GDR Dissent - The Evergreen State College

Dissent in East Germany
(German Democratic Republic, GDR)
Dr. Zoltán Grossman
The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington
Options in East Germany
East Berlin Uprising crushed
by Soviet tanks, 1953
Berlin Wall and Wall with Federal
Republic of Germany (FRG)
blocks emigration, 1961
Stasi secret
Communist leader
Erich Honecker
Dissent from Left
• Birthplace of Marxism
• Industrial working class
• Large CP before WWII
• Nationalism tainted
• Powerful critique that Party
betrayed socialism
Dissent from Left
• Robert Havemann (1910-82)
– Ex-Resistance leader accused
SED of betraying socialism
• Wolf Biermann (1936-)
– Singer stripped of citizenship,
• Rudolf Bahro (1935-97)
– The Alternative in Eastern
Europe (Manuscript smuggled
to West, 1977)
Dissent from Left
• Christa Wolf (1929-2011)
– Most famous East German writer,
best known for Cassandra.
– Informed for Stasi (3 years),
which rejected her as “reticient.”
– Stasi spied on her for 30 years; she
supported Biermann, other activists
– Refused to leave GDR, participated
in 1989 revolution but opposed
1990 reunification.
– Revealed her own Stasi files.
Opposition to Nuclear Missiles
• Western movement vs. US
medium-range missiles in
West Germany, UK;
GDR/USSR oppose US
• Dialogue with East German
activists who opposed US &
Soviet missiles
• “Swords to Ploughshares”
church-based independent
Aug. 1989
“Tourists” cross
border to Austria
Monday Walks
• Begins at Protestant services in Leipzig, Sept. 4
– Led by leftist, Green youth activists
– Crowds grow from 120,000 to 320,000
Fears of Crackdown
• GDR leader Honecker
admired China’s
crushing of Tienanmen
Square protests
• Stasi shoot-to-kill order,
tries to provoke riots
• Moscow opposed
Gorbachev ends Brezhnev Doctrine
• No more threat of Soviet intervention
– Czechoslovakia, 1968
• Warsaw Pact satellite states more
hardline than Mother Ship USSR
“Gorbachev help us!”
Peaceful Revolution
500,000 in East Berlin by Nov. 4
Berlin Wall, • Minister on TV ends
travel restrictions
Nov. 9
• Berlin Wall falls overnight
after 28 years
• East Berliners visit West
Drive to Reunification
• Exposed to Western consumerism
• Dream of One Nation
• Rise of Conservatives
• Helmut Kohl’s CDU
wins GDR election,
• FRG (West) annexes
GDR (East), Oct.
• Die Wende
Effects on Left
• State socialism discredited among
masses in 1990s
– Even “Socialism with a Human Face”
• “Third Way” (social democratic or
Green) alternative not followed
• Leftists did not predict rise of ethnic
nationalism, religious identity
• “Dissidents” won in 1989, lost in 1990
Effects on Right
• Gorbachev not just Communist trick;
reform was possible
• Totalitarian regime could be abolished
from within, like authoritarian regime
(countered Kirkpatrick Theory)
• Conservatives did not predict end of Cold
War—how to justify military spending?
• Conservatives won in 1990, but now….?
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