‘primitive’ rather than optimistic, resolute and cheerful. In the early 1970s and again in the 1980s cultural policy became, on the whole, a little more relaxed. Modernist composers such as Stravinsky and Schönberg and even (!) Boulez and Ligeti began, at long last, to be performed.55 In the visual arts photography and installation were granted equal status to painting and sculpture.56 A little more licence was given to writers too. (‘Twentyfive years ago the Party ordered its writers to describe the life of the workers; today it is quite relieved if they don’t’, wrote Garton Ash in 1989.) Nonetheless, the aesthetic sphere remained heavily policed, and artists and writers who engaged in stylistic experimentation or subversive content continued to be marginalised. Bureaucratic intolerance towards non-conformist cultural trends was equally marked in the field of youth subcultures. The 1950s and 1960s witnessed campaigns against Western musical and sartorial trends: jazz, rock ’n’ roll, beat, and jeans. To SED functionaries, as for their conservative counterparts in the West, rock ’n’ roll was distrusted for its hedonism, sexuality, aggression, excess and rebellion.57 They suspected it of being a Trojan Horse, in which those cultural ambassadors of imperialism – Elvis, the Stones, the Beatles – brought ‘Nato’ fashions, lyrics and glamour into the homes and dreams of East German youth. Accordingly, rock fans were branded as deviants (‘unkempt, dirty, long shaggy manes; ragged trousers. They stink ten metres down wind,’ railed the Leipziger Volkszeitung).58 And these responded in kind: they tend to ‘combine their “demands” for rock ’n’ roll’, one functionary complained, ‘with depraved ravings against our leading comrades’.59 In 1965 fans in Leipzig even planned a demonstration against the demonisation of beat music, an event that was only prevented by flooding the streets with police and the arrests of hundreds of suspected protestors.60 In its battle against Western popular music the regime steadily lost ground over the course of the 1960s.61 In retreat, it sought instead to counter Western influences through the promotion of domestic rock bands. But although modelled on Western styles, the sounds and lyrics of approved bands were tame; they lacked passion and authenticity. They copied Western hits, but without the rebellious edge. This was a ‘bland, bosses’ beat’, in Wolf Biermann’s words; ‘nice music that questions nothing’, as Melody Maker put it.62 ‘This kitsch appears

Emigration and youth rebellion 93 dilute and philistine [spiessig],’ one critic suggested, ‘because it is not allowed to break the GDR’s political and cultural taboos, i.e. it is barred from addressing precisely that which gives West German hits their allure.’63 For the ‘anti-authoritarians and deviants’ mentioned above, the zone of permitted culture was one of suffocating boredom, overseen by humourless and paternalistic Prusso-Stalinist drones. They pioneered oblique, often aesthetic, forms of resistance. By the 1980s a colourful undergrowth of ‘alternative’ lifestyles had emerged. Avant-garde artists, punks, ‘freaks’, goths, squatters and sundry drop-outs dug infra-political warrens beneath the GDR’s repressive surface. An alternative culture arose, a cornucopia of meetings, shows and exhibitions, songs, badges and posters, illegal or unofficial projects such as squats and samizdat literature; punk bands playing in courtyards, youth clubs or even churches. It was a counter-culture that, while not in general advocating direct confrontation with the state, exploited the grey areas at the edges of the law, leading to perpetual friction with the authorities. In their explorations of fashion, music, life and art, the individuals involved did not necessarily seek to express protest. Yet because the SED, even in the 1980s, strove to limit the population to a strict diet of approved forms of personal appearance, leisure-time activity and artistic expression, the decision to choose from a non-approved menu implied a challenge to ruling norms or values. Deviations of the young, moreover, were carefully noted in their files and could be used against an individual in later life. The decisions to squat a house or wear a mohican or even long hair were not to be taken lightly. There is something of the bohemian in most youth subcultures but this, it seems to me, applies especially to 1980s East Germany. By bohemian I mean, following Enzo Traverso, a type of lifestyle and attitude towards aesthetics that involves a spurning of bourgeois conventions (in particular the work ethic), frequent visits to cafés and a penchant for alcohol and for nocturnal life, and tends to be expressed visually in long hair, strange clothes and an untidy appearance. Bohemia develops in friction with prevailing norms and outside established institutions, and is ‘inspired by a transgressive tendency: freedom against what is forbidden, conformist and powerful; debauchery against repressive morality’.64 It is generally depicted as a niche of liberation, a space where individuals escape from the constraints of the working week, from relations of command and deference, from consumerism, the factory system and technocracy, where they banish the influence of that calculating, utilitarian mind which perverts the creative spirit into vocational rationality. Although uncompromisingly individualist, Traverso argues that Bohemia’s individualism is that of the artist or intellectual, ‘careful to preserve the unique personality’, rather than that ‘postulated by classical liberal philosophies, the owner’s or the consumer’s’. In relation to the political and economic systems, dependent upon relations of hierarchy and fixity, the bohemian, Traverso suggests ‘represents the tramp of modernity, a figure of instability, displacement, disorder’. Bohemia is experienced by its followers ‘as a space of freedom wrenched from the much more prosaic surrounding reality and as an anticipation of the liberation to come.


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…Its members display an irreducible dissatisfaction towards the present, totally lacking possibilities of compromise.’65 One can perceive in the bohemian spirit, Traverso continues, a ‘synthesis between an anti-capitalist and romantic ethos and an anti-conformist and transgressive lifestyle; a synthesis represented by two archetypal figures…the accursed artist and the political plotter’, figures on the margins of society that unite around an ethos characterised by its scorn for money, its anti-productivist and anti-utilitarian morals, its precarious existence, its penchant for adventure, its taste for excess, its derision of decorous and bourgeois respectability, its cult of freedom, its disordered existence, its rejection of any external constraint. In adhering to this way of life and set of norms bohemians find themselves, willy-nilly, in conflict with the core values of ‘the capitalist mind’ that Traverso, following Max Weber, summarises as ‘work ethics, worldly asceticism, virtuous and moderate behaviour, productive rationality, the search for stable and continuous profit’. If one replaces ‘profit’ with ‘accumulation’ (i.e. the self-expansion of capital), I would add, the list applies equally to the prevailing ethics of Sovietstyle bureaucratic state capitalism.66 In East Germany Bohemia appeared most obviously in the form of a ‘counterculture’ of un- and semi-successful writers and artists that I will discuss below. But in many respects the punk movement carried a strongly bohemian flavour too. Although the typical punk was neither ‘accursed artist’ nor ‘political plotter’, in their ‘irreducible dissatisfaction towards the present’, their untidy appearance, and scorn for the work ethic, punks were in a sense the ‘gypsies and tramps’ of the 1980s GDR. They were a living affront to the cosmetic, bland façade of public culture. While the state had been responding to youth rebellion by selectively importing Western fashions, they constructed new styles that went far beyond the official boundaries of tolerance; their DIY attire proclaimed a contempt for FDJ-approved clean jeans. Punk lyrics tore into work, the police, money, everything. Against the SED’s quest for planned perfection its values were disorder and dilettantism, its aesthetic was raw. Against careers and life-plans punk’s battle cry was ‘no future!’. Against the official injunction to happiness punk screamed of the suffocating monotony of the daily routine. And where the regime exhorted citizens to be virtuous, punks dared to ask why. As a song by Pankow went: ‘I’m so good, I’m always good / good to all people / to mum and dad too / I give to God his due / I give the state its due / there’s nothing left for me.’67 Above all, punks refused to conform to what they decried as the herd mentality of the masses. ‘For me,’ one said, ‘punk means: do what you want. Mark yourself off from the conformists, avoid being forced into a mould.’ For another, ‘Punks are complete individualists, each one of us is different.’68 Some of these attitudes and aesthetics had been expressed by previous youth cultures, but in its anger, in the intensity of its defiance and belligerence of its music and lyrics, in its frontal assault on established values, punk was more than merely provocative; it shocked. As in mid-1970s Britain it caught a Zeitgeist of

Emigration and youth rebellion 95 alienation and nihilism that reacted against the failed optimism of previous decades but, in the GDR especially, its pessimistic stance – with lyrics of catastrophe, damage and dirt – represented a standing affront to the saccharine optimism of official culture.69 Although not for the most part anti-socialist, punk’s ironic displays of Communist regalia gave it, in addition, a blasphemous edge. As in the West, GDR punk was not intrinsically oppositional. Its stance could be one of angry or even merely grumbling apathy, or its fire could be directed in Nietzschean fashion at the ‘slave morality’ of ordinary citizens rather than at the ruling order. On the whole, however, punk was a subculture with a left-libertarian political bite. In part this was simply a matter of ‘biting back’ against an authoritarian regime that denounced punk as ‘a weapon in the arsenal of bourgeois ideology’ and directed the security forces to exclude punks from public life (the worst place being Dresden under the authority of the comparatively liberal’Hans Modrow).70 Repression manifestly helped to deepen punk’s antistate ethos.71 In part, too, a leftist identity evolved through confrontation with and reaction against the skinhead movement, sections of which were moving in a fascist direction. In addition, in its individualism, rejection of all authority, cult of defiance, and its disdain for the conformist masses, punk bore close affinities to left-libertarian currents, notably anarchism. Another, and in this case classically bohemian, segment of the 1980s ‘scene’ was the milieu of young artists and writers based around the alternative cafés of Leipzig, Dresden Neustadt and the Prenzlauer Berg district of East Berlin. These formed what was sometimes described as a ‘parallel culture’ of several dozen unofficial literary magazines, backyard theatre performances, poetry readings and the like.72 Here, aesthetic radicalism was prominent, in the form of artists and musicians who reappropriated traditions of the early twentieth-century avant-gardes (Expressionism, Surrealism, atonality), seeking out the anti-rational, mythic and unconscious, the introverted, the disgusting and the shocking.73 Authors and poets deconstructed the lyrical subject and revelled in unorthodox sentence constructions, in a wilful show of disrespect for grammatical conventions (and perhaps scepticism towards rules in general and towards the representative capacities of language).74 These artists and writers were less willing to engage, even critically, with the socialist order than their predecessors had been. Many were marginalised. One critic has described their conflict with the authorities: For the diehard art administrators and civil servants, anarchy was breaking into the slow-moving stream of socialist contemplation and they reacted with terror, ostracising an entire generation of poets and artists whose publications were banned and who were permanently criticised in exhibitions, restricted and pushed aside.75 To what extent the artistic Bohemia represented a subversive potential is a matter of some debate. In the early 1970s the situation was relatively straightforward: the ‘political and artistic avant-gardes’, to borrow Klaus Michael’s


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terminology, tended to be drawn together.76 In Berlin, for example, numerous individuals who would go on to become leading figures in the opposition first met at a regular cultural event (‘Eintopp’) at which songs and readings, critical in tone, would be followed by informal political discussion. But in assessing later developments opinion divides. Gabriele Muschter and Rüdiger Thomas emphasise the disillusionment of the younger generation both with the prevailing order and with previous forms of political art. These newcomers created a ‘counter-culture’ that could be clearly delineated from, and stood in sharp contrast to, the mainstream ‘institutional culture’.77 It was an autonomous zone in which a ‘domination-free discourse’ could be enjoyed and, drawing upon Rimbaud and post-structuralist theory, an ‘aesthetics of self-liberation’ explored.78 Although ‘autonomous art may have appeared at first sight as apolitical’, Thomas argues, precisely in view of its ‘stubborn ignoring’ of the ruling system (‘which had become irrelevant’ to the new generation) it carried a political charge.79 The motto ‘neither for, nor against, but outside’, coined by the leading light of the Berlin art underground Sascha Anderson, by its advocacy of a form of internal emigration into art represented a call for resistance in the form of a refusal to engage. Others have taken a diametrically opposed position. The critic Christoph Tannert has questioned ‘whether there was in fact any ‘subculture’ in the GDR at all’, and suggests that, in so far as an ‘other culture’ did exist, it was ‘in no sense autonomous – and most certainly did not adopt a dissident or confrontational approach to the prevailing conditions’.80 The mood of the ‘scene’ could equally be one of fatalism or despair. Anita Kenner expressed this at the time, in the church-based literary journal Kontext, when she wrote of the ‘sense of “timelessness”, the experience that thoroughgoing systemic change in West and East is not on the horizon’ that afflicted the artistic Bohemia.81 In the 1980s art world ‘subjectivism’ was prevalent, with artists inclined to exclude official ‘public’ society from their horizons and withdraw instead into the private world of pure art and the isolated creative self. But although this aestheticism may have been frowned upon in official cultural discourse, it did not in itself pose any substantive political threat. Indeed, some of its key exponents, notably Anderson himself, worked for the Stasi, which no doubt tolerated their non-conformist antics and recondite texts as harmless alternatives to serious acts of resistance. According to this view, the decisive part of Anderson’s motto ‘neither for, nor against, but outside’ was its middle term. He and his ilk practised not resistance to the regime but ‘an apolitical anarchic revolt against prescribed lifestyles’, a path of radical negation that, by eschewing the need to organise opposition or even the hope of changing society for the better, led directly to ‘total capitulation’.82 Although the artistic Bohemia in Leipzig and elsewhere was by all accounts more political, the Prenzlauer Berg scene degenerated, in the words of the cleric and oppositionist Ehrhart Neubert, into ‘endless, arrogant navelgazing’, and was permeated by elitist attitudes that effectively neutralised any political impact that it might otherwise have had.83 Whether the ‘scene’ is more accurately described as a site of resistance or as depoliticised ‘navel-gazing’, it can certainly be viewed as a symptom of deeper

Emigration and youth rebellion 97 trends in the cultural life of the GDR. By the end of the 1970s, the confidence that a socialist national culture could be constructed was fading rapidly.84 A sense of scepticism, Zivilisationskritik and doom pervaded a growing corpus of art and literature.85 Ursula Heukenkamp goes so far as to assert that ‘from 1976 GDR literature began to disintegrate. Hopes in the leadership’s ability to learn were ended. Presentiments of an approaching crisis of state appeared.’86 Although the generation of writers and artists that came of age during these years of ‘disintegration’ cannot be described as oppositional per se it was arguably, in the words of the poet Uwe Kolbe, the first that could not be accused of ‘mass collaboration’ with the regime and in this sense the artistic Bohemia exemplified a wider phenomenon of ‘silent breaking’ with the ruling order that occurred over the course of the 1980s.87 The refusal to ‘collaborate’ could find expression in internal emigration, or in a moral elitism that was directed ‘at the slave morality of the masses [rather] than at the rulers’.88 However, an important minority of the bohemian artists (including Kolbe himself) were supportive of or activists in the nascent political opposition, and it is to this field of resistance that we now turn.


‘Politics in the bell jar’ Socio-ethical movements in the early 1980s

Alongside emigration and individualistic and lifestyle-based forms of non-conformity, dissent in the late 1970s and early 1980s clustered around Church-based ‘grassroots groups’ that organised meetings and other events over issues such as peace, ecology, sexism and the ‘North–South divide’. They represented a breakthrough, in terms of numbers involved (depending on what activities are counted, between 5,000 and 50,000 would be a reasonable estimate) and because they formed the most vibrant and public oppositional presence that the country had seen in a generation. Rather than advocate direct confrontation with the state, they sought to exploit the grey area at the fringes of the permissible and to develop ‘socioethical’ critiques of regime policies, resulting in perpetual friction with the authorities. They pressed against the limits of legality with mass bicycle rides, music festivals, street theatre, public ‘happenings’, vigils, petitions, human chains and the sending of ‘protest postcards’ to random addresses. Although most of those involved denied harbouring overtly oppositional intentions, this was partly for tactical reasons. Certainly, as the Stasi saw things, the logic of their activities pointed towards opposition. The groups, one report warned, ‘are continually striving to amass and organise those individuals whose aim is to weaken, undermine, politically destabilise, and even transform the GDR’s social relations’.1

Peace and environmental movements The peace movement was the first to emerge, and was important both in terms of the numbers involved and in the range of disparate but connected events that it embraced. In its ancestry, it harked back to resistance to militarisation in the early 1950s, to a Church-based campaign for an alternative to military service, and, above all, to the much smaller but courageous groups of conscientious objectors, who preferred prison and career discrimination to military service, and the ‘Bausoldaten’, who, although unarmed, worked under army officers and could be asked to perform military construction work. The Bausoldaten utilised what means they could to publicise their existence and to raise the demand for a genuinely non-military alternative service. They organised peace seminars, for example. But, for all the commitment of activists, the movement remained tiny and largely hidden from public view.

Socio-ethical movements in the early 1980s 99 In the late 1970s that was to change. Although the movement remained fairly small and, to a far greater degree than counterparts in the West, oriented to discussion as well as to what one of its chroniclers terms ‘the virtues of peace at the inter-personal level’,2 a qualitative leap was made in the numbers of people involved and in the frequency and impact of events. Several factors accounted for this change. First, new issues arose within the peace cluster. One was a further ratcheting up of the degree of militarisation in the education system. This was already a militarised sector within a militarised society. Although the GDR’s martial record was limited compared to many of its liberal-democratic rivals, its domestic arrangements were modelled upon army structures, and the military virtues of discipline, loyalty and patriotism were highly regarded. National Service lasted eighteen months at minimum, and citizens were called up for reserve duty into their late middle age. In workplaces, employees were exhorted to join ‘factory battalions’, and the FDGB attended to the fighting capabilities of its members through ‘military-sport activities’. At school, and in the ‘Pioneer’ and FDJ organisations, children were organised in military-style formations and encouraged to play war games and to read jingoistic literature. A new level was reached in 1978, when compulsory military education and paramilitary training were introduced for all older pupils. This sparked a wave of protests that was concentrated in, but by no means restricted to, the churches.3 Letters were sent to the education ministry, meetings were convened, petitions were circulated around groups of friends and colleagues, and in some towns flyers were distributed. A second focus for independent peace activities arose with the drastic cooling of relations between the superpowers in the wake of NATO’s announcement that intermediate-range nuclear forces (INFs), including Cruise and Pershing missiles, were to be stationed in Western Europe and Moscow’s armed intervention in Afghanistan. The NATO offensive impacted on East German public opinion in contradictory ways. Surveys from the time indicate that ‘the upsurge in existential anxiety and war fear amongst many young people that followed the stationing of INFs in Western Europe’ worked in the regime’s favour, for its claim to be acting pacifically in opposition to aggressive imperialist powers gained greater plausibility, contributing to a temporary reversal of otherwise declining levels of support.4 To this extent the NATO moves came as opportune for Honecker’s regime, and helped it to justify its own domestic militarisation measures. However, a section of the population was less credible. To them, there was something absurd about the government’s instigation of an official ‘peace movement’ (with its associated conferences and campaigns, including the instigation of ‘peace shifts’ at work, cycle rides, concerts and mass rallies for peace), given its concurrent militarisation measures and support for the USSR’s own arms build-up.5 By campaigning for peace, the SED laid itself open to the charge of hypocrisy, and also made of peace an issue that lent itself to immanent critique. Demands for genuinely peace-oriented policies could be framed as appeals to government to live up to its own standards. As such, a directly confrontational


Social movements, 1945–88

tone could be avoided by activists, and the costs to the government of repressing the independent peace movement were raised.6 A well-known example of the peace movement’s exploitation of the regime’s peace rhetoric, but one which also revealed the limits of such strategies, was its adoption of the ‘swords into ploughshares’ symbol. A two-dimensional portrayal of a sculpture that the USSR had donated to the United Nations in 1946, those who wore it could appear to be simply voicing a desire for peace and, moreover, to be doing so ‘legitimately’, so to speak, by using Soviet imagery. However, given that a sizeable proportion of the ca. 100,000 individuals who sported it were disaffected youth or supporters of the burgeoning independent peace movement, the symbol took on subversive overtones; it came to imply criticism of official ‘peace politics’. The government, correctly understanding this real, contextualised connotation, banned the image, except from internal Church use. The peace movement was not tightly bound to a single set of issues but tapped into wider disaffections and a smouldering youth rebellion. Where peace issues were raised, other related themes would follow. At the ‘Blues services’ organised in Berlin churches by pastor Rainer Eppelmann, ‘prayers for peace were complemented by discussions on more general social problems, such as the Leistungsdruck, the pressure to conform and succeed, felt by many young people’.7 A distinctive brew of theology, art and politics marked these occasions, with Bible readings followed by performances of songs, sketches or slideshows. The audience, one young participant recalls, ‘would applaud every critical sentence’.8 A further factor that contributed to the mushrooming of independent peace groups was the rise of their sister movements across Western Europe. These, the largest of which was in neighbouring West Germany, provided a ‘demonstration effect’, both in their independence from government and in their success in mobilising hundreds of thousands onto the streets, gaining publicity and influencing the political agenda. Independent peace campaigners in the GDR took heart from the successes of their fellows in the West, and many understood their activities to be part of an international peace movement. They chafed against the greater constraints that they faced. ‘In our television news,’ said one young activist, we see lengthy reports of West European peace movements; and there are many young people who ask why it is so difficult to do such things here. People want to know why in this country, where there is after all so much talk of peace, wearing the ‘Swords into Plowshares’ badge, for instance, can lead to so many difficulties.9 As the movement in the GDR took off, direct connections to its counterparts in the West were established, in the form of private contacts, invitations to speak at rallies and conferences, as well as through ‘personal peace treaties’, an initiative begun in the GDR that called upon individuals in NATO and Warsaw Pact countries to pledge not to regard the other as enemy.10 In addition to solidarity, a further resource that a minority of activists discovered in the West – and which was to

Socio-ethical movements in the early 1980s 101 have a significant bearing upon future protests – was its media, which offered a means of circumventing the domestic blackout of independent peace initiatives. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a resource became available to activists in the 1980s in the form of the Protestant Church, the doors of which had hitherto been largely closed to political dissent. After a frosty relationship with a belligerent regime in the 1950s, a more co-operative attitude between Church and state had evolved. ‘Conscious of the lost power struggles versus the state in the 1950s,’ writes the Leipzig sociologist Detlef Pollack, the churches elected instead to ‘orient to the possible; they concentrated on extending their room for manoeuvre vis-à-vis the state, and dealt with concrete problems as singularities and behind closed doors’.11 In the early 1970s Church–state détente blossomed. The Protestant Church announced explicitly that it accepted the legitimacy of the regime and that it would perceive itself henceforth as a ‘Church in socialism’. The rapprochement culminated in the concordat of 1978, an agreement by which the Church hierarchy received acknowledged authority, status and security as well as a variety of material benefits12 in exchange for a more co-operative stance. In particular, churches were permitted to act as arenas for the ventilation of dissent; their public meeting rooms and printing equipment became available to the groups that gathered within their walls. Whereas in the early 1970s critical voices had gathered largely in state-owned institutions such as youth clubs, a decade later ecclesiastical premises played the role of host. Gradually, the Church itself began to take up ‘socio-ethical’ issues such as peace and ecology, the discrimination against minorities, and human rights.13 From 1979 until 1983 the autonomous peace movement went from strength to strength. Communications amongst the disparate groups improved, and a national co-ordinating centre was established. New campaigns were initiated, notably a petition that took up the old Bausoldaten demand for a Social Peace Service, and which attracted over 6,000 signatures (as well as a riposte from one candidate member of the SED Politburo: ‘Our whole republic is social peace service’).14 Events with a peace theme became increasingly popular. Thousands attended Rainer Eppelmann’s ‘Blues services’; 3,500 came to an independent peace event in Potsdam in 1982, and around 10,000 congregated at a Christian peace festival in Eisenach. Alongside burgeoning numbers, a minority began to express more radical opinions, arguing that activities should reach beyond the confines of the Church. A number of attempts were made to hold public vigils: by ‘Women for Peace’ in Berlin, and by activists around Roland Jahn in Jena, for example. The ‘Berlin Appeal’ of January 1982, launched by the dissident Communist Robert Havemann and Reverend Eppelmann, raised taboo demands, a nuclear weapon-free Europe, the withdrawal of all occupying forces from both German states and freedom of expression; and thereby confirmed the regime’s fears that the peace issue could stray towards explosive questions of the division of Germany, the GDR’s reliance on a foreign power, and civil liberties. A signal event, it was the first direct appeal to the general public on behalf of an independent movement and, despite references to so many forbidden themes, gathered over 2,000 signatures.


Social movements, 1945–88

From 1983, however, the movement suddenly went into decline. That year saw the decision by Bonn to go ahead with the stationing of Pershing missiles, and removed at a stroke the immediate focus of the movement in West Germany. This was followed by an announcement by Moscow of further missiles to be stationed in the GDR. Demoralisation ensued amongst activists in both German states. The East German regime, sensitised by the recent uprising in Poland to the risks of independent citizens’ initiatives, launched a wave of repression against activists.15 Bärbel Bohley and Ulrike Poppe of Women for Peace were arrested and charged and, although they were released following a well-organised campaign in East and West, others were less fortunate: Roland Jahn was expatriated, and innumerable others were sentenced to fines or prison terms. About half of the peace groups were either destroyed or severely disrupted. For the nascent opposition the mid-1980s was a time of resignation. Many dissidents and non-conformists left the country, contributing to the demoralisation of those who remained.16 The conversations I had with young dissenters, Christians and other non-conformists at this time would tend to take dark tones when domestic-political themes were raised. The stories they told were often negative: that an acquaintance had been imprisoned for painting graffiti on a railway bridge, that a former peace activist had submitted an application to emigrate, and the like. ‘A niche culture’ is threatening to return, the peace activist Freya Klier recorded in her diary.17 Yet this was also a time of reorientation and diversification. Although the peace groups weakened, other networks emerged, often from subsections of the peace groups: women’s groups, gay and lesbian circles, Third World solidarity groups and, most importantly, an environmental movement. Already in the 1970s discussion circles and publications on environmental themes had begun to emerge within the Protestant Church. From 1979 an influential lobby for ecological issues formed at the Wittenberg ecclesiastical research centre, headed by Peter Gensichen. In the same year several dozen Christian environmentalists, in association with ‘VEB Stadtgrün’, initiated a tree-planting project (which, despite the participation of a state-owned enterprise, was instigated ‘from below’ and so met with suspicion on the part of the authorities). There followed a plethora of local protests: against the building of a motorway, the ploughing-up of a meadow, the digging of an open-cast mine or a toxic waste dump; for cycle paths, and a cleaner water supply. Educational campaigns were launched too, over issues ranging from Waldsterben to the automobile to nuclear power. The tactics deployed were usually of a low-key and individualised kind, such as letter-writing or sending Eingaben to the authorities, but some public demonstrations and ‘mass bicycle rides’ – which could attract over 100 people – were staged too. In its ability to organise public protests, in its raising of controversial issues (such as nuclear power, or the importation of toxic waste from the FRG), in the broaching of issues of economic policy and broader systemic change, and in its demands for the publication of data on pollution levels and for freedom of information,18 the environmental movement posed a potentially serious threat to the

Socio-ethical movements in the early 1980s 103 regime. The recently formed West German Green Party demonstrated that disparate civic initiatives could be forged into a political movement. ‘The quantity of autonomous ecology groups and environmental initiatives could tip over into a new quality, a “green opposition”,’ suggested the West German journalist Karl-Wilhelm Fricke at the time.19 Equally, however, environmental initiatives could be consonant with the interests of the regime. Tree-planting campaigns were a case in point, and schemes to protect hedgehogs from traffic were another, as were educational trips to the countryside. By singling out the more radical activists and public protests for repression, and aided by the work of co-operative clergy and Stasi agents within the movement, the authorities encouraged the environmentalist movement along the latter, relatively harmless, track. They assiduously ‘sought to deflect environmentalists into small-scale, time-consuming, narrowly focused, and state-controlled projects’, writes the historian Mary Fulbrook, ‘and to bring them under the wing of the state-sponsored environmental society, the Gesellschaft für Natur und Umwelt’.20 In Gensichen’s centre at Wittenberg, Fulbrook continues, the SED and Stasi were fortunate to find ‘a relatively compliant personality and a highprofile but potentially easily threatened Church institution’. Gensichen was a leading figure within that wing of the environmental movement which attributed blame for ecological crisis on population growth in the ‘global South’ and on consumerism in the North.21 They eschewed confrontation with the state, preferring instead to educate members of the public to a consciousness of their responsibility for ecological problems and an awareness of their individual guilt, and propagated ascetic lifestyles. One discussion paper, that gives a flavour of the Wittenberg approach, put the case for individuals to adopt a myriad of environment-enhancing lifestyle changes (including: regular fasting, lowering room temperatures, continuing to wear old or out-of-fashion clothes, reducing the frequency of showers), as well as a catalogue of proscriptions: televisions, meat, coffee, tea, alcohol, cigarettes, table lamps (!) and sweets. Cars, it proposed, should be shunned, but if their use was essential, petrol consumption could be reduced ‘through intelligent driving technique’.

The Protestant Church as host and steward of dissent In certain respects the Church was a natural home for critical spirits. It had been locked in a war of attrition with the SED in the 1950s. On a number of occasions it had raised criticisms of government policies: in 1955 over conscientious objection, in 1961 over conscription, in 1962 over Bausoldaten, in 1980 over Afghanistan. As with the Catholic Church in Poland, it formed a ‘second public sphere’ that offered disaffected citizens a welcome alternative to the official realm. The SED’s antagonism to the Church, moreover, could drive such people towards it, and could turn its members into dissidents. Citizens who faced discrimination due to their refusal to take part in military training or to join a mass organisation commonly found a spiritual home with the Church. In its capacity as employer it was important too. ‘By denying political nonconformists


Social movements, 1945–88

and committed Christians chances of higher education outside theology, and hence career prospects in a range of secular professions,’ writes Mary Fulbrook, ‘the regime itself unintentionally produced a…group of disaffected activists: pastors, theologians, and people unable to pursue other career paths who gained employment in some capacity with the Church’.22 That dissent in the 1980s centred upon the Church was to be tremendously significant for the development of a political opposition in the latter part of the decade (and has even led some to interpret the events of 1989 as a ‘Protestant revolution’).23 But shelter within the Church was not an unmitigated blessing for oppositionists. First, Protestantism was a minority religion, to an extent set apart from the secular society of the majority. From 7 per cent of the population in 1949 the proportion of the population without allegiance to a religion soared to 70 per cent in 1989, while membership of the Protestant Church fell from 81 per cent to 25 per cent in the same period. In the cities the figure could be as low as 10 per cent.24 Of these, the majority took no part in Church life whatsoever, and only a tiny minority were regular church-goers. This contributed to the ghettoisation of opposition. One interviewee, when asked why he failed to involve himself in the 1980s Church-based grassroots groups despite sharing many of their social and ethical aspirations, shrugged his shoulders and said ‘I wasn’t a Christian.’ Another, who was employed on a casual basis by a church in Karl-Marx-Stadt and was involved in a variety of single-issue movements, lamented that ‘the venues for our events were always churches, and for a lot of people that was a high bar to cross – they just didn’t want to come to meetings in a church’.25 Second, the relationship of Church and state was in some respects rather cosy. It may be described, to borrow a phrase from Vladimir Tismaneau, as ‘a marriage in which the couple is always fighting – without, however, seriously thinking about divorce’.26 The state treated the Church, compared to other reaches of society, leniently. Its estates were exempt from the land reform of 1945–6, from the full collectivisation of 1960, and from certain taxes; and the state did not, as a rule, involve itself in the appointment of clergy. The marriage, in a sense, rested upon the Church’s institutional interests. In the view of New Forum spokesperson Rolf Henrich, ‘Because the clerical bureaucracy perceives the ultimate goal of the Church to be itself, it is delivered to the temptations of power. The substance of Church politics becomes “survival”, i.e. the maintenance of the bureaucracy.’27 In the 1970s Church–state co-operation flourished, especially in the area of welfare provision. The state gave financial assistance in various forms, allowed the Church to produce its own radio programmes, and granted clergy more extensive travel privileges than almost any other group. As a result, ‘many GDR citizens viewed the clergy as members of a privileged caste, and compared them with the Party and state “bosses” ’.28 The marriage was also sustained by shared values. Many Church ministers joined the ruling party,29 and most others adhered to values that were consistent with its interests – the work ethic, obedience, piety, ‘family values’ – and propounded quietist doctrines such as the reconciliation of the world to itself through Christ and the Protestant notion of salvation through faith.30 Given that

Socio-ethical movements in the early 1980s 105 the existing social order was said to be ordained from on high, the vocation of Christians was to suffer meekly the trials of worldly life, to adhere to the biblical injunction ‘Be subject to the governing authorities!’ and to Luther’s ‘ehre die Obrigkeit und sei nicht unter den Aufrührern!’ It was not uncommon to hear explicit support for the regime issuing from the pulpits, as in this prayer from the mid-1950s: We thank thee, our Heavenly Father that we may receive our rulers of power from thy hands, for thou hast set them over us. We commend our government to thee, our President, Wilhelm Pieck, his Prime Minister, Grotewohl, his deputy and General Secretary of the SED, Walther Ulbricht, the Ministers and all who rule over us.31 Hans-Jochen Vogel, a pastor from Karl-Marx-Stadt who co-ordinated discussion groups and campaigns on behalf of peace, the environment and homosexual rights in the 1980s, told me that an obsequious attitude prevailed in his day too: The German Protestant Church is, in principle, petty bourgeois: in its values of hierarchy and deference, and in its horizons. Even those ministers who were opponents of socialism were so respectable, loyal and piously patriotic that they would swell with pride whenever a state functionary bestowed praise upon them. Wherever possible the Church hierarchy sought to avoid confrontation with the state. Its concern, after all, was with the inner, spiritual and eternal, and not the temporal, social and ephemeral. That opposition was quarantined within the Church served to promote the influence of pastors and Christians, and in general contributed to a moderation, even a depoliticisation, of dissident discourse. In so far as clergy recommended political positions that were critical of the regime, they were invariably of a moderate sort. On matters of an overtly ethico-political character, such as military service, the Church leadership tended to avoid giving guidance, deeming them the prerogative of individual conscience. On questions of peace and ecology it favoured prayer, as well as educational campaigns directed towards changing individual values and behaviour, and it resisted calls for political campaigning.32 It advocated patient argument with those in power, and was ever willing to compromise in order to keep its ‘dialogue’ with the state on a friendly footing. Some examples which illustrate this general approach are the Church leadership’s attack on the Berlin Appeal for its rebellious stance, its advice to Christians to comply with the ban on wearing the ‘Swords into Ploughshares’ patch, its repudiation of Pastor Wonneberger’s Social Peace Service campaign, and its abandonment of a one-minute ‘silence for peace’ (when warned by functionaries that it would be tantamount to a general strike). The Church, in the words of Pastor Friedrich Schorlemmer, functioned to ‘quieten agitated souls’.33 Other clerics described ‘the Church in socialism’, along similar lines, as ‘opium for frustrated youth’.34


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Given the Church’s conservative temper, the shelter it offered to the grassroots groups was of a partial kind. Friction and conflict between groups and clergy, and between radical clergy and their superordinates, was endemic. Campaigners for the rights of women and of homosexuals found in the Church a patriarchal institution that sought to thwart their campaigns.35 Clergy often regarded emigration applicants with suspicion, and in one case, where a group of them had occupied a church vestry, the minister even called the security organs into his church to arrest them.36 The Church authorities continually intervened to restrict the activities of groups whose ideas or activities smacked of sedition. It would block, or force the cancellation of, demonstrations, human rights seminars and peace workshops, and denied rooms to what it perceived as subversive groups, or to dissident performers such as Freya Klier and Stefan Krawczyk.37 In some instances, employees of the Church who gave active support to peace groups were suspended or even sacked. Whenever the threat arose of protest spilling out into the public arena, bishops and pastors would set about thwarting the event or, if it went ahead, drawing participants back into the Church.38 The Church not only provided the grassroots groups with shelter but also confined them within an enclosed environment that was dominated by religious and ethical ideas, and in which they were subject to ecclesiastical control. It acted to contain dissidence, in both senses of the word: as host but also as steward of its boundaries.39 The state abetted the Church in this function, granting it enhanced privileges and allowing its role as guarantor of a ‘second public sphere’ to be extended in return for assistance in policing opposition.40 This subcontracting of surveillance and social-control duties may be seen, in retrospect, as an index of the regime’s weakness. It involved upgrading the status of the Church, a non-state institution, and an open toleration of critical socioethical discussion. Whereas in the 1950s the state had striven to marginalise religion, it now actively promoted a ‘theologisation’ of criticism (by which was meant ‘its restriction within church walls, and the encouragement of “progressive forces” within the churches to promote moral soul-searching and religious debate over political themes’).41 While young people sought politics, as Rolf Henrich has put it, Church and state encouraged theology.42 Yet in many respects it was a highly effective gambit. Because institutionally separate from, but closely tied to, the state, the Church could act as a buffer between it and its irritating internal enemies; it could appear as the neutral provider of spaces for dissent even as it was winning the regime’s approval by suppressing radical voices. The grassroots groups were permitted, but were treated with suspicion, and barely acknowledged by the hierarchy as legitimate dialogue partners. Those on the radical fringe of the groups tended to be ground down by the incessant friction with the hierarchy. Angry youth were ‘tamed’. One church youth worker commented wryly to this effect: ‘If the Party only knew the extent to which I have sometimes been reining in the young people, they would be extremely grateful to us.’43 As they themselves saw it, the Church leaders’ strategy was ‘to draw in, to integrate, and thereby to influence’ dissent, to ‘channel’ it away from themes and activities that could evoke the wrath of the

Socio-ethical movements in the early 1980s 107 regime.44 It was to promote ‘dialogue and understanding’ and prevent ‘confrontation’, which, Generalsuperintendent Krusche insisted, ‘was of no use to anyone’. Guided by a realist spirit (‘We have had to do some bad things in order to prevent worse’, said one), they invested ‘enormous quantities of energy’ in keeping oppositionists on the straight and narrow, in the hope that their performance in this regard would encourage SED leaders to lend a benign ear to their wider concerns. To persuade the Church to take on social-control duties the regime relied upon bribery and intimidation, yet the Church, being an inherently conservative institution, offered itself as a willing, if distinctly uneasy, accomplice. Although its leaders perceived their role, not incorrectly, as one of mediation between society and state, there is much truth in the accusation, advanced by some oppositionists, that they acted as an ‘extended arm of the state’.45 Many Church leaders and clergy, moreover, acted as Stasi informants.46 In short, Church and state co-operated in containing the movements, and in the process their nature was profoundly affected. Oppositionists of a more theological bent, and those who accepted that activity be restricted to the Church, were tolerated, while radical voices – notably those who ‘wanted to go public, or who made contact with Western peace circles or the Western media’ – were marginalised or stifled.47

Zivilisationskritik and German political culture Having surveyed the 1980s socio-ethical movements and having examined their precipitating causes, we now turn to issues of interpretation. Was there anything distinctive about the views of dissidents in the 1980s as compared to earlier times? What attitudes did they take towards the regime, the state and socialism? How might the movements best be categorised? One reading, advanced forcefully by Christian Joppke, is that the 1980s movements are best understood as a continuation of those earlier dissident socialist traditions that set their sights on a ‘Third Way’. For Joppke, this attempt to synthesise liberal democratic and state socialist elements was a utopian position, and one which drank deeply from the poisoned well of German Romantic Zivilisationskritik. He proposes that a sharp line be drawn between East German dissidents and their counterparts elsewhere in Eastern Europe, and this for two reasons. The first is that GDR dissidents, operating within a divided nation, had traditionally endorsed the state’s self-definition as the ‘anti-fascist’, socialist alternative to the FRG, and therefore identified themselves not with the liberal half of Germany but with the socialist GDR. Opposition was less nationalistic than elsewhere in Eastern Europe because German nationalism contradicted GDR sovereignty. By identifying with the East German state, dissidents became ‘caught up in the regime’s socialist self-definition’.48 It was a stance, Joppke argues, that not only prevented them from achieving a healthy recognition of their authentic German identity, but also forged ‘an unshakeable bond between regime and opposition’ and foreclosed a politics of liberal-democratic nationalism.49 The


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‘dilemma of opposition’ in the GDR, he concludes, ‘was that without national discourse no genuine opposition to communism was possible’.50 The second, and most distinctive, part of Joppke’s case is his suggestion that the persistence of socialist ideas amongst GDR oppositionists was not simply the result of Germany’s division and the cleaving of the East German intelligentsia to the avowedly anti-fascist half of the nation, but also expressed ingrained traditions of German Zivilisationskritik, with its pessimism towards modernity, its rejection of market capitalism and competitive pluralist democracy in favour of nationalist-communitarian utopias of moral cohesion and social unity. In this argument, Joppke follows Liah Greenfeld’s influential interpretation of German political culture. For Greenfeld, nineteenth-century German Romantic intellectuals ‘transformed the values of the developed West, such as progress, reason and individualism, into the evils of mechanization, calculation and egotism’; they fashioned a political culture in which organicism and violence were central and which was hospitable to collectivist and anti-liberal movements, notably Nazism but also Marxism (which, we are told, is ‘after all, a German tradition’).51 Atavistic German Romanticism, Joppke argues, profoundly influenced the East German dissidents’ quest for a Third Way, that via media between Communist dictatorship and liberal capitalism. If, in the 1920s and 1930s, the ‘Third Way’ was the slogan of Stormtrooper conservatives such as Ernst Jünger and Möller van der Bruck, its utopian and Romantic essence was ‘subterraneously reanimated by the defeat of Nazism’ and continued to influence, if not pervade, German intellectual life, albeit with the crucial twist that in the postwar period it was now more likely to be found in socialist guise. (‘The pessimistic genre of zivilisationskritik,’ as Joppke puts it, ‘migrated from the right to the left side of the political spectrum.’)52 Left-wing East German dissidents, like the völkisch nationalists of the previous generation, were utopian collectivists. They yearned for ‘the all-encompassing solution, the total transformation of politics and economics, the definitive answer, the new – and completely moral – human being’.53 And if the faith in socialism tended to wane in the 1980s it yielded in part to a Romantic ecological politics that took aim not at the Communist system or Honecker’s regime but at industrial society tout court. ‘In a clear case of détentist boundary erosion,’ Joppke writes, ‘the “industrial system”, rather than a dictatorial regime, was built up as the main target of opposition.’54 Here again, it is insinuated that the socio-ethical movements ‘have some similarities’ with farright and fascist thought: ‘The apocalyptic visions of the ecology and peace movements, combined with startling anti-Western (particularly anti-American) and crypto-nationalist rhetoric, have some similarities with the beliefs of the right-wing movements of the Weimar Republic, such as the “conservative revolution”.’55 ‘Try as they might,’ Joppke concludes, East German oppositionists were unable to escape from their nation’s Romantic political culture. Preferring red and green utopias of ‘total transformation’ to the realistic alternative of a ‘relaxed’ liberal nationalism, they were then to find themselves intellectually ill equipped for the practical challenges that arose as the regime crumbled at the end of the 1980s.

