The leadership of the GDR celebrated itself and its socialism, even in the face
of its collapse. Here a military parade on the national holiday, October 7, 1988.
JLH has translated an analysis of the similarities and differences between the twilight of the GDR and the (sepulchral) twilight of Angela Merkel’s regime. The translator includes this introductory note:
How similar is Merkel’s rule to the end of Honecker’s? Notice especially the reference to Gauck.
The translated article from Preußische Allgemeine Zeitung:
Anatomy of a Gut Feeling
by Wolfgang Kaufmann
February 24, 2018
The German Democratic Republic (GDR) died in 1989. It had been mortally ill since 1988. The Germany of 2018 exhibits remarkably similar symptoms of crisis.
“Annus mirabilis” is the name given to years in which epochal events rattle the course of history. 1989 was such a remarkable year, when the Wall fell and the communist regimes in the GDR and eastern Europe collapsed. Signs were already visible in 1988. Many people sensed that the old system was sick unto death. Thirty years later, this gut feeling is experiencing a renaissance. But are 1988 and 2018 really comparable?
Remarkable parallels catch the eye. For example, dealing with critical media. While graybeards Honecker and Riege banned the Soviet monthly journal Sputnik in November 1988, SPD Minister of Justice Heiko Maas now forces through a censorship law that will cut off annoying Internet critics of the system. Because, you see, the “class enemy” lurks everywhere — but now is called “right populist.” And is, as always, a suitable scapegoat for all the home-made failings in the country. If the GDR had sympathizers of the “Bonn Imperialists” who were slowing the “triumphant march” of real socialism in the “first worker’s and peasant’s state on German soil,” there are presently critics of Europe-and-refugee policy who cause “bad feeling” in the country and endanger the “multiculti” togetherness.
And the enemy is not only within our borders, but also in the land of our erstwhile “big brother,” where he has even taken power. Which causes yet another déjà-vu. What the USA is now under Trump, that was once the USSR under Gorbachev. To say nothing of Hungary, which thirty years ago mutated into an irritant for the rulers in East Berlin because it tore one of the first holes in the Iron Curtain, and in the present day is criticized for its measures against illegal immigration.
Then, as now, people react to these things in two ways. Some withdraw into a private world and enjoy sports, music and such things that have nothing to do with politics. In 1988 there were, among other things, the Summer Olympics, the European soccer championship, concerts by touring Western stars such as Bruce Springsteen, Joe Cocker and Bryan Adams. In 2018, diversion from the sadness of everyday life is available from the Winter Olympics in South Korea, the soccer championship in Russia and various other events. There is everything from the RTL Jungle Camp [a trash TV format] to Helene Fischer’s tour and the excitement around whether the ill Schlager queen will be able to sing or not.
The other group suddenly turns political, and goes into the streets to protest against increasing impositions by the system. In 1988, it was the few dozen or hundred demonstrators who demanded “freedom for dissidents,” preservation of human rights or an end to censorship. In 2018, it is the followers of AfD and Pegida, but also citizens in cities like Cottbus or Kandel, who were never interested in politics, but are sick and tired of suffering from the spine-chilling practices of asylum-granting.
That, of course, triggers the security apparatus, which is no more hesitant to act under Merkel than under Honecker. To be sure, there is no ministry for state security as under Honecker, with 91,000 headquarters and 190,000 part-time spies watching over the “stability” of society, but the present-day phalanx of services allegedly intended to protect the “liberal, democratic constitutional order” in one way or another is also very impressive. There are actually more than forty various agencies at the federal and state level responsible for warding off “threats” from within or without. Adding the auxiliary agencies — except for undercover because no one knows how many there are — results in 7,500. That makes the Stasi look a little less monstrous.
But that does not mean that today’s guardians of the system could act any more effectively than the 1989 Mielke apparatus to prevent a revolution. The federal system of states makes common end effective action difficult. Institutional bureaucracy consistently promotes to leadership people distinguished above all by their incompetence.
Nonetheless, a mutinous, pan-German “Wende” will not necessarily take place this time, because there are serious differences in the situation. First, most Germans have it pretty good. Second, there is no longer much of a feeling of togetherness in society. A dog-eat-dog mentality and individualism dominate. Third — in contrast to 1989 — there is no “senior partner” that can provide orientation, and assist In helping the shattered state out of its rough patch after the “revolution.” Fourth, there is no moral authority which unites, encourages and simultaneously restrains the potential rebels, to prevent potential anarchy. In the GDR, the churches served this purpose.
At any rate, they have suffered extreme losses in respect and influence in the last three decades. Not to mention that the highest Christian office-holders now stand much more clearly on the side of the powerful. And fifth, the leftish establishment and the Antifa troops control violence-prone sympathizers who have fewer scruples about attacking “rightist dissidents” than Honecker’s National People’s Army and the combat groups of the worker class.
What was happening in the GDR in 1988:
January 17: 160 demonstrators in East Berlin demand freedom for dissidents — and end in prison.
February 13: ca. 100 people arrested in Dresden for calling for the preservation of human rights.
Spring/summer: Joachim Gauck [!], head of the convention of churches committee, stops a “church convention from the bottom up.” According to the Stasi protocols of May 9, 1988, the future Federal President declared: “Church convention… is for celebrating, not demonstrating.”
October 2: End of the Olympic Summer Games in Seoul. The GDR takes second place with 103 medals, behind the USSR and above the USA.
October 10: GDR security forces break up a protest march in East Berlin against the censoring of church newspapers.
November 21: The GDR leadership bans five Soviet films critical of Stalin.
December 2: Erich Honecker, at a meeting of the SED central committee, criticizes the reform policies in the USSR.
|1.||Bonn was the capital of West Germany.