Stasi State or Socialist Paradise?

The German Democratic Republic and What Became of It

by John Green and Bruni de la Motte
2015; Paperback; 250pp; ISBN 978-0-9558228-6-5

Foreword by Seumas Milne


In his foreword to the book, The Guardian's Seumas Milne says:

History is famously written by the victors. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the former communist states of central and eastern Europe. Their successor governments have systematically sought to demonise or even punish any attempt to recognise the social and economic achievements of east European-style socialism, alongside its constantly rehearsed failures and injustices. 

In the case of the former German Democratic Republic, the drive to brand it an illegitimate ‘state of injustice’ and deny the existence of any redeeming features has become a test of loyalty in today’s Federal Republic. The great merit of Bruni de la Motte and John Green’s book is that, far from whitewashing the east German experience, it offers a sober and balanced assessment - neither exaggerating its successes nor downplaying its failings.

Much has been written about how awful the German Democratic Republic supposedly was: a people imprisoned by a wall and subjugated by an omnipresent Stasi security apparatus. Such descriptions are based largely on prejudice, ignorance and wilful animosity. This book is an attempt to provide a more balanced evaluation and to examine GDR-style socialism in terms of what we can learn from it. The authors, while not ignoring the real deficiencies of GDR society, emphasise the many aspects that were positive, and demonstrate that alternative ways of organising society are possible.

This volume is an updated and much expanded edition of the authors' booklet first published in 2009. They have added more detail on how the GDR came into being as a separate state, about how society functioned and what values determined the every-day life of its citizens. 

There is also a whole new section on what happened in the aftermath of unification, particularly to the economy. While unification brought East Germans access to a more affluent society, freedom to travel throughout the world and the end to an over-centralised political system, it also brought with it unemployment, social breakdown and loss of hope, particularly in the once thriving rural areas.

1 copy, including P&P