Socio-ethical movements in the early 1980s 109 Joppke’s case that East German dissidents were more favourable to socialist ideas than were their counterparts in Poland or Hungary is uncontroversial. ‘Revisionist’ socialism strongly influenced or provided the ideological framework for many a movement activist in the 1980s.56 There is also no question that activists were reluctant to publicly call into question the existence of the GDR (or even the Berlin Wall).57 For the grassroots groups the national question was not a pressing issue (although exceptions existed, notably the Naumburg peace circle, with its arguments for a neutral confederated Germany).58 However, Joppke’s supposition that the socialist, collectivist and ecological beliefs that were present in the GDR were the offspring of German Romanticism is open to question, while the notion that significant affinities existed between the conservative revolutionaries (war-loving and nationalistic) and the ecology and peace movements (cosmopolitan and anti-militaristic) is a departure from serious argument. Writing of the West German Green movement, Axel Goodbody has suggested that, although the Romantic movement ‘left a powerful legacy of holism and pantheism whose influence is discernible in the environmental ethics and aesthetics of the 1980s and 1990s’, these contemporary movements differed from pre-war currents in critical ways: they were ‘accompanied by demands for individual emancipation and participative democracy’, and their critique of contemporary society was ‘based predominantly on scientific evidence rather than subjective feelings’.59 Something very similar could be said of the East German movements. Backward-looking Romantic influences were evident, as were pietistic impulses, but figures of Enlightenment rationalism were strongly represented too. If modern science came under fire for objectifying nature, the remedy was seen not in a rejection of science but in the education of citizens and their participation in decision-making processes. As Ehrhart Neubert has described, the civilisation-critical currents within the GDR environmental movement could hardly be said to have involved ‘a romanticisation of the pre-industrial lifeworld’; rather, they were imbued with values of rationality, individuation and participation.60 Although Enlightenment rationalism was viewed with scepticism, and although many activists appealed for a revaluation of the emotional, moral and spiritual – one began to hear slogans such as ‘politics must come from the heart and not the brain’, or politics should be refounded on the basis of ‘truth and morality’ – these were less likely to emanate from German Romantic socialism than from the writings of Gandhi, Ivan Illich, Rudolf Steiner (or indeed from a guru of the Eastern European opposition whom Joppke cites favourably, Vaclav Havel).61

New social movements Whereas the weight of Joppke’s argument is upon the distinctiveness of dissidence in the GDR and his explanation of this is situated at the level of political culture, others have emphasised affinities with movements elsewhere and explain these with reference to socio-structural developments. West German observers of the GDR observed that similar processes were underway to those that were being


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theorised at the time by Ulrich Beck, Jürgen Habermas and others. The brunt of Beck’s argument was that traditional social structures, including classes, were in decline as a consequence of prevailing structural trends: marketisation and commodification, rising affluence, full employment, declining working hours and the expanding welfare state.62 Old social bonds were dissolving, succumbing to ‘a relentlessly progressing and collectively experienced process of individualisation and atomization’ that debouches into a new form of ‘post-class’ (or ‘risk’) society.63 A not dissimilar and still more influential argument was advanced by Habermas. In his view, class conflict has been successfully ‘pacified’ as a result of the bureaucratic regulation of the spheres of production and reproduction. The sphere of labour has been subsumed by the ‘system’, while the position of the worker has lost ‘its debilitating proletarian features’ as a result of ‘the continuous rise in the standard of living’. Conflicts over distribution no longer possess ‘explosive power’.64 The institutionalisation of industrial relations and the integration of labour bureaucracies into the policy-formation process have drained the labour movement of its ability to hegemonise anti-systemic struggles. The regulation of labour relations by ‘systemic’ institutions, however, did not sound the death knell for resistance. In his words, ‘The fact that in welfare-state mass democracies class conflict has been institutionalized and thereby pacified does not mean that protest potential has been altogether laid to rest. But the potentials for protest emerge now along different lines of conflict.’ For Habermas the core problem in the contemporary world is the colonisation of the ‘lifeworld’ by ‘sub-systems’ such as markets and states.65 The ‘new conflicts’ that arise in the form of lifeworld-based resistances to these encroachments, he concludes, ‘are not ignited by distribution problems but by questions having to do with the grammar of forms of life’.66 In the 1980s a number of authors observed that social movements the world over appeared to take the form of overlapping ‘lifeworld-based resistances’.67 These ‘new social movements’ (NSMs), it was argued at the time, have a number of shared characteristics. Exemplifying the post-modern condition, they embody discrete, overlapping and ever-shifting forms of micro-resistance. Displacing the materialism and the instrumentalism of older forms of collective action, their interests lie in the symbolic and cultural spheres. Their project has a civilisation-critical edge; it has been described by one author as the ‘struggle to recover community that had been destroyed by rampant urbanization’ and a ‘revulsion against the worst manifestations of economic modernization and the consumer society’.68 In strategy they seek not to lever a redistribution of wealth and power through political organisation, but to develop new forms of cultural identity. Rather than aspiring to influence existing social and political institutions, they achieve their effects through the creation of submerged networks and cultural critique, and work to establish public spaces autonomous of the state in which experimental lifestyles can be enjoyed. For them the movement itself is the message.69 They are expressive and identity-oriented rather than instrumental and power-oriented. For Jean Cohen they share (like KOR in Poland),

Socio-ethical movements in the early 1980s 111 a self-understanding that abandons revolutionary dreams in favour of the idea of structural reform, along with a defence of civil society that does not seek to abolish the autonomous functioning of political and economic systems – in a phrase, self-limiting radicalism.70 In their internal structures NSMs are ‘informal, ad hoc, discontinuous, contextsensitive, and egalitarian’; in place of hierarchy and centralisation they experiment with radical-democratic internal structures.71 It was the West German sociologist Hubertus Knabe who, in 1988, first theorised the East German movements as NSMs.72 They were, he observed, ‘oriented to culture not power, grassroots-democratic not centralised, reactive not offensive; they thematise single issues and conflicts rather than global political strategies’.73 They were committed to evolutionary change and to the creation of ‘autonomous social spaces’. In their class composition, they contained mainly employees in the service sector or other white-collar workers (especially nurses, kindergarten nurses, casual workers employed by the Church, social workers, workers in the publishing industry and bookshop assistants) and other young adults, as well as intellectuals, clerics, schoolchildren and a high proportion of ‘individuals without secure occupation’.74 As to their causation, Knabe pointed to the same social trends that were widely taken to explain the rise of NSMs in the West. The GDR, he argued, was ‘on the way to becoming a “post-industrial” society’, characterised by a growing service sector, a new middle class in the ascendant, a declining industrial proletariat, and a shift in the balance of everyday life from the realm of work towards that of leisure. A new generation was emerging that, accustomed to stability and a secured living standard, was concerned less with economistic than ‘post-material’ issues. Rising educational standards were generating a ‘liberation of desires for self-determination and participation’. A new type of political actor, typically young and from the new middle class, was striding onto the stage. These were ‘well educated, informed and morally sensitive individuals, for whom political activity is a form of self-realisation’. In conclusion, Knabe argues, it was thanks to these interlinked long-term changes in social structure, culture and mentality that reactions to the surface events of the 1970s and 1980s – the Helsinki conference, the militarisation of ec´, and the economic crisis – took the shape of NSMs. The education, Solidarnoé■esé■ 1980s opposition, oriented to ‘post-material’ issues, participatory-democratic, non-violent strategies, and civilisation-critical beliefs, were harbingers of future forms of protest. Knabe’s essay was a pioneering attempt to theorise the distinctiveness of the East German movements. However, there are grounds for scepticism towards his case. To begin with, one may question his empirical judgements. For one thing, it is rather hard to see how the GDR could have been moving towards a ‘postindustrial’ society. For another, his analysis of the class composition of the movements is also open to doubt. If one defines membership of a particular class not by the colour of a person’s collar or the size of their bank balance but


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with respect to their situation within the overall process of capital accumulation,75 the kindergarten nurses, casual workers employed by the Church, nurses and bookshop assistants mentioned above are best understood as belonging to the working class (even if a section of them may be more precisely described as belonging to the ‘intellectual proletariat’).76 More importantly, Knabe’s reliance on NSM theory exposes his case to a number of general shortcomings of that approach. Consider the following questions: •

• • •

Is it legitimate to treat NSMs as a unitary group of phenomena, sharing characteristics which distinguish them from other social movements? If it is, what places them in a distinct category, apart from their broad contemporaneity? Are NSMs actually ‘new,’ whether in terms of their goals, organisational forms, strategic conceptions, concerns with symbolic and cultural issues, or social bases? Are distinctions between ‘material’ and ‘post-material’ concerns, ‘economic’ and ‘political’ as against ‘cultural’ or ‘symbolic’ goals, or ‘expressive’ as against ‘instrumental’ forms of action, helpful? Are ‘old’ social movements markedly distinct from NSMs, and are questions about such matters as culture, identity, self-expression, grassroots democracy and the like irrelevant to them?

Together with Colin Barker I have explored these questions in some detail and published the results, which I shall briefly summarise here.77 First, we acknowledge that the movements known as NSMs have contributed to a revitalisation of critical thought, promoting an exploration of previously underconsidered aspects of the struggle for human emancipation. They challenged the naturalness of the personal and familial, of the nation-state system and its inherent militaristic divisions, and the human relation with nature. Second, however, we suggest that the dichotomy of ‘new’ and ‘old’ social movements is hard to sustain. ‘Material’ issues are not receding into the background; some would argue indeed that they receive greater attention than in the past.78 Within actual social movements ‘material’ and ‘non-material’ strands cannot be separated out. Both ‘new’ and ‘old’ movements call for expanded material and ‘post-material’ needs. Thus, the Green movement makes material demands for a world where there is clean air and water for all, where fishing and pollution policies do not destroy the life of the sea, etc. The environmentalist case is that these needs are matters of concern to us all, not simply ‘externalities,’ as capital and its apologists would have it. And in declaring an expanded range of needs to be political, it challenges the agendas set by established power relations. Yet none of this is antithetical to the ‘old’ workers’ movement. Indeed, as Barry Adam points out, ‘one of the most sustained areas of struggle around the control of the toxic effects of industry’ is within industry itself, carried forward by trade union health and safety committees.79 Struggles over the workplace environment are not opposed to but continuous with most demands of

Socio-ethical movements in the early 1980s 113 the Green movement. This is likewise with the peace movement. Its demands include greater physical security, indeed human survival itself (a ‘materialist’ demand), but also – expressly or by implication – popular participation in an expanded range of issues, including those which states so jealously, secretively and competitively cling to as matters of national security. In the same article, third, we caution against the tendency of NSM theory to account for the rise of movements by reference to secular structural change. It is not, of course, that the structural conditions in which movements occur are of no significance. However, broad social conditions do not create movements; actors do that, in line with their powers, their own concrete understandings, their immediate networks and opportunities, and so on. To be sure, broad shifts in structural conditions are likely, over relatively extended periods of time, to leave their mark on the range of movements actors create and the range of forms of collective action they engage in. Charles Tilly’s work on changing ‘repertoires of contention’ in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britain provides illustrations of this change of range.80 But such shifts cannot explain specific choices and developments. It is helpful, Tilly suggests, to divide the rhythms of collective action into two sorts: ‘a jagged short-term rhythm’ that depends ‘on shifts in the relative strategic positions, shared understandings, and resources of connected actors’ and ‘a smoother longterm rhythm depending more heavily on the incremental transformation of social relations in the course of such processes as proletarianization and state formation’.81 Here a distinction between levels of explanation is vital. To grasp the nature of particular movements, closer-grained and more ‘conjunctural’ accounts are needed. Tilly, Sidney Tarrow and others suggest that mass protest movements tend to come in ‘cycles’ or ‘waves’. These are phases of heightened conflict and contention across the social system that include: a rapid diffusion of collective action from more mobilized to less mobilized sectors; a quickened pace of innovation in the forms of contention; new or transformed collective action frames…and sequences of intensified interaction between challengers and authorities which can end in reform, repression and sometimes revolution.82 Attention to the phenomenon of protest cycles – Tilly’s ‘jagged’ rhythm – reminds us that alterations in collective action need not be the result of longterm changes in social structure, ‘societal mentalities’ or ‘political cultures’.83 Collective action is episodic, highly focused and activist, and results from explicit decisions to take action by historical agents. Actors’ self-definitions of social situations can change very rapidly and are inherently fluid. ‘Mentalities’, on the other hand, are long term, unfocused. They are too omnipresent, too far removed from events of everyday life, and too wanting in agency to be able to go very far in explaining the occurrence of social movements. Our argument was, fourth, that the evidence of the recent past has indeed been misread: that the decline of labour movements and the appearance of NSMs represented less the effect of an ‘incremental transformation’ in social structures or


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mentalities, and more a ‘jagged rhythm’. In brief, labour movements across the Western world had, in the 1960s and early 1970s, tended to strengthen concurrently with anti-imperialist campaigns and movements of the oppressed. When the (second-wave) women’s movement and the gay and lesbian movement emerged, in conjunction with rising strike levels, they were often seen – rightly – as critical of the existing practices and organisational forms of the labour movements, but were rarely seen as antithetical. During the 1970s and 1980s, however, that changed. In a context marked by sharper crises and rising unemployment, the tide of advantage in industrial conflict shifted, as employers and governments alike hardened their assaults. Union membership tended to fall, the strength of rank-and-file organisation was seriously undermined, and a host of battles over cutbacks and stringencies in welfare spending and ‘collective consumption’ ended in defeats. The defeats and demoralisation of the later 1970s and 1980s had a strong effect on workers’ consciousness, narrowing horizons and lowering aspirations. The downturn in industrial struggle in the 1970s had contradictory effects on the NSMs. One short-term result was a kind of transfusion of personnel, as movement activists (usually socialists), who had been radicalised in the period of industrial upturn but who had seen their hopes in further rises in labour militancy dashed, turned their backs on such struggles and looked elsewhere.84 (For example, a whole wave of former West German Maoists flocked into the Green movement.) More generally, there appeared to be two opposed trends: workers’ movements, retreating, demoralised and more tied to social democratic bodies, and the NSMs, gaining new life and forces. The gap between ‘old’ and ‘new’ seemed to broaden. An entirely novel and distinct kind of movement appeared to be emerging. It was in this climate that the ‘NSM theory’ outlined above took off. Alan Scott called it ‘Marcusean’, in the sense that, like the Critical Philosopher in the 1960s, some of its more prominent thinkers were searching for a new agent of historical change to take the place of the disappointing working class, which was being ‘incorporated’ as well as ‘shrinking’.85 Previous ‘revolutionary illusions’ were denounced, as activists, and academic theorists with them, came increasingly to celebrate the horizons of immediate existence and to make their peace with the principles of market competition and parliamentarism that previously they had hoped to transcend. But the new movements themselves proved to be short-lived and weak or, like the German Greens, were incorporated into the normal routines of parliamentarism and thereby lost their ‘NSM’ quality. In the absence of a confident workers’ movement, many became increasingly isolated, took on the character of small, middle-class pressure groups, or simply seized on the commercial possibilities created by the formation of new but politically passive networks. The emphasis on ‘identity politics’ often masked a retreat and defeat rather than the new source of strength that some read into it.86

The socio-ethical movements: an alternative account If neither Joppke’s political culture-oriented nor Knabe’s NSM-theoretical approach are adequate as explanations of the distinctiveness of the socio-ethical

Socio-ethical movements in the early 1980s 115 movements of the early 1980s, an alternative is to look to short- and mediumterm conjunctural factors. Of these, five appear to me as particularly salient.87 The first concerns the issue areas addressed by opposition movements. The socioethical themes upon which they focused, because not in explicit confrontation with the regime’s declared policies, could appear relatively ‘soft’. Independent women’s movement and peace activists could legitimise their case with reference to the SED’s propaganda on these issues. Environmentalists could point to the introduction of völkisch-green strains into SED ideology in the 1970s and 1980s, with a more positive appraisal of ‘nature’ as against ‘civilisation’.88 The human rights issue, to be sure, was a far ‘harder’ one, and yet here too activists could invoke the Soviet states’ recent acceptance of international norms on human rights in connection with the Helsinki process, and there is little doubt that this partly explains the appearance of civil liberties on the oppositional agenda.89 The second concerns the legacy of dissident traditions with respect to mass movements. Although oppositionists in the 1980s tended to distance themselves from previous generations of revisionist dissent, not least for their ‘illusory aims of reaching the masses’, such aims had in fact never figured strongly.90 Earlier generations, including the likes of Brecht and Ernst Bloch, had witnessed, and been profoundly influenced by, the socialist and Communist movements of the Weimar period, but had viewed workers’ struggles in the GDR with ambivalence. The GDR’s moment of greatest revolt, the 1953 rising, was notable for the absence of the ‘critical intelligentsia’, even if some (such as Brecht and Stefan Heym) expressed a qualified sympathy with the grievances displayed. Even as fierce a regime critic as Wolf Biermann expressed a deep ambivalence towards June 1953 – ‘a democratic workers’ rebellion yet also a fascist rising’.91 It is symptomatic too that the turn from regime loyalty to dissidence for that most influential dissident of the 1960s and 1970s, Robert Havemann, was prompted not by mass movements but by the words of a General Secretary. As he recalled, ‘the events of the 17th of June were not enough to “open my eyes” about the Stalinist system. That only happened after the twentieth congress of the CPSU in 1956.’92 Havemann went on to espouse reform-Communist models such as the Dub¾ekian ‘Third Way’ and, somewhat later, the ‘Popular Front’ politics of Eurocommunism. In this he was followed by many others, including the most influential dissident theorist of the 1970s, Rudolf Bahro. The Alternative in Eastern Europe, Bahro’s magnum opus, advocates a ‘cultural revolution’ spearheaded by intellectuals that is presented explicitly as an alternative to classical Marxist conceptions of social emancipation through working-class led movements. Drawing upon Eurocommunist thought, Bahro proposed a ‘historic compromise’ whereby the goal of workers’ power be jettisoned in favour of a strategy geared to ‘consensus’ amongst a wide range of ‘emancipatory interests’.93 The core presuppositions of revisionist dissidence were twofold: a suspicion towards, or pessimism towards the prospects of, mass workers’ movements, and a faith in the prospects of Communist-led reform. The first of these, conditioned by the post-1953 downturn in working-class based industrial and political action, was inherited by the 1980s opposition. Amongst the activists I


Social movements, 1945–88

knew or interviewed, the possibilities either of workers’ movements arising or of the regime being toppled by mass action were, with the exception of a few Marxists and anarchists, barely entertained. The living standard of East Germans, they claimed, was ‘so high that “hunger revolts” could be ruled out’.94 The masses were ‘apolitical and apathetic, because there was no necessity for them to engage in politics – there were so many niches, and so much security that life could be lived in a reasonable degree of comfort’.95 Workers in particular ‘were petit bourgeois, conservative, anti-communist. Not at all the “combative workers”.’96 They were ‘disinterested in and desensitised towards’ issues, such as the environment, that were of concern to the dissident community.97 It was its scepticism towards Communist-led reform that demarcated much of the 1980s opposition from its predecessors. Informing this scepticism was a third factor: the gathering crisis afflicting Communist regimes worldwide, which was conducive to a questioning of all projects of state-centred change, including those of reform-Communists. That the decay of Communism occurred simultaneously with the termination of the great post-war boom in the West, signalled by the return of mass unemployment and rising social inequality, moreover, spurred activists to look to traditions that were critical not simply of the socialist order but of modernity tout court. A fourth conjunctural factor was the success of the regime in preventing oppositionists from connecting with the public at large. It bent every effort to preventing the grassroots groups from reaching out to wider layers, and to containing dissidence within the churches.98 Pressure was applied, by the security forces and by willing clergy, in differentiated ways. Those who called for an outgoing, public orientation faced the harshest sanctions, while a relatively tolerant approach was adopted towards those who accepted the bounds of the Church and/or devoted themselves to ‘lifestyle’ (or ‘life’) politics.99 It was, one interviewee recalls, ‘so hard to reach out to the public, because the Stasi was always looking over your shoulder. Most of our group’s activities remained just at the level of discussion.’100 Said another: People did come to our meetings in the churches, but we could only invite them through Church channels so only a minority of the population could be reached. On top of that, we knew that the Stasi was observing us constantly.101 The nature of the opposition was profoundly affected by its confinement within the cloistered space of the Church. Discussion within the grassroots groups was infused with moralism. Christian-influenced ethics of individual self-sacrifice and asceticism flourished. A ‘ghetto mentality’ developed in the grassroots groups, by which I mean an inward orientation, a fixation upon, or even celebration of, the opposition’s narrow cultural milieu. ‘We lived in isolation, as if inside a bell jar,’ Werner Fischer, a founding member of IFM, recalls, ‘and were not even particularly aware of the degree of our aloofness from the common people.’102 Even the more active oppositionists felt that they had only their own strength to rely on. As Bärbel Bohley describes IFM,

Socio-ethical movements in the early 1980s 117 Unfortunately, most [of its members] were outsiders. Their careers had been terminated due to their political activities, or they were not allowed to study. That way a kind of ghetto existence developed among us. In such a small group, which works together for years, contact is quite close. The group became a sort of family.103 Markus Meckel, a founding member of the SDP, has searched through his records of ten years as a peace activist and discovered that his group had produced only one text that was aimed for the general public rather than the Church milieu.104 It is safe to say that these experiences were typical. On the basis of interviews with thirty leading activists, the Leipzig sociologist Detlef Pollack and his colleagues found that most had not only engaged in oppositional activity within, but also lived their lives primarily within, ‘church or otherwise “alternative” milieux’.105 In conditions of intense repression, this huddling together of critical spirits was understandable, even inevitable. The groups offered vital support. They were spaces ‘in which the individual could find recognition, strength, security, warmth, comfort, and encouragement’.106 Reflecting as it did the difficulties of organising openly in such a comprehensively policed society, the enforced huddling of the courageous few militated against the development of strategies oriented to what seemed to be a congenitally apathetic majority. Instead, the emphasis was invariably upon general discussion and the elaboration of blueprints for reform.107 As Wolfgang Rüddenklau has written, the dissidents ‘would weave their splendid utopias, insulated from the needs of the people on the street’.108 They gave ‘astonishingly little thought’, Pollack and his colleagues discovered from their interviews, to the social and economic constraints on the lives of the mass of the population, or indeed to why the latter seemed so oblivious to their concerns.109 ‘Sealed off from the rest of society’, they developed ideas and strategies that, Claus Offe has written, were as if designed to preclude support or sympathy from the mass of working people.110 By the late 1980s, opposition intellectuals could write of the ‘value conflict’ that had opened up ‘between the “grassroots groups” and the population’.111 A final factor that conditioned the development of the 1980s opposition constituted influences from abroad. The decade began with an inspirational ec´ movement in Poland. It was, however, event in the form of the Solidarnoé■esé■ crushed, and the concepts that were carried across the Oder to pollinate dissident thought in the GDR were not so much those of free trade unions and workers’ control or ‘self-management’ as the notions of ‘self-limitation’ and ‘civil society’. Self-limitation denoted a strategy based upon an acceptance ‘that in Poland today the Communist Party must rule, and that Poland must stay in the Soviet bloc’, as Adam Michnik argued.112 Civil society initially referred to the realm of public life independent from the state, notably the ec´itself, but, following the defeat of the movements gathered within Solidarnoé■esé■ trade union in 1981, it evolved into a synonym for Western-style liberal democracy. By the mid-1980s, for the Polish opposition and a growing


Social movements, 1945–88

number of their fellows in the GDR, the term had come to mean ‘precisely what Marx believed it meant all along – bourgeois society’.113 Of greater impact were developments in the West. We have already noted the direct influence of the peace and ecology movements, and have drawn attention to the decline of labour movements and the rise of ‘NSMs’ in much of Western Europe in the late 1970s and 1980s. This conjuncture found expression in the writings of social scientists who, as described above, concluded from the defeats suffered by labour either that mass movements were a thing of the past, or that radicalism would henceforth have to take ‘self-limiting’ forms. Rudolf Bahro himself, now in the FRG, may be taken as representative of a generation of social theorists who retained a commitment to radical transformation but concluded, with André Gorz, that history had bid a final ‘farewell to the working class’. By the early 1980s, he had abandoned the production-fetishism of his youthful life as an apparatchik, and came to identify the burning issue of the epoch as ‘the explosion of material needs’, a problem towards which workers, because ‘bought off ’ by increased consumption, were blind.114 Addiction to consumer goods, combined with educational deprivation, he concluded, had turned proletarians into a ‘conservative’ class, one that required re-education – a task that in Bahro’s schema fell to a ‘vanguard of emancipatory interests’, with critical intellectuals to the fore.115 Appealing for a new ‘historic compromise’, a phrase used by Eurocommunists to justify the abandonment of revolutionary goals in favour of evolutionary change negotiated with the bourgeoisie, he threw in his lot with the Green Party.116 Other scholars that were in vogue in the West at the time included Habermas and Beck, as well as other NSM theorists mentioned above. The new ideas being developed in the West chimed with the sensibilities of many a dissident intellectual in the 1980s. Harald Wagner in Leipzig, for example, attempted to demonstrate that Gorbachevian ‘new thinking’ accorded with Habermas’s argument in Theory of Communicative Action.117 A few months after Wagner’s essay appeared the Berlin pastor Ehrhart Neubert published a samizdat pamphlet, Societal Communication in Social Change, which applied Beck’s individualisation thesis to East Germany. Drawing heavily upon Beck’s Risk Society, Neubert proposed that the ‘working class’ was no longer ‘a sociologically relevant concept’ and that the ‘old class issues and class conflicts’ have been superseded by questions of individual lifestyle-construction and of ‘global risk’.118 Whereas the received socialist paradigm of class struggle and revolution had merely aimed at the reshuffling of positions of power, he continued, ‘the ‘new’ politics pursues the more elevated task of transforming the purposes and nature of ‘technical-economic progress’. Whereas ‘old’ movements coveted higher living standards for the exploited classes, the ‘new’ seeks to demonstrate to them, through individual example and moral suasion, the geo-existential necessity of adopting ascetic ‘post-material’ lifestyles. Whereas the ‘old’ sought to expand consumption, the ‘new’ aspires to expand democracy. The conclusion drawn by Neubert – and by many other influential dissidents, such as

Socio-ethical movements in the early 1980s 119 Schorlemmer and Edelbert Richter – was that ‘the ersatz satisfaction of consumerism must be replaced with true satisfaction: free communication!’119 Probably the most important dissident work that borrowed heavily from contemporary Western social theory was The Tutelary State, by Rolf Henrich, a former apparatchik who was later to become a co-founder of New Forum. In the book, Habermas is cited alongside Bahro as the author’s major influences. In line with the framework advanced by NSM theory, The Tutelary State depicts the industrialised world as awash with affluence, and contends that this renders the satisfaction of material needs a superfluous, even counter-productive, desire. Workers, Henrich suggests, following Bahro, have become a ‘conservative’ group who ‘cling grimly to the pointless prosperity they have won – apathetic and piously patriotic in equal measure’.120 Engrossed in the enjoyment of consumer goods, the supply of which was in state hands, East German workers’ dependence upon the latter underpinned attitudes of conformism and deference. The ‘old’ paradigm of collective rebellion in the cause of material security, Henrich concludes, has to be superseded by a ‘new politics’ based within the ‘lifeworld’. Broadly speaking, Henrich’s interpretation of the concepts of lifeworld and system follows that of Habermas. For the West German philosopher, ‘lifeworld’ refers to cultural practices such as language and association upon the basis of which actors are able to arrive at shared understandings, whereas ‘system’ denotes impersonal and unaccountable forms of power that, having become decoupled from the fabric of everyday life, operate according to immanent and abstract logics of instrumental rationality.121 Lifeworld is the space of communication, as contrasted to the system, a realm of domination. In Henrich’s application of these concepts to the GDR, lifeworld is taken to refer to the realm of society that is private and dialogically organised, the ‘niches’ in which friends, neighbours, partners and family members interact, whereas ‘system’ denotes the sphere(s) of state power and political economy centred on the ‘bureaucratically organised world of work’, the instrumental imperatives of which are transmitted to the lifeworld via the monological institutions of ‘democratic centralism’. The system–lifeworld dichotomy provides the co-ordinates for Henrich’s case for social change. Essentially, he places his faith in the exertion of greater influence of the ‘familiar lifeworld’ upon the system, notably through citizens constructing their ‘personal lives in conscious opposition to the system-world’.122 Progress, in Henrich’s spiritual and Romantic refashioning of Habermasian ideas, will be effected by individuals overcoming conformism and releasing their ‘inner voices’, ‘discovering their ‘souls’ and ‘walking tall’. The ‘civic courage’ required for this task, however, does not depend upon the individual’s resources; rather, these are provided by family life, friendships and neighbourly relationships. ‘Ultimately,’ he concludes, it is ‘only love that can burn down the power-hungry and possessive ego of political economy.’123


The formation of political opposition

In retrospect it appears that the East German ruling class experienced its greatest successes, and was at its most confident, during a period that began in the early 1960s, after the outcry over the building of the Wall had subsided, and ended in the late 1970s or early 1980s. From then on, difficulties began to stack up, some of which have been discussed in previous chapters: declining social mobility, consumer-goods shortages, and the constraints upon the regime’s freedom of manœuvre posed by the Helsinki process and closer integration with the West. These were compounded by developments to the east, with the fall of the Soviet-supported government in Afghanistan, a loss that the Red Army was ec´ movement’s challenge to the Polish unable to reverse, the Solidarnoé■esé■ Communist Party, and growing tensions between Moscow and East Berlin in the early 1980s.1 On the economic front planners were beset by unforeseen problems caused by rising interest rates and their effect on foreign debt payments, and by soaring oil prices and foreign exchange shortages.2 A lack of funds available for replacing equipment or for investing in social infrastructure exacerbated problems of economic planning and public policy. It is important to avoid the temptation of retrospectively exaggerating the symptoms of deteriorating morale within the nomenklatura. Frustrations, discontent and internecine tensions were perennial. The economic data, however, as well as accounts in memoirs, indicate that troubles mounted over the course of the 1980s.3 The GDR’s relative economic decline, and the weakening of the USSR and other Soviet states, impacted profoundly on the confidence of policymakers. Their aims became more limited, their decisions more difficult to justify. In the 1960s SED leaders had exuded confidence. Ulbricht even proclaimed that the GDR would overtake its Western rivals ‘on the economic front’. From the mid-1970s and even more so from the mid-1980s symptoms of deteriorating confidence appeared at all levels. In response to signs of disintegration of the Soviet model, policy-makers, Charles Maier has described, began to ‘lose faith’; they began to ‘share their critics’ sense that the economic and social stalemate could not continue’. Equally, Maier observes, ‘they did not know how to extricate themselves or devise decisive reforms’.4 Although some senior functionaries concluded, privately, that reform was inescapable, others reacted dogmatically, even autistically, to their predica-

The formation of political opposition 121 ment.5 They shut themselves off, disbelieved bad news (even when accurate), surrounded themselves with admirers, invested their hopes in strict party discipline, and in a few cases turned to the bottle. One Politburo member has spoken of the ‘speechlessness’ and paralysis that afflicted his colleagues in the 1980s: like ‘mammoths with rigor mortis’, they believed that they had little option but to ‘soldier on, perversely’.6 By the late 1980s something approaching a mood of panic was beginning to pervade the corridors of power.7 In February 1988 Stasi chief Erich Mielke summoned his generals to a crisis meeting at which he warned that persistent failures in the economic and technological fields were threatening the GDR’s ‘defence capabilities’ and could result in ‘extreme transformations in living standards’.8 At around the same time, Günter Mittag warned his colleagues that ‘a situation has arrived where it could all capsize’.9 Quite simply, the habitual formulae of rule no longer seemed to work. Tactics of harsh repression and liberal concessions were both tending to excite stronger protests and emigration movements. The reform path of Poland or Hungary was rejected, yet Honecker was, equally, under no illusion that ‘we could go the Romanian way either; the situation vis-à-vis the FRG will not allow that’.10 Worst of all, the SED–state was wedded to a Great Power whose leader wished to maintain its informal empire yet the logic of whose reforms hastened its dissolution. The ‘new thinking’ in Moscow posed a greater threat to the East German regime than to any of its neighbours. The SED’s dependence on the USSR, it is worth recalling, was absolute. Its core myths centred on the CPSU’s heroic role in world history. Its leadership would occasionally baulk at Moscow’s interference in domestic affairs, but never could it forget its reliance on Soviet power and on the will of the Kremlin to use it. The GDR owed its existence to its integration into a military and economic ‘bloc’ and to the Soviet troops on its soil. The unravelling of the Soviet empire thus threatened to destabilise and delegitimise the SED regime. Moreover, if East German citizens were to be permitted, glasnost-style, to ask questions openly, could they be prevented from raising the issue of the Wall and inter-German relations? The SED regime’s official position towards the changes in Moscow was coldly dismissive. Kurt Hager, the Party’s ideology chief, gave this attitude its best known expression when, in an interview with a West German magazine, he asked rhetorically, ‘If your neighbour repapered his flat, would you also feel obliged to repaper yours?’ Yet beneath the surface there was considerable sympathy for glasnost and perestroika throughout the Party and state apparatuses, including the Stasi.11 Cautiously, some prominent SED members began to test the boundaries of orthodoxy. In 1988 Hans Modrow, a Politburo member with close links to Moscow, published an article praising China’s ‘special economic zones’. Modrow’s friend and the former head of espionage, Markus Wolf, spoke positively of glasnost in an interview, and followed this up with a novel that referred to some of the ‘blind spots’ in the history of German Communism.12 Such rumblings were considerably louder amongst the SED rank and file. Opinion surveys indicate a sharp drop in support for their own party amongst


Social movements, 1954–88

SED members. Whereas in 1970, 87 per cent of members expressed a ‘strong identification’ with the SED, that figure fell to 81 per cent in 1986 before slumping to only 48 per cent in the spring of 1989.13 Reports prepared by the Stasi frequently refer to SED members sympathising with Gorbachev’s ‘new thinking’ (especially where it addressed problems ‘which we have in East Germany too’, such as ‘varnishing of the truth’ and ‘poor labour discipline’).14 From 1987, one SED member told me, ‘it was striking how many party meetings expressed views that were pro-Gorbachev and anti-Hager’.15 In some party circles plans for democratic and market reforms began to be discussed in preparation for ‘the arrival of an East German Gorbachev’.16 Partly in consequence of these growing tensions between reform-inclined members and the leadership, the number of disciplinary hearings rose, and expulsions climbed from under 7,000 in 1982 to almost 11,000 in 1988.17

‘A thoroughgoing “anti” mood’ The transformation of the CPSU was conducive to a politicisation of discontent in East Germany, with glasnost legitimating critique and undermining SED orthodoxy. Regime critics revelled in the prospects offered for subverting official propaganda; one could now truly relish the ubiquitous propaganda slogan ‘learning from the Soviet Union means learning to win’. The word ‘glasnost’ and Gorbachev’s portrait materialised on walls, T-shirts and badges (leading to the curious phenomenon of Stasi employees tearing down posters that depicted the leader of the SED’s sister party).18 The word was painted on home-made placards carried on official demonstrations and chanted by young rock fans gathered at the Berlin Wall to listen to a concert on the other side. Broad layers of the population attentively followed all media reports on developments in the USSR.19 The Soviet embassy was ‘deluged’ with ‘letters calling for glasnost to be practised in East Germany’.20 Stasi leaders were keenly aware of the politicised discontent spurred by the Soviet reforms. One of them, Rudi Mittig, warned his colleagues that ‘destructive discussions have markedly increased, often involving open criticism of, and political demands upon, the SED’, discussions that, he added, commonly refer to glasnost and perestroika.21 Other reports from this period warn of an increasing scepticism amongst the populace that social and economic problems could be solved within a socialist framework, and of the ‘disappearance of trust of workers towards the Party and state leadership’.22 SED leaders were forced to recognise that popular grumblings and criticisms were ‘coalescing into a thoroughgoing “anti” mood’.23 Walter Friedrich, head of the Youth Research Institute in Leipzig, sent a report to Egon Krenz that portrayed a popular mood characterised by ‘declining optimism about the future’ and ‘increasing doubts about the superiority of the socialist system’. The SED’s repudiation of glasnost and perestroika, he added, ‘only exacerbates all this’.24 Opinion surveys carried out by the Institute uncovered some quite extraordinary trends. Amongst ‘young workers’, those who professed a ‘complete’ faith in

The formation of political opposition 123 socialism plummeted from 45 per cent in 1983 to 6 per cent in 1988, whilst those who identified ‘strongly’ with the GDR slumped in the same period from 55 per cent to 19 per cent.25 Among apprentices, those who expressed ‘complete’ agreement with the statement ‘the political goals of the FDJ are also my own’ declined from 43 per cent in 1975 to 16 per cent in 1988 and only 4 per cent in May 1989.26 One apprentice I interviewed recalled that his alienation from the FDJ was directly related to the new thinking in Moscow: ‘I was a keen supporter of Gorbachev, but also a loyal FDJ member. But the FDJ did not approve of Gorbachev’s reforms, and that gave me pause for thought.’27 Even students, a comparatively loyal group, turned their backs on party and state in growing numbers: the proportion who identified ‘strongly’ with the GDR halved from 68 per cent in 1986 to 34 per cent in early 1989, and support for the SED suffered an equally pronounced fall in the same period.28 The ‘anti’ mood pervaded all parts of society. FDGB leaders worried that ‘a breath of the Gorbachev spirit’ was infiltrating the workplaces, and that discontent was increasingly manifest at workforce meetings.29 Documents from the FDGB’s archive reveal a 20 per cent rise in reported ‘extraordinary occurrences’ such as ‘mass illness’ and ‘provocative activities’ between 1986 and 1988. FDGB membership figures, having risen steadily for decades, now began to decline, due largely to a ‘rising trend of resignations’. In his study of workers’ dissent, Bernd Gehrke documents relatively few instances of strike action but draws attention to the fact that in 1987–8 discontent developed in many workplaces and found expression in a rising wave of petitions (Eingaben) to the authorities. Increasingly, these were drafted collectively and sometimes carried overtly political criticism. Like every act of autonomous collective activity, Eingaben penned by groups of workers, as Gehrke points out, ‘flouted the prevailing convention that conflict must be negotiated on an individual basis’.30 In a sign of growing confidence, signatories were less concerned than in previous periods with preserving their anonymity. Directly political protests in workplaces were of course a different matter, yet with Moscow’s reforms new opportunities for activities of this sort did appear. One such came about in 1988 when an issue of the Soviet journal Sputnik, to which some 180,000 East Germans subscribed, was suppressed. The edition that provoked the journal’s prohibition carried a critical article on the Hitler–Stalin pact and on the fate of German Communists in the Soviet Union, as well as touching upon the KPD’s blunders in failing to prevent the rise of fascism in the late 1920s. Sputnik was supportive of glasnost and perestroika, and its prohibition was a clear sign of the SED’s refusal to reconsider its position. The ban provoked hundreds of official protests by SED branches and from functionaries too, and thousands of members resigned. Student-led protests occurred, and the dissident community took up the issue too. When the offending article was reprinted in one samizdat publication, ‘demand for it could simply not be satisfied. Visitors…even fished the faulty copies from out of the waste paper baskets.’31 However, responsibility for the bulk of protest lay not with the ‘usual suspects’. Some 200,000 letters, often blunt, even aggressive in tone, were sent in to the


Social movements, 1954–88

authorities by Party members and non-members alike.32 Dissent was expressed in some factories by means of the wall newspapers, petitions, and even in some cases strikes and go-slows.33 Several brief strikes occurred at Leuna, where workers summoned SED officials to demand an explanation of their Party’s decision.34 Elsewhere, groups of workers protested by resigning collectively from the German–Soviet Friendship organisation.35 Steven Pfaff has unearthed a revealing tale from an electronics plant, where a worker who belonged to the SED wrote a letter of complaint to protest the Sputnik ban. When pressed to withdraw his complaint he refused, on the grounds that his demands for improved access to information were justified. In the event the local Party Control Commission elected not to discipline him.36 Although the decision depended in part upon contingent factors (notably the culprit’s popularity in the factory), it also exemplified a general trend of the period – and one that is widely attested to in official documents37 – namely that SED functionaries and ordinary members in the factories often acted evasively or defensively when confronted with criticism. As Jens Reich has described, whereas in the 1950s SED members would intervene vigorously in workplace political discussions, in the 1980s they were more likely to try to change the subject.38

Opposition renaissance Following a phase of resignation in the middle years of the decade, oppositional activity revived from 1986, buoyed up by the wind from Moscow and by the developing ‘anti’ mood. Demands for democratic reform could now legitimately appeal to the model being practised in the Great Socialist Brotherland. Although dissidents were for the most part aware that perestroika represented an attempt to stabilise the Soviet ruling elite through reforms from above they were, equally, alive to the difficulties it posed for the SED regime and they latched on to the hopes it offered for democratisation. In an open letter to the Minister of Culture Kurt Hager, for example, the dissident performers Freya Klier and Stefan Krawczyk advised that, problems in the GDR being essentially the same as those in the USSR, their solution demanded a Gorbachevian politics of glasnost and perestroika.39 In 1986–8 the grassroots groups proliferated, and the number of individuals engaged in some sort of (broadly defined) ‘active resistance’ reached an estimated 20,000–25,000 each year.40 An interest in critical politics was shown by larger numbers than this, as shown by the audiences, amounting to over 80,000 in just two years, at concerts put on by Klier and Krawczyk.41 The number and circulation of samizdat publications grew in this period too: by early 1989 there were twenty-five news-sheets and magazines of note, most of which had been founded within the preceding two years. In a quantitative sense (measured by numbers involved) the upturn was not great, and showed a marked unevenness between regions.42 Yet it occurred alongside a set of important and inter-related qualitative changes. First, the ecology movement gained a more political edge. This was spurred by the nuclear

The formation of political opposition 125 reactor disaster at Chernobyl, which focused popular attention upon environmental themes, and by the GDR government’s complacent reaction to it, which revealed the urgency of change at the political (rather than the individual) level. Meanwhile, the organisational centre of gravity within the ecology movement was shifting from Wittenberg to the more radical Umweltbibliothek (‘Environmental Library’) in Berlin. The Umweltbibliothek (UB) was born in 1986 out of initiatives that sought to gather and publicise ecological and environmentrelated information, and aimed in the medium term to facilitate a shift in the movement out of the Church and into the public sphere.43 It published the samizdat Umweltblätter that, already in its first months, reached a print-run of over 1,000. The UB rapidly developed into a communications headquarters for a variety of grassroots groups and a centre for meetings and performances that addressed the gamut of (often taboo) political themes. By autumn 1989 a loose network of twenty-two similar centres had been set up across the country. Second, participants in the autonomous movements began to perceive that their concerns could find resonance amongst wider layers of the population. Perhaps the clearest example of this was the experience of peace ‘pilgrims’ who took part in the state-organised ‘Olof Palme peace march’ of September 1987. On reaching Berlin, the pilgrims scrutinised the reaction of the employees from local factories and institutions and students from nearby schools who had been sent to stand by the roadside as the official march entered the town. Vera Wollenberger described what they saw: When, following the endlessly long official march, the pilgrims were spotted the initial reaction was astonishment. But then many began to applaud, called and waved to us, and joined in with our singing. There were FDJ members who, with their teachers beside them, greeted the pilgrims with the Victory sign. I am convinced that after this experience everybody who participated in the pilgrimage, and not only me, was convinced that political change would come. Above all, the sympathetic reaction of the population was encouraging.44 Third, the long-running conflicts between oppositionists and the Church hierarchy gave rise to the formation of new groups that called for greater freedoms within the Church and for political democratisation. In 1986 the Solidarische Kirche was established by clergy concerned at the deficits in solidarity and democracy within Church and society. On the outer fringes of the Church, particularly around its youth-work branches, more militant voices could be heard. ‘No longer will we allow ourselves to be pushed into the niches that priests and bureaucrats leave for us!’ was the message.45 The most vocal group, and the one that was seen by Church leaders as a ‘particular problem’,46 was the Church From Below (Kirche von unten). Frustrated by the Church leadership’s cancellation of an annual ‘peace workshop’ in 1987, Kirche von unten activists pulled out of the Church’s national convocation, declaring that ‘the bigwigs can have their spectacle on their own!’ and organised an alternative Convocation


