We are the people

Tonight, 71 years ago. An article on aish.com, the inevitable Wiki entryand some images.

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13 thoughts on “We are the people

  1. Then I think we *should* remember together. Sometimes we are the light and shadow of life, neither represents the whole of reality without the other. So remember both dates in history, and hope that as our human tales continues to unfold to progress away from our darkest hours and further and further into the light.

    • Ah, but it’s not as easy. In these days of misinformation and whitewashing all the stupidity, cowardice, greed that was connected to these events (on the side of the, uh, silent revolutionaries) is kinda forgotten. A good place for different opinions are Heiner Müller’s extraordinary interviews and (unless I misremember), Grass’ novel “Far Afield”. There isn’t a big difference between the group think that led to one and some of the group think that led to the other event (although the group of silent revolutionaries is amazingly diverse, so I can only catch one, if important, strain of the movement(s)).

  2. So no matter what you aren’t going to see this as a positive step forward in the evolution of human civilization? I can appreciate the view point, but I think you are selling the human race short, and that’s coming from someone whose opinion of humanity is not all that high, but whose belief in the human potential continues to be strong.

    • No, it’s more complicated. I don’t think there’s any evolution involved, why should it?

      What’s really interesting about this is what Zizek noted in his commemorative essay: that the largest part of the protesters did not want to be annexed by West Germany, they did not want capitalism, they wanted socialism, but a REFORMED socialism. This is a constant theme ever since the 1960s: “we like the idea of the state but guys, you fucked it up. Make it right again.”

      The whole fighting for freedom rhetoric is severely misleading in this respect. And it’s Christians who were responsible for the change. Not only have they peddled untrue stories about being persecuted for years now, but many of them were actually wanting that what happened, and they, together with the West, later wrote the history that we teach kids today. But it’s not true. People, to a large extent didn’t want what happened. Evolution shmevolution. If you look at many of the speeches held at the time, the outcome, the New German state, after the West annexed the former GDR, that is a step back. And many, many people saw it that way.

  3. Do you think to continue under the old system of the GDR would have been better (granted we both agree a reformed socialism would have worked better than capitalism) if the choices were only Western Annexation or more of the same?

    Admittedly, my own experience in the former GDR was very brief, but so many people in the small town we visited said they were much happier now — not wealthier, not more free, but happier, which I thought was interesting. Of course, that’s a very small and unscientific sampling.

  4. Those were not the choices though. The annexation took place because West Germans were quick to grasp what was happening and used it. Without the pressure to accept annexation who knows what would have happened. I’#s not black and white. There were many directions that this could have taken and the Christians and the Kohl administration both made sure that just this one direction was taken.

    And in the village where my granny lives, every single one I ever talked to said they would like it back the way it was. And there’s like 25% in studies who say they even want the wall back. plus, there’s schools and media etc. We all know how advertising works. I’m not surprised that many people think this was the best of all outcomes. We spend lots and lots of energy convincing them of this fact.

  5. I don’t doubt for a moment that there was quite a sales job, both in Germany and abroad, especially here in the US, where there was a great need to declare “victory” in the cold war because, you know, we’re the US, that’s how we are. We are also told that the people who want the wall back are (to paraphrase the conventional wisdom) either old and resistant to any change or lazy, shiftless people who can’t compete for jobs in a capitalistic system. Do you think without the push of those with their own agenda to pursue there would have been any change in the GDR? Do you think there could have been reform within the system? I think of the example of China (or what we are told of China), where capitalism has been introduced, but there is still repression. Sorry for all the questions, but somehow this turned into a discussion and here we are. If you get bored with me, say so, but you didn’t see the hoopla here in the States, including a mini-version of the wall being symbolically destroyed right down the middle of one of our major thoroughfares. Clearly, this “victory” is more readily celebrated from some 8,000 miles away. Curious.

  6. Yes, the system was crumbling anyway, as it has in the past. reform almost happened, twice. but the German socialist administrations were even more dogmatic than the soviets and with a strong/strict soviet backing they crushed things. this time around it was different. the signals from russia were signaling openness. this was a pivotal moment that could have turned everything around. instead the GDR was annexed by the BRD, and Jelzin chose a similar path even without annexation.

  7. I hate to sound cynical, but it’s so easy to things “it was going to be different this time, if only…” Leopard, spots…you fill in the blanks. I wasn’t there, and I couldn’t say for certain, but I think you have to at least entertain the possibility that *this* was the only way things were going to change — that without the pressures asserted by people/groups with their own agenda, change would have again been thwarted and that crumbling system would have hung on for another generation. And I’m only speaking from the point of view of a country that loves to ponder “if only Kennedy hadn’t been shot, we’d have been out of Vietnam” or “if only Gore had been elected, we would have never gone into Iraq” — If only pigs had wings, I’d need a bigger umbrella, you know? We can only deal with what actually happened and go from their.

    Next question, 20 years down the road, is there a possibility of “getting it right” so to speak? Another reform, only this time no wall and no one gets shot?

    • Oh but you misunderstood me. The pressure was originally not exerted by those who won. The pressure and drive, together with the change in Soviet politics created just a momentum of change and it was at that point only, rather late in the process that West Germany seized control and made sure it turned out the way it did. There was a point where it was almost up for grabs, and that was the moment when it turned in the, so to say, wrong direction.

  8. I didn’t think the starting point was with the victors, as so often happens, the momentum can be created by a number of groups, factors, and circumstances, but the “big push” the thing that takes it from momentum to accomplish is usually the group with the most resources, the most clout, and the most organization. They see the point where they can step in and make the grab and if their isn’t an equal counter to them — they declare victory and write the history. If there was a group equal to them in resources, influence, and organizing strength, history would have been written differently, depending on what that group was. It’s easy to blame West Germany for flexing its power, but why wasn’t there a counterweight heavy enough in the East to repel them?

  9. because the movement was grass roots, it wasn’t organized, and suddenly the west had changed the interpretation of what “freedom” means and, literally overnight the placards saying “we are the people” started saying “we are one people”. there was an organization behind this change, but the big push came from below. under no circumstances would it have gone on the way it was. thing had already changed bigtime. it was not a push but a spin, a different interpretaion that handed it to the West. The east was confused by siviet politics. suddenly they pushed for transparency? the powers were in disarray and confused and the people took that opportunity. the same thing happened after stalin’s death and the soviet denouncement of stalin. at that time, there was a moment, too, and change WITHIN almost happened, but, and this is the thing, just ‘almost’. this time the vacuum was bigger and the big push happened from below and no soviets to push back, but then, all of a sudden, the capitalist spin changed the game from “the people” to “one people”.

  10. Sadly, that is the same story, writ large, that you see in lots of movements, small and large — that 11th hour take-over by stronger, more organized entities with their own agenda wresting control away from the grass-roots and and “spinning” into a new direction. Suddenly the movement looks a whole lot different and people wonder why. It makes me worry about our new American President. There was a movement, but then, seemingly suddenly and without warning, some familiar names from the Democratic party — names (Rahm Emmanuel, etc.) many of us progressive liberal-types had already backed away from or left the party over, were taking positions of power that the grass-roots had hoped would go to new names and faces. Grass-roots are fragile things, and sometimes naive, and often disorganized. But they never really go away, which is way there is still hope.

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