The past days – if not weeks – the german reunion appeared in the media realities like an undead. In Berlin they installed a light installation showing the old division inside the city. The Berlin wall as the notable figure of the division of the two German states.
It started in Poland
Often forgotten in the German stories, the 1980s revolts started in Poland. The independent and governing union Solidarność set the ground for the other uprisings in Central and Eastern Europe, including Easter Germany. It should be mentioned that it all began with Anna Walentynowicz, a person not well known outside Poland. Especially in the West, she stands in the shadow of Lech Wałęsa. With her firing, the uprising started. The spread of anti-communist ideas and followed creation of democratic movements ignited.
The restructuring of the inner circles in the Soviet Union based on the ideas of Mikhail Gorbachev to create a better socialism and be closer on the communist ideal had for sure a large impact. Setting the ground was needed as the Hungarian revolution 1956 or the Prague spring in 1968 showed. Having such a window of opportunity created an environment where the movements could grow to a level of needed influence to start large scale revolts. Windows such kind are useless if not used properly. Luckily it was there.
Forgetting these achievements can be called historical revisionism and should be criticised more often in the German debates and culture of remembrance.
Overcoming a inhuman and repressive regime
What ever the recondition and the politcal environments were, at the end a democratic people movement overcame a repressive and surveilling regime. It needed 41 years to achieve this. No secret service nor censorship or imprisonment could prevent this. There had been democratic elections in Eastern Europe resulting in a democratic parliament and government. For seven month this existed.
The missed chance: Assimilation instead of integration
Ego trunken politicians like Helmut Kohl pushed and still pushing away this own transformation and revolution. Focusing on the reunion process, which neglected these achievements with their own doings. There can be described mainly of being at the right position to the right time.
Always described as reunion, the process happened more as an assimilation. With this came a destruction and devalue of political culture and the peaceful revolution itself. Not just the uprisings and demonstrations in the late 80s. We should not forget the peoples revolt 1953 which was brutally beaten down by the regime.
Taken over by the West
After the reunion West German politicians and administrators were placed at the control centres. A own agency was created to reform the economic by privatisation in a shock strategy. The so called Trust agency (“Treuhandanstalt”) acted with a neoliberal agenda Margaret Thatcher would skyreachingly applaud to. Instead of a slow transformation taking in consideration a social dimension. This included also the few areas Eastern German products were competitive like chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) free fridges. After such systematic destruction a lot of money was thrown at the regions. Even conservative estimations are 1,3 trillion Euro. Going up to 2,0 trillion Euro.
Corruption played a large role and several people profited immensely from these “reforms” leading to damages and losses for the whole country. The democratic revolution got betrayed after all. I would formulate the assumption that this contributes a lot to the current political apathy and growing national socialist parties in the East.
Now, after 25 years the effects got widely neutralised and the area recovered from the transformations and reforms. Since 2008 the local politician Stanislaw Tillich became Minister-President of Saxony. After 18 years of Western German politicians like Kurt Biedenkopf and Georg Milbradt.
Better for Europe – Better for Eastern Germany?
As a result of the reunion a german nation reoccurred in Europe. A construct responsible for two world wars, the worlds largest genocide and deportation of an immense amount of people, especially in central and eastern Europe.
Today in 2014 again Germany is dominating the European continent – economically and politically. This go against everything which was achieved the past decades. As a common vision and way out of dominating nations creating tensions the European Union was founded. The European Union as a common European peace project. Unique in the world.
Merkel currently sacrifices this vision for a pure nationalist and neoliberal agenda. Austerity politics with supply models which the past years proved ineffective. The current economic numbers show that it damaged not just the european countries around Germany, but now slowly the country itself. Shrinking budgets and lawnmower-like cuts creating a impact of German exports. Where is the old vision of a European union as an economic area and example for standards and regulation? From my perspective, a two country solution would have been better for Europe and its power balance.
Looking at other European countries with a socialist past, Poland gives a remarkable example. Getting it’s independence around the same time as Eastern Germany, they have currently a growing economy and strong growing wealth since the 1990s. The difficult times at the beginning should not be forgotten. Still they managed to rebuild the country and create a stable democratic system. The polish self-confidence is very different in comparison to Eastern Germans. As describe before the achievements of a peaceful uprising and revolution got devalued and created feelings of inferiority. At the end it created a whole generation, if not more, of lost people ripped of their identities. Looking to other former countries of the Eastern block, it might have been better to stay with two German truly democratic countries. Eastern Germans would be in a more difficult situation at the beginning but could have been in the situation of recreating a country based on their achievements of their revolution.