Social movements, 1954–88

From Below that drew an astonishing 6,000 visitors.47 They were bold in their tactics. When the Church showed reluctance to provide the new grouping with meeting rooms, Kirche von unten members threatened to occupy a church, and their demands were met. Their aims were radical too. Calling for ‘glasnost in church and state’, they castigated the Church hierarchy for its conservatism, drawing attention to its wealth, the travel privileges of the clergy, its spending on prestige projects (such as the restoration of Berlin Cathedral), and above all its ‘policing’ of the grassroots groups.48 They pointed to the connections between the privileges of clergy and their closeness to the regime. The Church leadership’s espousal of ‘good dialogue with the state’, they said, was nothing but a euphemism for ‘censoring, correcting and constraining us more thoroughly’.49 Against the Church leaders who emphasised that ‘Jesus invites us to love our enemies’ and that he was no ‘political revolutionary’, they advertised the rebellious threads in the Christian tradition.50 The Kirche von unten’s Jesus opposed exploitation and patriarchy; he was part of ‘the history of resistance against political, religious and social domination. Jesus belongs to those who have nothing to lose but their chains.’51 In a fourth development, the democratic opposition began to face up to the challenge of a counter-movement, in the shape of neo-Nazis. To them, the values of anti-authoritarianism, pacifism, tolerance and internationalism that prevailed amongst dissidents and within the punk movement were an anathema. Theirs were the martial qualities of discipline and stamina.52 Towards the end of the 1980s vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, and attacks on punks, goths, Gastarbeiter, people with long hair or black skin, and homosexuals became regular occurrences. Frequently dismissed by the authorities (and by some prominent Christians such as Synod Vice-President Lothar de Maizière) as the work of stray hooligans, they in fact testified to a growing interest in fascist ideology, especially, but by no means only, within the skinhead movement.53 This suspicion was confirmed in October 1987 when thirty or forty Nazi skinheads attacked concert-goers at the Zion Church, home of the UB, shouting ‘death to the red Punks’, ‘Communist pigs’, ‘Jewish pigs out of German churches’, and other fascist vituperations.54 In subsequent months attacks of this kind, if not quite so sensational, continued, prompting one prominent oppositionist to warn that ‘the danger of a new fascist movement has become thinkable’.55 The growing threat prompted the formation of anti-fascist initiatives from within the punk and opposition movements (notably the Kirche von unten). Anti-fascist groups were set up in Dresden and Leipzig; they held wellattended meetings and distributed flyers in public. In Potsdam a similar group became a prominent section of the opposition movement, while the inaugural meeting of the ‘Antifa’ in Berlin was attended by around 1,000 people.56 By mid-1989 the first news-sheet of the autonomous anti-fascist movement was being distributed. Fifth, the single-issue socio-ethical movements discussed in Chapter 5 spawned groups that were more confident in their tactics, explicitly oppositional in their agenda, and which developed comprehensive political critiques. Some of

The formation of political opposition 127 these were prepared to tackle ‘hard’ issues of democracy, civil liberties and travel rights. A concern for civil liberties came quite naturally to, say, the environmental campaigner whose requests for information had been persistently denied, or to the peace activist whose opposition to militarism came at the price of demotion, imprisonment or the attentions of the Stasi. In addition, the issue gained impetus as a result of East Germany’s participation in the Helsinki process and because of its centrality to opposition movements elsewhere in Eastern Europe.57 In 1985, oppositionists in Berlin organised a human rights seminar, from which two influential groups issued. One, Gegenstimmen (‘Voices [or votes] against’), brought together leftist Christians and dissident Marxists who were chafing against the limitations of single-issue socio-ethical movements. The peace movement, one of them complained, ‘is oriented to individual solutions to problems. The search for an overall societal perspective upon issues and solutions for the country as a whole is missing.’58 Likewise, the ecology movement was criticised for attributing blame for environmental problems to the mass of the population. It was not the ‘population’s greed for consumption’ that persuaded the SED to devote social resources to prestige projects and luxury retail outlets, Gegenstimmen members argued, ‘but its strategy to placate the populace and encourage political apathy by allowing individual consumption to rise’.59 Rejecting the orientation to individual rather than systemic change that prevailed in the peace and ecology movements, they advocated instead a broader and overtly political movement for revolutionary change. Although it enjoyed only a brief existence, members of Gegenstimmen were to be influential in the democracy movement of 1989, particularly in the United Left but also in New Forum and the Initiative for Independent Trade Unions. The other, and more important, group that crystallised out of the Berlin human rights seminar was IFM.60 Like Gegenstimmen, it was formed by peace activists turning their attention to broader and ‘harder’ issues. ‘Our concept of peace,’ one of its position papers declared, ‘entails not only the perspective of overcoming the causes of aggression and violence in international relations but also those within the domestic political realm.’61 For IFM, in contrast to Gegenstimmen, the emphasis was specifically upon democracy and human rights in their political, and not social, aspects. The achievement of a peaceful domestic polity, IFM argued, requires the creation of a ‘critical public sphere’ and this, in turn, requires guaranteed civil liberties. IFM’s concrete demands – for democratic elections, freedom of association, and for a referendum on nuclear power – tapped into the concerns of many activists. Its magazine, Grenzfall, reached a print-run of around 1,000 but was read by a much wider audience than that figure would suggest. IFM was audacious, in that it openly articulated political opposition, but also because it dared to step outside the Church. Its publications, although often printed in church offices, lacked the usual imprimatur ‘for internal church use only’. As such it was an especially troublesome thorn in the government’s side, and one that was all the sharper for its concern to build bridges to other East European dissident movements, such


Social movements, 1954–88

as Charter 77, and to West German political parties, notably the CDU and CSU (a move that elicited opprobrium from other oppositionists, who pointed to those parties’ links to dictatorships in South Africa and Chile). In 1989, IFM members were to play key roles in organisations such as New Forum and Democracy Now, as well as in IFM itself, which, although remaining small, maintained an independent existence. A final qualitative change in the period under consideration centred on the turn of sections of the opposition to a more co-operative relationship with the applicants. Emigration was a notoriously fraught subject for the dissident community. After all, their forces were repeatedly whittled away by the regime’s resort to deportations of oppositionists and other non-conformists. Each deportation of a dissident, moreover, would draw dozens more emigration applicants into the opposition groups in the hope that they would be next in line; oppositionists worried that their groups would be hijacked, or at best would lose credibility. On the basis of such fears a defensive reaction was common. The applicants were derided as apolitical or even, in kindred language to Western European conservatism, as undeserving economic migrants. One article in the Umweltblätter accused them of being ‘a caricature of a movement’. It continued: Of course in every country and in every epoch, for some individuals pressing political, personal or economic reasons to leave the country will exist. However – State Security here, fruit and vegetable supply there –, one has to insist that although the GDR is not the most perfect of all worlds, its living standard can be compared to that of Italy or Britain, and although democratic rights and civil liberties are not guaranteed, they are not trampled upon nearly so brutally as in the notorious dictatorships of the USA’s backyard. Measured by global yardsticks the GDR is not such an unbearable country that an exodus would be understandable.62 Similar views were put to me by interviewees. One from Berlin said ‘The emigrants were simply not oppositionists. And if we had identified with them, that would have meant standing for the demise of the GDR. And that would just not have worked.’63 Another activist, from Karl-Marx-Stadt, mentioned that in the early 1980s he himself had toyed with the idea of emigrating – ‘there seemed something adventurous about it back then’ – but that his attitude changed when the sluice gates were suddenly opened wider in 1984. ‘The exodus of that year meant that it was no longer so exotic to submit an application to emigrate. When the masses began to do it, I was no longer so interested. From then on I totally rejected the emigration movement.’64 However, even as divisions widened between the applicants and some oppositionists, others were finding ways of negotiating the gap. Although an experiential basis existed upon which mistrust between the two movements grew, could oppositionists not also identify with the emigrants? After all, as Freya Klier put it, ‘For young people the main impulse to emigrate is not, in the first instance, so much an “Off to the golden West” as an “Away from this oppressive

The formation of political opposition 129 GDR”.’65 The motivations of those who desired ‘exit’ were not always so foreign to those who opted for ‘voice’. And the discrimination meted out to the emigrant applicants by the same security forces that kept oppositionists down could not but elicit the latter group’s sympathy. Members of Church groups in particular extended solidarity and friendship to the applicants (although they would generally seek to persuade them to remain in the country). Furthermore, some oppositionists could see that, by broaching the question of freedom of travel, applicants played to their hand. IFM sought to raise the profile of this issue. It petitioned the government, and it permitted the ‘Working Group on Citizenship Rights’, a group established by emigrant applicants, to affiliate. Before long the Working Group had attracted several hundred members and had spread nationwide. With little to lose, its members were willing to push further than usual beyond the limits of legality. Carrying placards demanding the freedom to travel, they helped to build the small but significant public demonstrations, of which more below, that became regular features of some East German cities in the two years preceding the 1989 revolution. They also proposed that the SED’s ritual ‘Luxemburg and Liebknecht’ commemoration in Berlin in January 1988 be met with a counter-demonstration, and they collaborated with oppositionists on that day.66 This rapprochement between applicants and a section of the Berlin opposition was not smooth, nor did it survive long. In Leipzig, however, a similar process was taking place, with greater and more lasting implications that will be discussed below.

The ‘Battle of Zion’ and the Leipzig Peace Prayers In the late 1980s East Germany stood out, alongside Czechoslovakia and Romania, for its rejection of Moscow’s reforms. In domestic politics, however, the period was not an especially conservative one. In a number of issues a more liberal direction was taken. The oppression of homosexuals and young Christians was ameliorated somewhat, the death penalty was abolished, and a degree of judicial control over the executive was introduced.67 In the opinion of legal expert Inga Markovits, the authoritarian ‘misuse of law’ in this period was ‘usually lowkey; if possible denying justice by bureaucratic rather than physical interference; in most instances not violent but evasive and dishonest’.68 In certain respects repression was comparatively restrained. For example, from the early 1980s not a single conscientious objector was imprisoned. The authorities sought to avoid penal persecution of its opponents for fear of the protests, both at home and abroad, that such measures provoked.69 Where prison sentences were imposed they were usually (though not always) relatively light. At some points the regime appeared to be toying with the idea of more substantial reforms. In 1987 it did not act to prevent the participation of Church-based oppositional groups in a peace march (although the word ‘toleration’ would not be appropriate).70 The same year saw the SED enter a dialogue with West Germany’s SPD, resulting in the publication of a joint paper. In the face of the legitimation crisis suffered by the SED over perestroika, the pervasive ‘anti’ mood, its inability to crush opposition


Social movements, 1954–88

and its reliance instead upon the Church, ‘the dictatorship gradually lost its terror’, in the words of historian Stefan Wolle. It came to ‘appear remarkably weary and resigned’.71 However, the period also witnessed a series of authoritarian measures, such as the prohibition of Sputnik. And the Stasi, of course, continued in its bullying ways. It was given the task of waging psychological war against oppositionists, using tactics that included character assassination, disrupting careers, and sowing strife and discord, uncertainty and resignation within the grassroots groups.72 There were also times when brutal repressive force was displayed, in the attempt to deflate popular hopes in reform. One egregious example occurred in late 1987, when Stasi officers stormed the premises of the Zion Church that housed Berlin’s UB in the hope of apprehending activists in the production of Grenzfall (which, being an extra-Church publication, was beyond the bounds of toleration). Although the UB had suffered perennial harassment by the authorities (whether through the arrests of activists or over petty hygiene regulations and the like), this incident evoked shock, as no Church premises had been forcibly entered since the 1950s. Activists responded quickly, and organised a protest meeting to which around 200 came. Against the cautious counsel of the Church hierarchy, a permanent vigil was established to demand the release of those arrested in the raid.73 The vigil was well attended and, crucially, gained sympathy from the general public. ‘We received wonderful support from people in the neighbourhood,’ one activist recalls. ‘They would come over to wish us well, and a baker brought us free rolls.’74 Another remembers how ‘residents of nearby houses brought coffee and other hot drinks’.75 Assisted by solidarity actions in other towns, and publicity in the Western media, the campaign’s immediate aim of winning the release of prisoners was duly met. Furthermore, the publicity surrounding the conflict led ‘to a veritable wave of openings of similar institutions’ in at least seventeen other cities, most of which began to function as opposition communication centres.76 The ‘Battle of Zion’ testified to a higher level of co-ordination between opposition groups, and showed that the movement would not easily be bowed. Successful use of the public vigil was widely noted and contributed to its popularity as a method of protest in subsequent months and years. Only weeks later the state’s determination to drive the opposition back into the Church was once again displayed, this time with the apprehension of some 160 protestors, including IFM and Working Group members who had dared to carry placards with quotations from Rosa Luxemburg at the annual Luxemburg–Liebknecht ritual in Berlin, followed by further detentions of opposition activists.77 The consequences of this incident for the further development of opposition were complex. As with the ‘Zion affair’ the arrests sparked an impressive solidarity movement. ‘For the third time in four days,’ wrote the Financial Times, ‘tens of thousands of largely non-religious East Germans have squeezed into normally empty Protestant churches in a powerful display of solidarity.’78 The weekly Monday evening ‘Peace Prayers’ – first held in 1981 (with ex-Bausoldaten amongst the prime movers) in Leipzig’s St Nicholas Church, to

The formation of political opposition 131 protest the stationing of new missiles by the Warsaw Pact and NATO and resuscitated, against resistance from local Church leaders, by the radical pastor Christian Wonneberger – were now converted into solidarity services.79 The solidarity movement reached well beyond the ranks of the grassroots groups and the churches. All told, some 30,000 people participated and around 35,000 marks were collected.80 Reports spread that a bus driver had attached a sign to his vehicle declaring support for one of the arrestees, and that some building workers had donated an entire month’s salary.81 FDGB officials expressed grave concern at the number of solidarity petitions circulating in workplaces. Young people, Freya Klier observed, ‘articulated protest in ways that had until then appeared barely possible’, including ‘graffiti on the walls of buildings and pedestrian subways, and the printing of leaflets and posters’.82 In Leipzig, according to one official report, ‘flyers were distributed with the words: “Freedom for Krawczyk”/“Leipzigers, fight for your human rights and show solidarity with the imprisoned Berliners” ’.83 The scale of the solidarity movement marked a milepost in the development of opposition. It demonstrated the potential of collective action and enabled activists to perceive at last that ‘the mobilisation of citizens was achievable’.84 It was at this juncture, as Helena Flam has commented, that a ‘solidaristic collective identity’ began to take root, supplanting the more individualistic attitudes of the preceding period.85 The movement stimulated the formation of new grassroots groups, not least in Leipzig, and spurred the development of links between the provinces and the capital, strengthening the sense that a nationwide oppositional movement was achievable.86 A direct success was scored too, in that eleven individuals (including the prominent Berlin activists Klier, Wollenberger, Krawczyk, Wolfgang Templin, Ralph Hirsch, Bärbel Bohley and Werner Fischer) who had been sentenced to prison terms were set free. However, the victory was poisoned by the conditions imposed by the state for their release: that they be exiled, at least temporarily, in the West. This broke the solidarity movement and demoralised oppositionists. Reinhard Schult summed up the disappointment: ‘The brushfire of burning hearts and praying hands, which had seized around forty cities, was extinguished.’87 Recriminations were hurled against Krawczyk and the others who, albeit under duress, had acquiesced to their deportation. Oppositionists such as Schult were doubly disappointed. For one thing, the departure of so many leading figures left the Berlin opposition demoralised and directionless. IFM was critically weakened, and Grenzfall did not appear at all in 1988. For another, the publicity given to the deportations of emigration applicants and IFM activists alike accelerated the influx of the applicants into opposition groups across the country. ‘From the events of January 1988 in Berlin,’ they would say, ‘we know that we can succeed in forcing our departure.’88 The episode, in Freya Klier’s assessment, brought on a phase of debilitation and depression for the reformist forces in the GDR. It had brought about a sharp rise in applications to emigrate, above all from the younger generation. And the burgeoning civic rights


Social movements, 1954–88 movement was strangled in its attempt to open up society enough that people would wish to stay rather than leave.89

Yet the growing militancy of applicants, their defiance in the face of Church and state authorities, could, equally, inspire confidence amongst oppositionists, and this is precisely what began to occur in Leipzig. Indeed, the Saxon town now replaced Berlin as the capital of opposition, a development that provides a good part of the explanation for its centrality in the protest movement of 1989.90 There, the relationship between oppositionists and emigrant applicants in Leipzig was less acrimonious and more symbiotic than elsewhere. The influx of applicants helped to revitalise the weekly ‘Peace Prayers’, bringing the opposition groups greater publicity and spurring them to pay greater heed to emigrantrelated concerns, including the demand for the right to emigrate and for an end to the discrimination against applicants.91 The concerns of the applicants were taken seriously by a number of Leipzig clerics, including Wonneberger, Christian Führer and Klaus Kaden, as well as by several of the grassroots groups.92 According to Harald Wagner, ‘the emigration applicants recognized the potential of the peace prayers for the pursuit of their interests. They streamed in their hundreds into the St Nicholas Church.’93 At one point, when the bi-annual Leipzig Trade Fair ensured the presence of Western television teams, some 200 applicants staged a march into the city centre.94 The influx of oppositionists and emigrant applicants transformed the Peace Prayers. Increasingly under the control of the grassroots groups, they now regularly addressed overtly political themes, including ecology, human rights and emigration.95 The greater numbers attending, writes Wayne Bartee, gave the oppositionists a respectability, legitimacy, and publicity they would not otherwise have enjoyed. The groups, small in number and with few resources of their own, cleverly managed their programming of Monday services to present their respective agenda to a growing and sympathetic audience. The would-be émigrés, cast out of society but denied exit permits, were numerous but only a conglomeration of isolated, disaffected individuals until they began to gather on Mondays to swell the crowds inside and outside the church.96 The state authorities ‘reacted hysterically’ to the politicisation of the Peace Prayers, writes Wagner: ‘they were enraged, and complained about the meetings to the church leaders, but found no effective means of asserting themselves’. Local Church leaders were also frustrated, for those attending the Monday ‘prayers’ were becoming increasingly outspoken in their criticisms of the Church. In the summer of 1988 they attempted to wrest control of the Prayers back from the grassroots groups, a step that, predictably, sparked resistance. Banners protesting the decision were taken into the church, and the altar was occupied. On that day, one local pastor recalls, ‘for the first time, people read a public statement in front of the church, namely the statement of the grass-roots

The formation of political opposition 133 groups concerning this whole issue’. Although the Peace Prayers had on occasion spilled into the streets in the early 1980s, this event reminded participants ‘that one can also stage a protest not only inside the church, but also in front of it’.97 In short, the occasion marked an important addition to the action repertoire of the grassroots groups, and may be seen as the beginning of what was to become a series of public demonstrations (involving both applicants and oppositionists) that would ‘spontaneously’ emerge from the Peace Prayers on Mondays, later in 1988 and throughout 1989. The publicity given to the Peace Prayers, moreover, led others to follow suit. In towns across the country similar events began to attract hundreds of visitors and came to function as contact points and arenas for political discussion, both for oppositionists and applicants.98 Before moving on to look at the year of revolution, I shall briefly review the trajectory of opposition in the period discussed in this chapter. An elementary point, but one that bears reiteration, is that the opposition was diminutive. So small, indeed, that the journalists of samizdat publications were often, one of them recalls, ‘simultaneously the reporters, objects and subjects of the reports’.99 This could be a dispiriting state of affairs. ‘It’s just a pity,’ one report on an otherwise upbeat peace seminar lamented, ‘that the same old people were amongst themselves again, the ones who know it all already.’100 Contained within the cocoon of the Church and isolated from the public by harsh and systematic repression, the oppositional milieu had a ghetto quality about it. Sebastian Pflugbeil, later to become a leading spokesperson of New Forum, describes it thus: you had these typical ‘insider circles’ of a limited few who regularly met, all of whom knew each other well. Attempts [to communicate with others] were completely dependent upon the individual efforts of a few people. We virtually never reached wider circles.101 Similarly, Steffen Geißler from Karl-Marx-Stadt recalls that ‘although in the late 1980s there was plenty of discussion about political themes amongst ordinary people, in our experience the population was apathetic, and certainly uninterested in us’. Yet from this very low baseline an upward curve of oppositional activity could be discerned. The trouble that Gorbachev’s reform programme brought the SED leadership and the legitimation it gave to criticism emboldened those striving for greater transparency and democracy. Following several years in the doldrums the peace movement began to revive, spawning new samizdat publications and the inauguration of a national gathering for conscientious objectors. The ecology movement developed, in size and in organisation, with networks forming around the Environmental Libraries and, from 1988, around a new organisation, Arche Nova. The single-issue movements began to coalesce, bringing forth new and overtly oppositional groups. Perhaps of greatest import, the mushrooming applicants’ groups grew into a movement and began to find friends amongst the opposition, notably in the Berlin IFM and in


Social movements, 1954–88

Leipzig. Their refusal to be cowed by the threat of arrest, their courage in waving banners and staging public protests, undoubtedly inspired the generally more cautious and fearful oppositionists. By and large the state proved adept at containing protest and channelling opposition. As in previous eras, dissidents were demoted, arrested, imprisoned and expatriated. In the 1980s the modalities of repression altered somewhat, with less stress on the intimidation of activists and more on influencing the groups via the Church, and by means of Stasi informers who were instructed to exacerbate ideological divisions and personal rivalries, and to encourage any form of behaviour that offered an alternative to or discouraged public activity, whether that involved lifestyle politics, theological soul-searching, an obsession with technical aspects of potentially political issues (e.g. nuclear power) or simply long-winded theoretical discussion.102 However, for all its resources and efficiency, the Stasi was often frustrated in its attempts to influence groups. In part this flowed from the inevitable difficulty faced by agents who consistently seek to thwart activity, hamper teamwork, cause needless delays and accidents or make poor suggestions: others may ignore them, question their credibility or even identify them as servants of a different cause.103 In part, too, the security services were taking orders from a government that was beset by problems – notably economic crisis and its differences with Moscow – and was reluctant to antagonise the population, the Church or Bonn by recourse to brute repression.104 In tackling the renascent movements in 1987–8 the state therefore looked to Church leaders to exert pressure on clergy to restrain the politicisation among the flock. As shown above, this strategy backfired. The cancellation of peace seminars, Peace Prayers and the like only served to inflame opposition, encouraging activists to form new groups such as Solidarische Kirche and Kirche von unten. In addition, the state itself lashed out against IFM. But here, too, repressive tactics boomeranged as oppositionists, showing a new level of resilience, responded with solidarity movements. During and in the wake of these movements, repertoires of contention – petitions, public vigils, the demonstration, use of the Western media – were rediscovered and rehearsed, and activists were pleasantly surprised by the degree of public support they received. The 1987–8 protests, in short, ‘generated a measure of trans-group solidarity and the capacity to act’, drew greater numbers into defiant oppositional activity and boosted the confidence of those who sought to break out from behind church walls.105 The upward curve of opposition in the late 1980s was neither dramatic nor was it experienced uniformly in all the major cities, yet it was unmistakeable, and it continued into the revolutionary year 1989.

Part III

The revolution of 1989


The summer crisis

At the beginning of 1989 the Soviet bloc was entering a major crisis, the course of which was not predictable any more than its eventual outcome was inevitable. A series of remarkable policy shifts in Hungary and Poland were underway. In January, non-Communist parties were legalised in Hungary. In February, Round Table talks began in Poland. In April, the Hungarian leadership resigned. In May, Budapest began to dismantle the fortifications on its border with Austria. In June, the Polish Communist Party relinquished its hold on power. All of these transformations met with the Kremlin’s approval, or at least toleration (although it did insist that in Poland Communists retain the defence and interior ministry portfolios). Soviet leaders and advisers knew that their room for manœuvre was narrow. Intervention by Soviet forces, they feared, could light the touchpaper under Eastern Europe as a whole. Even if the ruling parties in Eastern Europe held to a conservative course, ‘a political eruption’ – or even an ‘acute socialpolitical conflict with an unfathomable outcome’ – could ensue.1 Further reforms, it seemed, were inevitable; the hopes (and assumptions) in Moscow were simply that these would be controlled by reform Communists or other pro-Soviet forces. The Kremlin’s approach was cemented in July with Gorbachev’s formal repudiation of the Brezhnev doctrine. In East Berlin a stiff silence was maintained throughout these months, punctuated by formal declamations of the unity of the socialist bloc. Behind the scenes, however, severe annoyance was expressed at what an incensed Honecker described as Hungary’s ‘slide into the bourgeois camp’.2 The reforms in that country and in Poland, he warned, represented ‘the visibly accelerating erosion of socialist power, achievements, and values’.3 In meetings with their Soviet-bloc counterparts, he and Stasi chief Mielke expressed ‘profound concern’ at these developments. At one point Mielke even hinted that co-operation with the KGB would be in jeopardy if Soviet foreign policy continued on its ‘tactless’ course.4 SED leaders behaved as if stunned. One, at the Politburo’s crisis sitting in May, bemoaned the ‘lack of a clear conception for the way forward’.5 Some – even within the highest echelons of the Party – began to place their hopes in the removal of Honecker, either by way of a ‘biological solution’ or through collective intervention by his critics. But no such initiative was taken.6 Impotence at the top reverberated downwards, affecting the middle and lower ranks of the


The revolution of 1989

apparatuses of power. In the Stasi’s ‘situation reports’ from the time, phrases such as ‘resignation amongst leading cadre and employees’ come up time and again.7 One typical report noted that the population is showing an increasing interest in the development of the overall political situation on the world stage. In this same connection, another growing tendency of note is that comparisons are constantly being made between events abroad and existing problems in the GDR.8 Another reported that ‘discussions over questions of consumer-goods supply and domestic political events, which arise continually, are increasingly being linked to the events in a series of other socialist countries’.9 Amongst the population at large a mood of expectation and uncertainty was growing; ‘waiting for perestroika’ was Stefan Heym’s apt phrase.10

‘Something is breaking through’ In the first six months of 1989 the curve of opposition and resistance continued on an upward course. In mid-January activists in Leipzig secretly delivered thousands of leaflets into mailboxes. They announced a public demonstration for civil liberties and ‘democratic renewal’. Undeterred by a massive show of force by police and Stasi, some 500–800 gathered, the bulk of whom then attempted to march to the nearby Liebknecht Monument. Although police prevented the march from reaching its destination, and made scores of arrests, the protestors had shown that public demonstrations could be organised in the teeth of repression. It was a success that resonated across the country. ‘Prayer and information meetings drew crowds to churches all over East Germany’ to show support for the Leipzig detainees.11 Shortly afterwards, in the same city, attempts by the Church authorities to depoliticise the Peace Prayers were beaten back. From February onwards the service was consistently political. A growing spectrum of topics was addressed, from human rights to the local elections via repression in Czechoslovakia, the education system and conscientious objection, to name but a few. St Nicholas church-goers now regularly formed into public demonstrations following the service. Meanwhile, the emigration movement continued to swell. From January, as a consequence of CSCE negotiations and ‘a wave of criticism within East Germany’, the application process was liberalised a little.12 In the first half of 1989 alone more exit visas were issued than in any of the previous four years. Emigrant applicants grew bolder in their public appearances, particularly in Leipzig. At one demonstration in March, when Western television teams were present due to the Trade Fair, applicants began a chant of ‘We Want Out!’ Following assaults by the security forces, other slogans – ‘Stasi out’, ‘Stasi pigs’ and ‘freedom, human rights’ – were intoned too.13 It was the first time that the hitherto silent Monday protests had turned vocal, and attested to a further evolu-

The summer crisis 139 tion of the activists’ repertoire of contention (and of attention-grabbing techniques in particular). Another milestone in the opposition’s development arrived with the local elections in May. Given that properly conducted elections had taken place in the USSR the previous year, dissatisfaction with the absence of choice and opaque electoral process was running high. Stasi reports noted that even members of the ‘bloc parties’ were reluctant to participate in the organisation of the elections, on grounds of suspected SED gerrymandering.14 Oppositionists called upon citizens to register their disaffection by voting ‘no’. They distributed leaflets, painted graffiti and intervened at election hustings. Suspecting – correctly – that many voters would reject the official candidates but that the results would be faked, they sent observers to polling stations to witness the vote. In some districts they counted a ‘no’ vote of over 10 per cent, only to discover that the official published result was a whisker short of 100 per cent ‘yes’. In some places direct evidence of ballot-rigging was observed.15 Oppositionists were outraged, and responded by calling protests.16 In Berlin a regular date was set – the seventh day of every month – for public protests against the election fraud. On the first of these, 7 June, over 100 demonstrators were detained by police for questioning. In a sign of the continued resilience of opposition, a protest meeting held the next day attracted over 1,500.17 Over and again in subsequent months these ‘seventh of the month’ demonstrations were broken up by the security forces, but numbers attending, many of them emigrant applicants, gradually grew until over 200 came on 7 September. In Leipzig, similar events emerged from the Peace Prayers and were more successful, with around 1,000 in attendance. All in all, these activities that were sparked by the election observation marked a significant step forward for oppositionists. It helped them to become better known in the wider population and to break out of their marginal status. The fraud to which they drew attention severely embarrassed the regime and contributed to the disintegration of loyalty amongst its supporters. A further flashpoint occurred in early June, in connection with the crushing of the democracy movement at Tiananmen Square. The SED’s vociferous support for its Chinese sister party’s behaviour was designed to intimidate the populace and certainly achieved that end. But it also provoked a reaction. Protest meetings were held in churches, thousands signed petitions, newspapers were deluged with letters that questioned or criticised the government’s position. There were also reported cases of workers writing collective protest letters to the Chinese ambassador. Although the majority of protests remained within the churches, dozens of small public events occurred too: one in Dresden involved drumming in solidarity with the Tiananmen victims (forty drummers were arrested). Another, more typical, protest was staged by students who hung a large banner over a fence with the words ‘We’re mourning the deaths in China’.18 Twenty individuals were detained and fined for demonstrating outside the Chinese embassy in East Berlin. Shortly thereafter, around 1,000 people attended Jochen Lässig’s ‘Freedom With Music’ street festival in Leipzig that, although not overtly political, lent itself to interpretation – by means of that grammar of ambiguity and


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implication in which East European dissidents were so skilled – as a protest over the Tiananmen bloodbath and/or as a 1953 commemoration.19 The rash of small but brave protests in the first half of 1989 attested to an increasing breadth and confidence of political opposition and a growing militancy amongst emigration applicants. The Church, too, was bitten by a reformist bug, as evidenced by some uncharacteristically sharp words on issues of travel, education and the environment. (One regional synod even called for a law to prohibit telephone-tapping – a direct challenge to the ministry for state security.20) The Zeitgeist was summarised by Stefan Heym in June. ‘Something is moving. Something is breaking through. The people here won’t take no for an answer.’21

The Hungarian breach The major breakthrough in mid-1989, however, occurred not in East Germany but in Hungary. In a complex interplay of high politics and diplomacy, collective action and individual initiative, a relaxation of Hungary’s border regime precipitated a crisis that led ultimately to the demise of the SED regime. At the level of high politics, the government in Budapest, assisted by implicit promises of aid from Bonn and in the context of the failure of market reforms to resolve the problem of spiralling foreign debt, began to dismantle the fortifications on Hungary’s western border. If the door was unlocked by government ministers it was pushed open by ordinary people. In the course of June and July, increasing numbers of East German holiday-makers in Hungary noticed and seized the opportunity to depart. It was by no means a risk-free enterprise. They had to physically break through the border fence, and many received injuries at the hands of Hungarian security forces.22 Apprehended emigrants were deported back to East Germany, until a campaign by Hungarian oppositionists shamed the government into halting the practice.23 It was Hungarian oppositionists, too, who conceived of the idea of a ‘pan-European picnic’, to which Prime Minister Imre Poszgay and the West German parliamentarian Otto von Habsburg were invited as patrons, and which took place at the Austrian border on 19 August.24 Attended by some 10,000–20,000, the ‘picnic’ was intended as a protest against the stillfortified border regime. Permission to make a symbolic hole in the fence was obtained, and organisers assumed that picnickers would use the opportunity to take a temporary trip to Austria before returning home. Unexpectedly, however, a fleet of Trabants arrived, bringing hundreds of East Germans to the event. They made a break for the border, and almost 700 managed to cross into Austria. News of the mass escape filtered back to other East Germans in the country, many of whom now headed for the border, prompting a nervous government to seal it. Meanwhile, the occupation of Western embassies, a tactic that had been used by applicants in the mid-1980s, had been rediscovered. Rather like the factory occupation or student sit-in, the embassy occupation has as its objective the creation of a crisis for the protestors’ targets and the gaining of publicity for their cause.25 East German citizens began to deploy it to powerful effect. In their thou-

The summer crisis 141 sands they occupied West German embassies in Budapest, Warsaw and Prague. In Hungary the occupation by East Germans of the FRG embassy became a highly visible reminder of Budapest’s divided loyalties. With conditions in the embassy becoming intolerable, and with thousands of East Germans housed in temporary camps, Hungarian Foreign Minister Gyula Horn decided that this situation could not continue. Hungary and the GDR, Angela Stent recounts, had signed a treaty obliging Hungary to repatriate any East German citizens who were trying to flee to the West. Horn decided that Hungary could no longer honor this treaty. West Germany had become Hungary’s major Western economic partner, had given it substantial credits, and had encouraged its reformist government. In a series of intense discussions between Hungarian and West German officials…the two sides worked out an agreement whereby the Hungarians…would break their treaty with the GDR and allow the East Germans to leave for West Germany.26 On 11 September, Hungary’s Western border was formally opened. In East Germany the announcement set off a rush of applications for visas for ‘holidays’ in Hungary. On 11 September an unprecedented 2,250 families applied, and in the following three days fully 15,000 emigrated, lifting the overall monthly figure to over 33,000 in September – up from 11,700 in July. The departure of so many citizens dealt the East Berlin regime a tremendous blow. Each emigrant that crossed the border into Austria drew attention to the disaffection of East German citizens. Each departure weakened the economy: one study estimated the loss to be in the order of 10 billion Deutschmarks per 10,000 emigrants.27 Yet in devising strategies to stem the flow, East Berlin faced tight constraints. First, and most importantly, it could not rely upon the USSR. Some vociferous broadsides against Bonn’s policies by the TASS news agency notwithstanding, Moscow did not lend support to the beleaguered SED. It expressly tolerated Budapest’s actions, effectively accepting the opening of the ‘iron curtain’. SED leaders attempted to swing opinion in the Kremlin, and Honecker flew to Moscow to attempt to mend fences with Gorbachev, but all to no avail. The GDR’s economic frailty and in particular its indebtedness to foreign banks posed a second constraint on the SED’s room for manœuvre. The country’s debt–service ratio (the percentage of export earnings required to pay interest on cumulative debts) was high, and necessitated the securing of credit lines to the tune of 8–10 billion Deutschmarks annually. This would inevitably entail a high degree of dependence on Western governments as well as on the Japanese financial institutions that owned over three-quarters of the country’s hard-currency debt.28 With political turmoil increasing, these were showing signs of concern for the security of their loans. The general director of the Bank of Tokyo demanded in mid-September that the head of the GDR State Bank present an assessment of how the exodus of so many young people would affect economic performance. The president of Crédit Commercial expressed similar concerns.29 Moreover, the GDR’s financial credibility in the eyes of lending institutions depended ultimately


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upon Bonn’s goodwill. The GDR leadership ‘was restrained in the severity of its response’ to the exodus and protests, Stephen Szabo has argued, ‘by the fear of the consequences for its economic relationship with the FRG’.30 A third constraint that contributed to the regime’s hesitant reaction to the crisis was the fear that a dramatic change of policy direction, or a military crackdown, could spark an uprising. Günter Mittag recalls the mounting reports of ‘heated discussions’ about the exodus in workplaces, and SED leaders’ concerns that serious instability could ensue.31 He and his colleagues were obsessed with the fear of a reprise of 1953. The best-known example of this is the choice of words of Stasi chief Mielke when asking for a colonel’s assessment of the risk of popular revolt: ‘Will a 17th June occur tomorrow?’32 Hemmed in by Moscow’s ambivalence, Budapest’s ‘treachery’, financial reliance upon international banks and on Bonn, and a restive working class, the SED leadership was ill equipped to confront the crisis that the exodus had triggered. Diplomatic representations to Bonn, Budapest and Moscow proved fruitless. No clear crisis-management strategy was developed. Instead, its reaction to the exodus took three main forms, each one as futile as the next. The first may be described as passive. A creeping paralysis had overcome the SED leadership as the fragmentation of the Soviet bloc had gathered pace, and this was now exacerbated by their powerlessness to act effectively to stem the exodus. ‘We were speechless because we were helpless,’ Politburo member Günther Schabowski recalls.33 This was compounded by a sense of complacency, even arrogance, which derived from decades of uninterrupted rule, during which a succession of previous crises had been successfully weathered. The only plausible reaction in such adverse circumstances, it seemed, was to sit tight and hope that the storm would pass. Those in charge held faster to the certainties that had underpinned their survival thus far. In his report on a Central Committee meeting in June one journalist captured the ‘Tocquevillian intuition’ of the SED leadership: ‘The message of the 8th Central Committee plenum is the following: No experiments, or else the entire edifice of rule will start to crumble.’34 As the crisis wore on, with the exodus accelerating in late August, the attitude of denial became more and more implausible. SED leaders began to wake up to the devastating implications of the crisis.35 In September, a second type of reaction developed, centred on an belligerent propaganda offensive. The exodus was highlighted by the GDR’s media organs in torrents of purple prose, with fire concentrated upon Bonn’s role in encouraging the population movement, and with sideswipes at the emigrants as an ‘enemy within’ – or, at best, as deluded fools who allowed themselves to be ‘seduced by shop windows full of bananas or by glossy travel brochures’.36 Each day brought fantastic ‘news’ stories of malicious deeds by West Germans – the luring of East Germans away from their Heimat through kidnapping or with the help of drugs; and even of gunshots fired by West Germans at a GDR border village. The climax of the propaganda offensive came with Honecker’s notorious statement that ‘no tears should be shed’ for emigrants. It is conceivable that some SED leaders convinced themselves that emigrants had been duped by Western propaganda and that their riposte should therefore

The summer crisis 143 be focused at the ideological level. ‘This is about the growth of revanchism, neoNazism, fascism,’ insisted Horst Sindermann at a Politburo meeting in early September; ‘It is also the effect of chauvinist propaganda about Germany and against the GDR. We must declare war against this ideology.’37 More likely, however, the purpose of the campaign was to intimidate the population, through constant reminders of the leadership’s hawkish stance and its unwillingness to consider compromise or negotiation. This was the impression given, for example, when FDGB leader Harry Tisch, while on a trip to West Germany, refused point blank to hear the views of GDR emigrants. A further aim was to signal to SED members that a ‘class war’ was underway, to prepare them for mobilisation in defence of their Party and country. In this spirit, Neues Deutschland published a series of articles adjuring SED members to maintain a ‘firm standpoint’ and to display ‘unswerving loyalty to the Central Committee’. As regards concrete measures to tackle the crisis, few were forthcoming. At the aforementioned Politburo meeting the proposals on the table smacked of wishful thinking. ‘We must produce more, and earn more hard currency,’ one member helpfully suggested. Another submitted that press statements should be issued that reproach Bonn for its flouting of international law. ‘The alliance of the Warsaw Pact must be mobilised against German imperialism,’ declaimed a third.38 A week later the Politburo convened again, this time against the background of Hungary’s decision to abrogate its treaties with the GDR (a decision that ‘immensely annoyed’ SED leaders).39 By now, a third response was being discussed, centred on concrete measures to stem the exodus (‘to close the Hungary hole,’ as Mittag put it). These discussions, however, were infused with a fear of the possible consequences of major changes to the border regime – such as ceasing to issue visas to Hungary or sealing the border to the CSSR. Drastic measures of this sort would ‘anger’ SED members and the mass of the population, warned Mittag. His colleague Hans-Joachim Böhme concurred: they would ‘incite the mass of the population against us’.40 The measures Politburo members agreed upon were therefore of a piecemeal and marginal kind only. They included the denial of visas to some applicants and the drafting of extra customs officers to airports and borders. It was staunching a haemorrhage with sticking plasters. Instead of galvanizing its supporters, the shrillness of the regime’s rhetoric drew attention to its real powerlessness to affect Budapest’s decision. Fruitless diplomatic spats and half-hearted administrative remedies exposed the deep insecurity of the SED leadership and its failure to master the crisis.41 The exodus, and the inability of the regime to prevent it, accelerated the decline in morale of nomenklatura, officialdom and ordinary SED members. The forces that the Party leadership was hoping to mobilise were themselves growing subdued.

The exodus in popular consciousness In so far as the regime’s response to the exodus took the form of denial or helpless attempts to stem the flow, it appeared impotent and out of touch. The media campaign vilifying emigrants was counter-productive. The basic


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problem confronting this offensive strategy was that wide layers of the population sympathised, to some extent at least, with the emigrants, and were unconvinced by the depictions of them as ‘traitors’ or as ‘brainwashed by neofascists’. When the Stasi investigated the motives for emigration their findings never mentioned ‘brainwashing’. Instead they listed grievances that were shared by the majority, including low wages and inflation, shortages and the poor quality of consumer goods, the lack of fresh food, the need to queue and to search for vital goods, the shortages of spare parts and long waiting times for repairs, and the crisis in the health service. Stasi reports that dealt specifically with workers who were considering emigration singled out, in addition, the poor working climate, thwarted promotion, and ‘troubled relations between managers and workers’.42 Another set of grievances that motivated emigrants lay in the spheres of culture and politics. Restrictions on travel to ‘non-socialist countries’ were deplored, as were the limited educational and career prospects open to the young, and the lack of democracy. Emigrants tended to complain, reported the Stasi, that ‘their own ideas and thoughts are not taken note of…they are not treated as mature citizens who wish to make their own decisions about issues affecting their individual interests’.43 They also criticised the regime’s media policy, objecting that ‘[r]eal life is the opposite of its depiction in the mass media’.44 Fear and loathing of the apparatuses of repression was, not surprisingly, a factor that Stasi reports understate but was emphasised by emigrants interviewed in the West. Finally, East German citizens considering emigration commonly expressed a faith that their life-chances would be enhanced by moving to the West, and also pessimism as to the likelihood of progressive change occurring in the GDR. The strategy of addressing the crisis by demonising the emigrants was therefore a gamble. What if East German citizens sympathised with them? What if the grievances that motivated their departure were shared by others and were recognised as such? And what if they were perceived to be rooted in deep-seated domestic problems, rather than in brainwashing by the West German media? The Stasi’s inquiries into the matter suggested that this was indeed the case.45 Nearly everyone, from pensioners and school students to Mielke himself, had a good understanding of the emigrants’ motives, and a majority (perhaps twothirds) of the population sympathised with them to some degree.46 Emigrants were a fairly representative sample of the East German population, and the scale of the exodus was such that many knew family members or colleagues who had left.47 For them, the summer was a time of sadness, as news arrived of yet another friend, cousin or workmate who had departed for the West (which, to them, remained inaccessible). Even many of those who criticised the haste and chosen destination of the emigrants nevertheless understood their motives. One young apprentice from Dresden said to me I disapproved of some of the things that the emigrants did. How could they abandon their family, relatives, even their children just to travel to the West?!

