Merkel: gaffe re. East Germany?

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Jacob Richter
Merkel: gaffe re. East Germany?

http://www.thelocal.de/politics/20090519-19387.html

"The GDR was built on injustice. It could never have become a constitutional state," Merkel said on Tuesday in an interview for the ARD TV show Menschen bei Maischberger. "My nostalgia for socialism is non-existent," she added, before saying that former GDR leader Erich Honecker had been "committed to the dictatorship of the working class."

Was that a bit of a slip-up on the German chancellor's part?

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

 

If you're implying that Merkel's a closet Stalinist because she accidentally lapsed into Marxsprache, it's possible, but a bit ot a stretch

 

If you're talking about what she thought Honecker was about, well, maybe, in the sense that, if Honecker was committed to anything, it was just plain dictatorship.  Even with Operation Gladio, there was never a real justification for the paranoid, rigid police-state structure of Warsaw Pact "socialism". 

There's no real evidence that Honecker cared about anything other than keeping "the party" in power.  In the end, the fixation with "preserving the leading role" did more to destablize the Pact than any amount of internal democracy and free speech could have.  A socialist Eastern Europe with open political discussion, actual workers' control of factories and open borders for its residents would never have ended up with a dramatic collapse like the revolt of '89.

Fidel

Well they got him in the end, Honecker. The hounds of hell chased him to the four corners of the earth and didnt let up, even after they discovered he had cancer. Meanwhile some of the most brutal rightwing military dictators of Latin America and beyond lived out the rest of their lives in peace and comfort after the people finally got rid of them. 

And the OSS/CIA and MI5 essentially reconstructed Himmler's SS to spy on our former WW II allies, the Soviets. Imagine their surprise.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

1)By now, Fidel, you should know me well enough to know that my comments on people like Honecker do NOT mean I give the fascists in Latin America and elsewhere a pass.  Please don't ever again imply otherwise.   It is possible to oppose the Central American death squads and the fascists like Pinochet and Batista on the one hand and also condemn the people who built the Wall and sent the tanks into Budapest and Prague as well.  Both were equally wrong. 

2)Yes, the OSS/CIA and M15 DID make deals with the devil.  This didn't justify everything that happened in the Warsaw Pact.  And it would have been far easier to mobilize opposition to things like Gladio if those regimes hadn't been acting as they did.  I've said this before, but the great mistake Stalin, Kruschev and Brezhnev made was to make the DDR, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary into prisons with red flags.  The USSR would have been much more secure, and the CP's in Western Europe much more electorally competitive, if the states in Eastern Europe, the examples of "actually existing socialism" that Western Europeans were going to have the greatest exposure to, had been made as open and enticing as possible, rather than as bleak and intimidating as they were.   These were states that treated poets, rock singers, feminists, independent leftists and LGBT people as if they were ALL agents of imperialism.

Gladio did justify strong militaries for those states, but it didn't justify treating the entire population of the "Eastern democracies" as potential enemies of the state.  Hope always works better than fear when you're trying to build support for the system you defend.

Simply repeating the "The West was lousy too" argument no longer serves any purpose when discussing this issue.  Yes, the West was lousy, but that didn't mean the East had no choice but to be like it was.

KenS

Ken Burch wrote:
If you're implying that Merkel's a closet Stalinist because she accidentally lapsed into Marxsprache, it's possible, but a bit ot a stretch 

I thought I'd translate what Ken presumably meant, since it may not be clear to a lot of folks. 

Jacob thought that maybe Merkel slipped up in saying that former GDR leader Erich Honecker had been "committed to the dictatorship of the working class."

What many would not know is that "dictatorship of the working class" is a good thing to Jacob and some other folks. Think of it as part of the way to the promised land.

But like the other Ken, I'm puzzled that Jacob would think that because she would momentarily slip into the lingo used in the GDR, even might mean she carries a secret torch for revolutionary socialism.

Jacob Richter

Not at all, but if she were a good neoliberal propagandist, she wouldn't have used that Marxist equivalent of "rule by the people, of the people, and for the people."  She would have instead said "dictatorship of the Communist Party" or something along those lines.

As a little trivia: the East German authorities never considered themselves to have reached economic socialism, at least on the Soviet level (achieved, according to Stalin and co., in the mid 1930s).  They declared themselves to be a "democratic republic" precisely because of the existence of the satellite parties assigned for other classes, including a still-existent GDR bourgeoisie (which didn't exist in the Soviet Union after the industrialization drive).

genstrike

No, I don't think it was a slip-up or anything.  English and Marxese are two languages which share a lot of words.  So it's no surprise that people on the right who don't speak or read Marxist jargon with any regularity will once in a while blunder onto a phrase that may mean one thing in regular English but also has some other meaning in Marxese.

For example, if you google the word "ultraleftist" (which I used to think was a compliment Wink), one of the hits on the first page is something about "Obama's ultraleftist backers", which doesn't make sense according to the Marx jargon definition of the word "ultraleftist", but would not seem out of place to a run of the mill conservative.

KenS

So I guess she must carry that secret torch for the good old days.

And isn't that a charming bedtime story about the GDR. Who'd a thunk it.

Silly me. I always thought those trappings were a vain attempt to be warm and fuzzy.

Did they have a boot camp for the select bourgeoisie in the GDR?

In the late 1960s, at the peak of the draft in the US.... after the Army boot camp was done they would line everyone up at one of the camps and count off guys. Every 20th went into the Military Police.

Was there some kind of equivalent at university in the GDR? 

"Eighteen, nineteen, twenty. You- bourgoisie. Report for your ration of exploited labour."

Fidel

Ken Burch wrote:

Simply repeating the "The West was lousy too" argument no longer serves any purpose when discussing this issue.  Yes, the West was lousy, but that didn't mean the East had no choice but to be like it was.

30M-35M dead Russians after WW II. That was their 9/11, the ultimate in excuses for declaring a beefed up national security state. And I dont think western leaders argued the point in meetings at Yalta or Potsdam. The Soviets knew the iron curtain wasnt anything close to democratic, it's just the way it was. There would be no more western incursions into Russia to create living space "for the sake of ordinary Germans", German bankers or industrialists, or even upstart British and US oil companies. I really do believe Stalinists would have pursued socialism in one country had it not been for western aggression against the revolution part two.  

 

And we should remember that it was Ronald Reagan who promised the Soviets no more NATO efforts to expand into Eastern Europe, Balkans and Caucasus, if German reunification took place. Since then Russian generals were said to be terrified by the swiftness with which the US military went marauding into Iraq after shock and awe over Baghdad while cancelling US commitment to an ABM treaty. Putin stops the bribing of members of the Duma in 2003 interpreted by the west as "backsliding" on democracy. NATO in Afghanistan. US threatens Iran.  Obama and Pakistan. NATO leaders prop up a stooge in Georgia and supply him with training and state of the art weaponry. ABM missile shield in Poland and Czech R., supposedly to defend against non-existent Iranian nuclear missiles. It just never ends, Ken.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Anywhooo. Might be a suprise to North Americans but European discourse has not been entirely sanitized of language referring to class. There is also more familiarity with the theory of marxist analysis, so that kind of talk is pretty run-of-the-mill.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

True.