It is difficult for a person who grew up in eastern or rather central Germany not to be reminded of the fall of 1989 these days, there are just too many déjà vu experiences coming up. Once again, a regime is wavering that, in the name of progress and world peace, had settled on the land like a huge parasite and sucked dry its citizens, again a ‘broad social alliance’ of political bureaucrats, bloc party functionaries, socialist media and cultural workers, teachers, state-funded priests, professors, combat groups, cabaret artists, activists and informers fight against the opposition, once again the leadership spreads infantile slogans via the state-controlled media (the old “forward ever, backward never” is equivalent to Merkel’s “We can do it;” “The party is always right” is equivalent to “there’s no alternative to my policy”), while it allows the country to deteriorate. Once again insubordinate citizens take to the streets against ideologized bureaucrats, once again civil rights activists are persecuted by thugs and denounced by court officials, once again wrong opinions and dissenters are hunted down in companies, once again opposition defamation is the main task of the media. Once again Saxony is the heart of the resistance, and once again it is due to the freedom-loving Poles and Hungarians that an authoritarian transnational pact is broken, while this time the Hungarians close the borders against a dangerous flood instead of opening them to a liberating one. (One of the ironies of our day that is not yet sufficiently appreciated is that the woman who as a youth functionary served the wall builders of the GDR tells us today that borders cannot stop people.)
Gorbachev's role is taken over by Donald Trump, while civil rights activist Vera Lengsfeld is again played by Vera Lengsfeld; glasnost and perestroika now come from across the Atlantic, and the local nomenklatura watches with foaming mouths and gnashing teeth as the former big brother and ally abandons the pure doctrine, while Russia slips into the role of the USA as seen through Erich Honecker’s spectacles. The only opposition party, the AfD, is the current Neues Forum, the civil rights movement of 1989. While today’s full-time Stasi is much smaller and more cautious in its methods, the number of informers, denouncers and collaborators has increased disproportionately. Then, as now, the struggle was and is focused on the once again threatening ‘fascism,’ the only thing Germans are apparently able to reproduce; and then, as now, everyone who spoke out against the politics of the regime was given this stigma.
In one of the last government-faithful commentaries of the East German paper ‘Neues Deutschland’ in October 1989, some functionary wrote that, no matter what happened, Communists had always been right and their opponents had always been wrong. Today you can read this sentence daily in countless variations in papers from ‘taz’ to ‘Die Zeit.’ Manfred Buhr, a Marxist philosopher who was head of the East German Academy of Sciences in Berlin, is now called Jürgen Habermas and has even become more intelligent (although he can’t write as well). Erich’s loyal subject, whom Western agents allegedly drugged in October 1989, kidnapped and took to Austria, from where he wanted to return to his beloved GDR, corresponds in today’s media with charges against the head of the federal police because he allegedly had the extremist ‘cuddler’ Ali B. (who admitted killing 14-year old Susanna F.) kidnapped from Iraq. Not to mention the sentimental tear that ran down Margot Merkel’s coated cheek when Barack Brezhnev left office, not to mention either the hundreds of wallets that asylum seekers found and returned to their scatterbrained German owners, or the economic successes of the new citizens, which were barely inferior to that of the centrally planned socialist economy. Assisted writing and reading then as now, enforcement laws then without the internet as now, International Socialism on both sides of the time wall and the formerly real one.
What is still missing? The equivalent of a scene from 17 October 1989: “I move for the release of Comrade Honecker from all his offices. Angela, it’s over. You have to go.”
Translated from eigentümlich frei, where the original article was published on 15th June 2018.