The summer crisis 145 Yet – and although emigration wasn’t for me – for the most part I did understand them. On similar lines, a hotel worker from Karl-Marx-Stadt said I didn’t sympathise with the hysteria involved. Or with those people who just grabbed their handbag and fled. I couldn’t understand people leaving behind a secure existence. But at a more basic level I did understand them, I knew the problems which they were trying to escape. There were also those who cheered Budapest’s reforms and Moscow’s unwillingness to intervene, and applauded the emigrants and embassy occupants for having snookered the GDR government. Some, especially those who were themselves considering whether to pack their bags, viewed the emigrants in a wholly positive light, as pioneers who were prising open a door that others could pass through. One interviewee, a secretary from Berlin, belonged to this group. She applauded the emigrants because what they were saying was, in effect, ‘GDR is shit’. I identified with them completely. I wanted to leave too! Life here was so limited! And I suffered problems with my career – I wasn’t allowed to study, for instance.48 And there were some who positively admired them for the courage they displayed in breaking with their habits and surroundings. One interviewee from Berlin told me: I knew, deep down, that some day I would go travelling, and that meant applying to emigrate. What held me back were…for example, my parents – what would happen to them? So I thought the exodus through Hungary was brilliant; and its scale especially – that so many people were getting their act together at last. That was a crowd that couldn’t be written off ! And the fact that ordinary folk had the guts to get off their backsides, even to leave all their things behind – that they had the strength to cut their ties so quickly, on an impulse, and to grasp what they saw as the chance of their lives. To see all that was a liberating experience.49 As indicated by the above quotations, some people appreciated the attitude of ‘refusal’ manifested in emigration, seeing in it a form of ‘passive resistance’, a non-compliance with the ruling powers, and one that evidently undermined their legitimacy. It is not difficult to imagine the thoughts and feelings that were elicited amongst those who knew emigrants, or empathised with them, when they read in the press that responsibility for the exodus was solely Bonn’s, that no crisis existed, and that the government, cheered by a series of new achievements, had no plans to review its strategy.50


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Political crisis: expectation and uncertainty Acute and open political crises, such as that of East Germany in the summer of 1989, are climactic periods that irrupt into the routine of everyday life. They may be described, in the words of Régis Debray, as possessing a special ‘density’, both because social and political switching points are decided within a condensed period of time and because human agency is manifestly crucial in determining the outcome.51 When crises arrive, he writes, they ‘upset all our plans and prearranged strategies, catching up on them from behind’. At such times political leaders, get the sense that their hand is being forced, because a crisis pushes them into making choices, following lines, making certain breaks that they deplore. Crises, with their actor-victims, never radiate glory, never appear as great historical necessities.…The epic only comes into being in retrospect.52 Periods of crisis are dominated by a sense that ‘something must change’ combined with uncertainty as to what direction will be charted. It becomes clear that historical leaps or sidesteps are about to occur, but in which direction, or whether movement may stall, remain open questions. The regime’s inability to deal effectively with the summer crisis led to an erosion of the aura of toughness that had surrounded it hitherto. Its intransigent and arrogant response to the exodus inflamed public opinion. By September the country was ‘seized’, in Jens Reich’s phrase, by an ‘emotional frenzy’, and aflame with political discussion.53 Conversations in office and factory, school and college, kitchen or bar, revolved around a series of questions that were thrown up by the crisis: Would our friends or colleagues return from their holiday in Hungary? Would the exodus continue to swell? Would all borders be closed? Should we emigrate too? Would political change occur, and, if so, how soon and would it involve reforms or a crackdown? The Stasi’s informants reported that the workplaces were bubbling with ‘open, massive and critical discussion’.54 ‘A large body of workers, especially in the factories,’ they warned, were ‘showing a growing tendency to accord responsibility for the situation to the Party and state leadership, which is deemed to be incapable of addressing the welter of problems.’55 Protest letters and resolutions poured in to the SED, FDGB and the media.56 Whenever one reads oppositionists’ memoirs or interviews from the period one finds descriptions that combine the notion that ‘something must change’ with a profound uncertainty as to what that ‘something’ might be. For example, one pastor recalled that ‘many people suspected that things would explode in some way. But nobody guessed what form that would take. Nobody was thinking in terms of the disappearance of the Wall, or of German unification.’57 Or consider this evocative recollection from women’s movement activist Cornelia Matzke. She describes the ‘incredible atmosphere’ of the time, ‘a sort of depression, a feeling of being severely oppressed, a sense that all the

The summer crisis 147 things we had put up with and we had suffered could not go on much longer.’58 What is pertinent about this quote, because so typical of the Zeitgeist, is the conjunction of a sense of gloom with the perceived inevitability of major transformation. It was as if dark clouds were all around but a wind was picking up. For some, a fatalistic attitude prevailed, a sense that possibilities of reform were being missed and that the regime would remain as intransigent as ever. There was a strong sense of foreboding – that the gathering wind heralded a storm – along with frequent references to previous crises, including 1961 but especially the recent crackdown in China. Nobody needed reminding that the SED still had draconian options available, from closing the borders to the widely feared ‘Tiananmen solution’. Resignation, sadness and trepidation may have prevailed in popular consciousness but they competed with other emotions – anger, expectation, hope. For some, the regime’s paralysis diminished the fear of repression, revitalised hopes in a relief of oppression, and sharpened irritation at the regime’s intransigence. When in July some 60,000 gathered in Leipzig for a Church rally, one of the themes was ‘to hope or to give up’, with speakers urging their audience to see signs of hope in the crisis rather than resign themselves to the status quo.59 ‘The summer brought me hope, above all,’ Antje Neubauer recalls; ‘hope that change would come. Only a few people were fearful – scared that a “Tiananmen”, a violent crackdown, would occur. You could see the possibilities that things might yet be ordered anew.’ The exodus, she continued, exposed the regime in its frailty: When the state’s rigid structures began to crumble we knew that something was bound to happen. We didn’t think about it so clearly, so consciously, but it was clear that the state would have to react, and from a weak position. The populace, she added, ‘was very aware that the regime was in trouble, and were discussing the politics of the situation more and more’. As noted above, the changes in the USSR and Eastern Europe had already excited a widespread questioning of the existing order, and this process accelerated with the Hungary crisis. That the exodus impinged directly upon ordinary people’s lives, and that the government was visibly unable to solve the crisis, encouraged citizens to think about and to discuss the crisis itself, the wider causes and general political questions. A thirst for answers, for knowledge, was widespread. One interviewee reflected: ‘I’ve never read newspapers like I did then; my friends and I would read and debate each and every article.’60 Another, Ramona, recalled that ‘I would watch every news programme, East and West German, every evening, for months. I learnt an astonishing amount, and incredibly quickly at that. Above all I learnt to think critically.’ In the context of the political crisis and amidst a ferment of discussion and debate, people began to alter their perceptions of how their interests might best be pursued, considered what they themselves might be able to do to affect the direction of change and, in some cases, weighed up the possibilities and risks of public protest.


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Opposition formation Identification of the depth of the crisis facing the regime did not in itself imply a realisation of the potential for successful collective action. For that, individuals had to become sensitised to the expanding political opportunities that were emerging as the regime floundered and as political ferment amongst the general public grew, and to act upon these insights. There were some in the grassroots groups who failed to recognise the pace of change or depth of crisis; they continued to assume that criticism must remain cloistered within church walls. Others responded with conviction, arguing that the time had arrived to pitch their recommendations for democratic change to a wider audience.61 In the words of Hans-Jürgen Fischbeck of the Church-linked group ‘Rejection of the Principle and Practice of Demarcation’, oppositionists should stop ‘waiting for a “GDR Gorbachev” ’, and instead ‘get active ourselves’.62 ‘We are no longer simply concerned with surviving as grassroots groups,’ he insisted. Rather, ‘we want to make clear that there are people here who are developing ideas, and can put forward conceptions for change’.63 In mid-August Fischbeck and his co-thinkers proposed that a nationwide platform be established, with the aim of presenting an ‘identifiable alternative’ in the 1991 elections. Within a month their efforts had led to the founding of a ‘citizens’ movement’ organisation, Democracy Now (DN). In the same month other groups were working towards similar goals. By late August at least seventeen initiatives existed that aimed to establish some sort of independent oppositional presence.64 The one that made the greatest impact was New Forum, with its influential manifesto, ‘Awakening ’89’. Identifying the crisis symptoms as emigration and apathy, Awakening ’89 pinpointed their chief cause as disrupted ‘communication between state and society’. In order to press for the realisation of a ‘dialogue between state and citizens’, New Forum announced its intention to organise as a political platform on the national stage. It rapidly assumed an organisational existence. Its initiators were inundated with phone calls and letters requesting information. Within fourteen days of its formation close to 5,000 signatures had been added to its list of supporters. Throughout the country, groups of activists established (or redefined) themselves as New Forum groups. Contact addresses were set up in all the main towns, often in churches, where the curious and the sympathetic could find out about this unusual and highly controversial new phenomenon. New Forum leaflets were pinned up in dozens of contact centres and circulated in workplaces, schools and universities. Further support for its central demands came through resolutions publicised by rock bands, musicians, and radio and theatre employees. Alongside New Forum, DN and IFM, other groups announced their existence, notably the United Left (UL), Democratic Awakening (DA) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP). All of these organisations shared certain basic principles and goals, notably democratic transformation and ecological sustainability. That they did not formally unite was in part due to personal rivalries and the role of Stasi agents in exacerbating these, but it also came down to differences in

The summer crisis 149 philosophy, programme and strategy. Thus, New Forum, IFM, DA and DN drew more upon republican and liberal traditions whereas the UL gathered together reform-Communists, Trotskyists and anarchists. DN and DA were more affirmative of socialism and more explicitly opposed to the SED’s ‘leading role’ than was New Forum. As regards organisational form, DA and the SDP quickly began to adopt party-political structures while New Forum, UL and DN developed along looser, ‘movement-oriented’ lines. These new ‘citizens’ movement’ organisations represented a break with the grassroots groups of the past. They were assertive; they seized the opportunity provided by the political crisis to ‘come out’ of the ghetto and reach beyond the existing dissident and non-conformist communities to a wider public. Yet they were also marked by the traditions and assumptions that had characterised the 1980s groups. As outlined in previous chapters, over long years spent cautiously pushing for expanded opportunities for legal opposition, the tenets that the SED’s hold on power was solid, the mass of the population was sunk in ‘apathy’, and that change could, realistically, only be of a gradual kind, had all become ingrained in the dissident mindset. The wars of attrition, in which activists perpetually pressed against state governed limits to action, had tended to confirm the ‘system immanent’ slant to opposition, whereby the power and stability of the state was taken for granted, encouraging a fixation upon the degree of ‘free space’ that the regime would permit. ‘None of us cultivated hopes that the SED-regime would be brought down,’ recalls Reinhard Schult. The opposition’s concern, rather, was to ‘achieve more air in this stuffy GDR, some more freedom of movement within the straightjacket.65 As the summer crisis unfolded, oppositionists were slow to envisage a radical and sharp historical turn, still less the participation of the masses. The game they were used to playing was ‘involution rather than revolution’, in the phrase of New Forum’s Jens Reich.66 Even in the summer of 1989, with the regime in palpable crisis, Ulrike and Gerd Poppe, of IFM and DN, replied in the negative to my questions as to whether an uprising was a probable scenario. The East German masses were simply not up to it, they maintained. Their hopes continued to lie in the persistent application of pressure by the minority activists combined with perestroikist reform in the centres of power. Roland Jahn's rebuke, in die tageszeitung on 15 August, was perhaps a little harsh – reflecting the feelings of frustration of a dissident in exile – but was not misplaced: Where are the peace, ecology and human rights groups? Their remoteness from the population is almost as great as that of the SED. They chastise the emigrants as naïve idiots en route to a fool's paradise, while they themselves are running off to their vegetarian cookery courses in the countryside. At roughly the same time, Bärbel Bohley was lamenting that ‘[h]ere, change from below is out of the question . . . Too many of those who would be in a position to take on political responsibility have left.’67 Why, I asked Klaus Wolfram, a leading member of New Forum, some years later, was this pessimism so prevalent, so entrenched? Why did scenarios


The revolution of 1989

involving mass uprisings or, say, a Solidarnoé■esé■ ec´-type movement not form part of the dissident imaginary? His reply, a thoughtful one, is worth quoting in full: Well, those that would have thought in terms of these images were influenced by Marxism. And the oppositionists of the 1980s – the movements out of which New Forum emerged – thought in different categories: civic initiative, Green, communicative . . . yes, and ‘theme groups’, that sort of thing . . . I wouldn’t call them the opposition, as there were some on the left who thought in terms of mass movements. But the civic rights opposition, which had the say, were no longer so left wing; they were tuned to a different wavelength. Their style was a ‘communicative’ one, geared to thinking and acting in terms of group consensus. It was in a sense appropriate [he pauses]. But then again it was later to hinder the opposition from making its mark: in the end we received only a few votes, because we had always avoided taking a lead. So it fitted the situation in the GDR [another pause. I ask ‘why’] Yes . . . that’s why I'm faltering. It probably suited the situation up until 1989: a small opposition living on the edge of society, somewhat ‘dropped out’ – in contrast to Poland where professors, workers, students and engineers were all involved together. In the GDR by contrast it was clergy and casual workers employed by the Church, all of whom knew one another – a narrow and homogenous milieu; it didn’t reflect the division of labour in society at large. That isolation was of course a chronic problem. The small dissident milieu had evolved ‘on the edge of society’ over decades in which public protest was nigh impossible and during which their neighbours and colleagues had appeared uninterested in politics. When that began to change in September and early October the dissident community was overjoyed. Klaus Wolfram recalls that, We were happy, thrilled, impressed that the spark had at last ignited, that the opposition had broken out of its ghetto, [and] that New Forum had become such an astonishingly big movement, winning approval across the land and, above all, in every layer of society.

‘The mood was fantastic,’ recalls Ulrike Poppe, a DN spokesperson; ‘Everybody was politicized. There was an exuberance, an awakening in the population. People who had previously been apathetic and silent turned into brilliant speakers, people with ideas and initiative. Our dreams had come true.’68 Yet the coming together of the oppositionists, who formed the bulk of the leadership of the citizens’ movement organisations, and the mass movement, was not always a smooth process. Although in certain respects the former moved from the ‘edge’ into the ‘centre’ of society, their actions in the autumn and winter months of 1989 continued to evince the traces of the isolation and ‘system-immanent’ thinking of previous years.


The autumn uprising

In the latter part of the summer, SED leaders remained confident that their hold on power was secure. When, on 31 August, Mielke asked a senior Stasi officer whether a ‘17th June’ was around the corner the reply came: ‘It won’t happen tomorrow, it won’t happen at all; that’s our job after all.’1 In the weeks that followed, however, that conviction was eroded by Budapest’s abrogation of its treaties with East Berlin, by Moscow’s acquiescence to this, and by the security forces’ inability to quell protests in the Saxon towns of Dresden, Plauen and Leipzig. The autumn uprising began in Leipzig on 4 September, with the resumption of Peace Prayers at the St Nicholas Church following the summer recess. As usual, emigration applicants were prominent in the demonstration that spilled out onto the streets after the service. By coincidence the autumn Trade Fair was underway, and the presence of the international media offered a degree of protection. However, unlike previous demonstrations, their chants of ‘We want out!’ inspired and provoked others – soon to be dubbed ‘herestayers’ – to challenge them.2 Chants of ‘We’re staying here!’ were now heard, and banners were unfurled that called for ‘freedom of association’ and ‘freedom of travel instead of mass exodus’. The ‘here-stayers’ began to join the weekly demonstrations in significant numbers, raising slogans critical of both the regime and, implicitly, the emigrant applicants. For the latter, the chief purpose of protesting was to provoke the authorities into expatriating them; for ‘here-stayers’ the aims were to test the possibilities of public protest, to show strength, and to show that strategies oriented to domestic change were at least thinkable. Each Monday demonstration and every report in the West German media proved to potential participants that public protest was possible and that individuals were able to summon up the courage and confront the police. On 18 September, for the first time, significant numbers of onlookers joined the march as it emerged from the St Nicholas Church. Even these early demonstrations of only a few thousand people revealed the security forces to be less than omnipotent. By late September demonstrators were making fools of the police, breaking through their lines and drumming on their cars. In one instance a number of police hats, picked up by demonstrators, flew through the air to the cheers of onlookers.3


The revolution of 1989

Eight days in October In the days leading up to 9 October a trial of strength unfolded. The regime was determined to crush the movement. The security forces were put on alert. Weapons were issued. Messages were sent to officers emphasising the seriousness of the situation and insisting that everything possible be done to prevent the citizens’ movement from gaining a mass following. Honecker and Mielke issued directives to Stasi, SED, FDJ and FDGB officials that the demonstrations must be halted at once. Stasi officers were instructed to arrest anyone distributing oppositional literature and to take ‘offensive measures to block and disrupt conspiratorial assembly’. An eight-day period of decisive confrontation began on Monday 2 October, when the authorities attempted to prevent the weekly demonstration in Leipzig. The SED’s workplace cadre warned colleagues to keep away from the city centre. Students were threatened with expulsion from university if they participated. Factory battalions were deployed, and instructed to ‘use any means to tackle the demonstrators’.4 Yet, despite these indications that the regime was upping the ante, thousands once again filled the St Nicholas Church and the nearby Reformed Church, and streamed out to join the crowds outside – somewhere between 6,000 and 20,000 in all. The slogans that resonated amongst the crowd included ‘Legalise New Forum!’ and ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’.5 Although the security forces succeeded in blocking the march, thousands of demonstrators were able to reassemble, and repeatedly punctured police lines. It was only after hours of assaults by truncheon, dog and water cannon that the gathering dispersed. On the very next day a second crisis unfolded, this time in Saxony’s other major metropolis. Dresden, in the far southeast, is an embarkation point for travel to nearby Czechoslovakia. As such, its railway station found itself the site of a major contest that was provoked by the regime’s attempts to solve the emigration crisis. Two separate decisions were made, almost simultaneously, both of which led to a convergence of emigration applicants at Dresden station. The first involved a concession to the emigrants who had occupied the FRG’s embassy in Prague. Under pressure from their Czechoslovak counterparts, it was announced that embassy occupants would be permitted to emigrate to West Germany. This decision, however, included a crucial condition: that they exit not directly, across the Czech–FRG border, but via a detour through the GDR, in order to give their passage the formal appearance of expatriation rather than escape. Appended to demonstrate the regime’s resolve and sovereignty, this requirement was widely seen as an undignified attempt to mask defeat with a display of hubris. Although the first sealed train passed smoothly through Saxony, would-be emigrants scented the opportunity to board those that followed. At this juncture, the unintended consequences of the regime’s ham-handed concession to the occupiers of the Prague embassy intersected with a second decision, one that aimed to solve the emigration crisis by closing the border to Czechoslovakia to visa-free travel. Closing the border was a high-risk gamble.

The autumn uprising 153 Far from ameliorating the problems of travel and emigration, it exacerbated them. Passport offices filled up with enraged citizens demanding visas. Applications for visas soared. It is not difficult to imagine the feelings of wouldbe emigrants, some of whom had already bought train tickets to Prague, upon hearing of the border closure even whilst the trainloads of embassy occupants from Prague were leaving for West Germany, via Dresden. On 3 October, several hundred visa-less emigrants in successive trains arrived at the border crossing point of Bad Schandau. Fearful of being refused exit from the GDR, they barricaded themselves in their compartments to prevent customs officials from entering. Over 100 staged a sit-down protest on the tracks. Fatefully, some of the carriages occupied by these exasperated individuals were then towed back to Dresden station. Hundreds gathered in the station forecourt. According to Dresden police reports, some 1,600 emigrants were present, along with a growing crowd of onlookers. It is conceivable that the authorities could have successfully contained this crowd had not the ‘sealed trains’ turned Dresden station into a magnet for wouldbe emigrants. As described above, stations through which the West-bound trains were due to pass were attracting hundreds and, in the case of Dresden, thousands of individuals who blocked the tracks in the hope of forcibly boarding them. By the evening of 4 October, the crowd in and around the station was climbing towards 18,000. Emigrants from around the country were joined by Dresdeners. (‘Curiosity outweighed our fear of the police’ one of the latter told me.)6 A riot ensued, in which an Intershop was stormed and the stationmaster’s office was occupied. With normal police methods failing to contain the situation, Dresden’s SED chief, Hans Modrow, ordered the deployment of batons and water cannon, and even sent in the army. In response to this escalation, stones were hurled at police, and one of their vehicles was torched. Although succeeding in clearing the station, the security forces failed to disperse the crowds. These now regrouped into what was, in effect, a permanent demonstration of fluctuating size that snaked through the city to chants of ‘We want out!’ and ‘We want reforms!’, periodically scuffling with police, for an extraordinary eighty hours. As the days wore by, police and Stasi reports noted, the proportion of locals to emigrants involved in this marathon protest shifted in favour of the former.7 The riots at Dresden were the most extensive seen in the GDR since 1953. They served notice to the regime that repressive policies could backfire. Far from being intimidated into submission, citizens had managed to badly dent the regime’s image of strength. For a hard-line course to succeed, SED leaders were aware, resolve in the security forces would be essential, and in this regard the evidence from Dresden was ambiguous. Equally important would be a restrictive border regime, but in enforcing this the regime had inadvertently nourished a potent combination of emigration applicants and ‘here-stayers’. Even as the regime’s orders to its police and troops were growing in urgency, its ability to contain public protest was visibly decaying. The next seven days witnessed a sustained effort to crush the movement, with thousands of arrests, and concerted attacks on demonstrations in most major


The revolution of 1989

cities. Perhaps the most savage policing was witnessed in Berlin. Chance had it that the GDR’s fortieth anniversary took place on 7 October, the very day of the month which, since the 7 May elections, had been designated as the customary demonstration day in Berlin. The regime celebrated with undiminished pomp. In the Palace of the Republic assembled dignitaries listened to a boys’ choir singing ‘Peace in the Land’, even as thousands of demonstrators gathered outside. Chanting ‘Gorby!’ and ‘We are the People!’, they had the audacity to challenge the regime on its birthday. Behind the scenes instructions were issued for the police and Stasi to crush the protest, with the proviso that blood should not flow too near the Palace of the Republic. The demonstrators moved on to the district of Prenzlauer Berg, now in a state of occupation by thousands of police and Stasi officers. These went on the rampage, and arrested over 1,000 demonstrators. Onlookers were shocked by the ferocity of the security forces, also at the chauvinist and racist abuse that police were shouting. Some protestors were dragged along the ground by the hair for twenty or thirty metres before being shoved into trucks and transported to police premises for further intimidation. Yet the demonstrators stood their ground. One of those present told me of how ‘people approached the cops and talked to them. That made quite a few them uncertain; they were more cautious, they held back.’8 Later, thousands of protestors gathered at the Gethsemane Church in a show of solidarity with detainees. On the same day, events were taking a very different direction in the Saxon city of Plauen. There, the security forces were ordered to prevent a demonstration from taking place. However, some 10,000–20,000 citizens attended the event, despite pouring rain. The security forces were vastly outnumbered and at times found themselves surrounded. After a period of confrontation, an arrangement was concluded in which the mayor promised a local pastor that, if he called upon the crowd to disperse, the security forces would hold back and the mayor would enter into talks about political change. In Dresden a similar process unfolded on 8 October. Again, the security forces assaulted protestors with little mercy and made numerous arrests.9 As in Plauen, police were vastly outnumbered. Their attempt to surround protestors misfired, as the police ring itself became encaged.10 Sections of the police and army, according to Dresden police records, showed a lack of resolve. For example, General Kokoff noted with concern that army units were no longer confronted by ‘rowdies’ but by ‘marches of thousands of citizens, mainly young people’ who were ‘singing the “Internationale”, carrying red flags’ and appealing to Gorbachev for help. Whereas during the interventions on 4 and 5 October, ‘every last soldier had a well-defined image of the enemy and was prepared to act’, on 8 October, these conceptions no longer fitted. More and more soldiers were now asking questions such as ‘What are the reasons behind the appearance of so many people on the streets?’ In the face of a large and determined crowd, established tactics were set aside. In a reprise of the previous day’s drama in Plauen, a senior police officer, after consultation with a curate, gave an unauthorised order for riot shields to be laid down and truncheons sheathed in order that negotiations could take place.11

The autumn uprising 155 The crowd then voted twenty of their number as representatives to negotiate with the authorities. Dresden’s mayor, Wolfgang Berghofer, agreed to meet this group for talks on the following morning. These events in Plauen and Dresden were unprecedented in GDR history. Demonstrators had forcibly gained an acknowledged place on the streets. Local leaders had buckled, losing the will to deploy brute force to suppress protest and acceding to requests for dialogue. But the real watershed came on 9 October, in Leipzig. On this Monday a military crackdown was expected. Rumours circulated that extra blood plasma and emergency beds in hospitals had been prepared. Workers were sent home early and instructed to avoid the city centre. Parents were advised to collect their children from kindergarten early. These were not idle threats. ‘Prevent a June 17th. Assertion of power. All activities to be geared to this end’ one Stasi officer wrote in his notebook during a preparatory meeting.12 The army was put on alert, and extra units from outside Leipzig were brought in to replace a local unit that had mutinied during the demonstration on the previous Monday. In all, tens of thousands of security-force members, including mobile police, army, factory battalions and Stasi, were deployed around the city centre. Many were issued with live ammunition. Although Leipzigers were aware of the signs portending a bloodbath, attendance was four times that of the previous week. As evening approached, all four city-centre churches filled to overflowing. The 10,000–20,000 in and around the churches were joined by 50,000–90,000 more to form the biggest demonstration in the country’s history. It was a tremendous physical presence. And it acted calmly and peacefully, the tone set by chants of ‘no violence!’ In the words of one Stasi report, they were ‘anti-state’ but not ‘aggressive’.13 This was the result of tactical intelligence: those present were keenly aware of the dangers of provoking the security forces. It was also the product of the movement’s collective identity: the motives and aims of demonstrators were to create a peaceful society with enhanced means of participation, with greater democracy; violence was unlikely to emanate from their side. After an exceptionally tense stand-off, the security forces were pulled back, the firing of live ammunition was prevented, and a bloodbath avoided. The critical decision was taken by Leipzig SED functionaries, who disseminated an appeal to the crowds and security forces calling for non-violence that had been urged upon them by three local luminaries. Their inclination to hold back may have resulted in part from an awareness of signs of vacillation and dissent in the security forces, and was certainly influenced by the uncertainty and paralysis that had spread through the apparatuses of power over preceding months. On 2 October, local leaders in Leipzig had received conflicting signals from their superordinates in Berlin, and this was repeated on 9 October. To this extent one may concur with LDPD leader Manfred Gerlach that the reason why relatively little blood flowed on the streets of Leipzig ‘lay in the increasing uncertainty of SED functionaries as 1989 wore on, a feeling that strengthened as the Politburo grew ever more mute and lacking in ideas’.14 Critical here was the lack of


The revolution of 1989

support given to Honecker, or to the application of hard-line tactics, by the Kremlin. According to one SED leader, the indications that the Soviet army would not intervene, as it had done in 1953, filled them with ‘a growing insecurity as to whether to give the order to shoot.…Our self-confidence crumbled.’15 But credit for the non-violent and successful outcome of 9 October belongs above all with the participants themselves, both those that gathered on the day and those who had shown the efficacy of public protest in previous weeks. Two aspects of these events were decisive. Most important was their sheer size. Already by 2 October the movement was beginning to gain a mass following. The demonstrations in Leipzig, Kurt Hager admitted at the Politburo meeting on 10 October, were no longer confined to a ‘hard core’ of opposition; a ‘qualitative’ transformation had occurred.16 Even the hawkish Mielke is reported to have said to Honecker: ‘Erich, we can’t beat up hundreds of thousands of people.’17 In addition, the attitude of participants deserves mention, combining as it did anger and determination with a clearly signalled non-violent stance. A twin message was given: the movement would not retreat, and neither would it provoke trigger-happy officers into opening fire. These eight days in Dresden, Plauen and Leipzig revealed the exhaustion of a strategy based upon police methods and weakened its authors, notably Honecker himself. The SED leadership was in state of siege. A steady drip of reports arrived on leaders’ desks warning of vacillation in the SED and security forces, of strike threats, and of a torrent of political criticisms of the government’s obdurate position and haughty tone. With Gorbachev’s tacit approval, members of the Central Committee and Politburo plotted Honecker’s removal, which they secured on 17 October. Although most of the SED leadership remained at their posts, the ousting of the General Secretary, coming as it did after eighteen years at the post, was relished by protestors as an unexpected victory.

Citizens’ movement and mass movement In the autumn of 1989 there were two major movements in East Germany, each of which involved hundreds of thousands of citizens. One consisted of individuals heading for the ‘exit’. The other involved collectively expressed ‘voice’. For purposes of analysis the latter may be subdivided into the citizens’ movement organisations and the mass movement on the streets. Although a very substantial overlap existed between the two, a divergence of interests and ideas could be seen too. Despite a preoccupation with ‘communication’ and ‘dialogue’ the citizens’ movement’s attempts to communicate with the mass of the population were not entirely successful. Even in mid-November, as the Berlin Wall was coming down, Bärbel Bohley admitted that ‘none of the groups, not even New Forum with its 200,000 people, had yet actually entered a real process of communication with the population’.18 This was, in part at least, the inevitable consequence of having begun to organise concurrently with the take-off of the protest movement. Building networks takes time, and this was scarce in a fastmoving revolutionary situation. But that was not the only problem. As Bohley

The autumn uprising 157 herself has pointed out, the opposition groups from which the citizens’ movement sprang ‘were detached and aloof from the problems faced by the people’.19 Many of their leaders had become accustomed to life in the ‘bell jar’ and were ill equipped to interact with the mass of the population. And they knew it. In early October, Jens Reich warned that New Forum was failing to address young people: ‘With my moderate language I cannot get them to listen.’20 In his memoirs he reflects that, because citizens’ movement leaders were perceived as addressing political themes such as ‘constitutional democracy and civil society’ in abstract terms, the response of their audiences was, all too often, to compare them unfavourably to SED ideologues: these intellectual ‘prattlers are “yet again at the microphone — just as they have been for the past forty years” ’.21 This sort of self-criticism has been most eloquently voiced by New Forum leaders such as Bohley and Reich, but prominent intellectuals from the other groups have expressed similar regrets. For example, ‘our biggest failure,’ according to Ludwig Mehlhorn, a leading member of Democracy Now, was that ‘we were completely unable to analyze the mood and the sentiments among the population, and we thus did not succeed at all in becoming the authentic voice of these sentiments.’22 It was above all in their attempts to communicate with workers that these limitations could be seen. ‘It was always difficult,’ one worker and New Forum activist lamented, ‘to make worldly problems intelligible to the intellectuals and artists of the opposition.’23 They ‘seemed unable to bring us comprehensible arguments from their ivory tower.…They would split hairs over their sectarian differences, ignoring the need to communicate.’ They were, in short, ‘out of touch with reality’. Workers interviewed by Linda Fuller registered similar complaints. That, for example, the communications of the citizens’ movement groups ‘were long on ideology, theory, philosophical calls for abstract rights and freedoms…and dense academic language, and short on concrete programs and practical ideas for implementing them, expressed in a straightforward fashion’.24 A similar point has been made by Charles Maier, in his magisterial analysis of the fall of the GDR. ‘The language of social functionalism’, he writes, was invoked both by the regime and by the intellectuals who would transform it.…It was the language of Durkheimian sociology,25 of interacting roles and collective needs.…On the other hand, a rhetoric of primeval popular assembly – the language of ‘antistructure,’ of shoulder-to-shoulder community – arose anonymously from the crowd.26 The differentiation between citizens’ movement and ‘crowd’ relates to a controversial question of the degree to which the former played the role of ‘movement organisers’, of mobilising protest. An ambivalence could be observed in the attitude of citizens’ movement spokespeople towards the mass movement. It was rooted not simply in contingent, pragmatic fears that street protests could invite a crackdown, but also in a more fundamental inclination to co-operate with the regime. In so far as citizens’ movement leaders sought political influence, it


The revolution of 1989

was to be achieved not through encouraging protests to escalate to the point at which the regime would topple but through seeking to mediate between mass movement and the SED. The aim was to reap concessions (the legalisation of opposition and democratic reform) from the government on the basis of pressure from the mass movement. In this schema a premium was placed upon appearing ‘respectable’ in the eyes of the regime whilst simultaneously building, and identifying with, the movement. In this balancing act, demonstrations posed a threat as well as a promise. Without them the government would not even consider negotiation, yet too close an association with what they termed ‘actionism’ threatened to mark citizens’ movement leaders as irresponsible and unfit to negotiate the future of the land. Already in early October, several citizens’ movement leaders publicly appealed for a halt to the demonstrations, even before these had forced Honecker’s resignation. Rainer Eppelmann, a prominent member of DA, enjoined people to stay away from demonstrations.27 Eberhard Seidel, a founder member of New Forum, insisted that his organisation did not set out to organize demonstrations and march through the cities at the head of thousands of people. New Forum’s aim is to get dialogue underway…negotiation is the decisive factor, and I believe that will take time.28 In the view of Karl-Dieter Opp and his colleagues, citizens’ movement activists contributed little, if anything, to the emergence of the demonstration movement in Leipzig.29 Their survey data show that members of citizens’ movement organisations took part in demonstrations more frequently than did respondents who belonged to no such group, but not by a wide margin.30 The citizens’ movement did not even function as a ‘reference group’ – a term they use to designate organisations ‘that contributed to the development of protest simply by means of their existence’. Indeed, ‘most GDR citizens were unaware of the exact goals and activities of the opposition groups’. The activists’ contribution, in terms of ‘getting others to protest or of providing incentives for protest [was] very minor’.31 If New Forum was prominent, they conclude, this was not because ‘it initiated the mass protests but rather the converse: the masses got their own movement going and pushed New Forum to the fore’.32 Opp and his colleagues effectively debunk the myth that the citizens’ movement mobilised or otherwise led the mass protests in Leipzig. And evidence from elsewhere in the GDR suggests that the experience in Leipzig was not unique. For instance, one study of the northern town of Schwerin that inquired into the source of ‘the initial impulse for the first mass demonstration’ discovered that ‘although the New Forum group organised the event, they did not initiate it. Instead pressure from within the factories and workplaces throughout the district…forced the small New Forum group to act.’33 Nevertheless, the thesis propounded by Opp et al. has a number of shortcomings. I would take issue in particular with their supposition that, by virtue of their partial ignorance of the aims and values of the citizens’ movement, East

The autumn uprising 159 Germans ‘could not identify with these groups’ [italics added].34 This is much too emphatic. It ignores the way in which individuals can rally to the flag of a social movement organisation even when they are only dimly aware of its agenda. And this, it seems to me, is a useful way of conceiving of the relationship of many East Germans to the citizens’ movement. The latter ‘planted a flag’. Up and down the country, oppositionists and their friends got to work gathering signatures and printing and distributing leaflets, often at considerable risk. Consider, for example, this extract from a Stasi report in the Potsdam area: Awakening ’89, as well as calls for support for the ‘Initiative New Forum’, are being distributed by means of the misuse of cultural and other meetings, shop windows, wall newspapers, educational establishments and the Church, as well as by word of mouth and by the painting of enemy graffiti – all of which proceeds without the perpetrators meeting significant resistance. These acts, the report warned, have led to ‘large sections of the population developing an interest in New Forum’s proposals’. Activists, it concluded, ‘feel strengthened and protected by this “positive” resonance amongst the population’.35 Thus, Awakening ’89 strengthened the impression amongst those who heard of it that demands for immediate and real change were now on the table. It acted as a stimulus to work towards political change. It helped to fire some of its readers with a sense of shared purpose, a belief that change was possible, raising their confidence and commitment to movement-building. Antje Neubauer recalled: ‘When I heard of New Forum it gave me a greater conviction that things would work out.’ Andrea, a secretary from Berlin reports that My gut reaction to New Forum was positive – even though I knew very little about it. I just thought: ‘they’re oppositionists, they’re against the state, that’s good’. So when I went to the demonstration in Leipzig I chanted: ‘Legalise New Forum!’ What these interviews and Stasi reports suggest is that, although the citizens’ movement was not directly responsible for the mobilisation of the large crowds in October, they nonetheless played a significant role in generating a confident, forward-thinking culture of protest. Demonstrators who had originally chanted ‘We’re staying here!’ as a courageous but limited counter-slogan to the emigrants’ ‘We want out!’ could now raise a concrete demand: ‘Legalise New Forum!’ This became a popular slogan, giving enormous credibility to New Forum, along with a ‘movement identity’. At the Leipzig demonstrations in late October, by which point some 100,000 had signed Awakening ’89, New Forum, ‘although few in numbers,’ according to one witness, ‘was thoroughly in charge. Whenever the words “Here Speaks the New Forum” were uttered through the megaphone, the people cheered loudly and gathered round the speaker.’36 The conclusion is inescapable: the citizens’ movement groups played a significant role in dispelling


The revolution of 1989

the clouds of resignation and fear, and contributed to the creation of activist, optimistic cultures of resistance. In these ways, they significantly advanced the mobilisation of protest.

Krenz’s ‘Wende’ and the fall of the Wall Honecker’s successor, Egon Krenz, was a conservative figure. He made no bones of his closeness to the previous leader (‘Honecker and I worked together as friends and parted as friends too’).37 In his inaugural speech he promised that the SED ‘is going to introduce a Wende [turnaround], with immediate effect’. In the long term, Krenz considered that significant reform of the electoral system would be inescapable and, in closed company, he held out the prospect of a genuine choice of political parties being offered to voters in the next general election in 1991. (He would not regard it as a tragedy, Krenz added, in words that were no doubt as candid at the time as in retrospect they appear risible, if the SED ‘were to win with only eighty per cent of the popular vote’.)38 However, he held out against rapid and sweeping changes of policy or personnel. The term Wende implied that immediate changes would be merely of a ‘steering correction’ kind. Initially, the Wende was less a policy programme than a public relations campaign combined with some piecemeal concessions (including the freeing of individuals imprisoned for attempting to emigrate and the recommencement of the distribution of Sputnik). The intention behind it, as Günther Mittag put it in his memoirs, was simply ‘to present a few scapegoats to the Party and public in order to achieve some breathing space’.39 The hope was that the replacement of several of the most despised SED leaders, a slight softening of rhetoric, and a few reforms would suffice to convince the public that change was underway, and to appease the protest movement. However, containing collective action was no easy task. The reforms that were announced by Krenz’s new administration boosted the confidence of protestors. People poured onto the streets in greater numbers than before, and began to press for further demands. Following each announcement of reforms, new questions arose on the streets: Is this enough? Can we trust the new government? If not, what must be done to ensure that reform continues? What institutional changes could cement our success? Moreover, the government’s procrastination, its attempts to stall reforms and to shore up the state’s fracturing structures, provoked a radicalisation of protest. Hardly had Honecker been ousted than Krenz became the target of anger and derision on the streets. Whereas in early October, combative slogans such as ‘Stasi out!’ had been voiced, they had not prevailed. That now began to change. The movement, as Jens Reich perceived it with apprehension, was developing ‘aggressive traits’. Demands were now for ‘everything’ and ‘at once’.40 Stasi documents record that the content of banners and chants are now directed with greater strength and aggression against the Party and its leading role, and also increasingly against the activities of the MfS

The autumn uprising 161 [Stasi]. From the comments of participants, demonstrative applause, and the general tolerance shown towards these chants specifically, it is evident that people are increasingly identifying with them.41 Not halting at the appeal for Krenz to abdicate, a growing body of protestors raised slogans that challenged the core institutions of the regime. They called for the entire government to resign, for the Party to relinquish its power monopoly, for Honecker and his henchmen to be brought to justice, and for the abolition of the Stasi and the redeployment of its employees ‘into the economy’ or ‘into their own prisons!’ But of all these demands that were attacking the pillars of state power the one which rang out the loudest was the call for the freedom to travel. If the new, reforming regime was to retain any credibility, major concessions on the issue of travel rights were unavoidable. In early November a draft travel law was duly published, promising the right to travel for every citizen. As it was phrased in a tortuous style, and lacked any reference to when it would come into effect, a sceptical public scented duplicity. Thirty days was set as a citizen’s maximum permitted sojourn abroad, and passport and visa would be required, which could take weeks to process. The Berlin frontier would not be opened. Minimal provision was made for the exchange of local into hard currency: of the options available, regime officials had opted for the cheapest, whereby each citizen would be allowed to change a paltry fifteen marks into Deutschmarks, at parity, once a year.42 Although a concession of this scale would have been inconceivable only a month earlier, such had been the pace of change that the publication of the draft law was met not with gratitude, but with a clamour of indignation which focused in particular on the government’s failure to promise adequate provision of the hard currency that visiting the West would require. The reaction of demonstrators was graphic. Banners were painted with slogans such as: ‘Egon, get the hard currency out!’ ‘Put the Stasi’s hard currency into the travel account!’ ‘In thirty days around the world – without money.’43 ‘We don’t need laws – just get rid of the Wall!’44 In addition to the indignation expressed in letters, petitions and on the streets the draft law provoked strike threats. According to Schabowski, We were particularly alarmed that strike threats were…coming from the workplaces. The workers felt discriminated against by the law, because in effect it denied them the material prerequisites for travel in the West. In this situation, strikes were the last thing we needed.45 In disarray, the government announced the decision that at once symbolised the irrevocability of change and the movement’s greatest triumph: the border would be opened.


The revolution of 1989

Regime and citizens’ movement For a time, this monumental concession took the wind from the sails of the protest movement. East Germans visiting the West were less preoccupied with domestic political concerns. But before long the mass demonstrations resumed, and numbers reached and surpassed previous levels. Travel and protest were not incompatible. (As one banner put it, ‘Last night in Munich for a beer, then back again for the demo here’.) Indeed, with Munich beer priced in Deutschmarks, the demand for hard currency provided additional fuel for protest. As the movement on the streets resumed, and grew more ‘aggressive’, the regime reviewed its relationship with the citizens’ movement. Enlisting their aid seemed the only way of restoring stability and helping the regime to regain a modicum of credibility. It was also a strategy that was becoming more viable, given the increasingly apparent refraction of the movement into moderates and radicals. Even while Honecker had been at the helm, some citizens’ movement leaders had seen the SED as a ‘potential coalition partner’.46 Under the new, reformist prime minister, Hans Modrow, the prospect of co-operation with the SED became more attractive. That a leading New Forum member gave Modrow ‘a vote of confidence’ regarding his selection of government ministers was one of many indicators of an inclination to co-operate on the part of the citizens’ movement.47 The SED leadership’s tactics were quite transparent at the time. The SED’s offer of ‘dialogue’, warned Pastor Tschiche of New Forum already in midOctober, was nothing but an attempt to fragment the ‘critical forces’.48 ‘As a means of regaining trust,’ one West German journalist reported in midNovember, ‘those in power are parading their friendly relations with the opposition groups.’49 Since then, more has been revealed of the strategic thinking that lay behind these overtures. Perhaps the most fascinating insights are contained in the transcripts of a meeting, attended by Modrow and Wolfgang Schwanitz, held at the latter’s inauguration as head of the Stasi (now renamed ‘Ministry of National Security’, or ‘Nasi’).50 The meeting took place in midNovember; SED leaders were still in a very tight corner and they knew it. ‘The GDR’s situation is considerably more serious and considerably more difficult and complicated than it appears from outside,’ Modrow warned, referring to the economic crisis and the unceasing exodus. As to the protest movement, no amount of concessions, including the opening of borders, seemed able to placate it. Schwanitz also warned of the danger of increased instability. ‘Time is pressing, like a hand on our throats,’ he said; ‘we must get this pressure off us.…our power is at stake, we should have no illusions about that.’ The two agreed that the top priority was to win back public trust. ‘The game that we should play’ with the ‘friendlier’ sections of the movement (the citizens’ movement organisations), Modrow proposed, is to draw them into co-operation with established institutions. Offer them a morsel of power, above all in local-level ‘round tables’. Then, when their leaders begin to shoulder a portion of responsibility and carry the can for unpopular decisions, their allegiance to the state will

The autumn uprising 163 be cemented even while the key centres of authority remain untouched. Schwanitz agreed. ‘We must talk with these forces,’ he said, ‘persuade them to accept us as partners, in order that they feel engaged in a common responsibility to uphold state security.’ Modrow and Schwanitz’s plans were clear in their outlines, but depended upon an unknown factor: the reaction of the citizens’ movement. On the very day of Schwanitz’s inauguration, the outlines of its response began to take shape, in the form of an appeal by Democracy Now for ‘democratic parties’ to begin negotiations at a national-level ‘Round Table’. Hardly had the appeal been announced than it was taken up positively by parties of the old regime, first by the LDPD and, on the following day, by the SED. The eagerness with which these parties responded to DN’s initiative highlighted the difficulties faced by citizens’ movement leaders in determining their own approach. A Round Table, they hoped, could provide a forum for genuine democratic discussion. It seemed to offer the prospect of influence over the process of democratisation whilst evading the uncertainties inherent in the alternative course of mobilising for the overthrow of the regime. On the other hand, it was feared, the Round Table would be accorded only negligible influence on policy. In the event, the latter judgement was closer to the mark. For the forces of the old regime, Dieter Rucht has written, ‘the Table was an unwillingly accepted but necessary means to retain power by a strategy of co-optation’.51 It helped them to regain the initiative at a time when the citizens’ movement was still finding its bearings following the fall of the Wall. In short, just as the movement on the streets was veering towards direct confrontation with the regime, the citizens’ movement leadership was discovering in the latter a ‘dialogue partner’ with which, rather hesitantly at first, it now commenced a pas de deux.

