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Life Arts    H4'ed 9/16/19

Grossman's A Socialist Defector: Back in the GDR - you don't know how lucky you are

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*Brecht's response in 1953 to the government call for better work: maybe the government should dissolve the people and elect another.

*When Angela Davis faced a life sentence in 1972, GDR schoolchildren sent truckloads of letters, astonishing the presiding judge.

In the GDR, there was no need for 'feminism', only socialism: free health, education, day car, long maternity leave, income benefits for more children" If the husband is a jerk, there's no-fault divorce, abortion. Renate was able to continue her studies because of the university weekly nursery for student mothers. After the Wende, Grossman recounts how a friendly grocery clerk was fired for just asking to change the holiday dates dictated to her to allow her to holiday with her young child and was fired. He later saw her selling cheese on street, now destitute, but 'free'.

The woman's magazine Fur Dich was taken over in 1990, its staff fired or forced to stop publishing intelligent articles in favour of fashion, cosmetics, capturing a husband, wrinkles, weight increase" Studies from the mid-80s reported that 80% of East German women always experienced orgasm during sex, compared to 63% in West Germany. 'Women in those socialist countries enjoy certain freedoms, both material and existential, that were and remain largely unavailable, or even unimaginable, to women in liberal democracies, writes Kristen Ghodsee .

There was no need for gaylib either. The courts did not use the existing law to prosecute gays and it was officially annulled in 1968. A fine gay film Coming Out premiered the day the Wall came down. Ossies had to wait till 1994 for their Wessie masters to legalize it.

As an economist, I'm jealous of Grossman! He describes living the logic of building socialism: health care, university, subsidized food, factory like a second home, intelligent use of barter, imported treasured treats from other socialist countries (vs exotic fare produced by third world slave labour in any season).

You might have to sharpen your razors at the worst of times, but you never go hungry. You never end up homeless. You have peace treaties with your neighbours. His journalist faculty was nicknamed 'Roter Kloster full of real socialists. (The medical students were less happy about socialized medicine, looking at their wessie fat cats, but, hey, that's the breaks, as Canadian doctors learned, largely thanks to socialized medicine in the socialist world.).

Profs were anti-fascists, some, legends of the resistance. Philosopher Ernst Bloch left in 1961, as did a few others, though they did not reject socialism. From 1953 on, there was more open political discussion. The was genuine pride and excitement in 'building socialism' when Gagarin and Tereshkova became the first man and woman in space. Socialism, even with less than perfect consumer goods, really was better than capitalism then. More democratic, more progressive, more human. Sadly, pressures from without and the inability to reform the political system undermined them,though both the GDR and the Soviet Union had economic reform programs in 1965 which would not have led to the unravelling of the system (as appeared to be happening in Czechoslovakia in 1968). Sadly, politics got in the way.

I was sorry to close Socialist Dissint. I'd had a back-to-the-future moment, I was lived in the GDR. We were building socialism! Really. And we surely had more democracy than the West's artificial electoral dance, complete with supporting real dictators keeping their peasants at work for slave wages, not to mention hundreds of coups to overthrow genuine democratic forces.

Democracy is in the doing. Workers had lots of say (where there were good managers) about working hours, conditions. Yes, they had to meet the plan, but they weren't filling some capitalist's pockets. They were producing for themselves and their partners in unexploitive trade, often using an intelligent barter means. It is fascinating to imagine being part of that. From scratch, with Gro├čer Bruder breathing down our necks. What a feeling of solidarity, of defying imperialism.

The experience of the socialist bloc is precious. But the FRG did everything to erase the GDR from history. The Kaiser's Palace was rubble in 1945 and the GDR built the Palace of the Republic, an open square with fountains and a fine concert hall in 1977. But Kohl couldn't abide a GDR Palace of the Republic at the other end of the Unter die Linden's Brandenburg Gates.

Let's let Rosa Luxembourg (they haven't destroyed her grave, a pilgrimage site for us lefties) have the last word: Either the triumph of imperialism and the destruction of all culture and, as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration, a vast cemetery; or the victory of socialism. ( Junius pamphlet 1915)


*Stephen became Victor in his new life, with a new birthday, to keep the FBI as much at bay as possible.

**Privatized into 5 small firms in 1991, now empty ruins. The classic example of asset stripping that was the basis of privatization.

***James Warburg told the senate foreign relations committee in 1952: the government is afraid to call Stalin's bluff for fear it's not bluff. I.e., the [US wanted Germany capitalist and part of its imperialism. Stalin wanted peace (and hopefully socialism).]

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Eric writes for Al-Ahram Weekly and PressTV. He specializes in Russian and Eurasian affairs. His "Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games", "From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization" and "Canada (more...)

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