General strike or Round Table? The emerging rapprochement between regime and citizens’ movement was put to the test in early December, a turbulent period marked by a further radicalisation of the protest movement. At this juncture, questions of social justice were rising up the agenda. The findings of a government committee investigating ruling-class corruption began to be publicised by the (now uncensored) media. The luxury lifestyles of SED leaders – who had tirelessly preached equality and austerity to their subjects – were exposed to public view. Honecker, astonished citizens learned, owned a fleet of fourteen cars, including a Mercedes, while presiding over a system in which his subjects were obliged to wait fourteen years to buy a Trabant. Each year, it was revealed, millions of Deutschmarks were diverted from the hard-pressed economy to buy Western commodities for bureaucrats who, in public, would unashamedly champion the superiority of ‘their’ economy. A series of scandals of this sort inflamed public opinion. The clamour for state leaders to be brought to justice grew, not least in the workplaces. Banners on demonstrations reflected a heightened interest in questions of social justice: ‘Manual labour for bureaucrats!’ ‘Minimum wage for the Politburo!’ And ‘Privileged of the world, abolish yourselves!’


The revolution of 1989

Protests broke out in new arenas. Prisons erupted in revolt, with inmates demanding an amnesty, reform of the criminal code, improved conditions, and participation in prison decision-making. The movement began to enter the workplaces too. There had been activity here in previous months, but largely of a low-key sort. Now, a wave of industrial action occurred, affecting 100 workplaces and tens of thousands of workers. Demands included the sacking of managers and the dissolution of ‘factory battalions’ and of SED factory organisations. National political issues were also addressed, most commonly in the call for the unconditional dissolution of the Stasi. The zenith of this wave of militancy occurred on 6 December, with a general strike call from Karl-Marx-Stadt New Forum, strikes in Gera, Suhl, Klingenthal and Markneukirchen, and a local general strike in Plauen, one of the demands of which was for a referendum to determine whether the GDR should unite with the FRG. For New Forum the moment of truth had arrived. On the one hand, its leadership was aware that the opportunity existed for the SED to be swept aside. ‘Power to New Forum!’ was a popular slogan on demonstrations. The potential for industrial action to be mobilised behind political demands was clear; in Saxony the signs were ‘overwhelming’, according to Jens Reich.52 Delegations from several major factories approached New Forum bearing the message ‘We’re prepared to strike; just give us the signal.’53 On the other hand, inter-elite negotiations at the Round Table depended upon a spirit of compromise with the regime that would be negated by support for confrontational mass action. New Forum leaders had to decide which way to jump: negotiations or general strike. After a somewhat confused debate they opted for the former, and took their seats at the Round Table. Bärbel Bohley declared in a radio broadcast that her organisation opposed the strike call. Karl-Marx-Stadt New Forum was leaned upon and overturned its earlier decision. ‘[W]e tried to calm them down,’ Jens Reich recalls, because ‘[o]ur goal was not to usurp power but to push for elections.’54 The decision was summarised in the media, not inaccurately, as ‘New Forum demands Round Table instead of general strike’.55 The first week of December was a critical moment. It saw citizens’ movement leaders set aside their earlier scepticism towards the Round Table even as it was transparently becoming a vehicle for the regime, a means of stabilising its precarious hold on power. When the Round Table met on 7 December its guiding purpose was defined as seeking ways ‘to overcome the crisis’.56 It was in this period, as autumn passed into winter, that the rift between the citizens’ movement organisations and the mass movement opened wide. ‘The organised opposition,’ Ludwig Mehlhorn of Democracy Now recalls, ‘did not do anything against the growing gap between the oppositional elite and the people in the streets, a gap that quickly widened after 9 November.’57 The Observer newspaper commented at the time that ‘groups like New Forum began to find themselves on the wrong side of the tracks, urging restraint where the crowd wanted resolve, and caution where the crowd wanted action’.58 In short, an unexpected reversal had taken place. Before the uprising, dissidents had bravely engaged in protest, and were commonly dismissive of ‘the masses’, who were perceived as having

The autumn uprising 165 compromised with the system. Now, precisely when ever larger swathes of the population were turning against the regime, many of the same dissidents were arguing for rapprochement. The culmination of this reversal occurred in January 1990 when citizens’ movement representatives joined an SED-led ‘government of national responsibility’.

Towards unification The gap between the citizens’ movement and the crowds on the streets reflected divergent attitudes to the regime, to the SED, but also to East Germany’s independence. Citizens’ movement activists, for the most part, focused their hopes on reforming the existing state. Those whose views had evolved within the opposition of the 1980s in particular showed a stubborn respect for the GDR’s borders. In Neubert’s words, they ‘internalised the assumption that all problems that arose in the GDR ought to be addressed solely within the GDR public sphere’.59 It was a view that reflected the ‘system immanent’ character of much of the opposition, its acceptance of the GDR’s legitimacy, and its desire to achieve change by legal routes, notably through negotiation (or ‘dialogue’) with the regime. It also expressed a critical stance towards Western capitalism and, for some, the perception that the pressure exerted by West German business circles and political elites to extend their power eastwards was imperialist in nature.60 As regards the rest of the population, a large section had little or no commitment to the GDR. Whereas before the fall of the Wall calls for unification on the street demonstrations had been few and far between, by the end of November they were beginning to take centre stage. Before long, the demonstrations were awash with the black-red-gold of the Federal Republic. On 4 December in Leipzig, a New Forum speaker was jeered for requesting that pro-unification banners be left at home. In Dresden the following week the organisers selected the environment as the demonstration’s theme, only to see the crowds turn it into a pro-unification event.61 That the theme climbed up the agenda so rapidly was in part due to encouragement from Bonn (particularly in the shape of Helmut Kohl’s announcement of a ‘ten point’ road map towards unification). But it was also because the Federal Republic seemed to offer a definite, gilt-edged promise of civil liberties, democracy and a decent living standard – in contrast to the SED and, indeed, to the citizens’ movement. Fatefully for the latter, several of its leading figures instigated and signed an appeal, ‘For Our Country’, which argued that a choice would have to be made between ‘participation in a great transformation’, which they prioritised, and higher living standards, which they did not. No other single act did more to widen what the East German author Monika Maron called the ‘deep chasm between the intellectuals and the people’.62 The movement’s turn towards unification did not directly contradict the radicalisation process referred to above. In fact, the issue vaulted to prominence in late November and early December, precisely when public opinion was inflamed by the revelations of privileges and corruption. In a sense, unification was a pragmatic, nationalist formulation of a revolutionary demand, to overthrow the


The revolution of 1989

‘SED-Stasi-state’.63 Regarding ‘pull factors’, unification bore the promise of economic prosperity, of hard currency to reward hard work, of institutionalised political freedoms and of strong, independent trade unions. The ‘push factors’ were East Germany’s continuing economic crisis, exodus and political collapse. The feeling grew that the situation was becoming so catastrophic that only assistance from the West would provide a remedy. ‘The growing helplessness of the Modrow government is fuelling people’s flight into the national question,’ wrote Kohl’s adviser Horst Teltschik in early 1990.64 The perception that the Modrow regime was looking to retrench added urgency to the demand. ‘If the call for reunification grew ever louder in those weeks,’ one commentator wrote at the time, this was not just a product of the temptations of the western consumer paradise. The government’s evasions and foot-dragging also led many to believe that the only truly effective guarantee against a return to the old setup would be rapid accession to the FRG.65 In the light of what Modrow referred to as ‘the disintegration of state authority, the spread of a strike wave, increased aggression [and] the inability of the Round Table to influence developments’, together with Moscow’s inclination to find agreement with the Western powers, he pledged, in an astonishing volteface, his government in favour of ‘Germany, united Fatherland’.66 By February, the street demonstrations were winding down and giving way to party political rallies, as the country’s first general election approached. The results of the election, held in March, defied all predictions. With 48 per cent of the vote, the CDU-led ‘Alliance for Germany’ won a landslide victory. The SPD trailed far behind (22 per cent), followed by the reformed SED (now renamed Party of Democratic Socialism). The citizens’ movement groups, including the Green Party, brought up the rear with a disappointing 5 per cent. As to why the conservative parties performed so well, some analysts point to the advantages of a well-oiled party machine – the CDU benefited from forty years’ experience as one of the SED’s ‘bloc parties’ – and to the assistance given, in finance and advice, by its sister party in the West. Others emphasise the economic promise of unification: ‘the fall of the Wall and the release of pent-up East German consumerist enthusiasm to which it inevitably led’.67 Lothar de Maizière’s CDU, with its espousal of a fast track to unification and backed by the West German chancellor’s assurances that this would bring ‘blossoming landscapes’ to the East, gained the votes of those who wished for a decisive and swift transition. But there were other factors in play too. Ludwig Mehlhorn’s assessment is, I find, a suggestive one: Of course, material interests played a role, and hopes in an economic cure of the ruinous GDR could be placed in the West. But critical too was citizens’ unease with themselves. Confidence in one’s own strength was absent, and the [citizens’ movement groups] were reckoned to be too weak to be

The autumn uprising 167 able to take on the power structures of the SED and Stasi. So the people said simply: ‘We have to get through this as fast as possible, and the surest guarantee for that is the ruling CDU.’ If the SPD had been in office in Bonn then it would have received the most votes, for it would have been the party in charge of distributing the money.68 The CDU’s vote was in certain respects atypical for a conservative party: it was strongest amongst manual workers, and expressed a desire for rapid change, as against the gradual, less ideological and more pragmatic approach of the SPD. But if the desire for fundamental change drew upon the radical mood that had developed in November and December, it also reflected a lack of confidence in collective action, popular participation and self-activity. Fierce opposition to the SED melded with a consciousness of one’s own abject position to produce an attitude that, at the extreme, found expression as fervent supplication. One placard at a CDU election rally in Leipzig provided a graphic illustration: ‘Helmut, nimm uns an der Hand, zeig uns den Weg ins Wirtschaftswunderland!’ [Helmut, take us by the hand, show us the way to economic miracle land!].69 Aside from the success of the CDU, the other surprise performance in the March 1990 election was that of the citizens’ movement groups. Why they fared so dismally has been the subject of some debate. Was it their lack of experience, shortage of time, or the divisions in their ranks? Were they marginalised by the ‘steamroller of West German parties’?70 Perhaps, Bärbel Bohley remarked, it was a matter of voters ‘behaving like sheep’ (‘whilst fondly imagining they are taking part in their first free elections’)?71 There is doubtless some truth in at least some of these suggestions. But a factor that I would emphasise is the disconnect between citizens’ movement and the bulk of the street movement. Elsewhere, Bohley herself has singled this out as a critical ingredient: ‘There’s no denying that the opposition was ghettoised. Above all in 1989 it became apparent that we had drifted away.…We ourselves should be accused of abandoning the terrain to the CDU.’72 It was not only that the oppositionists lacked popular roots, that they cultivated a ‘lifestyle politics’ and other traits that confirmed their distance from the mass of the population. It was also that they opted to co-operate with the regime rather than mobilise against it. In its disavowal of power, Klaus Hartung has suggested, the citizens’ movement was partly responsible for the rapid incursion and easy triumph of political parties from the Federal Republic. ‘The politics of the opposition meant that, as the scissors between mass movement and government widened, a power vacuum resulted which drew in the West German parties.’73 In short, the citizens’ movement neglected the goals and values of ordinary working people, declined to rally the movement to topple the regime, and so allowed a vacuum of leadership to develop that the Western CDU, FDP and SPD, in conjunction with their eastern partners (CDU, LDPD and SDP respectively), were quick to exploit.


Intellectuals and workers

Chapter 8 narrated the events of autumn 1989, concentrating upon the interaction between the citizens’ movement organisations and the mass demonstrations. This chapter turns to look at this period once again, but with a theoretical question to the fore. The object of analysis is the class nature of the movements. It asks: What was the social position of participants? Was it a revolution of intellectuals? Of workers? The inquiry is pursued via exposition and critique of competing interpretations.

Author, artist, scientist, priest A highly influential reading of the Eastern European transformations of 1989–90 is that they were ‘revolution[s] of the intellectuals’.1 ‘It was the intellectuals,’ according to one popular account, ‘in company with the young, who finally pushed through to liberty.’2 In the East German case, proponents of this interpretation emphasise that theatres and universities were key arenas, and highlight the role played by students.3 The public face of the uprising was provided by the citizens’ movement, the cadre of which was drawn disproportionately from the middle classes, above all from a layer that has been variously labelled ‘the socialist new middle class’, the ‘post-materialist intellectuals’ or the ‘humanistic intelligentsia’. According to New Forum spokesperson Jens Reich, himself a member of this class, intellectuals were the ‘catalyst and the subject of the revolution’. The transformation of 1989, he suggests, centred upon ‘a protest movement of the intelligentsia. Its representatives provided the leadership personnel and formulated the proclamations.’4 As to why intellectuals and students formed the core of the movement, a variety of explanations has been advanced. For the ‘new social movement’ theorists Ron Eyerman and Andrew Jamison the vanguard role played by students has much to do with their social position. ‘They had the time and the desire to defy the routines of daily life, for their daily lives were not yet routinized.’5 For the US political scientist Daniel Chirot, expanding upon his contention that ‘[i]t was the intelligentsia that undid East European communism’, the socio-cultural circumstances of intellectuals facilitate enlightened political critique. ‘The educated middle classes in a modern society are well informed, and can base

Intellectuals and workers 169 their judgments about morality on a wider set of observations than those with very limited educations.’6 The case for the centrality of intellectuals in Eastern European oppositional movements had, of course, been advanced long before 1989. For much of the post-war epoch, writers, artists, scientists and priests were the most prominent dissidents in many countries of the Soviet bloc. Drawing upon traditions of thought that conceive of an inherent antagonism between Geist and Macht, Western scholars tended to invoke the special interest and responsibility of creative intellectuals in speaking truth in the face of oppression.7 Although despotic power and bureaucratic apparatuses might succeed in co-opting much of the intelligentsia, there would always be those who resisted, defending the freedom of creative inquiry. In Eastern Europe, important sociological analyses of the intelligentsia’s peculiar role were produced, notably by the dissidents Marc Rakovski, Boris Kagarlitsky, György Konrád and Iván Szelényi. In Rakovski’s view, the intelligentsia, worldwide, had experienced a process of proletarianisation, and to a greater extent in Soviet societies than in the West. However, ‘intellectual workers who are in regular contact with the process of cultural and scientific creation’, although not ‘constituting an autonomous class’, remained for him a distinct social group, one, moreover, that was ‘capable of forming an autonomous ideology…and even its own counter-culture and embryonic counter-institutions’.8 The emphasis in Kagarlitsky’s work was upon the traditional imperative for members of the intelligentsia to identify with the voiceless masses. Their duty was ‘not to defend their own interests but those of the oppressed; to speak out in the name of the people and of society, and to fuse their activities with the struggle for democracy’.9 He too perceived that the bulk of intellectuals of Eastern Europe had, like their counterparts in the West, undergone a process of ‘social degradation’ as the relatively privileged petit-bourgeois conditions of the nineteenth century literati were replaced by a new world of order-taking and wage labour.10 For the Hungarian sociologists György Konrád and Iván Szelényi, by contrast, the Eastern European intelligentsia, far from being crushed under the juggernaut of modernisation, had leapt to the helm and taken control. Intellectuals formed a faction within the Soviet-bloc ruling class, and a rising one at that. The socialist transformation in Russia and Eastern Europe, they proposed in The Intellectuals on the Road to Class Power, had been carried out by intellectuals whose goal was to seize the commanding heights of political and economic power by revolutionary means, topple and destroy the landowning and capitalist classes and their legitimating principles, abolish every element of traditional rule…and, after joining hands with the bureaucratic apparatus…to lay the foundations for the class power of the intelligentsia.11 It is this framework developed by Konrád and Szelényi that forms the basis of Linda Fuller’s detailed and hard-hitting appraisal of the intelligentsia’s role in the East German events of 1989, the title of which asks Where Was the Working Class? Quoting Konrád and Szelényi, Fuller proposes that


The revolution of 1989 the class structure of socialist societies was basically dichotomous. Workers, who were ‘deprived of any right to participate in redistribution,’ were contrasted with intellectuals, who, on the basis of specialized knowledge acquired primarily through higher education, carried out the redistribution of the surplus that workers produced.12

Equipped with this dichotomy she makes the case that the East German revolution was a struggle within the ruling class. On the basis of media reports as well as interviews she arrives at the following judgement: Sociologically speaking, one factor that stood out [throughout] the revolution was its single-class character. It was…a revolution of the relatively privileged in GDR society, a struggle that occurred largely between two segments of the intelligentsia – one defending the status quo and the other determined to overthrow it.13 In support of this thesis, Fuller produces two main pieces of evidence. Drawing upon interviews with workers in various parts of the country she comes to the conclusion that in the autumn ‘they had stayed out of politics altogether, aside from sometimes discussing events among themselves’. As autumn passed into winter this picture did not change. Workers, she notes, were ‘not well represented at the higher-level round tables’. Apart from internal workplace activities in the winter of 1989–90 (more on which below), this was a revolution characterised by ‘working-class noninvolvement’.14 The protests that brought down Honecker’s regime and placed its successors under continuous pressure were dominated by the educated middle classes. ‘[N]umerous large demonstrations,’ she tells us, were ‘sponsored’ by intellectuals. One, on 4 November in Berlin, was called by a writers’ and artists’ association and was organised largely by Neues Forum and other citizens’ opposition groups, with the cooperation of local officials. The most prominently featured speakers at this demonstration included well-known writers, actors, and journalists, who shared the stage with highlevel government and party notables.15 On one issue in particular, Fuller’s case is compelling. There is no doubt that many of those who emerged from the 1980s opposition to found and lead the citizens’ movement were educated to the tertiary level and were more likely than the average citizen to hail from the middle classes and to pursue professional careers. Were a rhyme to be written listing their favoured occupations it would not be ‘tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor’ but ‘scientist, artist, doctor, priest’. Two-thirds of the founding members of Democratic Awakening and almost half of the forty-three founding members of the SDP were theologians.16 When Democratic Awakening established a regular leadership body in October it included two lawyers (one of whom also worked for the Stasi), a sociologist, a musician, two pastors, a physicist, a lecturer, an engineer and a mechanic. New

Intellectuals and workers 171 Forum was the only group that was not founded by clergy, but only 10 per cent of its leading members were classed as workers. This was less true for the citizens’ movement’s rank-and-file membership.17 Many activists had either not entered or had dropped out of higher education. A good few worked in menial jobs, often in the employ of the Church. Nonetheless, the ‘intellectual’ sections of the middle classes were also present to a disproportionate degree. New Forum’s membership list, Der Spiegel once remarked, reads ‘like a “Who’s Who” of the fine arts’.18 Surveys of citizens’ movement members have found that graduates were hugely overrepresented.19 As to their occupations, one survey of the Democracy Now membership gave the following breakdown: 51 per cent academics, 20 per cent managers and white-collar workers, 15 per cent skilled workers, 9 per cent students.20 A survey of the Berlin New Forum membership found that almost three-quarters were educated to the tertiary level. Thirty-nine per cent described themselves as ‘intelligentsia’, 10 per cent as ‘managers’ [Leiter], and 10 per cent as ‘students and apprentices’. Only an eighth described themselves as ‘workers’ and 1 per cent as unskilled workers.21 In her empirical findings Fuller concurs with Chirot and Eyerman and Jamison but, unlike them, she does not take heart from the intelligentsia’s vanguard role. Quite the opposite. She castigates the citizens’ movement for ignoring the working class, and explains this behaviour in terms of the intelligentsia’s privileged material circumstances.22 Intellectuals were rewarded for their state-supporting roles as guardians of scientific progress, gatekeepers of opportunities and information, and managers of legitimation. For some, their occupations involved giving commands to workers. Elitist justifications of privilege were commonplace in intellectual circles, as was disdain for the masses, widely regarded as uneducated, greedy, slothful and pampered. Fuller presents a litany of prejudices that she encountered amongst GDR intellectuals: Workers had little concern for such ‘higher’ principles as democracy and freedom; workers were too materialistic…workers could not think for themselves, were untrustworthy, and did not bother to inform themselves; and workers had a hard time processing theoretical problems and comprehending the content and the language of intellectual discourse. Fuller’s analysis of the elitism of sections of the dissident milieu and their detachment from the concerns of the common people is supported by the findings of other scholars. ‘The masses’, according to research conducted by the Leipzig sociologist Detlef Pollack and his colleagues, appeared only at the margins of oppositionists’ conceptions.23 Although, at times, they did come into view as a ‘target of political activity’, they were also seen as an ‘obstacle’ to the achievement of reform.24 Many oppositionists viewed workers as congenitally apolitical and ‘consumerist’. It was assumed that they would keep their heads down so long as their calorific intake was adequate.25 If intellectuals showed disdain for workers, these responded in kind. Workers would speak of the GDR, with irony, as the ‘dictatorship of the intelligentsia’.


The revolution of 1989

Intellectuals, Uwe Rottluff, a print worker, told me, were seen by his colleagues as ‘people with nothing useful to say: they’re incomprehensible and don’t understand us’.26 In this regard, distinctions were not always made between regime loyalists and dissidents. ‘The opposition in the 1980s was seen as a bunch of crazy artists who then left for the West,’ Rottluff added. ‘It was a foreign world to us. After all, in Germany “intellectual” is a four-letter word.’ A Klaus Schlesinger or a Jurek Becker, writes Garton Ash, referring to two well-known critical authors, ‘with their multiple re-entry visas to the West, hardly elicit sympathy from the public’.27 Similarly, a nameless voice from the general public was overheard asking ‘What on earth do [these dissidents] want? They’re constantly going over to the West, raking in hard currency, shopping in KaDeWe and cruising around in those Volvos.…And then all they can do is complain!’28 Dissidents who wished their message to be taken seriously by the general public could find it an exasperating experience. This was in part the result of the regime’s divide-and-rule tactics. ‘There is only one way of describing it,’ wrote the dissident author Jürgen Fuchs: The state, with the assistance of permits for travel to the West, creates a division between authors and their readers. The result is that everyone in Jena and Dresden simply shrugs their shoulders, saying ‘he’s privileged’, and [the dissident’s] political impact is stillborn.29 If social position and cultural milieu served to divide the intelligentsia from workers, they could prove highly advantageous to those who trod the paths of dissidence and opposition. The working lives of professionals and managers are characterised by directing and controlling resources or people, and articulating and disseminating ideas: doctors diagnose patients and prescribe remedies, priests preach to their flocks, writers create dialogues, construct narratives and design fictional worlds. These skills also happen to be vital to leadership positions in social movement organisations: the ability to diagnose symptoms of political malaise and to prescribe remedies, to write for and address a mass audience, and to draw up blueprints for political change. ‘As local government representatives, political party stalwarts, workplace managers, and participants in professional, social service, and opposition political groups,’ writes Fuller, ‘many GDR intellectuals had frequent practice speaking before groups, leading, compromising, chairing meetings, debating, envisioning alternatives, raising money, building alliances, planning programs, recruiting supporters, isolating opponents, evaluating options, and so forth.’30 Social life within a middle-class milieu instilled intellectuals with a confidence in their ability to relate to and negotiate with powerful people and to intervene in institutional politics. Furthermore, the ‘political confidence’ of dissidents was in some cases (although by no means always) buttressed by a relative immunity from state sanctions. In the case of pastors, the contract between state and Church all but guaranteed their security. For others, it resulted from personal contacts, public prominence, or their unique skills. In short, oppositional intellectuals were not only advantaged in terms of the

Intellectuals and workers 173 comforts of life and greater freedoms and responsibilities in their occupations but also benefited from an array of resources, including skills and leadership qualities, that had been cultivated in their professional lives and social milieux. Fuller’s monograph is a pioneering study of East German industrial relations, and is an important addition to the literature. There are, however, several aspects of her case with which I would take issue. The first, a theoretical question, concerns her analysis of East Germany’s class structure. This, we may recall, was portrayed as a dichotomy between workers (who were ‘deprived of any right to participate in redistribution’) and intellectuals (who, ‘on the basis of specialised knowledge acquired primarily through higher education, carried out the redistribution of the surplus that workers produced’). This approach to class analysis rests upon a contestable assumption, namely that the tertiary educational experience that defined membership of the intelligentsia was of greater consequence than the distribution of graduates within the social hierarchy. A more serviceable starting point, I would suggest, may be found in the writings of Antonio Gramsci. Professional intellectuals, Gramsci argues, are distinguished not by ‘the intrinsic nature of intellectual activities’ but by their function, as determined within ‘the general complex of social relations’.31 A graduate’s matriculation certificate matters less than the position she takes within the social labour process. Applying this approach to East Germany, one finds that the intelligentsia was not at all a homogenous mass. It did not form a ruling bloc, as Fuller contends.32 At one end of the scale, a minority of graduates belonged to the nomenklatura. Their social function was defined not by their specialist knowledge but by their strategic decision-making power. As the sociologist Günther Erbe noted in his research into class hierarchies in East Germany, this ruling elite was clearly distinguished from the rest of the intelligentsia through its relation to property, as manifested in its members’ ‘dispositional authority’, their power over resources, investments, and the production process in general.33 At the other end of the scale, a far larger proportion belonged to the working class. This may not have been true in 1960, when graduates comprised less than 5 per cent of the workforce. But by 1985 that figure (which includes those with vocational degrees) had risen to over 20 per cent. ‘An ever greater part of the scientific and technical intelligentsia,’ Erbe reported in the early 1980s, ‘is employed in the sphere of material production.’ This category of the intelligentsia, he added, ‘is barely distinguishable from the category of production workers’.34 Despite being classified under the heading ‘Geist’ and not ‘Hand’, the nature of their work was repetitive and routine. Many were white-collar workers. They exercised little control over their own labour and none whatsoever over resources, or over the labour of others.35 Between the poles of nomenklatura and intellectual proletariat lay individuals in middling positions. The scope of their sovereignty over immediate tasks and decisions was comparatively large. Senior administrative staff, middle managers, supervisors and some technicians exercised significant operational control over the day-to-day use of already-allocated resources. They were entrusted with a considerable degree of autonomy and discretion within their spheres and were


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rewarded generously to ensure compliance with the strategic decisions of their superordinates. Together with academics, journalists, scientists and artists they performed the lion’s share of creative intellectual work: activity that involves the creation rather than mere processing or reproduction of information.36 That said, the spheres in which they exercised power were tightly demarcated and their freedom to wield it was strictly limited. Middle functionaries, for example, were engaged in directing tasks over which they had had little say, yet would bear the brunt of criticism from those who carried them out. Other sections of the middle-class intelligentsia were subject to quite harsh regimes. Those who were professionally concerned with the articulation of ideas were especially constricted by the tightly controlled information flow, the stranglehold of censorship and the rigid imposition of conformity to state-decreed norms. Artists, although in many respects privileged in comparison to workers, were employed by the state, which sought, with varying degrees of intrusiveness, to direct their labour. Like workers, they were given to understand that success depends upon performance (which prompted one film director to ask, ‘The directive is always that it is performance that counts, but who calculates performance?’).37 Control of the cultural sphere by apparatchiks provoked resentment. ‘It is not the duty of a Marxist-Leninist party to organise the production of poems like a poultry farm,’ Brecht once complained, ‘otherwise the poems will resemble each other just like one egg and another […] volkstümlich und funktionärstümlich.’38 Elsewhere he summed up the complex relations between the state, artists and workers, concisely and with inimitable wit: The workers are pressed to increase production and the artists to beautify it. A high living standard is accorded the artists and promised the workers. The output of the artists, as of the workers, has an instrumental character and is seen neither as innately gratifying nor as free.39 Socially and politically, there were forces that pulled the intelligentsia’s middling layers in different directions. On the one hand, their position was elevated above the mass, with higher incomes and greater freedoms and responsibilities. They knew which side their bread was buttered on, and were on the whole supportive of the regime. Enjoying relatively rewarding work, and privileges that were usually tied directly to their position, even those of a more critical bent faced strong incentives to avoid any action that might jeopardise their career. Their basic loyalty, Manfred Jäger has argued, was ‘conditioned by the fact that they had more to lose than their chains’.40 Members of the intelligentsia were very likely to join the SED and were highly concentrated in party positions. Freya Klier designated the intelligentsia the ‘anpassungsfreudigster Schicht’41 of the East German population, while Rolf Henrich saw it as ‘cowardly’.42 Nor were students notable for rebellious behaviour. In Klier’s analysis, ‘the SED, by rewarding conformity with educational opportunities, ensured that for many years the oppositional impulse emanating from the GDR’s universities was zero’.43 In opinion surveys from the 1980s university students remained loyal to the system longer

Intellectuals and workers 175 than any other group.44 In 1989, intellectuals were overrepresented in those groups (functionaries, SED members) that were noted for their abstention from or opposition to the protests. ‘The universities – professors and students,’ claims the sociologist Karl Ulrich Mayer, ‘stood on the side of the old regime.’45 On the other hand, the middling layers experienced continuous friction with the higher authorities. The ‘entire motley mass’, Kagarlitsky has described in the comparable case of Russia, is certainly linked very closely with the Party bureaucracy but it also possesses its own interests – professional ones included – which it sometimes has to defend against its own protectors. Furthermore, these middle strata retain fairly close links with ‘the lower orders’, who frequently influence them.46 The conditions of life of these strata perpetually generated dissidence, but typically of a kind that sought to achieve change through negotiation. The ‘natural habitat’ of such layers ‘is the activity of mediation between opposed social forces, of manoeuvring within the everyday institutions’ of class society.47 In East Germany, numerous leaders and activists of the citizens’ movement, such as Konrad Weiß, Sebastian Pflugbeil or Jens Reich, in addition to members of the clergy, came from this ‘middling layer’. Their political stance was marked by the desire to compromise, seeking a balance between order and reform, between maintaining social stability and pushing for thoroughgoing political change. They also cultivated the quintessentially petit-bourgeois myth that the interests of ruling and working classes can be ‘properly reconciled’ within the framework of a market economy, a notion that found embodiment in the then fashionable discourse of ‘civil society’ (a term that, as Paul Hirst observes, conjures up the ‘illusions of the Enlightenment’: a conflict-free economy, representative government, free trade and perpetual peace).48

Workplace politics in 1989 In the above, I have explored some of the weaknesses of Fuller’s thesis that the 1989 revolution centred on a struggle within a ruling intelligentsia. But what of her related thesis, that the protest movement was characterised by ‘working-class noninvolvement’? Before looking into this claim, I should specify what it does not entail. Fuller does not suggest that workers were passive during the revolution, or that they were apolitical. She devotes attention to the infra-political cultures of criticism that existed in workplaces before 1989. When the revolution began, she shows, ‘solidarity did not need to be manufactured from scratch. It already existed within small pockets of workers across the GDR, and it provided the building block from which many worker activists launched their efforts for change.’49 As to what these efforts involved, Fuller concentrates upon two, overlapping, areas: trade union issues and workplace organisation. I shall look at these in turn.


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As outlined in Chapter 2, the FDGB, although formally representing workers, functioned in reality as a ‘transmission belt’ for Party directives. FDGB officials were ‘pre-chewed’: passed through a system of selection, training and monitoring to ensure their loyalty to the employing class.50 ‘Union’ activities in the workplaces were thoroughly bureaucratic, with rank-and-file workers excluded from any meaningful influence. Yet there was resistance to this, and it was to impact upon the events of 1989. Already in 1987–8 there were growing signs of open discontent with the FDGB. In these years the number of individual Eingaben addressed to its chairperson doubled, while those that were collectively written trebled.51 By 1988 and even more so in early 1989 a ‘new mood’ of criticism and combativeness could be discerned in some factories, as indicated by a sharp rise in the numbers of FDGB officials who were either voted out or whose share of the vote fell significantly, and of new and ‘non-pre-chewed’ candidates standing for such positions.52 By September, criticism of the FDGB was mounting, and its workplace officials began a process of ‘withdrawal from workplace politics’ – with ‘an extraordinary number…either falling ill or taking their vacations’ – or listening to and lending their voice to the concerns of grassroots members.53 At the Bergmann Borsig factory in Berlin, for example, shop stewards wrote a letter to FDGB headquarters. ‘What we did was revolutionary,’ one of them recalls; We had another one of those Party instruction meetings, and at the end of the debates comrade F. said, ‘OK, let’s adjourn until next time in four weeks.’ I could not believe it. I stood up and said ‘I do not agree that we should…carry on as if nothing has happened.…The situation is so tense that we should, right here and right now, write up certain demands and send them to Harry Tisch.’ Of course, this meant revolting against our highest boss, but I immediately had everybody behind me.54 Their letter – which addressed overtly political issues including the exodus and its portrayal in the media – received wide publicity, thanks to its release to the press by Western contacts. Workers elsewhere transcribed it and pinned it on noticeboards at their own workplaces. By publishing in the Western media, Bernd Gehrke has described, the Borsig shop stewards enabled the whole of East Germany to discover that discontent with the political state of the country had reached far beyond the small circles of artists and intellectuals, who were regularly featured in the western media, and out into the workplaces and hence the majority of the population.55 Their act encouraged others to follow suit, and contributed to a wave of letterwriting in workplaces and a torrent of mail arriving at FDGB headquarters. The FDGB’s membership, meanwhile, was haemorrhaging. The Stasi reported ‘concentrated and massive resignations from the FDGB’.56 Some individuals, Fuller describes,

Intellectuals and workers 177 merely stopped paying their monthly dues, while others chose to disaffiliate more dramatically, returning their membership booklets to the union, sometimes accompanied by an explanatory letter. Altogether, one million workers (approximately 11 per cent of all FDGB members) reportedly took this action in October and November.57 Pressure grew for FDGB workplace officials to stand for re-election, and for the reform of the organisation at the national level. More troubling for the regime was that, as a Stasi report warned in late October, ‘in many districts there have been attempts to create an independent trade union, and to bring proponents of independent unions into FDGB positions at the workplace level’.58 The most widely publicised of these was the call for the formation of an independent trade union (‘Reform’) that was issued by employees at an engineering factory in Teltow, near Potsdam. They justified their move on the grounds that the FDGB had abdicated its responsibility for representing workers’ interests. In its press release, Reform raised issues that the official union neglected. It called for the legalisation of strike action, freedom to travel, and for the SED’s workplace organisations to be shut down. It broached themes of social justice and class division in its demand for the ‘abolition of the privileges of particular individuals and of entire social groups’. Although Reform did not come to much (in part because its leading proponent was promptly despatched by his employer on ‘official business’ to Bulgaria), it did stimulate widespread discussion over whether new union organisations were needed, as the FDGB’s own newspaper was obliged to admit.59 A second area of workers’ initiative involved probing, pushing back and redrawing the frontiers of managerial control. The weakening of the SED’s power monopoly and the widening of political opportunities in society at large were replicated within each office and factory. The successes of the public protests lowered morale amongst managers and encouraged workers to gather, discuss, formulate demands and take action within the workplace. Employees demanded the firing of certain managers, or the abolition of the SED’s workplace organisations and the factory battalions. At Bergmann Borsig, for example, a group of skilled workers organised a meeting of the workforce that pushed successfully for the resignation of the General Director.60 In a Karl-Marx-Stadt factory, workers resolved to eject the SED functionaries from their positions. One of those present recounts the story: The apparatchik would just sit in his office, hiding behind Neues Deutschland. So we said: By the Xth of the month he must be gone! When that day arrived, colleagues pulled the lever, switching off the current. All the machines were now silent and we, the enterprise council, together with the rest of the workforce, walked three laps of the main hall until we could see that he had packed his case and left the factory grounds.61 Elsewhere, prominent demands were for free speech within the workplace, and for the freedom to pin critical statements or oppositional literature on ‘wall news-


The revolution of 1989

papers’. Widespread too, particularly in the later autumn and winter, was the call for firms’ accounts (or, less frequently, ecological data), to be opened to scrutiny by the workforce or the public. In Berlin, workers in the Narva lightbulb factory demanded that the company accounts be published in order that the workforce could participate in drawing up future business plans.62 Efforts to increase workers’ influence in company decision-making led in some cases to the establishment of independent workers’ representation. By November, a variety of ‘enterprise councils’, ‘spokespersons’ councils’ and ‘social councils’ had been formed.63 In the Teltow factory mentioned above, a group of four or five workers found one another, came to agreement on the need for an enterprise council, and proceeded to collect signatures from colleagues in support of this goal. Over 1,000 signed, and a ‘provisional enterprise council’ was convened that, in subsequent weeks and months, pushed for a recognised workers’ voice in company decision-making, the resignation of the plant’s SED leadership and the dissolution of its factory battalion.64 Common demands of other works councils included the granting of access to company accounts, the right to veto ‘excessive impositions’, and the empowering of the councils (or of the workforce directly) to elect management.65 These areas of workers’ activity are discussed in Fuller’s Where Was the Working Class? But they are portrayed as running alongside and essentially separate from the main stream of the uprising: the working class, or rather a section thereof, was active in workplace and union politics but not in the citizens’ movement, street demonstrations or public meetings. Fuller does concede that there was no shortage of passive sympathy for the citizens’ movement. ‘Many workers who passively supported the opposition’ expressed this in the ‘numerous meetings, forums, and dialogues held at many workplaces; through the print and broadcast media; in petitions; and in wall newspapers, which cropped up at workplaces and other public gathering spots and attracted large crowds of readers.’66 If one allows for the curious use of the term ‘passive’ to denote this frenzy of activity, it probably is an accurate representation of the norm: in most workplaces the citizens’ movement was not a vibrant force. However, there were many exceptions to the rule. New Forum did gain a hearing in numerous workplaces, and the expressions of ‘passive’ support that Fuller lists were often instigated by individuals who were members or active supporters of citizens’ movement groups. Some of the evidence for this is available in published accounts: that whole work teams aligned themselves with New Forum or the SDP;67 that in one factory in Zwickau almost the entire workforce signed Awakening ’89. (A lathe operator there recalled that ‘in my experience the upheavals in the workplaces and the workplace activities of the Citizens Movement were pretty much intertwined’.68) Workers I interviewed recounted similar stories. Uwe Rottluf, told me that of the 500 workers in his firm, 300 signed Awakening ’89. Uwe Bastian, an engineer employed by a Berlin lift-manufacturing company, recalled that from about December, citizens’ movement activists in my workplace organised a ‘workers committee’ that held weekly meetings and raised demands

Intellectuals and workers 179 for workers’ supervision of management, for the publication of data relating to the environment – those sorts of things. It was attended in the main by white-collar employees, but sometimes by significant numbers of blue-collar workers too. New Forum activists themselves encouraged workplace militancy, not least by copying the Bergmann Borsig shop stewards’ letter and publicising it at contact centres where, as mentioned above, others would transcribe it and take it to their workplaces. Cases are also known of groups of workers who approached New Forum in order to seek advice – for example a group of Berlin textile workers, in November 1989, who requested assistance in resisting the privatisation of their firm.69 The street demonstrations and citizens’ movement, on the one hand, and workplace discussion, protest activities and FDGB meetings, on the other, were not separate worlds. They overlapped. The events, demands and discourses of one fed into the other. For example, when shop stewards at Bergmann Borsig wrote an open letter to FDGB leader Harry Tisch this did not arise on internal workplace grounds alone. The stewards had been inspired by news of a recent political storm in a neighbouring factory where a group of technicians had dared to take a petition to the Chinese embassy in protest at the Tiananmen massacre.70 Or take the case of Margrid Sch., a socialist (but non-SED) shop steward in the Hennigsdorf steelworks. Hearing of the police brutality against demonstrators on 7 and 8 October in Berlin, she determined that ‘something has to be done’. She drafted a protest letter and presented it to her FDGB branch, where it received 90 per cent support.71 Consider, likewise, the recollections of Marianne Pienitz in Leipzig. At the hospital in which she worked, ‘colleagues would regularly meet and formulate demands – for instance for the sacking of management, and for new trade unions’. This, she added, ‘was a demand both on the demonstrations and in the hospital’.72 She also remembers that ‘workplace collectives would meet up in order to walk together to the demonstration’.73 According to Francesca Weil of Leipzig University, this sort of experience was quite common. In her phrase, workplaces were the ‘relay stations’ of the protest movement. In some Leipzig workplaces, she observes, those who attended the Peace Prayers in the early autumn would return to work the next day and describe the experience to colleagues, sparking political discussions.74 Indeed, some workplace networks of militants originated not in factory discussions but at Peace Prayers or citizens’ movement meetings. One group, for example, that was later to play a prominent role in the ousting of a senior functionary at the SKET plant in Magdeburg, first crystallised when they met at a Peace Prayer earlier in the autumn.75 These are not isolated examples. Evidence of synergy between workplace militancy and the citizens’ movement and street protests is to be found in FDGB and Stasi documents, too. In mid-October, an FDGB report warned that ‘forces linked to “New Forum” and other oppositional groups are active in a series of


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workplaces’.76 In one district a Stasi document, viewed by Edward Peterson, reported that ‘New Forum has gained medical personnel and many construction apprentices’. Another noted that ‘The view at the cable factory is that New Forum is necessary because of insufficient information. Although lacking activists, it has many sympathisers.’ A third stated that New Forum’s growth was ‘especially in the working class’, and that ‘sometimes entire work collectives go to their meetings. There have been cases of worker resistance to the ban on New Forum activity in firms, even a strike of 50 workers to get them permitted.’77 ‘New Forum is becoming active throughout our republic,’ the head of the Stasi’s Department XVIII warned in late October, ‘and is seizing above all upon problems – and this is where the real danger lies – that are the concerns of workers in particular.’ A very real threat was facing the regime, it continued: ‘the enemy’, i.e. the citizens’ movement and other ‘anti-socialist’ forces, could succeed in gaining a foothold in the working class. It is imperative that we ensure that order reigns in the enterprises and workplaces and that production is not disrupted by go-slows, labour indiscipline or strikes. Provocateurs, ring leaders and those who whip up a negative atmosphere must be recognised in time and rendered harmless.78 In early November another Stasi document warned that the influence of ‘New Forum’ is rising steeply amongst sections of the working class. This is apparent e.g. in the increasing attendance of workers and at times whole work collectives at ‘New Forum’ meetings, in the rising influence of ‘New Forum’s’ forces amongst workers as compared to that of managers and functionaries as well as, in some cases, the intervention of workers against measures taken in workplaces to thwart the activities of ‘New Forum’. The same document goes on to mention that ‘strikes in connection with activities of “New Forum” have been threatened’ in several workplaces.79 That New Forum received active support in some factories does not in itself refute Fuller’s ‘noninvolvement’ thesis. The affair of a minority, it can be dismissed as an exception that proves the rule. However, her claim is predicated upon the assumption that workplace activities were essentially separate from those on the streets, and it is here that her case is at its weakest. In addition to the evidence marshalled above, a methodological objection can be made. As mentioned earlier, her case is based upon interviews with workers and FDGB officials, some of whom engaged in workplace politics but almost all of whom shunned the public protests. No doubt these individuals’ words are reported fairly in Where Was the Working Class? but whether they form a representative sample is open to question. From her methodological appendix and footnotes, it appears that Fuller interviewed workers in two cities (Leipzig and Berlin), three towns (Frankfurt an der Oder, Apolda and Bernau), as well as in ‘semirural

Intellectuals and workers 181 areas’. Prima facie, this would seem a fair sample: Leipzig witnessed the greatest level of protest; Berlin experienced major events but was a privileged city and witnessed a lower level of participation per head of population than the cities of the south; Apolda was one of many small towns in the south that witnessed frequent protests; Bernau was one of the many in the north that appear to have missed an ‘initial spark’ and ‘slept through the revolution’.80 Yet Fuller’s interviews in Leipzig were conducted in the summer of 1988, over a year before it emerged as ‘hero city’ of the uprising. Those upon which her ‘noninvolvement’ thesis is constructed are drawn almost exclusively from sleepy Bernau, ‘near Bernau’ and Berlin. Furthermore, the relatively high proportion of FDGB officials in her sample might conceivably introduce a bias in favour of expressed support for workplace politics and against street protest. Fuller does concede that ‘[s]ome workers surely showed up’ on the demonstrations. But, she insists, according to the survey data of ‘Opp, Voß, and Gern, opposition group members, whom we have seen were overwhelmingly middle-class, joined demonstrations more often than those who were not’.81 This may be so, but does it enable us to draw conclusions about the class (or educational) composition of the movement as a whole? The same study of Leipzig demonstrators by Opp et al., only a few pages from the excerpt cited by Fuller, shows that ‘people holding a university degree on the average reported the lowest frequency of demonstration participation’ – lower indeed than all categories of workers.82 It may even be that intellectuals were underrepresented on these demonstrations.83 Moreover, there is reason to suppose that most intellectuals present were white-collar workers rather than from the middling layers (let alone from Fuller’s ‘ruling bloc’).84 The core participants at the Leipzig demonstrations, according to eye-witness reports, were ‘overwhelmingly manual and white collar workers’.85 Elsewhere in Saxony and Thuringia, the smaller industrial towns often witnessed higher rates of participation in protests than did the big cities, which, being centres of administration and higher education, contained higher concentrations of functionaries and middle-class intellectuals. At public protests in Plauen, middle-class participants were in a small minority; the demonstration on 7 October was initiated by workers, its advance publicity called for the right to strike and appealed to readers to ‘let the workers in the factories know’, and participants, according to all accounts, were overwhelmingly working class.86 Simple arithmetic suggests that these findings may be generalised. Between August 1989 and April 1990, 2,600 public demonstrations and over 300 rallies took place, as well as over 200 strikes and a dozen factory occupations.87 The largest three of the 2,600 demonstrations attracted well over 1 million people. No accurate figures exist for the total number of participants in demonstrations and public protests. That it was several million is indisputable. One researcher has estimated the figure at over 5 million.88 Yet there were only 1.6 million graduates in the land. Even had they all mustered on the streets in long and learned processions, intellectuals would still have comprised only a minority of the crowds.


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Although there is no doubting that intellectuals dominated the citizens’ movement organisations, these made up only a small proportion – perhaps 2 to 5 per cent – of the crowd.89 To see in 1989 a ‘revolution of the intellectuals’ is to elide ‘the people’ with the intelligentsia and the intelligentsia with the mass movement. It is to mistake the composition of social movement organisations for that of the movement as a whole, and to allow the light shed upon its spokespeople to leave the crowd in shadow. The public prominence of intellectuals, moreover, was not a novelty in 1989. As any amateur historian knows, it is hardly uncommon for lawyers, doctors, priests and teachers to act as spokespeople in revolutionary situations. It is not the role of clergy and professionals in 1989 that requires explanation so much as the claims that it was remarkable.

Revolution of the workers? Fuller’s thesis of working class non-involvement is misjudged. Workers were actively involved in the events, and in very large numbers. But some analysts would go further, and argue that their involvement was decisive in the struggles of the autumn and winter of 1989. This position has been developed in a variety of ways and by a number of authors, including the Leipzig historian Hartmut Zwahr, the socialist publicist Volkhard Mosler, the economic historian Jörg Roesler, and Bernd Gehrke, formerly of the United Left and Critical Trade Unionist groups.90 The case – which, to me, is a convincing one – begins by ascertaining that, although workers were not the ‘early risers’ of the 1989 movements, beneath the surface a process of politicisation was underway amongst wide layers of their class. As described in previous chapters there were numerous signs of citizens ‘silently breaking’ with the regime. Labour turnover and absenteeism rose from 1983, as did labour indiscipline and applications to emigrate, all of which were recognised by the authorities as signs of discontent.91 From the reports on the ‘mood of the population’ prepared by the Stasi and FDGB one receives the unmistakeable impression that grumbling and complaints over such matters as shortages and price rises tended to increase over the course of the 1980s.92 By the end of the decade they dominated the agenda at ‘countless’ FDGB meetings.93 There was increasing scepticism, the same Stasi report continues, as to whether the authorities would ‘solve consumer supply problems in the interests of workers’. Many believed that ‘living standards and real wages were falling’, and that this, ‘after 38 years of the GDR’s existence’ represented ‘a dismal outcome’. Alongside wage, price and consumer-supply issues a common grievance amongst workers concerned problems of shortages and disruptions that affected the production process, and once again there is some evidence that the clamour grew louder in the 1980s. Thus, the aforementioned report went on to warn that ‘already there are many discussions, mainly in workplaces, that culminate in the observation that the GDR economy is in crisis.…Such discussions are on the increase.’ Other areas that were reportedly the subject of increasingly vociferous complaints included environmental degradation and the

Intellectuals and workers 183 decaying social and industrial infrastructure.94 The general thrust of these reports is confirmed by post-1989 research conducted under freer conditions. Of the respondents in a survey carried out by Laurence McFalls in 1990–1, only one-third adjudged their personal economic situation to have improved over the five years preceding 1989, and a diminutive 2 per cent said the same for the economy as a whole.95 Of the 87 per cent who reckoned the economy to have deteriorated, most justified their assessment with reference to consumer goods shortages (53 per cent), shortages of supplies and spare parts in the workplace (35 per cent), the growing technology gap with the West (17 per cent), and inflation (15 per cent). The GDR’s visibly deteriorating economic performance and social conditions contrasted with the triumphant official reports of relentless progress, and this did not go unnoticed. As the Stasi paraphrased a popular grievance, ‘workers are being fed false promises of a perfect world which doesn’t exist in reality’.96 The same document noted that the economic figures published each month ‘have become, increasingly and to a massive extent, the butt of ironic and dismissive remarks’. Another Stasi document warned that ‘[t]he SED is effectively provoking reactions from citizens by publishing positive reports on the state of the economy that stand in stark contrast to the personal hands-on everyday experience of workers’.97 Senior functionaries began to fret about ‘the contradiction between official ideology and the underlying empirical societal experience’.98 In early 1989 there were gathering signs of a politicisation amongst workers. In the spring, an unusually high number refused to carry banners on the official Mayday demonstration, or to vote in the elections.99 In many districts workers made up a clear majority of non-voters.100 By the summer, and more so in September, discussions on the shopfloor and in union meetings were addressing key political themes of the day: Gorbachev’s reforms, Tiananmen Square, the exodus, the SED’s abuse of the media, and environmental problems.101 In addition, for the first time in years, the lack of democracy in the FDGB was subjected to widespread critique.102 One interviewee from Berlin mentioned that although ‘not a great deal of activity took place’ in his firm in 1989, there was ‘an incredible buzz of political discussion, which went back to around 1987, over issues such as the ban on Sputnik, the local election fiasco, Tiananmen Square, and the exodus’.103 A manual worker told me that in early and mid-October his workplace witnessed an incredible and rapid politicisation, an astonishing ferment that was taking place everywhere – on the shop floor, over lunch, in the toilets, at FDGB meetings. At first you’d find one or two others who you could talk to and then, gradually, more and more.104 Sometimes, from out of discussions of this sort, small groups of oppositional workers crystallised, arranging to meet in order to deliberate as to what further activity (if any) was appropriate. Wolfgang Schmidt, an elderly engineer from


The revolution of 1989

Görlitz, recalls that in September he, together with a group of younger workers (20–25 all told), met in a nearby tavern in order to ‘exchange views as to the general situation and what could be done’.105 The discussion was free-wheeling (‘there was no agenda, no specific goals’), but the experience inspired some of those present to organise more substantial activities in subsequent weeks and months, including the establishment of a New Forum factory branch. In some workplaces a ‘paper war’ took place, in which ‘each would pin a message on the noticeboard, and someone else would take it off again’, one foreman described.106 Naturally, paper wars tended to pit managers against workers. An engineer from a power station in Saxony recalls that colleagues in one plant would write little notes that expressed their discontent and pin them to a wooden pillar in the canteen. Every day the plant director would make sure the messages were removed – I won’t say trashed, as I’m sure that he and others were keen to discover how the workforce was feeling in these tense times.107 In one factory, where the SED leadership removed a New Forum leaflet from the wall newspaper, more than fifty workers downed tools until it was restored to its position. More worrying for the regime was the potential for strike action. To begin with, numerous reports prepared by the Stasi in September and October attest to the increasing urgency with which economic and political changes were being demanded in the workplaces.108 Their sources, Stasi officers reported, were warning that if supply shortages in workplaces are not overcome, ‘spontaneous strikes could occur’.109 The strikes that did break out were typically in response to political issues rather than (or in addition to) workplace problems. One, involving hospital workers in Pfaffenrode, echoed New Forum’s core message by demanding ‘dialogue’ with the authorities – over the condition of the health service and that of society as a whole.110 The strike at Pfaffenrode was one of a series that occurred in the first week of October, most of which were reacting to the closure of the Czech border. Industrial action was reported in Ruhla and Seebach, amongst refuse collectors and bus workers in Pirna, in the Ifa car factory in Eisenach, and elsewhere. Six hundred miners in Altenberg, near the Czech border, began a go-slow, demanding the reopening of the border and wider freedoms of movement.111 Many of them signed Awakening ’89.112 Stasi reports indicate that discussion of the pros and cons of industrial action was bubbling in significant numbers of workplaces across Saxony and Thuringia.113 The mayor of Dresden recalled that ‘the question was always coming up: “strike – yes or no?” ’114 Several strike threats were issued, not only in reaction to the border closure but also to protest the deployment of factory battalions against the street demonstrations.115 News of these activities surely gave state leaders food for thought. They must have realised, writes Bernd Gehrke, ‘that a military crackdown on mass demonstrations in Plauen, Dresden or Leipzig…would have sparked strike action

Intellectuals and workers 185 which, if it could be checked at all, then only through a state of emergency’.116 In late October, an assessment for Soviet diplomats in the GDR found the ‘mood in the workplaces’ to be so ‘unfavourable [that] there is the danger of the formation of parallel structures’.117 Similar concerns were voiced at a SED Central Committee meeting in early November. One member warned that ‘the working class is so enraged they’re going to the barricades! They’re shouting: get the Party out of the workplaces!’118 A few days later the Central Committee was informed by another of its number that SED secretaries in the factories were being ‘slaughtered in droves’.119 Nonetheless, despite the anxieties of Stasi generals and SED chiefs that the ferment in the factories could boil over, the crucial part played by workers was not in workplaces but in the public squares and streets. It was when the public protests in Leipzig and elsewhere were joined by tens of thousands of ordinary working people that the SED’s hard-line tactics were defeated. The demonstrations, as Hartmut Zwahr has written, ‘gained their decisive, system-destroying power thanks to the mass participation of workers’.120 ‘The greatest pressure for change,’ he writes elsewhere, ‘came directly from the non-party majority of employees in the workplaces. It was here that the driving force of the systemic change was concentrated.’121 That this applied in the cases of Plauen and Leipzig is indisputable. It also tallies with accounts of the movement in Dresden. There, as Gerhard Spörl reported in October, although the pastors from the Citizens Movement delivered the key words, the tone was set by the workers. New Forum called for a halt [to demonstrations] before and on October 7. Ever so protestant and German, they proposed to apply themselves to contemplation and to programmatic issues. But the workers were thinking about the next day and the demonstration of counter-power at the SED’s fortieth anniversary celebration. They possessed the better arguments: silence and restraint are signs of weakness.…They were well represented in the group of the twenty spokespeople who negotiated with the mayor. The SED is beginning to take the citizens movement seriously now that the workers have got involved.122 In late November and early December it seemed as if the radical turn taken by the street protests would feed similar developments within the workplaces. On the streets, workplace-related issues were coming to the fore in the shape of slogans such as: ‘Workers, chase the SED party secretaries out of your workplaces!’ ‘For the right to strike!’ ‘Legalise New Forum; Be prepared to strike!’ ‘SED, leave the crease, or strike will be our masterpiece!’123 ‘The mood in the factories,’ Der Spiegel reported at the time, ‘is becoming ever more explosive.’124 A strike wave broke out, as mentioned in Chapter 8. Its motivations


The revolution of 1989

were various. One source of inspiration was a two-hour general strike in neighbouring Czechoslovakia (‘Czechoslovakia recommends warning strike’125 declared the banners and chants). This event across the border, according to Gehrke, ‘was followed by East Germans, and especially by participants in protests, with great attention and sympathy, and it sparked discussions in the workplaces as to the potential for a general strike here too’.126 Another spur came from media exposés of the high life and corruption of members of the nomenklatura. Although these focused on senior functionaries of the old regime, their appointees were still at their posts in factories and offices, and the inquiries underway at the national level encouraged employees to follow suit in their workplaces. Thus, potash miners in the west of the country took strike action in support of pay claims and for an inquiry into management corruption. Enterprise councils were elected and charged with investigating management corruption and the abuse of office. A third motivating factor was the demand that institutions of the old regime be driven from the workplace. Strikes were threatened or carried out where SED secretaries declined to exit the workplace or if the company director refused to resign when the workforce so requested.127 Momentarily, it appeared that this upsurge in industrial action would be provided with a national political focus by Karl-Marx-Stadt New Forum’s general strike call. This was not to be, for reasons outlined in the previous chapter. ‘The readiness to strike,’ recalls Jochen Lässig of Leipzig New Forum, was at that time greater among the workers than in the divided opposition movements in which intellectuals and pastors set the tone and which the Stasi had clearly helped to confuse. The call for a general strike at this time, which came from places like Plauen and Magdeburg, was ridiculed within our own ranks. When the time was ripe we did not act.128 In conclusion, this chapter has examined the thesis that 1989 was a ‘revolution of the intellectuals’ and found it wanting. Workers were not only involved, but also played the decisive part in toppling the regime. Their appearance on the streets, en masse, forced the SED leadership to alter its calculations and hold back from a ‘Tiananmen solution’. The chapter has also argued that participation in street protests and discussion and activity in the workplace were closely connected; that only against the background of burgeoning political discussion and activity in the workplaces can the mass participation of workers in the street demonstrations be properly understood. Further, it was suggested that the potential existed for a radicalisation of workplace-based struggles. That this did not occur was in part, as detailed in Chapter 8, a consequence of the citizens’ movement organisations’ acceptance of the olive branch proffered by the SED in the form of ‘Round Table’ negotiations and, related to this, their objections to industrial action.


The GDR stood out in comparison with most other European countries, in the years between the onset and end of the Cold War, in that it experienced two major uprisings. Both followed upon a period in which the SED’s monolithic character, and hence its grip on power, appeared tenuous, and was then destabilised by Moscow reforms. One may note, in passing, that the regime crisis in June 1953 was acute, while that preceding the autumn of 1989 was chronic; and that in the earlier case the SED leadership was in turmoil while in the latter its condition was closer to paralysis. In 1953, the New Course represented an admission of error by the SED, it sowed division and confusion within the regime, and raised expectations amongst its critics. In the late 1980s, ‘new thinking’ in the Kremlin led to a downturn in support for the SED, demoralised the Party faithful, and permitted the opening of Hungary’s western border, through which East German holiday-makers were to pass, at first in ones and twos and later en masse. Both events occurred when emigration was a comparatively straightforward procedure. This posed problems for the regime and indirectly enhanced the bargaining power of ordinary citizens. Neither event was preceded by a marked and sustained upturn in protest activity, and this, surely, helps to explain why they both appeared as if from nowhere, astonishing rulers and subjects, participants and analysts alike. Yet, in each case, forces were mobilising in the preceding period, solidarities were being created, embryonic movements were coming into being. The first months of 1953, particularly May and early June, witnessed rising curves of industrial action and public protests. Over the course of 1988 and the first half of 1989, the opposition and emigration movements (particularly but not only in Leipzig) were becoming more organised, more effective and overtly political. Another – and rather obvious – parallel is that, in both years, economic and political crisis developed into a revolutionary situation. Using Charles Tilly’s criteria, a crisis becomes a revolutionary situation when a minimum of three conditions apply: (1) that contenders seriously weaken state authority and gain control over at least a significant section of the state apparatus; (2) that they demand control over central government; and (3) that a major part of the population honours that claim.1 In both East German uprisings state authority was critically weakened, protestors demanded that the composition of central



government be opened to popular input, and large sections of the population honoured that claim. Of Tilly’s criteria, the only one that was not – quite – achieved, in either case, was the gaining of control by challengers of part of the state apparatus. The crowds in 1953 came closest, with insurrectionary activities in numerous towns. ‘[I]n East Berlin, in Brandenburg, Magdeburg, Görlitz and in the industrial area around Halle and Leipzig,’ Stefan Brant wrote at the time, ‘the workers had a brief opportunity to seize power.’2 The movement did not explicitly aim at taking power. The requisite discussion and clarification of goals was nigh impossible; it was a brief and spontaneous rising, and followed a long period in which independent political organisation had been prohibited. Yet its logic, where it reached its peak, did lead to the usurping of state power at the local level and the construction of alternative structures. In 1989, there were also periods in which power lay ‘on the streets’. But unlike in 1953 – and this is a difference that will be discussed further below – few were willing or able to pick it up. That the revolutionary situation led to a revolutionary outcome in 1989 but not in 1953 was largely a result of the stance of the USSR. Whereas Soviet troops saved Ulbricht’s regime, so enabling his hard-line leadership to retain its hold on power, Honecker’s ability to rescue his own was fatally weakened by the lack of support from Moscow. In terms of the social composition of the actors involved, there were marked parallels between the two events. Both appeared to be uprisings of ‘das Volk’, an assertion that draws its force from the sense of unity that was generated when masses of people came together in revolt against the ruling class (the ‘Bonzen’, the regime, etc.).3 In the autumn of 1989 this was encapsulated in the watchword ‘we are the people’, which symbolised the broadness of the movement’s base, embracing as it did labourer and clerk, technician and artist, student and pensioner, Communist and Christian. Closer analysis, however, reveals that political behaviour in each case was strongly conditioned by class. At one pole of the hierarchy of power, those in the upper ranks did everything possible to prevent the movements arising at all and then, when that failed, sought to curtail, control and impede them. At the other pole, the working class tended to move in the opposite direction. For all the rhetoric of the proletariat’s ‘leading role’ in society, workers had the smallest stake in the system, whether in terms of control over the process and products of labour, conditions at work, level of income, quality of welfare or housing. They tended to perceive society as starkly divided into ‘us below and them above’. On the whole, workers (of both blue and white collars) displayed the least regret at the demise of ‘their’ state.4 They contributed a clear majority in the movements of both 1953 and 1989; without their participation neither uprising would have occurred. As to the middling layers of the intelligentsia, these were more likely to remain loyal to the regime or to abstain. This was especially true in 1953.5 In the later uprising, intellectuals were involved in much greater numbers, particularly in the citizens’ movement organisations. They were not drawn from the ruling elite, as Linda Fuller would have it, but chiefly from the lower and middling positions of the occupational ladder.6

Conclusion 189 In both cases, demonstrators were, on the whole, peaceful and disciplined (although in 1953 intervention by the security forces put an end to that).7 Their goals evinced similarities too. Discontent focused upon the SED leadership, with slogans calling upon the government to resign and for free elections to be held. In both, parliamentary democracy was seen by many as a pressing goal, while demands for more radical, participatory democracy could be heard too. (‘We want to govern ourselves and build our government from below,’ said workers in Potsdam district to the local SED Party secretary during the 1953 rising.)8 Protestors in 1953 called for the abolition of the border between the two Germanies, for the withdrawal of all occupying powers and, albeit less frequently, directly for German unification.9 That demand was also favoured by a majority in 1989. Many historians have come to view the two risings as cut from the same cloth, black-red-gold in colour. One recently published volume, the subtitle of which is a line from Germany’s national anthem, declares the 1953 uprising to have been ‘for Einheit, Recht und Freiheit’. Its editor, the young German historian Ulrich Mählert, argues that the two events formed one single revolutionary process. Beginning in 1953, it was interrupted for several decades, resumed in 1989, and reached its culmination on 3 October 1990, the date of German unification.10 Similarly, Rolf Steininger has claimed that ‘the autumn of 1989 brought the fulfilment of the incomplete revolution of 1953’.11 Yet, despite the similarities between the two risings, the perception of 1989 as being a direct continuation of 1953 does not give sufficient consideration to distinctions between the two events. Consider, for example, the sites at which protest formed. In 1989, churches played a key role. It was not Church structures that were crystallisation points; the Church hierarchy was at best ambivalent in its attitude towards public protest.12 However, dissenters did gather at churches and helped to create politicised worships, and it was from these that the movement emerged. In 1953 the churches showed greater loyalty to the regime and played no significant part in events. Clergy called for Ruhe und Ordnung, appealing to their flocks to desist from protest. No sympathy was shown by bishops, and no protection offered to strike committee members.13 In stark contrast to 1989, hardly a single pastor or priest spoke at a rally. Instead, the crystallisation points of the 1953 uprising were provided by striking building workers.14 The prevalence of ‘corporate class consciousness’ amongst workers in 1953, the fact that workplace struggles were more closely knitted together with the wider movement for democratic change, and the insurrectionary character of events combined to give the 1953 movement a markedly different texture. If, in 1989, an organisational framework was provided by the citizens’ movement groups, the spine of the 1953 rising was formed by the strike committees – those ‘council-like organs of the working class’, in the words of Ewers and Quest, ‘that established a kind of “counter power” in the workplaces’.15 Strike action was at the heart of a workplace-based movement that then catalysed protest amongst wider layers. ‘The rising was the achievement of the working class,’ according to Brant; ‘the workers had drawn the rest of the people in their wake.’16 ‘It was the



industrial workers – actively supported by the youth of the GDR who were responsible for the events of June 17,’ Baring argued in his pioneering account. ‘They started the rising and they were the dominant factor in every major demonstration.’17 Especially within the strike movement, labour traditions – notably those of the enterprise councils and SPD – could be discerned, and influential contributions were made by labour movement veterans. And although there was undoubtedly widespread support for German unification, the incumbent CDU government was less popular. ‘Clear your crap out in Bonn now,’ one banner proclaimed, ‘we’re tidying the house in Pankow.’18 It is for these reasons that 1953 is sometimes described as a ‘workers’ uprising of the “proletarian revolution” type’.19 In 1989, workers played a crucial role in toppling the Honecker regime, and in maintaining pressure on its successors, but the bulk of activities occurred in public spaces, with workers participating as citizens. Although a rudimentary working-class consciousness was pervasive, corporate consciousness was not. The demand for a ‘workers’ government’, voiced by a minority of protestors in 1953, would not have occurred to their successors in 1989. As to why 1989 was in these respects different from 1953 (and from 1980–1 in Poland) this book has concentrated upon two factors in particular. One, discussed in chapters 2 and 3, centred on questions of labour history: the downturn of labour militancy, and the fortunes of labour movement traditions. Except for a brief window in 1947–9, workers were denied the institutional means with which to express their interests, to exert influence upon the workplace, let alone national, politics. The resulting alienation from the public sphere encouraged a retreat to the private. Disempowerment bred apathy; a shelving of hopes in political change. Following 1953, it was shown in Chapter 3, open workplace-based struggles experienced a downward trajectory until, in the 1980s, strike action was all but non-existent. The year 1989 was not preceded by a mini-strike wave, as had occurred before 17 June. Low-level unrest in workplaces continued to smoulder, but outright industrial action remained at a low level right up until the autumn of 1989. As a result, only a tiny minority of the working class in 1989 had experience of this form of action (and of those that had, many were older workers who had gone on strick when apprentices in 1953). Few would even have known a participant in strikes, unless a parent or grandparent had been involved in 1953 or in the struggles of the Weimar years. Even thinner on the ground were individuals with experience of independent trade unions or enterprise councils. Following 1948 (in the case of councils) and 1953 (in the case of strikes), memories of these forms of contention faded. Unlike the shipyard workers of Gdansk in 1980, their counterparts in Rostock nine years later did not have direct access to the experience of strike action, either their own or, as in many Polish workplaces, via memories that had been kept alive in the form of practical knowledge by networks of militants. There were exceptions to the rule. Of those who joined the SDP in 1989, some came from a social democrat family background.20 The first enterprise council to be established in the autumn of 1989 was initiated by an elderly

Conclusion 191 worker who had been active in the enterprise councils movement in the 1940s.21 And Wolfgang Schmidt, the engineer from Görlitz mentioned in Chapter 9, had taken part in demonstrations on 17 June 1953. He drew upon these memories when formulating proposals for protest events in 1989.22 There are also cases of workplace activism in 1989 that tapped into recent experiences. Bernd Gehrke gives an example from the Hennigsdorf steelworks, where the very same workers who instigated a campaign for the democratisation of the FDGB in 1989 had been involved in strike action two years before.23 For the most part, however, strike action and enterprise councils in 1989 drew less upon hands-on experience than abstract knowledge. The strike and enterprise council were familiar concepts but, unlike in 1953, they derived from the West German media, from reports by foreign correspondents in the domestic media, and from history lessons and literature. Workers that picked them from out of the industrial action toolbox were not always sure how they functioned. The group of workers, mentioned in Chapter 9, who instigated the formation of a ‘provisional’ enterprise council at a Teltow factory illustrate the uncertainty that resulted. Although they had some idea of the nature and purpose of such a body, and, one of the group recalls, were adamant ‘that we needed it’, he adds that ‘we didn’t even know what a enterprise’ council looks like, we just didn’t know – that’s why we called it “provisional” ’.24 However, the long-lasting downturn in industrial conflict and the lack of hands-on experience thereof were not the only factors that militated against a closer interaction between workplace politics and the wider political movement in 1989. There were times, notably in early December, when opportunities arose for closer connections to develop. On a number of occasions, workers’ delegates approached New Forum, offering to take strike action for political ends, but were rebuffed. Klaus Wolfram recalls the reaction of the New Forum leadership: In the committee meetings where these requests were discussed, nobody had any idea why strikes should take place. The attitude was, they should participate in the reform process, they should attend district public meetings in the evenings and at weekends, or meetings in the workplaces. Or they should elect their managers. But why on earth should they strike?! In short, we had no ideas on the subject, nor issued any active encouragement to strike, even though we knew that there was a great readiness for such action.25 Why did they behave in this way? The answer lies in part in their innate ambivalence towards mass action, as discussed in chapters 8 and 9. But strikes also threatened to propel the citizens’ movement to power, and this its leaders would not countenance. For some, the reluctance was justified in terms of their lack of political experience and preparation. As Jon Elster has written, they ‘had the deep-seated feeling that they were unable to rule the country, and that therefore they had to avoid all actions that could lead to a situation in which they were expected to rule’.26 One leading member of the SDP told me that ‘we knew already in early November that the SED had effectively lost power, but we didn’t



have adequate structures of our own with which to effect a transition’.27 Others, such as Wolfgang Thierse (before his elevation to the post of SDP leader), confessed to ‘a basic feeling that rejects power’.28 As described in chapters 5 and 6, the political culture from which they hailed emphasised individual, ideal and evolutionary change. In recoiling from opportunities to overthrow the regime, the citizens’ movement played into the hands of the regime. Sebastian Pflugbeil of New Forum has made the point forcefully: Of course, ‘step one’ of most successful revolutions in the past has been to destroy the old state apparatus. We, on the other hand, had a peaceful revolution in which we abstained from destroying anything.…But the price we had to pay for that was that the old apparatus, the old mafia, could continue doing its thing for several more months, and without much interference. We allowed them, if you will, a very orderly retreat.29 In a context marked by the Soviet-bloc nomenklatura losing faith in dirigiste statecapitalist structures and privatising their command over social wealth, and by the GDR government’s loss of control over the inter-German border, the Modrow regime elected to eschew direct confrontation, and engaged instead in ‘reorganising itself outside the traditional Party format, and in appropriating state property’.30 The SED gave up its function as the ligature of the arteries of power. Its ‘bloc’ was allowed to fragment, yielding to a pluralist party system. Control over the levers of political power shifted from the SED leadership to the state executive. In the economic sphere, authority was devolved to enterprise managements. The prospect, pursued by Modrow’s transitional government, was of Kombinat General Directors emerging from the onrushing transformation as the managers or even owners of limited companies; of functionaries in the SED–PDS remaining influential players; and of the bulk of police chiefs, army officers and state officials retaining senior positions. These goals were partially achieved, at least in the short run. In the longer run, however, the transformation was more painful and ultimately less successful for the East German ruling class than for its counterparts elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The institutionalisation of civil liberties and parliamentary democracy in the closing months of 1989 and in early 1990 represented a historic victory for the millions of East German citizens who had taken to the streets in previous months. However, the further process of ‘democratisation’, as political scientist Jennifer Yoder has described, was characterised by an ‘elite-dominated period of institutionalization’, in which the citizenry was demobilised, and obliged to accept the constraints of the new system. Subsequent years saw ‘the mass public recede into the private sphere of everyday activities, while policymakers and scholars began to focus on institutional design and political stability’. The unification process, Yoder adds, ‘left little or no room for citizen input. It was the hour of the policymaker and the bureaucrat. [It] relegated people to being subjects, rather than agents, of change.’31 Pushed to the sidelines, the alienation

Conclusion 193 experienced by many East Germans today is not dissimilar to that of former eras. ‘[M]any easterners,’ according to Yoder’s research, ‘perceive that, in place of the old GDR regime, there is a new, postcommunist political class (one occupied with preserving the transferred status quo)’; it appears ‘as far removed from the people and their interests as the old communist elites’. It is therefore ‘not surprising,’ she concludes, ‘that some eastern Germans believe not much had changed: it is still “them up there and us down here”.’32 As I complete this manuscript, in August 2004, these words have gained in immediacy. Germans, mostly in the East, have been taking to the streets once again, in a wave of protests against the ‘Hartz IV’ austerity measures designed by Volkswagen executive Peter Hartz and implemented by his friend Gerhard Schroeder’s ‘Red–Green’ government. It is too early to tell whether this movement will grow into a sustained challenge to Schroeder’s government, but what is arresting about it are the resonances with the demonstrations of 1989. It is not only the hundreds of thousands of citizens on the streets. Also remarkable is the number of familiar figures from the churches and citizens’ movement groups that have helped to instigate, or pledged support for, the protests.33 They are backed by the New Forum national leadership and by the general council of the Kirche von unten. In addition, support is drawn from the entire array of 1980s opposition and citizens’ movement groups.34 With deliberate references to 1989, their statement reads: ‘It was and is about justice, self-determination, emancipation, human dignity and freedom.’ It calls for opposition to ‘conditions, in which the human being is but the servant of a political party such as the SED or, for the likes of Siemens and Daimler, a troublesome “cost factor” and wretched supplicant’.35 Other self-conscious evocations of the past are visible too. ‘We are the people’ rings out on the streets once again. In Leipzig, the demonstrations start from the St Nicholas Church. And the protest schedule is determined by a calendar regularity: Monday evenings, of course.


Introduction 1 Schroeder, 1998, p. 463; Ross, 2002, p. 99. 2 Martin Broszat, a historian of Nazi Germany, coined the term. It has been adapted to the East German context by Kowalczuk (1994) among others. See also Ross, 2002, p. 98. 3 Ross, 2002, p. 124. See also Lindenberger, 1999. 4 Ross, 2002, p. 113. Ross is here drawing upon the work of Hubertus Knabe. 5 McAdam, 1982, p. 34. 6 Kopstein, 1997, pp. 11, 160, 19. See also Steiner, 1999; Dale, 2004. 7 Joppke, 1995, p. 202. 8 Ross, 2002, p. 116. 9 Kopstein, 1997, pp. 11, 38. 10 The story of the GDR’s economic demise is, of course, far more complex than this, and inseparable from the fate of the Comecon area as a whole. For detailed accounts see Kopstein, 1997, Klenke, 2001, and Dale, 2004.

1 The June 1953 uprising 1 Knabe, 2003, p. 84; Kowalczuk, 2003. 2 Allinson, 2000, p. 58. In one Erfurt factory, according to documents viewed by Volker Koop (2003, p. 276) the Soviet army even placed trucks armed with machine guns before the gates of one factory in order to prevent its occupants from marching. 3 Roth, 1991, p. 582; Jänicke, 1964, p. 43. 4 E.g. Koop, 2003. 5 Mitter, 1991. 6 Beier, 1975, p. 44. 7 The FDGB had emerged from the union movement as reconstituted in 1945. Although a trade union federation in name, it had become little more than a ‘transmission belt’ delivering decrees from the central authorities to the workplaces. 8 Kowalczuk, 2003, p. 104. 9 Kowalczuk, 2003, p. 9. To this author, these figures attest to the suppression of protest by state terror. An argument can be made, however, that the Red Army was comparatively restrained in its tactics. Winston Churchill, to take a notable contemporary example, after remarking upon the Red Army’s success in preventing ‘the Eastern Zone descending into anarchy and insurrection’, singled out the ‘remarkable care’ displayed by Soviet troops. Quoted in Beier, 1993, pp. 136–7, 156. 10 Generally sentences were for one to five years, although around 100 longer terms were given too.

Notes 195 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49

McAdam et al., 1989, p. 699. Kleßmann, 1991; Zimmer, 1989, pp. 14–30. Niethammer and von Plato, 1985, pp. 437, 493. Smith, 1999; Kleßmann, 1991, p. 41. Pritchard, 2000, p. 13. Kleßmann, 1991, pp. 54–5. Report from Plauen, quoted in Pritchard, 2000, pp. 19–20. Allinson, 2002, p. 100. In the opinion of Helmut Müller-Enbergs (1991, p. 67) the absence of a solid phalanx of pro-Soviet Communists was the chief reason behind the KPD’s pursuit of alliances with other forces. Pritchard, 2000, p. 57. For detailed discussion of this issue, see Dale, 2004, chapters 3, 4. Weber, 1988, p. 26. The sentence was later commuted to fifteen years in prison. See Deutschland Report, no. 11, 1990. Kowalczuk, 2003, pp. 37–8. Knabe, 2003, p. 430. Pritchard, 2000, p. 165. To an extent this was a self-reinforcing process. As Gareth Pritchard describes (2000, p. 168ff.), ‘deviant opinions and festering grievances’ amongst SED members had existed from the outset, ‘but these had not attracted much attention, for the simple reason that nobody had been looking for them. As the regime became more vigilant, however, so the members were subjected to ever closer scrutiny, which in turn revealed all the aberrant attitudes and grievances which until then had remained hidden beneath the surface. Similarly, as the regime became more dogmatic and intolerant, so the boundaries of what became permissible became ever more narrow, which in turn meant that many SED members suddenly found themselves being denounced for expressing ideas which had previously been tolerated. Thus, the more intolerant and vigilant the regime became, the more heresy it discovered, which in turn pushed the authorities into becoming yet more narrow-minded and suspicious.’ Epstein, 2003, p. 142; Pritchard, 2000, p. 167. Janka, 1989, p. 99. Leonhard, 1961, p. 363. Mitdank, 1995, p. 144. Spittman and Helwig, 1991, p. 149. Mitter and Wolle, 1993, p. 35. Roth, 1991, p. 576; Kowalczuk, 2003. Loth, 1998, p. 148. Sarel, 1975, p. 128. Port, 1999. Loth, 1998, p. 149. Kowalczuk, 2003, p. 66; Kopstein, 1997, p. 35; Ross, 2000, pp. 55–6; Sarel, 1975, p. 124. Knabe, 2003, pp. 89–91. Spittmann and Helwig, 1991. Fulbrook, 1995, p. 182. Bruhn, 2003, p. 227. Kowalczuk, 2003, p. 96. Knabe, 2003, p. 96. Wolle, 2003, p. 43. Kowalczuk, 2003; Wolle, 2003. Knabe, 2003, pp. 109–10. See also Kowalczuk, 2003, p. 113; Wolle, 2003, p. 47. Beier, 1993, p. 58.

196 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67

68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84

85 86


Havemann, 1973, p. 95. Bruhn, 2003, p. 230. Leithäuser, 1953, p. 606. Bruhn, 2003, p. 231. Kowalczuk, 2003, p. 116; Knabe, 2003, p. 117. Beier, 1993, p. 61; Berlin, 17. Juni 1953, p. 52. Bruhn, 2003, p. 232. Knabe, 2003, p. 118. Bruhn, 2003, p. 231. According to a Pravda reporter, in Beier, 1993, p. 163. Sarel, 1975, p.140. Bruhn, 2003, p. 234; Leithäuser, 1953, p. 607; Fritz Schenk, in Spittman and Fricke, 1982, p. 159; Sarel, 1975, p. 140; Hagen, 1992, p. 44. Beier, 1993, p. 62. Bruhn, 2003, p. 235. Beier, 1993, p. 62; Baring, 1972, p. 48. Brant, 1955, p. 187. Stefan Brant was a pseudonym adopted by Klaus Bölling and Klaus Harprecht. Beier, 1993, p. 71. By far the most important single carrier of the news from Berlin was the American broadcaster, RIAS. Nonetheless, its centrality to the events of 17 June can be exaggerated. It could not be received in some of the towns that witnessed the greatest upheaval, such as Görlitz and Niesky. Conversely, many areas that remained quiescent were within its range. Moreover, its editors were prevented from mentioning the general strike call. Manfred Hagen (1992, p. 216), from his research in the newly opened archives, has concluded that ‘the slogans of general strike and resignation of the government were already on everybody’s lips’ before RIAS reported them. For an alternative perspective, see Bahr, 2003. Hagen, 1992, p. 140; Roth, 1999, p. 187. Diedrich, 1991, p. 69. Ewers and Quest, 1982, p. 25. Diedrich, 1991, p. 99. Roth, 1999, p. 190; Hagen, 1992. Roth, 1999, p. 597. Hagen, 1992, p. 150. Strikers in Berlin, looking back upon the events, were to identify the lack of a functioning leadership as a major impediment to their success. Knabe, 2003, pp. 134–5. Roth, 1999, p. 598. According to Erich Loest, cited in Degen, 1988, p. 26. Roth, 1999, p. 597. Diedrich, 1991, p. 113. Brant, 1955, p. 187. Baring, 1972, p. 73. Fricke, 1999, p. 48. Mitter and Wolle, 1993, p. 71. See also Hagen, 1992, p. 60. And not simply for the repeal of the decree of 14 May but also for the retraction of many of the ‘voluntary’ quota rises pushed through by the FDGB since March. In Leuna the demand was for a return to pre-1951 quotas; in Buna and Wolfen, for the abolition of quotas altogether. See Roesler, 2003a, pp. 24–5. A further common set of demands related to the FDGB: that its higher positions (BGLs) be dissolved, that new trade union elections be held, and that the union be separated from the SED. ‘The fact that the state is the repository of all the means of production, is the centre of educational and cultural organization,’ as Tony Cliff put it, in a discussion of the

Notes 197


88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108


110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117

Soviet system in Russia (1964, p. 319), ‘means that all criticism, of whatever aspect of the system, tends to concentrate towards the centre.’ Because these measures affected such wide layers of the population simultaneously, a variety of social groups could readily recognise their common plight and shared opponent. This provides at least part of the explanation as to why workers, from Rügen in the north to Görlitz in the south, came to identify so strongly and immediately ‘with Berlin’, and why peasants and the ‘technical intelligentsia’, despite specific interests that cross-cut those of the working class, so readily joined in. Roesler, 2003a, p. 35. Diedrich, 1991, p. 150; Hagen, 1992, p. 62. Volker Koop’s research (2003, p. 340) suggests that demands for the withdrawal of Soviet forces alone were relatively rare. From a report by Soviet officials, 24 June, 1953, in Ostermann, 2001, p. 270. Leo, 1999. Brandt, 1970, p. 207. Hagen, 1992, p. 166. Roth, 1999, p. 605. Leithäuser, 1953, p. 49; Roth, 1999, p. 128. As Manfred Hagen points out, 1992, p. 45. Hagen, 1992, p. 82. Brant, 1955, p. 188. ‘The strikers’ instinctive choice of the latter group of objectives,’ he adds, ‘must be deplored by the cool-headed strategist as a fatal error, for the Government’s power was not anchored in the prisons.’ Hagen, 1992, p. 70. The Times, 18 June 1953. Brant, 1955, p. 94. Roth, 1999, pp. 297–308. They were, apparently, too badly beaten to be able to mount a defence. Brant, 1955, p. 84. Scott, 1990, p. 182. Spitzbart, Bauch und Brille sind nicht des Volkes Wille! Scott, 1990, p. xiii. Diedrich, 1991, p. 155. The lack of direction meant that in some towns the rising was beginning to peter out even before Soviet tanks appeared on the streets. It would, however, be overstating the matter to conclude, with Minnerup (1982) that ‘The revolt of June 17 1953 was suppressed not so much by Soviet tanks as through the lack of political leadership and perspectives’, because the trajectory of events had in any case been of alternating initiatives and stagnation, of protestors learning from reports of experiences elsewhere and adapting to new circumstances. A lull in activity may indicate an imminent demise but may, equally, be but an interlude. Here the strike committee, according to one of its members (in Der Aufstand im Juni, 1954, p. 43), sat in a room that was decked out with SED pictures and banners, and yet, he recalls, ‘there were too many important things for us to do than to rip up propaganda’. Brant, 1955, p. 99. Knabe, 2003, p. 187. Hagen, 1992, pp. 155–6. Knabe, 2003, p. 214. Hagen, 1992, p. 171. As it happens, most criminals had already walked free, though some were later apprehended and returned to their cells. Brant, 1955, p. 105. Scholz et al., 1954, p. 124. Hildebrandt, 1983, pp. 117, 125–36; Sarel, 1975, p. 146. Hagen, 1992, p. 153.



118 Although Bitterfeld failed to create national co-ordination, it was not the only centre that believed this to be a possible goal. One strike committee, in distant Lauchhammer, even sent a delegation to Berlin, on 17 June, in the conviction that a national strike committee would already be in place. 119 Koop, 2003, p. 248; Roth, 1999, pp. 257, 598; Diedrich, 1991, p. 129. 120 Hagen, 1992, p. 158. 121 Roth, 2003, p. 106. 122 Hagen, 1992, p. 158. 123 Roth, 1999, pp. 263, 316. 124 Der Aufstand im Juni, 1954, p. 19. 125 Roth, 1999, p. 604; Hagen, 1992, p. 158. 126 By Wilhelm Grothaus, who will figure in the following chapter. 127 Roth, 1999, p. 203. Stories such as this, and recent research in general, tends to disconfirm the idea, propounded notably by Baring (1972, p. 76), that the uprising was already ebbing before Soviet troops reconquered the streets. 128 Knabe, 2003, pp. 297–8. 129 Müller-Enbergs, 1991, p. 204. 130 Knabe, 2003, p. 302. 131 Knabe, 2003, p. 302. 132 Diedrich, 2003. 133 On this aspect of the rising see Diedrich, 1991; also Schirdewan, 1994. 134 Degen, 1988, p. 40. 135 Diedrich, 1991, p. 107. 136 For sharply contrasting analyses of the Stasi’s record on 17 June see Kowalczuk, 2003, p. 244 and Knabe, 2003, pp. 323–7. 137 Diedrich, 1991, p. 172. 138 Diedrich, 1991, p. 110. 139 Mitter and Wolle, 1993, p. 106. 140 An impression of the resilience of the resistance is indicated by the case of Leuna. Although occupied by several thousand Soviet soldiers, with artillery and tanks, a strike committee leader felt able to warn the Soviet commanding officer: ‘I have so much authority here that if one single shot is fired, you won’t leave this factory alive.’ Spittmann and Fricke, 1982, p. 119. 141 Knabe, 2003, p. 270. 142 Roth, 1999, p. 418. See also Mitter and Wolle, 1993, pp. 128–30. 143 Mitter, 1991; Ewers and Quest, 1982, p. 37. 144 Mitter and Wolle, 1993, p. 133. 145 Koop, 2003, p. 210. 146 Mitter and Wolle, 1993, p. 135. 147 Hagen, 1992, p. 202 148 Mitter, 1991, p. 33. 149 Hagen, 1992, p. 204; Mitter, 1991, p. 33. 150 Allinson, 2000. 151 Niethammer et al., 1991, p. 166. 152 Mitter and Wolle, 1993, p. 162. 153 Müller-Enbergs, 1991, p. 202. 154 Grieder, 1999, p. 72. 155 ‘Nomenklatura’ refers to the lists of senior positions in the party, state and economic apparatuses. Within this group the key levers of power were held by leaders of the SED and security forces, and by company directors. On the immense influence of the latter group, see Kopstein, 1997, pp. 178–9. 156 According to a Politburo colleague, cited in Ross, 2000, p. 58. 157 Bahr, 2003.

Notes 199 158 Harrison, 1992, p. 28; Mitter and Wolle, 1993, p. 161. See also Mittag, 1991, p. 68; Mitter and Wolle, 1990, p. 125. 159 According to senior Soviet diplomat Valentin Falin, quoted in Thurich, 2003. 160 In Steininger, 2003, p. 188. 161 Hertle and Stephan, 1997, p. 405. 162 Honecker, giving advice to Polish SED leader Stanis¹aw Kania in 1981. In Wolle, 1998, p. 93. 163 Leo, 1999, p. 64. 164 Even though the SED’s own research into the political backgrounds of strike activists found only a small proportion of former Nazis. Hagen, 1992, p. 128. 165 In the witch hunts in Leipzig that followed the uprising, particular venom was displayed towards prostitutes who had taken part, one of whom was sentenced to ten years in prison. Roth, 1999, p. 406. 166 Weber, 1998. 167 Hübner, 1995, p. 151ff. 168 Pollack, 1999, p. 32. 169 Roth, 1999, p. 378. 170 Gensicke, 1991, p. 292; Kopstein, 1997, p. 18.


Labour heritage and collective action, 1945–53 1 This is a paraphrase of a thesis of Ted Gurr, of the ‘relative deprivation’ school of social movement theory. See Kimmel, 1990, pp. 76–7. 2 By way of illustration, consider the local Soviet military leader’s perplexed reaction to the rising: ‘How could such a thing happen? I don’t understand. Such things are not started up from one day to the next.’ In Kopstein, 1997, p. 36. 3 Roth, 1999, p. 317; Ostermann, 2001, p. 203. 4 Heitzer, 1986, pp. 110–11; Autorenkollektiv, 1978, ch. 6.3. 5 Trotsky, 1980, vol. II, p. vii. 6 For further discussion of these points see Dale, 2003. 7 In liberal democracies a plethora of such bodies exists, including political parties, trade unions, social movement organisations and churches. These channel and give voice to grievances, shape specific interests and mediate amongst these and between them and the state, in a process of multilateral communication and negotiation that tends to encourage the formation of differentiated interest groups and thereby slows the formation and spread of non-routine forms of collective action. In Soviet-type societies, by contrast, these institutions were, to greater or lesser degrees, abolished or brought under central state control. The elimination of intermediate strata between ‘state and society’, the Chinese-American sociologist Xueguang Zhou has argued (1993, p. 58), ‘reduces all social groups to a similar structural position’ vis-à-vis the state, and thereby strengthens the tendency, noted in Chapter 2, for ‘large numbers of discontented individuals in workplaces…to converge in the same direction – toward the state’. Thus, on 17 June there were few institutions capable of mediating between protestors and the state. The churches played no significant part. The FDGB could not respond to events in a co-ordinated fashion; as a national institution, its role being to support the interests of the East German state within individual firms, it was too compromised in the eyes of rebels to be of anything but marginal relevance to their cause. 8 Fantasia, 1988, p. 234. 9 Leithäuser, 1953, p. 57. See also Baring, 1972, p. 68. 10 E.g. Bouvier, 1996, p. 323. 11 Roth, 1999, p. 438; Brant, 1955, p. 81.



12 Ewers and Quest, 1982, p. 32. 13 Carsten, 1972, p. 166. 14 Dietrich Staritz, 1995, p. 22. Given the high fluctuation, especially of the KPD’s membership, the number of East Germans who had been organised socialists at some time during the Weimar republic was far higher. 15 Geary, 1998; Gluckstein, 1999, p. 82. 16 Peukert, 1989, p. 165. 17 Merson, 1985, p. 89. 18 Merson, 1985, pp. 245–6. 19 See e.g. Mason, 1995, p. 237. 20 On the division between passive majority and active minority see Pritchard, 2000, also Sarel, 1975. 21 SPD, ca. 700,000; KPD, ca. 600,000. 22 Staritz, 1995, p. 100; Pritchard, 2000. 23 Pritchard, 2000, p. 32. 24 This and the following paragraph draw upon Niethammer et al., 1976, also upon Pritchard, 2000. 25 Merson, 1985; Pritchard, 2000. 26 Staritz, 1985, p. 88. 27 Pritchard, 2000, p. 33. 28 Suckut, 1982, p. 137. 29 Staritz, 1980, p. 93. 30 Suckut, 1982, pp. 116–17, 193–4, 335. 31 Pritchard, 2000, p. 140. ‘I saw plenty to prove that this was not an empty claim,’ the visitor added. 32 Creuzberger, 1993, p. 1267; Staritz, 1995, p. 102. 33 Pritchard, 2000, pp. 36–7. 34 Leonhard, 1961, pp. 313–20. 35 For a useful discussion of this issue see Pritchard, 2000, p. 66. 36 Gniffke, 1966, p. 36. 37 Gniffke, 1966, p. 195. 38 Staritz, 1995, p. 81. 39 Ulbricht, 1946, p. 18. 40 Leonhard, 1961, p. 268. 41 Brandt, 1970; Naimark, 1995. 42 Pritchard, 2000, p. 67. 43 Niethammer, 1990, 1993. 44 Following the war, the SPD programme called for ‘socialism in economy and society’. Such appeals were sharply criticised by KPD leaders, who insisted that neither popular aspirations nor public policy should go beyond the bourgeois-democratic stage. When conflicts between the two parties occurred, the more right-wing position was usually that of the KPD. 45 Grieder, 1999, p. 17; Klönne, 1989. 46 It is perhaps no coincidence that the book that has become a byword for the mistrust of the grassroots by elitist officialdom, Robert Michels’s Soziologie des Parteiwesens, was a study of the SPD. 47 Pritchard, 2000, p. 129. 48 Pritchard, 2000, p. 112. 49 Leonhard, 1961, p. 408; Pritchard, 2000. 50 Fricke, 1984, pp. 33–9; Wiener, 1991. 51 Pritchard, 2000, pp. 129–31. 52 Kopstein, 1997, p. 27. 53 Pritchard, 2000, p. 145. 54 Pritchard, 2000, p. 147.

Notes 201 55 In that year, for example, they opposed plans to divide workforces at mealtimes, in which different times and food quality were set for each of three categories of workers, and generally with success. 56 Cf. Ross, 2000, p. 47. 57 Paraphrased by Hagen, 1992, p. 140. 58 Bust-Bartels, 1980, p. 47; Spittman and Fricke, 1982, p. 39. 59 Kopstein, 1997, pp. 33, 29. 60 Sarel, 1975, p. 75. 61 Voigt, 1973, p. 87. 62 Bust-Bartels, 1980, p. 28; Sarel, 1975. 63 Although this figure is indicative of a substantial (albeit reduced) level of support, the elections could not be described as entirely fair. See e.g. Spittman and Helwig, 1989, p. 134ff. 64 Pritchard, 2000, p. 156. 65 And that was despite the Party’s enormous logistical advantages. 66 Kowalczuk et al., 1995, p. 266. 67 Schroeder, 1998, p. 100. 68 Pritchard, 2000, p. 165. 69 Spittmann and Helwig, 1991, pp. 189–90. 70 E.g. Czerny, 1998; Roth, 1999. 71 On the psychological processes involved in the Stalinisation of the KPD and SED, Gareth Pritchard’s analysis is particularly incisive and worth quoting at length (1996, p. 187). ‘The many defeats and disappointments which they had suffered had undermined their self-confidence. They were acutely conscious of the fact that they had failed to stop the slide to imperialist war in 1914, and that they had failed again in 1918 to vanquish German reaction once and for all. Above all, they had failed to stop the rise to power of Hitler in 1933.… Since 1945, they had failed to win over the “passive majority” of the population to their cause, and any power which they had enjoyed had been granted to them, not by the people, but by the Russians.’ Together with a tremendous pride in their achievements (of struggles, led by the KPD or SPD, during Weimar, for some Communists especially, of extraordinary bravery under Hitler, and of their parties’ role in the movements of 1945–7) these factors, Pritchard concludes, ‘go a long way to explaining why the great majority of veterans offered so little resistance to the Stalinisation of the German labour movement’. 72 According to a Stasi report quoted in Kowalczuk, 2003, p. 234. 73 Their number now appears to be larger than had been thought hitherto. Cf. Kowalczuk et al., 1995, pp. 210–11. A nationwide sample of those arrested on 17 June found that one in six were either SED or FDJ members. A survey of East Germans who fled to the West in the aftermath – which is not especially reliable but probably indicative – put the figure of SED members as 17 per cent of strike organisers. Another source estimates that SED members comprised a quarter of the strike committees. See Beier, 1993, p. 19; Ewers and Quest, 1982, p. 27. 74 Cited in Fulbrook, 1995, p. 65. 75 Roth, 1999, p. 600. 76 E.g. at LOWA Altenburg and in Görlitz. Kowalczuk et al., 1995, pp. 209, 226; Grashoff, 2003a, p. 149. 77 Roth, 1991, pp. 577–81. 78 Kowalczuk, 2003, pp. 227–8; Diedrich, 1991, p. 232; Allinson, 2000, p. 58. 79 Eckelmann et al., 1990, pp. 26–7. 80 Kleßmann, 1991, p. 280. 81 For example the SED member, in his fifties, and an elected spokesperson at a strikebound Leipzig firm on 18 June, who called for the government to resign on the basis that socialism must have a heart, ‘and that is what these people have lost’ (Roth, 1999, p. 168). Cf. also Kowalczuk et al., 1995, p. 214; Hagen, 1992, p. 63.



82 Grashoff, 2003a; Hagen, 1992, p. 63; Kowalczuk, 2003, p. 141; Brant, 1955, p. 99. 83 Leo, 1999, p. 68; Knabe, 2003, p. 182. 84 Brant, 1955, p. 64. For an alternative rendition of these words, see Beier, 1993, p. 103. It may have been the very same militant who had led arguments for strike action in the discussions at a Stalinallee construction site on 12 June. See Spittmann and Fricke, 1982, p. 116. 85 Beier, 1993, pp. 40, 61, Sarel; 1975, p. 140. 86 Roth, 1999, p. 602. 87 See e.g. Czerny, 1998, p. 8. It should also be pointed out that there were many former SPD members who either supported the SED on 17 June or who sat on the fence, viewing the rising with suspicion. 88 Grashoff, 2003a, p. 135; Bruce, 2003, pp. 185–92; Diedrich, 1991, p. 127; Hagen, 1992, p. 159. 89 Bruce, 2003, p. 185. 90 Against that, one should note that some traditional social democrat strongholds were barely touched by the rising. See Walter, 1993. 91 Voigt, 2003; Roth, 2003. 92 Kowalczuk et al., 1995, p. 258 93 Schmidtke, 1993, p. 280. 94 The Reichsbanner was an SPD-led anti-fascist defence organisation. 95 Paraphrased by Bouvier, 1996, p. 314ff. 96 Brant, 1955, p. 125. 97 Hagen, 1992, p. 151; Kowalczuk et al., 1995, p. 256; Hildebrandt, 1983, p. 118. 98 Bouvier, 1996, p. 317. 99 Dürr, 1993, pp. 456ff. 100 Schlothauer, 1995. 101 It used to be claimed, following a widely quoted survey cited by Martin Jänicke, that their rate of participation on 17 June was very high. That, of SED members purged in the aftermath, in many regions over 30 per cent and sometimes as many as 50–70 per cent had been members of the KPD before 1933 – far higher than statistical averages would predict. Since the opening of the archives it has become apparent that these figures are overestimates, and that around 13 per cent of those expelled in 1953 had been in the KPD or SPD before 1933, with only a few per cent having been members since the 1918–23 period. See Jänicke, 1964, p. 51; Bouvier, 1996, p. 311; Mitter, 1991; Mitter and Wolle, 1993, p. 135; Kowalczuk et al., 1995, p. 233; Roth, 1999, pp. 176, 441. 102 See e.g. Pritchard, 2000, p. 64. 103 Hippe, 1991, p. 210. 104 See e.g. Kowalczuk et al., 1995, p. 214; Roth, 1999. 105 Kowalczuk, 2003, p. 192. 106 Roth, 1999, p. 602. See also Hagen, 1992, p. 140; Spittmann and Fricke, 1982, p. 136. 107 Mählert, 2003, p. 19. 108 Roesler, 2003a, p 25. 109 Grashoff, 2003b, p. 215. 110 See Ewers and Quest, 1982, p. 26; Mitter, 1991, p. 32; Kramer, 1999, p. 50; Kowalczuk et al., 1995, p. 55; Roth, 1999, p. 599. 111 Voigt, 2003, pp. 116–17. 112 Koop, 2003, p. 175ff. 113 See Oskar Hippe’s recollections from discussions with shop stewards in a Magdeburg prison. Hippe, 1991, p. 234. 114 Virdee, 1997. 115 Mitter and Wolle, 1993, pp. 84–7; Grashoff, 2003a, p. 136. 116 Knabe, 2003, p. 277.

Notes 203

3 Techniques of domination, arts of resistance 1 2 3 4 5 6

7 8 9

10 11 12 13 14 15 16

17 18 19 20 21 22

23 24 25 26 27

Fulbrook, 1995, p. 158. Krejci, 1976, p. 211. Scharf, 1984, p. 133. Abercrombie et al., 1980, p. 122. Pakulski, 1990, pp. 40–58. The ubiquity of SED propaganda, however, should not be interpreted as an index of real power. Rather, as with Edward Thompson’s discussion of the ‘theatricality of power’ in eighteenth-century England (1991, pp. 64ff.), the importance given to the symbolic assertions of power in East Germany reflected the regime’s weakness. Abercrombie et al., in Lodziak, 1988, p. 15. According to an official East German source, the wage form was essentially the same in ‘socialist’ as in capitalist societies. Bust-Bartels, 1980, p. 199. This should not, of course, be taken to imply that wage labour in the GDR was entirely of a menial sort. Many operational aspects of the labour process were open to the worker’s influence. In this regard, Linda Fuller mentions (1999, p. 126) the following: ‘determining production speeds and job assignments, deciding on work hours and schedules, setting production and delivery deadlines, arranging production sequences, and determining the quality and mix of production’. (She also mentions ‘formulating their own job classifications’ and ‘overseeing discipline’, but I find this a startling assertion; I have never encountered an ordinary East German worker who possessed these powers, and suspect that the explanation lies in Fuller’s tendency to classify FDGB officials as workers.) Marx, 1976, p. 748. Kornai, 1992, p. 222. Scharf, 1984, p. 158. Lukács, 1970, p. 66. See also Lukács, 1971. Kuro´n and Modzelewski, 1969, p. 122. On atomisation in Soviet-type societies, see also Arendt 1958, p. 317 and passim. See e.g. Deess, 1997. McCauley, 1983, p. 88; Mählert, 1998, pp. 88–9. The commandments were, in summarised form: support socialism and international labour solidarity; stand up for the unity of the socialist countries and the struggles of oppressed nations; love your fatherland and defend it with all your energy; work towards the abolition of exploitation; strive perpetually to increase your effort and to enhance labour discipline; be thrifty; defend and augment ‘people’s property’; educate your children in the spirit of peace and socialism; live a clean and decent life; respect your family. Roesler, 1994, p. 158; Wierling, 1999. Rueschemeyer and Scharf, 1986, p. 65. Kornai, 1992, p. 305; Venohr, 1989, p. 311. Derbyshire, 1991, p. 121. See for example those collected in Herzberg, 1987 and Niethammer et al., 1991; also Niethammer, 1989. This is of course typical of all relationships of unequal power that are dressed in the contractual discourse of freedom and equality, whether the ‘co-operation’ between managers and workers or that between government and citizens. ‘When two parties co-operate and one holds considerably more power than the other,’ David Harvey reminds us (1982, p. 118), ‘then the voluntary nature of the co-operation might reasonably be called into question.’ On clientelism see Kohli, 1994, esp. p. 37. Maier, 1997, p. 40. Maier, 1997, pp. 41–2. Maier, 1997, p. 39. Kohli, 1994, p. 47. See also Solga, 1995; Kornai, 1992, ch. 13; Bust-Bartels, 1980, p. 41; Krisch, 1985, p. 99; Grätz, 1979, p. 64.

204 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48

49 50 51 52 53 54

55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65


Barkleit, 2000, p. 78. See also Huinink and Mayer, 1993; Zander, 1974. Hübner, 1995, p. 41. By 1958 an astonishing 76 per cent of workers in state industry received piece wages. On divide-and-rule in Eastern Europe in general, see Pravda, 1979, pp. 245–50. Fuller, 1999, p. 103. Hürtgen, 2001a, p. 182. Heym, 1977, p. 163. Fuller, 1999, p. 59. See also Eckelmann et al, 1990. Messing, 1981, p. 351. Comparable figures for the FRG, Canada and Britain were 32 per cent, 11 per cent and 23 per cent respectively. See for example Peterson, 2002; Eckelmann et al., 1990; Fuller, 1999; Gehrke and Hürtgen, 2001; Fulbrook, 1995, p. 157. Fuller, 1999, p. 62. Italics in the original. Fuller, 1999, p. 70. Fuller, 1999, p. 67. ‘Union and party leaders were part of management, management and unionists were part of the party leadership, bosses and party members and leaders were part of the union leadership.’ Fuller, 1999, p. 62. Fuller, 1999, p. 73. Fuller, 1999, pp. 40–1. Fuller 1999, p. 91. Fuller, 1999, p. 55. Mosler, 1994, p. 12; Klaus Böger and Hans Kremendahl, cited in Renken, 1999. Peterson, 2002, p. 184. As Jürgen Kocka has written (1994, p. 551), workers’ relationships to the authorities extended along a spectrum that included ‘uncritical identification and convictionbased cooperation’, ‘opportunistic accommodation, apathy and withdrawal into the private sphere’ as well as ‘resistance and opposition’. Luke and Boggs, 1982, p. 119. In Leitner, 1983, p. 342. Habermas, 1973, p. 106. See also Almond and Verba, 1963. Klenke, 2005. Fuller, 1999, pp. 137–40. James C. Scott’s term, the ‘infrapolitics of subordinate groups’ (1990, pp. 19, 183–4), is defined as ‘a wide variety of low-profile forms of resistance that dare not speak in their own name’. Such behaviour lies, ‘like infra-red rays, beyond the visible end of the spectrum’ and, like the infrastructure of commerce in relation to actual trade, ‘provides much of the political underpinning of the more visible political action on which our attention has generally been focused’. Deess, 1997, p. 216. Hahn, 1990, p. 42. Voigt, 1973, p. 60. One, mentioned by Degen (1988, p. 35), succeeded in forcing management to reinstate the ‘thirteenth month’s wage’, which had been withdrawn. Roesler, 1994; Bust-Bartels, 1980, p. 67; Fuller, 1999, pp. 53–4. Fulbrook, 1995, p. 157. On the means by which information regarding living standards in the West was conveyed to East Germans, see Major, 2002, p. 199. Bust-Bartels, 1980, p. 71. See e.g. Anonymous, 1981; Bust-Bartels, 1980; Voigt, 1973; Sarel, 1975. This tactic was especially effective when the ‘Plan finish’ was approaching. Scholars who have contributed to the debunking of this myth include Bust-Bartels, 1980; Müller, 1993a, 1993b; and Fuller, 1999. In the language used, SED slogans carried more than a hint of Prussian militarism, as with the exhortation that, ‘In socialism, labour is transformed into an honourable,

Notes 205 glorious and heroic cause.’ Bust-Bartels, 1980, p. 69. See also Sarel, 1975, p. 168; Lüdtke, 1994. 66 Markovits, 1995, p. 41. 67 Kopstein, 1997, p. 155. 68 In Czechoslovakia, for example, a popular saying went, ‘If you don’t steal from the state, you rob your own family!’ Pravda, 1979, p. 221. 69 Meier-Lenz, 1981, p. 129. The SED’s sensitivity to any suggestion that the ‘people’ were alienated from ‘people’s property’ was shown when this quotation was placed high on the list of reasons given to justify the forcible expatriation of Biermann in 1976. 70 Voigt, 1973, p. 86. 71 Bust-Bartels, 1980, p. 112. 72 Gehrke, 2001a. The following draws in particular upon Klenke, 2005. 73 Kopstein, 1997, pp. 11, 156. 74 Niethammer, 1993, p. 15. 75 Annete Schüle, cited in Klenke, 2003. 76 Niethammer, 1993, p. 15. See also Kocka, 1994, p. 551. 77 Wolle, 1991. Others (e.g. Allinson, 2002, Joppke, 1995, and Fuller, 1999) contend that these ripples of grassroots protest were no greater than in other years, or even that East German workers remained entirely passive in 1956. 78 Sarel, 1975, p. 213. 79 Hübner, 1995, pp. 232–9; Hürtgen, 2001a, 2001b. 80 Hürtgen, 2001b, pp. 186–7. See also Steiner, 1999, pp. 279–81; Hübner, 1995, p. 193. 81 Zwahr, 1994, pp. 438–9. 82 Dahrendorf, 1968, p. 433. 83 Fulbrook, 1995, p. 194. See also Eckelmann, et al.,1990; Wierling, 1994, pp. 414–16. 84 Klenke, 2003. 85 Koziolek interview, in Pirker et al., 1995, p. 269. 86 Kaiser, 1997, pp. 414–15; Kopstein, 1997, p. 219, fn. 101. 87 In Klenke, 2003. 88 Schabowski, 1990, p. 32. 89 Zatlin, 1995, p. 4. 90 Niemann, 1993, p. 48. 91 Friedrich, 1990, p. 29. 92 In Heidenheimer and Kommers, 1975, p. 288. 93 According to one worker interviewed for Osteuropa Info, ‘things are going downhill, both in terms of the supply of consumer goods and in production… The mood is at rock bottom, and morale at work is sinking.’ Anonymous, 1981, p. 33. See also Dennis, 1993, p. 30; Kopstein, 1997. 94 Kaminsky, 2001, pp. 131–2; Wolle, 1998, pp. 199–201. 95 Klenke, 2005. 96 Dooley, 1981. 97 Günter Mittag, quoted in Klier, 1990b, p. 154. 98 Simon, 1990, pp. 42–3. 99 Ramet, 1991, pp. 58–9; Anonymous, 1981, p. 63; Dooley, 1981. 100 Volkmer, 1979, p. 119; Bust-Bartels, 1980, p. 134. 101 Mittag, 1991, pp. 38–9, 68; Simon, 1990; Wolf, 1998, p. 315. 102 Torpey, 1995, pp. 81–3; Deess, 1997, p. 202; Neubert, 1998, p. 385. 103 Büscher et al., 1982, p. 235. 104 Mayer, 2002, p. 47. 105 According to Olaf Klenke, personal communication. 106 Allen, 1991, p. 88; Klenke, 2005. 107 Upchurch, 1995; Ramet, 1991, p. 59. See also Die unbekannte Opposition in der DDR, n.d., p. 3. 108 Sodaro, 1983, p. 82.



109 For example, not one of the clergy who spoke at the 1982 Dresden peace forum even mentioned the Polish events. 110 Neubert, 1998, pp. 386–7. 111 Goodwyn, 1991. 112 According to Linda Fuller, 1999, p. 155. 113 Stefancic, 1992, pp. 2–7. 114 In the GDR there were significant numbers of strikes in the first part of the decade, but not thereafter. See Hürtgen, 2001b. 115 Zirakzadeh, 1997, p. 114. 116 Ost, 1990; Barker, 1986. 117 W. Morawski, quoted in Barker, 1986, p. 32. 118 E.g. Childs, 1988, pp. 156–8. 119 Fuller, 1999, p. 164. 120 Goodwyn, 1991, p. 205 and passim. 121 Goodwyn, 1991, p. 83. 122 Goodwyn, 1991, p. 245. 123 Zirakzadeh, 1997, p. 115–16. Italics added. 124 Fuller, 1999, pp. 160–1. 125 Bust-Bartels, 1980, p. 28. 126 Klenke, 2001; Hürtgen, 2001b. 127 Hürtgen, 2001b. 128 Hürtgen, 2001b, p. 198. 129 Deppe and Hoß, 1989. 130 See e.g. Connor, 1991, p. 180. 131 Roesler, 1994; Hübner, 1999. 132 Kopstein, 1997, p. 12. 133 Bust-Bartels, 1977, p. 54. 134 Zurück zu Deutschland, 1990, p. 261ff. See also the letters collected in Dertz-Schröder and Staadt, 1994. 135 MfS, ZAIG, 5352, Berlin, 6 June 1989. 136 Mitter and Wolle, 1990, p. 144. See also Fuller, 1999, p. 46. 137 Mitter and Wolle, 1990, p. 145. 138 Frankfurter Rundschau, 13 February 1991, p. 16. See also Eckelmann et al., 1990. 139 Naumann and Trümpler, 1990, p. 50; Bust-Bartels, 1980, p. 161. See also Hübner, 1995, pp. 201–2. 140 Fuller, 1999, p. 88. 141 Naumann and Trümpler, 1990, p. 112. 142 Scharf, 1984, p. 151. See also Anonymous, 1974. 143 Peterson, 2002, p. 207. 144 See Klenke, 2005. 145 In Klenke, 2005. 146 Virdee, 1997. On corporate class consciousness, see ch. 2. 147 Schüle, 2001, p. 147. My thanks to Olaf Klenke for this reference. 148 Niethammer, 1993, p. 15. 149 Dürr, 1993, p. 427. 150 See esp. Walter et al., 1993. 151 See Bendix, 1974, pp. 425–33.


Helsinki and Bohemia: emigration and youth rebellion 1 Löw, 1991, p. 124. 2 On the relationship between living standards and support for the SED see Fulbrook, 1987, p. 230; also Ludz, 1980, p. 287.

Notes 207 3 Steiner, 2004, pp. 215–21. 4 Including meat, fish, eggs, butter, bakery produce, vegetables, fruit, cocoa and its derivatives, coffee and tea. 5 Glaessner, 1991, p. 138. 6 Kohli, 1994, p. 45. 7 Quoted in Neubert, 1989, p. 21. 8 Klenke, 2005. 9 Fuller, 1995, p. 95. 10 Cited in Ross, 2002, p. 68. 11 Minnerup, 1984, p. 11; Huinink and Mayer, 1993; Niethammer, 1989. 12 See e.g. Krejci, 1976, p. 132; and, for Eastern Europe in general, Connor, 1979, p. 205. 13 Jessen, 1999, p. 346. See also Solga, 1995; Huinink and Mayer, 1993. 14 Klier, 1990a. 15 Klier lists pedagogy as one of these subjects, a finding that tallies with my own, more limited, survey of the students whom I taught at Potsdam Teacher Training College in 1989–90. 16 Erbe, 1982, p. 177. 17 Kohli, 1994, p. 54. University entrants rose from 11,000 in 1951 to 44,000 in 1970 before falling to 34,000 in 1975 and 32,000 in 1980, where the figure was pegged until 1989. 18 Glaessner, 1984, p. 209; McFalls, 1995, p. 94. 19 Pravda and Ruble, 1986, p. 65; Bust-Bartels, 1980, p. 153; Woods, 1986. See also Buechtemann and Schupp, 1992, p. 94. 20 Jessen, 1999, p. 349. 21 Thomas, 2001, p. 192. 22 Nakath and Stephan, 1996, p. 339. 23 The figure fell in 1980 due to a sharp hike in the minimum daily amount that foreign tourists were obliged to convert into East-marks by a government that was clearly concerned by the potentially destabilising consequences of increasing levels of East–West contact. 24 Von Rüden, 1991, pp. 52–3. 25 Cf. Lindenberger, 1999, p. 37. 26 Stephan, 1994, p. 43. 27 MfS, BStU, ZAIG, 5353. 28 Klenke, 2005. 29 Thomas, 2001, p. 109. 30 Wolle, 1998, p. 285. 31 Stephan, 1994, p. 34. 32 Wolle, 1998, p. 286. 33 Grix, 2000, p. 85. 34 In an unwitting reversal of the ‘A’ that Hester Prynne was forced to wear in Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, the applicants’ motive was to advertise their status precisely because it should not attract shame. 35 It also expanded the pool of East Germans with close relatives in the FRG, and contributed to the record figures for visits to West Germany in 1986 and 1987. See Plock, 1993, p. 126. 36 The petition is reproduced in Fricke, 2000, pp. 406–7. See also Mueller, 1999, p. 722. 37 Granovetter, 1978; Kuran, 1991. 38 According to Neubert, 1998, p. 669. 39 Eisenfeld, 1995, p. 218. 40 Eisenfeld, 1995, p. 218. 41 Schwarz and Zenner, 1990, p. 93. 42 The Economist, 20 February 1988.



43 Koch and Mathes, cited in Pfaff, 1996, p. 102. 44 Förster and Roski, 1990, p. 42. These figures should be treated with some caution. It may be, for example, that part of the decline reflected an increasing willingness to admit non-conformist opinions. My thanks to Med Dale for this insight. 45 Simon, 1990, p. 87; Ash, 1981, p. 94. 46 Fuchs, 1984, p. 75. 47 Klier, 1990a, p. 185. 48 Stephan, 1994, pp. 44–5. 49 See also Wierling, 1994; Klier, 1990a. 50 Fitzpatrick, 1999, p. 226. 51 Brandt, 1970, p. 269. 52 Wolle, 1998, p. 230. 53 Cited in Loest, 1981, p. 265. 54 On Socialist Realism, see Berger, 1969, pp. 50–3. On art and literature in 1950s East Germany: Flores, 1971, pp. 63–4; Rühle, 1969; Jäger, 1982. 55 Kaiser, 1989. 56 Stepken, 1991, p. 9. 57 In some cases the GDR media drew upon the anti-rock invective of the West German press. Leitner, 1983, p. 314. 58 Quoted in Ketman, 1987. 59 Fulbrook, 1995, p. 164. 60 Fenemore, 2002, pp. 183–4; Wierling, 1994. 61 Indeed, Thacker (2002) argues that it was ‘fought and lost even before the Wall was built’. 62 In Leitner, 1983, pp. 16, 71. 63 Anonymous, 1981, p. 17. 64 Traverso, 2002, p. 123. 65 Traverso, 2002, pp. 124–7. 66 Indeed, in certain respects Soviet societies quite closely resembled those of late nineteenth-century Western Europe that Weber observed and in which the bohemian lifestyle first flourished. Although the precarious material existence of Parisian bohemians was not replicated in the GDR, with its low rents and cheap groceries, the repressive morality, not to mention police informants and the aura of suspicion and paranoia that they created, certainly were. 67 Haase et al., 1983, p. 176. 68 Dahn, 1987, pp. 212, 215. 69 On British punk, see Marcus 1989, 1993. 70 Rüddenklau, 1992, p. 182; Leitner, 1983, p. 329. 71 Stock and Mühlberg, 1990. 72 Endler, 1990; Michael, 1997. For a vignette of the Prenzlberg Bohemia, see Wolle 1998, p. 232. 73 As, for example, in the use of blood and guts by the ‘Autoperforationartists’. Tannert, 1991, pp. 24–5. 74 Günther, 1992; Braun, 1991. 75 Tannert, 1991, p. 23. 76 Michael, 1997. 77 Muschter and Thomas, 1992. 78 Thomas, 1992, p. 35. 79 Thomas, 1992, p. 38. 80 Tannert, 1993, p. 134. It should be noted that Tannert modifies his position considerably between 1991 and 1993. 81 Kenner, 1988, pp. 14, 18. 82 Wolle, 1998, pp. 232–3. 83 Neubert, 1998, p. 534. See also Faktor, 1994, p. 35.

Notes 209 84 Thomas, 1992, p. 30. 85 From the prodigious selection of novels and plays that come under these headings see esp. Monika Maron’s Flugasche, Heiner Müller’s Hamletmaschine, Christa Wolf ’s Kassandra and Frantz Fühmann’s Saiäns Fikschen. 86 Heukenkamp, 1991, p. 8. 87 Kolbe, 1992, p. 257. 88 Rüddenklau, 1992, p. 25.

5 ‘Politics in the bell jar’: socio-ethical movements in the early 1980s 1 Mitter and Wolle, 1990, pp. 47–8. 2 Sandford, 1983, p. 48. This phrase refers to an attention, often religious, to individual behaviour, one that encouraged a disavowal of ‘violent’ vocabulary, the spirit of ‘reconciliation and compromise’, and love for one’s enemies. 3 Neubert, 1998, pp. 304–6. 4 Förster and Roski, 1990, p. 40. Given that NATO’s forward stationing of INFs (the accuracy of which raised the possibility of nuclear first-strike capability) was a nail in the coffin of détente it is rather puzzling that one author, citing precisely the same survey, is able to conclude that ‘détente helped the regime to new stability’. Joppke, 1995, p. 79. See also Büscher et al., 1982, p. 227. 5 The government once even employed a team of designers to give official rallies a peacenik look. Sandford, 1983, p. 80. 6 Some did so from a naïve perspective, believing the SED’s rhetoric to be genuine; others were prudent pragmatists who had no illusions about the regime’s pacific intentions but wished to exploit the possibilities of criticism in comparative safety. 7 Fulbrook, 1995, p. 209. 8 Winkler, 1985. 9 Breyman, 2001, p. 91. 10 Kriegsgegner-Internationale, no. 206, July/August 1985. 11 Findeis et al., 1994, p. 260. 12 Bartee (2000, p. 64) lists ‘Church access to State television four times a year; inclusion of pastors and full-time church workers in the state pension plan; compensation for expropriated church properties; permission for building new churches’. 13 Some churches with energetic youth workers (‘Offene Arbeit’) reached out to oppressed groups (such as gays and lesbians, punks, the ‘long-haired’), often seeing their services enlivened as a result. 14 Büscher et al., 1982, p. 33. 15 Pfaff, 2001, p. 290. 16 Knabe, 1990, p. 25. 17 Klier, 1988. 18 Some of the most effective and inspiring of environmentalists’ activities in the 1980s, in my view, involved the publicising of the GDR’s ecological crisis, most memorably through showings of a video documentary exposing pollution in the Bitterfeld region, Bitteres aus Bitterfeld. 19 Fricke, 1984, p. 204. 20 Fulbrook, 1995, p. 227. 21 Arbeitskreis Wittenberg, 1981, p. 63. 22 Fulbrook, 1995, p. 89. 23 Neubert, 1990, 1995. 24 The equivalent figures for Catholics are 11 per cent falling to 4 per cent. From Pollack et al., 1994, pp. 271, 280. See also Niethammer et al., 1991; Goeckel, 1989. 25 Ollie; Steffen Geißler.

210 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38

39 40

41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56

57 58


Tismaneau, 1990, p. 145. Henrich, 1989, p. 229. Graf, 1994, p. 297. Of these, a relatively high number had, before 1945, belonged to the ultranationalist ‘Deutsche Christen’. Zimmer, 1989, p. 103. Osteuropa Info, no. 57/8, 1984. Hamel, 1960, p. 118. Kuhnel and Sallmon, 1990. Schorlemmer, 1990, p. 41. Büscher and Wensierski, 1984, p. 167. Kirche von unten, Fliegendes Papier 3; Klier, 1990b, pp. 18–19. Neubert, 1998, p. 670. When a state functionary complained of ‘tumult’ during a neo-dada performance of a church youth group, the church obliged by suspending the group. See Becker, 1990. A famous example occurred in Dresden in 1982. Peace activists there sought to test the waters of extra-ecclesiastical protest, but clergymen succeeded in drawing them back into a church ‘where the young people were subjected to clerical palaver that had no other aim than to sap their courage’. Henrich, 1989, p. 238. The Church leader most closely associated with the strategy of containment was Manfred Stolpe. See Neubert, 1993, esp. p. 57. The Church could publish periodicals (‘for internal Church use only’), sponsor youth groups and allow meetings to be held in their premises. Church kindergartens, theological schools and charitable institutions could operate with minimal state interference. According to Steff Konopatsky, interview. See also Besier, 1995, p. 495; Mitter and Wolle, 1990, pp. 20, 54–6. Henrich, 1989, p. 237. Büscher and Wensierski, 1984, p. 157. See Stasi reports of a Church leaders’ meeting in Krone and Schult, 1992, pp. 126–8. E.g. Bärbel Bohley, in Philipsen, 1993, p. 294; Neubert, 1998, p. 654. See e.g. Besier and Wolf, 1991, p. 39. In Gerd Poppe’s words, in Findeis et al., 1994, p. 178. Joppke, 1995, p. 201. Joppke, 1995, p. 194. Joppke, 1995, p. 202. Greenfeld, 1992, ch. 4, esp. p. 390. Joppke, 1995, p. 207. Joppke, 1995, p. 210. Andrei Markovits, quoted in Joppke, 1995, p. 210. Joppke, 1995, p. 99. Joppke, 1995, p. 210. A revisionist, for Joppke, is one who ‘accepts the normative principles of the regime and tries to make the latter live up to its ideals’. As an example from one interviewee: ‘We were demanding, in essence, that the ideological claims of socialism be redeemed. Socialism is, after all, oriented to people’s needs, or should be.’ However, my impression is that in the 1980s the emphasis was far less on normative agreement with the SED than had been the case for earlier generations, and entreaties that the regime take its ideals seriously were of a more tactical nature, were heavily discounted and contained a healthy dose of realism, even cynicism. On the question of the Wall, Wolfgang Templin of IFM was an exception to the rule. Hans-Jochen Vogel reported that he and others thought similarly: ‘By the late 1980s we were clear that the GDR would, in the long run, cease to exist; we only had to look at its economy. We thought that a crisis would come and that unification would come onto the agenda. I was clear about this – that unification would come at some

Notes 211

59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72

73 74 75


77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90

point; the question was simply whether the Soviets or the others would allow it. [Edelbert] Richter saw things in a similar way, too.’ Goodbody, 2002, pp. 33–6. See also Rohkrämer, 2002. Neubert, 1998, p. 446. For a sense of the ‘moral turn’ amongst GDR dissidents that entailed a justification of founding resistance upon ‘human feelings’ as opposed to ‘arrogant, tactical-clever chains of argument’ see Fuchs, 1984. Beck, 1984, p. 489; 1992, ch. 3. Beck, 1992, pp. 99–100 and passim. Habermas, 1987, p. 349. Habermas, 1987, esp. p. 362. Habermas, 1987, pp. 391–2. See Melucci, 1980; Kitschelt, 1985; also Rucht, 1990; Barker and Dale, 1998. Boggs, 1986, p. 174. Melucci, 1988, 1989. ‘Society from below’ was the term used in the GDR oppositional scene. Cohen, 1985, p. 664. Offe, 1985, pp. 826–31; Hulsberg, 1988, p. 120. Knabe, 1988. Others were, contemporaneously with Knabe, making similar observations. John Keane (1988, pp. 12–13) suggested that the NSMs were ‘the counter-parts of the citizens’ initiatives and social movements in Central and Eastern Europe. They are marked by a definite anti-political quality. Their activities are governed neither by the ultimate political fantasy of seizing and transforming state power, nor by the more humble desire to concentrate exclusively on party politics.’ Knabe, 1990, p. 22. See also Knabe, 1988. Bartee, 2000, p. 105; Rüddenklau, 1992, p.102; Büscher et al, 1982, pp. 223, 244; Wolle, 1998, p. 263. See also Becker, 1990, p. 241. See Barker and Dale, 1998; Callinicos and Harman, 1987. The working class, as Jon Gubbay puts it, includes ‘not only those who create surplus value but also those who are dominated by managers in the tasks of pumping it around the system and securing conditions to sustain both these processes’. Gubbay, 1997, pp. 85–6. As John Torpey has written (1995, p. 141), although many of these dissident activists had been the beneficiaries of higher education, it was not unusual to find among them people [such as Ulrike Poppe] who had been unable to finish their degrees due to political persecution. Alternatively, having completed their academic training, they were driven out of work or into occupations inconsistent with their training or qualifications as a result of their political views or activities. This and the following four paragraphs draw heavily upon Barker and Dale, 1998. E.g. Murdoch, 1997. Adam, 1993, p. 323. See e.g. Tilly, 1995, and Tarrow’s (1996) reflections on the methodological presuppositions of that work. Tilly, 1995, p. 25. Tarrow, 1994, p. 154. Tarrow, 1992. Harman, 1988b. Scott, 1990, p. 80. Taylor, 1989 For an alternative explanation of the factors that gave the GDR movements their distinctive edge see Brand, 1997, esp. pp. 246–7. See Sauer, 1989. Sauer sees this subtle ‘greening’ as linked into a concurrent shift from a focus on ‘Arbeiterkultur’ to ‘volkskultur’. Thomas, 2001. Gerd Poppe, interview.



91 Mählert, 2003, pp. 24–6. 92 Torpey, 1995, p. 53. 93 Bahro, 1978, p. 259 and passim; see also ‘Ich werde meinen Weg fortsetzen,’ in Woods, 1986. 94 An unnamed Marxist dissident, in Osteuropa Info, no. 2, p. 54. 95 Interview with Steffen Geißler. 96 Interview with Hans-Jochen Vogel. 97 Sarah Jasinszczak, in Grenzfall, no. 1, 1986, p. 3. 98 See e.g. Die Andere, no. 38, 1990, p. 8. 99 Giddens, 1991, pp. 214–15. 100 Gabi Engelhardt. 101 Hans-Jochen Vogel. 102 Findeis et al., 1994, pp. 104, 109. 103 Findeis et al., 1994, p. 51. 104 In Albrecht, 1996, p. 146. Meckel’s memoir is subtitled ‘Ten Years of Parochial Peace Activities’. It should not be thought, however, that the double meaning of ‘parochial’ is present in the original German. 105 Pollack et al., 1992, p. 50. 106 Opp et al., 1995, p. 134. 107 Pollack et al., 1992, p. 9. 108 Rüddenklau, 1992, p. 12. 109 Pollack et al., 1992, p. 50. 110 Offe, 1996, pp. 141, 21. 111 Neubert, 1989, p. 42. 112 ‘We just want them to rule more justly,’ he added, somewhat ruefully; ‘we want a dialogue with the party, not a clash.’ In Zirakzadeh, 1997, p. 124. 113 Ost, 1989, p. 78. See also Baker, 1999, and Kennedy, 1991, p. 105. 114 Bahro, 1982, p. 32. 115 Stark, 1981. 116 Herzberg and Seifert, 2002, pp. 333–6. 117 Wagner, 1990. 118 Neubert, 1989, pp. 23, 15. See also Neubert, 1990, p. 27. 119 Edelbert Richter, quoted in Neubert, 1989, p. 10. See also Richter, 1988. Richter was, with Neubert, a founding member of DA. 120 Henrich, 1989, pp. 72–3. 121 Callinicos, 1989, p. 99. 122 Henrich, 1989, p. 265. 123 Henrich, 1989, p. 266.


The formation of political opposition 1 For detailed analysis, see Dale, 2004. 2 See Dale, 2004. 3 On economic decline in the 1980s see Dale, 2004. On the demoralisation of the nomenklatura, see Dale, 2004, Zimmermann and Schütt, 1992 and 1994, and Scherzer, 1989. 4 Maier, 1997, p. 57. 5 For the reformist path, see e.g. Luft, 1991, esp. p. 77. 6 Günther Schabowski, interviewed in The Fall of the Wall television series, broadcast 30 October 1994. 7 Simon, 1990. 8 Koch, 1994, p. 393. 9 Hertle and Stephan, 1997, p. 37.

Notes 213 10 Hertle, 1996a, p. 71. 11 Mitter and Wolle, 1993, p. 509; Klein, 1994, p. 94. Interviews with Michael Brie, Mario Kessler. 12 Such as Stalin’s imprisonment of German Communists, and Red Army brutality in the aftermath of the Second World War. 13 Friedrich, 1990, p. 29. 14 BStU, ZAIG, 4205. 15 Mario Kessler, interview. 16 Interviews with Mario Kessler, Rolf Richter, Helmut Meier. See also Nitz, 1995. 17 Modrow, 1994, p. 264. 18 Mitter and Wolle, 1993, p. 506. 19 Mitter and Wolle, 1993, p. 504. 20 Financial Times, 3 June 1988. 21 BStU, ZAIG, 2828. 22 E.g. BstU, ZAIG, 5352 Berlin, 6 June 1989; Mitter and Wolle, 1990, p. 30. 23 Simon, 1990, p. 114. 24 Stephan, 1994, pp. 39–53. 25 For a caveat, see Chapter 4, fn. 42. Figures from Friedrich, 1990, pp. 29, 30. 26 Förster and Roski, 1990, p. 43. 27 Jens König. 28 Friedrich, 1990, pp. 29, 30. 29 Hürtgen, 1999, pp. 209–10. 30 Gehrke, 2001a, p. 210. 31 Rüddenklau, 1992, p. 196. 32 Klein, 1995, pp. 137–8; Wielgohs and Schulz, 1990; Pfaff, 1999, p. 94. 33 Grix, 2000, p. 60; Pfaff, 1999, p. 92. 34 Rüddenklau, 1992, p. 196 35 Stephan, 1994, p. 56. 36 Pfaff, 1999, pp. 92–6. 37 See e.g. BStU, ZAIG 5353. 38 Reich, 1990, p. 83. 39 Rüddenklau, 1992, p. 138. 40 Neubert, 1998, p. 501. The hard core of ‘social movement entrepreneurs’ in this period is usually estimated at 2,000 to 3,000. 41 Kenner, 1988, p. 17. 42 The experience of one of the weaker regions, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, is described in Stolle, 2001, ch. 2. 43 Rüddenklau, 1992. 44 Wollenberger, 1992, p. 82. 45 Flyer distributed by the Revolutionary Church Choir. 46 Krone and Schult, 1992, p. 126. 47 Kirche von unten, Fliegendes Papier, no. 2 48 Kirche von unten, Fliegendes Papier, no. 2. 49 Kirche von unten, Fliegendes Papier, no. 1. 50 Neubert, 1998, p. 687. 51 Kirche von unten, Fliegendes Papier, no. 4. 52 This helps to explain why intolerant, hierarchical and military institutions, such as the Army, GST and FDJ, formed incubators for the nascent neo-Nazi movement. 53 One ‘AntiNaziLiga’ leaflet from 1987 referred to an ‘unmistakeable right-wing shift within the skinhead movement which is becoming organised and spreading fascist ideology, especially amongst the young’. On the skinhead movement see Stock and Mühlberg, 1990. 54 The fact that members of the security forces were present but did nothing to prevent the attack led to persistent rumours to the effect that the Stasi was using its connections to the skinhead movement (e.g. through Stasi-linked football clubs) in order to


55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90


direct it against the opposition. See Bastian, n.d.; Wollenberger, 1992; Weiß, 1989; Fulbrook, 1995. The rumours have not, to my knowledge, been disproven, but for an alternative explanation of the abstention by police, see Ross, 2000, p. 150. Weiß, 1989, p. 12. Meinel and Wernicke, 1990, pp. 60, 71. See e.g. Grenzfall, no. 2; Eisenfeld, 1995, p. 210, fn. 91. Reinhard Schult, in Friedrichsfelder Feuermelder, 1985. Gegenstimmen internal paper: ‘Stellungnahme zu einer Eingabe an den XI. Parteitag der SED 1986,’ Feb/Maerz 1987. There was something of a rivalry between IFM and Gegenstimmen. It was encouraged by Stasi agents, although it also reflected a real ideological division. See Die Andere, no. 39, 1990, p. 8. Vorstellung der IFM zum Tag der Menschenrechte am 10.12.1987 in der Gethsemanekirche, Berlin. Rüddenklau, 1992, pp. 234–6. Klaus Wolfram. In retrospect he questioned his earlier attitudes: ‘perhaps one can see in this a blindness of the opposition … Demarcating ourselves [from the emigrants] may have been a mistake.’ See also Wolfram, 1999. Steffen Geißler. When asked ‘was that not a rather elitist position?’ his reply was a candid ‘yes, I accept that’. On elitism, see Chapter 9. Klier, 1990a, p. 181. Torpey, 1995, pp. 108ff. For an account of the origins of the proposal that emphasises the part played by an IFM member, see Wolle, 1998, p. 298. Pollack et al., 1994, p. 287; Markovits, 1995, p. 61. Markovits, 1995, p. 48. According to the testimony of Deputy Minister of the MfS Rudi Mittig, in Riecker et al., 1990, p. 179. See also Minnerup, 1989, p. 73. Indeed, some participants were punished. One student, for example, was thrown off his course. Wolle, 1998, p. 230. Bastian, n.d., p. 2. Frankfurter Rundschau, 5, 6, 7 January 1988. Bert Konopatsky, interview. Wollenberger, 1992, p. 87. Neubert, 1998, p. 696. Dissidents had learned some months earlier, on the Olof Palme peace march, that they could join official activities and use them as a platform for independent propaganda. Financial Times, 3 February 1988. Wagner, 1994; Bartee, 2000. Ironically, Wonneberger had been transferred from Dresden to Leipzig in order to neutralise his political influence. See Pfaff, 2001, p. 290. Wolfram, 1995. Rüddenklau, 1992, p. 197. Klier, 1992, pp. 125–6. Freunde und Feinde, 1994, p. 113. Neubert, 1998, p. 699. Flam, 1997, p. 152. Schwabe, 1999, p. 163. Rüddenklau, 1992, p. 226. According to a report prepared by the SED CC’s security section, in Stephan, 1994, p. 32. Klier, 1992, p. 150. On a smaller scale, a similar development occurred in Wismar. ‘Where emigrants and church-oppositionists worked together,’ Uta Stolle writes (2001, p. 44), ‘a very effec-

Notes 215 tive combination could result. That occurred in Wismar, which was, in 1988, on the way to becoming a resistance centre in the North, just as Leipzig was in the South.’ 91 Wagner, 1994, pp. 142–3. 92 Hollitzer and Bohse, 1999, pp. 104–5. 93 Besier and Wolf, 1991, p. 556; Wagner, 1994, p. 30; Neubert, 1998, pp. 676ff. 94 Bartee, 2000, p. 12. 95 Schwabe, 1999, p. 164. 96 Bartee, 2000, p. 119. 97 Philipsen, 1993, pp. 148–9. 98 Hildebrandt and Thomas, 1990, p. 32; Grix, 2000, pp. 87–8. 99 Rüddenklau, 1992, p. 108. 100 Rüddenklau, 1992, p. 82. 101 Philipsen, 1993, p. 165. 102 In my own experience, Stasi informant Wolfgang Wolf of Gegenstimmen was, probably with the support of his officers, the champion of the last of these skills. 103 For a Stasi agent’s recollections, see e.g. Kukutz and Havemann, 1990. 104 Indecision at the SED leadership level, heightened by the approach of Honecker’s state visit to the FRG, was one of the reasons why the IFM was allowed to flourish for a year or more. See e.g. Wilkening, 1990, p. 59. 105 Wielgohs and Johnson, 1997, p. 347.


The summer crisis 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Zubok, 2000, p. 354. Stephan, 1994, pp. 126–45. Hertle, 1996a, p. 92. Mielke and Schebarschin, 1993, p. 1034. Mittag, 1991, p. 323. Zimmermann and Schütt, 1992, p. 186. E.g. BStU, ZAIG 5352, Berlin, 6 June 1989. Meinel and Wernicke, 1990, p. 81. Meinel and Wernicke, 1990, p. 106. Heym, 1990, p. 223. Bartee, 2000, p. 123. Hertle, 1996a, p. 89. Hollitzer and Bohse, 1999, pp. 77–8. Sélitrenny and Weichert, 1991, p. 218. Lindner, 2001, pp. 26–31. The Church also lodged a complaint with the authorities over observed ‘discrepancies in vote counting’. However, citing its interest in maintaining the ‘authority and stability of the State’, it distanced itself from the demonstrations and other ‘exaggerated actions’. Pollack, 1993, p. 256. Hildebrandt and Thomas, 1990, p. 28. Meinel and Wernicke, 1990, p. 80. The ambiguity of the event did not trouble the Stasi, who detained scores of musicians and onlookers. See Hollitzer and Bohse, 1999; Kenney, 2002. Rüddenklau, 1992, p. 275. The Guardian, 17 June 1989. Hertle, 1996a, p. 101. In his A Carnival of Revolution Padraic Kenney (2002, p. 277) has described the affair: ‘When the regime proposed expelling refugees, the SzDSz announced a campaign laden with irony: “Hide a German!” Would the communists dare follow the path the Nazi occupiers of Europe had once taken and search homes for refugees?’

216 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35

36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50

51 52 53 54 55 56 57


Nagy, 2001. Mueller, 1999, pp. 726–7; Mayer, 2002. Stent, 1998, p. 86. Bleiker, 1993, p. 11. Przybylski, 1992, pp. 358–63, 212. Przybylski, 1992, p. 75. Szabo, 1992, p. 15. See e.g. Mittag, 1991, pp. 45–6. Mitter and Wolle, 1990, p. 125. CNN, Cold War television series, episode 23. Kuppe, 1989, p. 722. Egon Krenz has criticised Günther Mittag, who was acting SED leader at the time, for postponing serious discussion of the crisis. For most of August, however, Krenz himself was on holiday and showed no inclination to return. Others suggest that it was in August, with Mittag in the chair, that serious contradictions over strategy were first permitted. See Krenz, 1990, p. 31; Schabowski, 1990, p. 12; Zimmermann and Schütt, 1992, p. 154. Junge Welt, 13 September 1989, p. 2. Stephan, 1994, p. 122. Stephan, 1994, pp. 118–24. Krenz, 1990, p. 169. Stephan, 1994, pp. 147, 150. Cf. Ulrich, 1990, p. 20. Mitter and Wolle, 1990, pp. 141–7; die tageszeitung, 28 August 1989; Eckelmann et al., 1990. Mitter and Wolle 1990, p. 146. See also Lemke, 1991, esp. p. 115. Mitter and Wolle, 1990, p. 146. See e.g. Meinel and Wernicke, 1990, p. 133. Kuhn, 1992, p. 106. Of Laurence McFalls’s survey respondents (1995, p. 185), a majority were personally acquainted with emigrants who had left in the summer of 1989 alone. See also Lohmann, 1994, p. 64. Andrea Vogt, interview. Antje Neubauer, interview. In the context of the continued exodus and with the protest movement about to go critical, there was something quite surreal about the success stories that continued to appear in media organs. Typical was a report in the Leipziger Volkszeitung of 30 September that ‘[n]umerous factories have recently significantly improved their canteen service’. Neues Forum Leipzig, 1989, p. 44. Debray, 1973, p. 113. Debray, 1973, p. 110. Reich, 1990, p. 71. Meinel and Wernicke, 1990, p. 133. Wolle, 1998, p. 316. When, for example, Harry Tisch refused to speak with emigrants, thousands wrote in protest to the FDGB’s head office. Klein, 1994, p. 63. This may be a slight exaggeration. The implications of reforms in the USSR, Hungary and Poland, and of the growing noises concerning unification that were being made in the FRG, spurred some individuals to begin to ‘think out of the box’. One interviewee, Steffen Geißler, told me: ‘In the summer we realised that the GDR wouldn’t carry on for all that much longer. Hans-Jochen Vogel was certainly saying, back in June or July, that it wouldn’t reach its fortieth birthday [October 1989]. And we guessed back then that over two-thirds of the population would favour unification – there was so much discontent around.’ And Vogel himself

Notes 217

58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68

recalls: ‘In the spring of 1989 we were at a meeting in Dresden. Wolfgang Ullmann was on the podium, Ibrahim Böhme, and some others. I said, “the GDR may get swallowed up by the FRG, and if it does, then I’ll be in the left opposition”. Böhme commented: “I’ll be there too.” ’ Philipsen, 1993, p. 71. Bartee, 2000, p. 73. Ollie, interview. die tageszeitung, 4 September 1989 Meinel and Wernicke, 1990, p. 78. die tageszeitung, 15 August 1989 Gutzeit, 1993, p. 95. Wolle, 1998, p. 266. Reich, 1992, p. 166. Hirschman, 1993, p. 185. In Joppke, 1995, p. 156.

8 The autumn uprising 1 Mitter and Wolle, 1990, p. 125. 2 In Albert Hirschman’s terms (1993, p. 177), ‘exit’ reinforced ‘voice’. Leipzig, he argues, proved to be an exception to the rule that he had propounded in an earlier book, viz. that the relationship between exit and voice is of an inverse (or ‘hydraulic’) kind. 3 Döhnert and Rummel, 1990, p. 151. 4 Neues Forum Leipzig, 1989, p. 47. 5 Pollack, 1993, p. 258. 6 Ollie, interview. 7 BDVP, Abt. Information. 8 Hilke, interview. 9 Wenzel, 1993, p. 53. 10 Bahr, 1990, p. 129. 11 Friedheim, 1993, p. 104. 12 Wolle, 2003, p. 54. 13 Leipzig BVfS 136/89. 14 Gerlach, 1991, p. 284. 15 Kuhn, 1992, p. 32. 16 Hertle, 1996a, p. 411 17 Przeworski, 1991, p.64; Allen, 1991, p.186. 18 Philipsen, 1993, p. 301. 19 Findeis et al., 1994, p. 53. 20 Financial Times, 3 October 1989. 21 Reich, 1992, p. 55. 22 Philipsen, 1993, p. 369. 23 Uwe Rottluf, interview. 24 Fuller, 1999, p. 101. 25 This may appear confusing, given the SED’s cult of Marx and Engels. However, in its philosophy, sociology and politics the SED was in reality positioned closer to Durkheim. Like that of the French scholar, its philosophy was positivistic and deterministic. Society was conceived of as an organism, without class antagonisms. The state was fetishised as the organ that concentrates and expresses social life in its entirety. Socialism was espoused primarily in terms of the elimination of economic competition and anarchy by means of planning. The sciences were prized as levers of social engineering. Education was accorded an almost boundless role in socialisation.



27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60


Its ethical outlook was characterised by a severe, secular moralism. In all these respects SED ideology resembled Durkheim rather than Marx. In addition the SED espoused similar views on social cohesion to those of the French sociologist, viz. that it supplies a fundamental goal of social existence, one that requires citizens to ‘fix their eyes on the same end and come together in a single faith’. Lukes, 1973, p. 341. Maier, 1997, pp. 133–4. On the dense, academic language of citizens’ movement intellectuals I can write with some authority. As the main speaker at the first public meeting of Potsdam UL I devoted, if my memory serves correctly, greater attention to historical and theoretical issues – although not Durkheimian sociology – than to concrete proposals for action. In retrospect it appears obvious that another speaker should have been selected; yet the other contenders, although native East Germans, were either graduates like myself or students. The moral of the tale – and my experience was not atypical of citizens’ movement meetings – is that the communication skills acquired in academia may, in spite (or because) of their sophistication, be a handicap when addressing audiences outside this narrow milieu. Reuth and Bönte, 1993 p. 110; die tageszeitung, 18 October, 1989. die tageszeitung, 5 October 1989. Opp, 1993; Opp et al., 1993. For a critical discussion of Opp’s thesis, see Timmer, 2000. Opp et al., n.d., also 1993, pp. 150, 207. Opp et al., 1995, p. 162. Detlef Pollack, quoted in Opp et al., 1993, p. 33. Grix, 2000, p. 111. Opp et al. 1995 p. 118. Meinel and Wernicke, 1990, pp. 141–2. Joppke, 1995, p. 156. Gespräch Krenz mit Dr. W. Leich, 19 October 1989, in BA-SAPMO, SED Parteiarchiv. Brunssen, 1998, p. 112. Mittag, 1991, p. 34. Reich, 1991, p. 171. Mitter and Wolle, 1990, p. 250. Hertle, 1996b, p. 91. ‘In dreissig Tagen um die Welt – ohne Geld.’ Maximytschew and Hertle, 1994, p. 1145. Schabowski, 1990, p. 135; 1991, p. 304. Meinel and Wernicke, 1990, p. 145. Neues Forum, 1990, p. 10. Mitter and Wolle, 1990, p. 233. Menge, 1990, p. 209. The full document is archived in BStU, ZA, ZAIG 4886. Modrow’s speech is reprinted in Stephan, 1994. Rucht, 1996, p. 41. Joppke, 1995, p. 163. According to Klaus Wolfram, interview. Joppke, 1995, p. 163. Tribüne, 13 December 1989. Lohmar, 1995, p. 66. Philipsen, 1993, pp. 369–70. Hawkes et al., 1990, p. 79. Neubert, 1998, p. 483. As the comments by successive Foreign Ministers in Bonn indicate, there was, writes Garton Ash (1993, p. 246), ‘a vague, unquantifiable sense that there should be a

Notes 219

61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73

larger eastern market there in the future, as there had been in the past’. For an example of such sentiments, see Willy Brandt, in Stent, 1983, p. 150. Richter and Sobeslavsky, 1999, p. 173. Allen, 1991, p. 192. The nationalism displayed, Claus Offe has written, was hardly that of an ‘emotionalized Volk’. Rather, its ‘instrumental’ nature was to the fore; the hope was to elude social and economic crisis through unification. Offe, 1996, p. 16; Offe, 1993, p. 286. Teltschik, 1991, p. 111. Walter Süß, in Taz-Journal, no. 2, Jan–März 1990, p. 160. Modrow, 1991, p. 119; Teltschik, 1991, p. 115; Rochtus, 1999, ch. 7. Newens and King, n.d., p. 10. Findeis et al., 1994, p. 167. Pritchard, 1996, p. 167. Batt, 1991, p. 386. Pond, 1993, p. 200. Zwahr, 1995, p. 232. Hartung, 1990, p. 60.

9 Intellectuals and workers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

In the phrase of Krishan Kumar, 1992, p. 325. Brown, 1991, p. 1. Randle, 1991, p. 47. Reich, 1992, pp. 9–11. Eyerman and Jamison, 1991, p. 157. Chirot, 1991, p. 21. For example, Friedrich and Brzezinski, 1965, pp. 325, 328. See also Jänicke, 1964, esp. p. 133. Rakovski, 1978. Kagarlitsky, 1990. Kagarlitsky, 1988, pp. 102, 111. Konrád and Szelényi, 1979, p. 126. See also Szelényi, 1978–9, 1979. Fuller, 1999, p. 19. Fuller, 1999, p. 33. Italics added. Fuller, 1999, p. 33. Fuller, 1999, p. 37. Neubert, 1990, p. 66. See Pollack, 1990, p. 134. Der Spiegel, 18 December 1989 Müller-Enbergs et al., 1991, p. 20. Although educational qualification is no measure of class position, it nonetheless helps to give a picture of the social composition of the citizens’ movement. Wielgohs and Müller-Enbergs, 1991, p. 137. Schulz, 1991, pp. 20–1. Fuller, 1999, pp. 98–100. Pollack et al., 1992, p. 50. Pollack et al., 1992, p. 48. See e.g. Bruckmeier, 1993, p. 73. Uwe Rottluf, interview. Ash, 1981, p. 204. Leitner, 1983, p. 351. Fuchs, 1984, p. 66. Fuller, 1999, p. 84. See also Dale, 1995.



31 Gramsci, 1971, p. 8. 32 In this she follows a tradition begun by one of the founders of German social democracy, Ferdinand Lassalle. On Lassalle’s conception of the middle classes as a reactionary bloc, see Draper, 1978, pp. 309ff. On Marx’s critique of Lassalle, see his Critique of the Gotha Programme. 33 Erbe, 1982, p. 72. 34 Erbe, 1982, pp. 91, 156. 35 As Kagarlitsky (1988, p. 101) pointed out in the Russian context, engineers are in a similar situation to most manual workers in so far as they ‘have to carry out tasks imposed by others, eight hours a day’. 36 Erbe, 1982, p. 150. 37 Jäger, 1982, p. 70. 38 Flores, 1971, p. 64. This may be translated as ‘popular and bureaucratic’, or ‘popular, in the bureaucrats’ conception’. 39 Jäger, 1982, p. 67. 40 Jäger, 1982, p. 67. 41 Those that would be ‘most keen to conform.’ Klier, 1990a, p. 165. 42 Plock, 1993, p. 201. 43 Klier, 1990a, p. 196. 44 Förster and Roski, 1990; Friedrich, 1990. 45 Torpey, 1995, p. 144. On the astonishingly high percentage of academics in the SED, from the 1950s onwards, see Jessen, 1994, esp. p. 227. 46 Kagarlitsky, 1988, p. 103. 47 Barker, 1987, p. 235. 48 Hirst, 1991, p. 223. 49 Fuller, 1999, p. 140. 50 In Paul Gleye’s phrase, in Fuller, 1999, p. 67. 51 Klenke, 2005. 52 Hürtgen, 2001b, p. 201; Gehrke 2001a, p. 211. 53 Fuller, 1999, p. 147. 54 Philipsen, 1993, p. 119. 55 Gehrke, 2001a, p. 235. 56 Pechmann and Vogel, 1991, p. 284. 57 Fuller, 1999, p. 149. 58 Pechmann and Vogel, 1991, p. 284. 59 Tribüne, 30 October 1989. 60 For this and similar examples, see Hürtgen 1999; Gehrke and Hürtgen, 2001. 61 Gerd Sczepansky, in Gehrke and Hürtgen, 2001, p. 44. 62 Tribüne, 7 December 1989. 63 Fuller, 1999, ch. 6. 64 Gehrke and Hürtgen, 2001. 65 Der Spiegel, 11 December 1989, p. 104. 66 Fuller, 1999, p. 148. 67 Gehrke, 2001a, p. 228. 68 Gerd Sczepansky, in Gehrke and Hürtgen, 2001, p. 42. 69 Gerd Sczepansky, in Gehrke and Hürtgen, 2001, pp. 94–5. 70 Gehrke, 2001a, pp. 229–34. 71 Gehrke, 2001a, pp. 229–30. 72 Interview with the author. 73 Letter to Geoff Brown and Judy Paskell, 25 October 1989. 74 Weil, 1999, p. 536. 75 Gehrke, 2001a, p. 227. 76 FDGB Archive, document dated 17 October 1989. 77 Peterson, 2002, pp. 180, 191, 216.

Notes 221 78 General Lieutenant Kleine, in Bastian, 1994, p. 34. 79 Mitter and Wolle, 1990, p. 247. 80 In Neubert’s phrase (1998, p. 856). Bernau’s ‘drowsiness’ may be put down to its closeness to Berlin. Yet this can form at best only part of an explanation, for small towns near Leipzig and Karl-Marx-Stadt did, by contrast, become centres of protest. The garrison town of Frankfurt, with its 87,000 inhabitants, witnessed a greater number of protests than Bernau, but fewer than Apolda. 81 Fuller, 1999, p. 37. 82 Opp et al., 1993, p. 214; 1995, p. 164. 83 According to a survey of some 5,000 demonstrators conducted by Kurt Mühler, Steffen Wilsdorf and Leipzig students, members of the intelligentsia made up between 17 and 33 per cent of Leipzig demonstrators between November 1989 and February 1990. While the former figure is low relative to the intelligentsia’s weight in society, the latter is not, and would appear to contradict the findings of Opp et al. Alternatively, it may signify a greater willingness of graduates to return questionnaires. 84 In Wayne Bartee’s survey of Leipzig demonstrators (2000, p. 125), for example, most were clearly in working-class occupations (30 per cent blue collar; 15 per cent teachers, nurses, technicians, museum and clerical workers). Some categories cannot clearly be identified in class terms, e.g. ‘salaried employees’ in industries such as publishing (30 per cent), or those in church-related jobs other than clergy (5 per cent). But in these cases it is fair to assume that the bulk of occupations covered were working class (e.g. copy editor, secretary, cleaner) rather than middle class (e.g. bookshop manager). 85 Lindner, 1990, p. 23. 86 Gehrke, 2001a, p. 239; Connelly, 1990, p. 84 87 Pfaff, 1999, p. 506; Gehrke, 2001a, p. 215. 88 Lohmann, 1994, p. 62. 89 Gehrke, 2001a, p. 215. 90 Mosler, 1994; Zwahr, 1993, 1995; Hürtgen, 1999b, 2001; Gehrke 2001a; also Dale, 1995, 1996, 1999. 91 Roesler, 2003b, p. 48. 92 See also Bryson and Melzer, 1991, p. 23; Grix, 2000. 93 According to one MfS document (BStU, ZAIG, 5353). 94 See e.g. Mitter and Wolle, 1990, p. 30; Steiner, 2004, p. 219. 95 McFalls, 1995, p. 177. 96 MfS, ZAIG, 5353. 97 Grix, 1998, p. 133. 98 Grunenberg, 1990, p. 71. 99 Stolle, 2001, pp. 95–7. 100 Amongst workers, the Stasi estimated, only around 50 per cent voted, and in some districts this figure was as low as 25 per cent. See BStU, ZAIG, 5352; also Peterson, 2002, p. 140. 101 For examples see Gehrke, 2001a, p. 225, Hürtgen, 2001b, p. 201. 102 Hürtgen, 2001b, pp. 202–3. 103 Uwe Bastian, interview. 104 Uwe Rottluf, interview. 105 Gehrke and Hürtgen, 2001, pp. 271–2. 106 That, he added, ‘created quite an atmosphere’. Roesler, 2002. 107 Roesler, 2002. 108 Bastian, 1994, pp. 33–4. 109 Mitter and Wolle, 1990, p. 226. 110 Gehrke, 2001b, pp. 251–2.



111 The miners justified their demand by arguing that poor consumer-goods provision in the GDR made shopping trips to Czechoslovakia imperative. The authorities responded with group-specific concessions: the miners would be allowed to travel freely, as would residents of Altenberg. 112 Gehrke, 2001b, p. 252. 113 E.g. Rathenow, 1989, p. 286. 114 Wagner, 1991, p. 13. For a report of strong support for strike action in the Dresden region, see Liebsch, 1991, p. 71. 115 Dresden Region Stasi files; Telegraph, no. 4; Neubert 1998, p. 851. 116 Gehrke, 2001b, p. 253. 117 Maximytschew and Hertle, 1994, p. 1143. 118 Otto König, speaking to the SED Central Committee on 9 November. BA-SAPMO, Parteiarchiv. IV 2/1/709. 119 Hertle and Stephan, 1997, p. 446. 120 Zwahr, 1993, p. 60. 121 Zwahr, 1995, p. 219. 122 Die Zeit, 27 October 1989, quoted in Renken, 1999. 123 ‘SED, tritt zurück, oder Streik wird Meisterstück!’ 124 Der Spiegel, 11 December 1989. 125 ‘CSSR empfiehlt Warnstreik!’ In this context the German Warnstreik reproduces the sense better than would the normal English translation ‘token strike’. 126 Gehrke, 2001b, p. 256. 127 Gehrke, 2001b, p. 254. 128 Pfaff, 1999, p. 508.

Conclusion 1 Tilly, 1978, pp. 191–2. 2 Brant, 1955, p. 133. 3 For a reading of 1989 as a non-class-based uprising, see e.g. Lemke and Marks, 1992, p. 7; also Crook et al., 1992, pp. 138–9. 4 See e.g. Förster and Roski, 1990, pp. 60–3; Rein, 1989, p. 57. 5 See Jäger, 1982, p. 67, but also Roth, 1999, pp. 407–8; Spittmann and Fricke, 1982, p. 5. 6 Many, in addition, had supported opposition groups in the 1980s, a stance that had earned them a one-way ticket to the lower rungs. 7 Pollack, 1997, pp. 316–17. 8 Koop, 2003, p. 164. 9 Koop, 2003, p. 340; Roth, 1999, p. 608; Diedrich, 1991, pp. 42, 152. 10 Mählert, 2003, p. 28. 11 Steininger, 2003, p. 11. See also Mitter and Wolle, 1993. 12 Neubert, 1998, p. 794. 13 Roth, 1999, p. 610; Knabe, 2003, pp. 244ff. 14 See Pollack, 1997, p. 313. 15 Ewers and Quest, 1982, p. 26. 16 Brant, 1995, p. 77. 17 Baring, 1972, p. 52. 18 ‘Räumt euren mist in Bonn jetzt aus, in Pankow saubern wir das Haus.’ Kleßmann, 1991, p. 280. 19 Beier, 1993, p. 22. See also Harman, 1988a; Sarel, 1975. 20 For example, of the six individuals who established the SDP in Erfurt, two came from a social democrat background. Dornheim, 1995, p. 33. 21 Gehrke and Hürtgen, 2001, p. 280.

Notes 223 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

32 33



Gehrke and Hürtgen, 2001, p. 287. Gehrke, 2001a, p. 211. Ewald S., in Gehrke and Hürtgen, 2001, p. 37. Interview with the author. Elster, 1996, p. 111. Interview with Martin Gutzeit. Gorholt and Kunz, 1991, p. 331. This, he adds, indicates ‘to us that we should have pursued this revolution much more decisively, with much more force’. Philipsen, 1993, p. 310. In the words of Hans-Jürgen Fischbeck, in Haug, 1990, p. 398. For detailed discussion of nomenklatura privatisation in East Germany, see Dale, 2004. Yoder, 1999, p. 18. According to Yoder’s dialectic, a third phase ought to follow, in which ‘the masses again become actors’, with democracy consolidated by means of the ‘remobilization’ of the electorate through participation in political parties and parliamentary elections. This final phase centres on an elite-led education process that ‘create[s] and nurture[s] the popular acceptance of the political system and mobilize[s] the public to act in ways that support the system’. For democratisation to succeed, ‘elites must encourage identification with the system by giving citizens a stake in the changes – by remobilizing them to be active rather than passive supporters of the new system’. In my view, by contrast, representative democracy is better perceived as a political system that is generally well suited to the interests of the capitalist class, helping to legitimise a framework in which the lower orders are ‘atomised’ and economic power-holders shielded from direct political accountability. The political passivity of the masses is, pace Yoder, a natural product of such a system. Yoder, 1999, pp. 207, 20. Counting only those who have been mentioned in these pages, the still-growing list includes: pastor Christian Führer, Sebastian Pflugbeil, Edelbert Richter, Reinhard Schult, Wolfgang Templin, pastor Hans-Jochen Tschiche, Bernd Gehrke, Thomas Klein, Irena Kukutz, Wolfgang Rüddenklau, Hans-Jochen Vogel and Klaus Wolfram. Including IFM, DN, SDP, DA, the Green Party, United Left, Bündnis ’90, Grüne Liga, Initiative for Independent Trade Unions, Offene Arbeit, Environmental Library, Wolfspelz, Telegraph, Arche Nova, Arbeitsgruppe Menschenrechte Leipzig, AK Gerechtigkeit Leipzig and Friedenskreis Friedrichsfelde. Italics added. In addition to their size and name recognition, the selection of Siemens and Daimler reflects their role as pioneers of a general drive by German-based businesses in the 2000s to freeze wages and increase working hours.


Official documents Official documents cited are, for the most part, published in collections listed under ‘references’ below. Of materials from the 1980s Basisgruppen and from the Bürgerbewegung, a large part is from my own collection. In addition, documents were sourced from the following archives: Stiftung/Archiv der Parteien und Massenorganisationen der DDR im Bundesarchiv (SAPMO), Berlin; FDGB Archiv (formerly on Berlin’s Unter den Linden, now housed in the BASAPMO Archiv); Robert Havemann Archiv; 15 Januar Archiv; and the Umweltbibliothek, Berlin.

Interviews Uwe Bastian. Leading member of Initiative for Independent Trade Unions. Michael Brie. SED reformist, and member of the SED-PDS leadership for a brief period in early 1990. Gabi Engelhardt. UL activist, Chemnitz. Steffen ‘Gullimoy’ Geiß ler. Opposition activist, Chemnitz. Martin Gutzeit. Founder member of the SDP. Hilke. Christian, socialist and opposition activist, Berlin. Ramona Hübner. Hotel worker, Chemnitz. Mario Kessler. SED dissident and academic, Leipzig. Jens König. Apprentice sailor, Rostock. Bert Konopatsky. Student, and supporter of the Umweltbibliothek, Berlin. Steff Konopatsky. Member (later, employee) of the ‘Citizens’ Committee’ for the dissolution of the Stasi. Helmut Meier. Director of the Academy of the Social Sciences, Berlin. Antje Neubauer. Apprentice and college student, Berlin. Ollie. Apprentice, Dresden. Marianne Pienitz. Psychotherapist, Leipzig. Ulrike and Gerd Poppe. Leading members of Democracy Now and IFM respectively. Rolf Richter. Deputy director of the Academy of the Social Sciences, Berlin. Uwe Rottluf. Printer and New Forum activist. Hans-Jochen Vogel. Priest and opposition activist, Chemnitz. Andrea Vogt. Secretary, Berlin.

Bibliography 225 Klaus Wolfram. Leading member of New Forum, Berlin. Interviews were conducted in August–December 1989, and in October 1994.

Media sources Berliner Zeitung, Neues Deutschland, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Der Spiegel, die tageszeitung, Junge Welt, Die Zeit, Tribüne, Die Andere, Grenzfall, Deutschland Report, Friedrichsfelder Feuermelder, Telegraph, Kriegsgegner-Internationale, Osteuropa Info, Frankfurter Rundschau, Märkische Volksstimme, Die Welt, Der Morgen, Sozialismus von unten. The Economist, the Financial Times, the Guardian.

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Anderson, S. 96 Anti-fascist committees 41–5, 55 Anti-fascist movement 126, 213 Anti-Fascist Workers Group of Central Germany 40 Atomisation 61, 64, 203 Avant-garde art 92–5 Axen, H. 35 Bahr, E. 35 Bahro, R. 115, 118, 119 Barker, C. 112 Bastian, U. 178 Bausoldaten 98, 101, 103, 130 Beck, U. 110, 118 Berghofer, W. 155 Berlin Appeal 101 Berlin Wall 71, 87, 120, 121, 161, Biermann, W. 92, 115, 205 ‘Bloc parties’ 14, 36, 166 Bloch, E. 91, 115 Böhme, H.-J. 142 Böhme, I. 217 Bohemians 93–7, 208 Bohley, B. 102, 116, 131, 149, 156–7, 164, 167 Brecht, B. 115, 174 Brun, A. 22 Christian Democratic Union 166–7, 190 Church From Below 125–6, 134, 193 Civic privatism 67 Civil society 175 Clientelism 63–5, 86 Collectivisation of agriculture 17, 18, 71, 103 Communist ideology 59–60, 62, 183, 217–218 Counterculture 94–6

Dahrendorf, R. 71 Debray, R. 146 Democracy Now 128, 148–150, 157, 163–4, 171, 223 Democratic Awakening 148–149, 158, 170, 223 Deutscher, I. 12 Dialogue 148, 156, 162–3, 165, 184, 212 Dominant ideology thesis 59–60 Durkheim, E. 157, 217, 218 Educational dictatorship 91 Emigration and emigration movement 5, 11, 17, 40, 67–8, 71, 84, 86, 88–9, 106, 121, 128, 129, 132, 133, 138, 140–148, 151–3, 165–6, 182, 187, 214 Enterprise councils 41–9, 54–5, 62, 74, 81, 177–8, 186, 190–1 Environment movement 3, 102–103, 115, 124, 127, 133, 165, 209 Environmental Libraries 125, 130, 133, 223 Eppelmann, R. 100, 101, 158 Eurocommunism 115, 118 Factory battalions 99, 152, 164, 178 FDGB 9, 17, 23, 26, 34, 36, 47–9, 55, 62, 64–5, 70, 72–3, 78, 80, 99, 123, 131, 146, 152, 176–7, 179, 181–2, 191, 194, 196, 199, 203–204 Fischbeck, H-J. 148 Fischer, W. 116, 131 Friedrich, W. 85, 90, 122 Fuchs, J. 90, 172 Führer, C. 132, 223 Fuller, L. 169–173, 175, 178 Gegenstimmen 127, 214–5 Gehrke, B. 176, 182, 184, 186, 191, 223

Index 245 Gensichen, P. 102–103 Gerlach, M. 155 Ghettoisation of opposition 104, 115–7, 133, 149, 150, 157, 167 Gorbachev, M. 35, 122, 123, 133, 137, 156 Gramsci, A. 173 Grotewohl, O. 19, 20, 28, 56, 105 Grothaus, W. 54 Habermas, J. 110, 118, 119 Hager, K. 35, 121, 124, 156 Harich, W. 83 Havel, V. 109 Havemann, R. 20, 74, 78, 101, 115 Helsinki process 86–7, 111, 115, 120, 127, 138 Henrich, R. 104, 106, 119, 174 Heym, S. 1, 74, 115, 138, 140 Hidden transcripts 28, 34, 67 Hippe, O. 202 Hirsch, R. 131 Hoffmann, W. 22 Honecker, E. 33, 35, 72, 82, 121, 137, 142, 152, 156, 160–3, 188 Horn, G. 141 Infrapolitics 204 Initiative for Independent Trade Unions 127, 223 Initiative for Peace and Human Rights 88, 116–7, 127–131, 134, 148–149, 214–5 Intershops 83, 85–6, 153 Jahn, R. 74, 101, 102, 149 Joppke, C. 3, 4, 107–109, 114 Kagarlitsky, B. 169, 175 Kellner, W. 52 Kirche von unten (see Church From Below) Klemperer, V. 1 Klier, F. 84, 102, 106, 124, 128, 131, 174 Knabe, H. 111, 112, 114 Kohl, H. 165, 167 Kolbe, U. 97 Konrad, G. 169 Krawczyk, S. 106, 124, 131 Krenz, E. 122, 160–1, 216 Labour indiscipline 68, 182 Labour turnover 67, 182 Lässig, J. 139, 186 Latt, M. 52

Lenin 51 Lukacs, G. 61 Maiziere, L. 126, 166 Maron, M. 165 Marx, K. 61 Matzke, C. 146 Meckel, M. 117 Mehlhorn, L. 157, 164, 166 Merker, P. 15 Michels, R. 200 Michnik, A. 117 Mielke, E. 121, 137, 142, 151, 152, 156 Militarisation 99 Mittag, G. 121, 142, 143, 160, 216 Mittig, R. 122 Modernism 92 Modrow, H. 95, 121, 153, 162, 166, 192 Mosler, V. 182 Neo-Nazism 126 Neubert, E. 96, 109, 118, 165 Neumann, H. 53 New Course (1953) 10, 18, 19, 31, 32, 187 New Forum 5, 119, 127, 128, 133, 148–149, 156, 158–9, 162, 164–5, 170–1, 178–180, 184–6, 191, 193 New social movements 3, 109–114, 211 New social movement theory 109–114, 118, 119, 168 ‘Niche society’ 67, 102, 116, 119, 125 Othma, P. 55 Peace movement 3, 98, 113, 115, 125, 127, 210 Peace Prayers 130–133, 138–9, 151, 179 Personal peace treaties 100 Petitions (Eingaben) 65, 69, 73, 77, 102, 123, 176 Pflugbeil, S. 133, 175, 192 Pienitz, M. 179 Poland 74–7, 150, 190 Political opportunity structure 10, 18 Poppe, G. 149 Poppe, U. 102, 149, 150 Protest cycles 113 Protestant Church 3, 16, 100–107, 116, 125–7, 130, 134, 140, 150, 171, 189, 209, 210, 215 Punk 93–5, 126 Purges 15, 44, 50



Rakovski, M. 169 Reckstatt, O. 52 Reich, J. 124, 146, 149, 157, 160, 164, 168, 175 Richter, E. 118–9, 211, 223 Risk society 110 Rock music 3, 92 Roesler, J. 182 Rottluf, U. 172, 178 Round tables 162–4, 166, 186 Rüddenklau, W. 117, 223 Schabowski, G. 142, 161 Schlothauer, H. 53 Schmidt, W. 183, 191 Schorlemmer, F. 105, 118 Schult, R. 131, 223 Schwanitz, W. 162 Selbmann, F. 20, 21 Simon, G. 73 Sindermann, H. 143 Skinheads 95 Social Democratic Party (GDR) 117, 148–149, 166, 170, 178, 190–1, 223 Social Democratic Party (pre-1949; FRG) 23, 35, 39–41, 43, 45–7, 49–50, 52–4, 166–7, 190, 200–202 Social mobility 62–3, 83–4 Socialist competition 48, 64, 78 Socialist realism 91 Solidarische Kirche 125, 134 Solidarnosc 74, 111, 117, 120, 150 Sowada, H. 53 Stalin 16 Stalinisation 14, 15, 47, 53, 201 State capitalism 14 Strak, W. 54 Strike committees 23, 28–31, 39, 54, 75, 189, 198, 200–201 Subcultures 92–6

Symbolic liberation 27 System integration 60 Szelényi, I. 169 Tarrow, S. 113 Teltschik, H. 166 Templin, W. 130, 223 Ten Socialist Commandments 62, 91, 203 Thälmann, E. 51 Theatricality of power 203 Thierse, W. 192 Third Way 107–108, 115 Tilly, C. 113 Tisch, H. 143, 176, 179, 216 Traverso, E. 93–4 Trotsky, L. 37 Tschiche, H.-J. 162 Ulbricht, W. 20, 28, 31, 33, 35, 36, 43, 44, 51, 53–4, 56, 62, 70, 72, 105, 120, 188 United Left 127, 148–149, 182 Veterans (labour movement) 44, 51–4, 190, 201 Vogel, H.-J. 105, 210, 216, 223 Wagner, H. 118, 132 Walesa, L. 76 Weiβ, K. 175 Wolf, M. 121 Wolfram, K. 149, 191, 214, 223 Wolle, S. 130 Wollenberger, V. 125, 130 Women for Peace 102 Wonneberger, C. 105, 130, 132 Zaisser, W. 14, 31 Zivilisationskritik 97, 107–110 Zwahr, H. 182, 185

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