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Stasi State or Socialist Paradise?: The German Democratic Republic and What Became of It

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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 ca 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 their booklet first published in 2009. The authors have added more detail on how the GDR came into being as a separate state, and 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.


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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 ca 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 their booklet first published in 2009. The authors have added more detail on how the GDR came into being as a separate state, and 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.

30 review for Stasi State or Socialist Paradise?: The German Democratic Republic and What Became of It

  1. 5 out of 5

    Carlos Martinez

    A very readable and pleasingly balanced description of life in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) that manages to break free of Cold War propaganda and provide meaningful insight. Definitely worth a read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joe G

    Brilliant introduction to the GDR, clear, well structured and balanced. Hard to fault 👏

  3. 5 out of 5

    Robert Maisey

    I loved this book. Written with frankness and genuine passion by a citizen of the former GDR, it tells the unvarnished truth about a nation of people who tried and ultimately failed to build a sort of paradise in the ruins of fascism. Essential lesson in materialism that will broaden the perspective of both liberals and bedroom revolutionaries alike, whether they view of the GDR as a dystopia (it wasn't) or "not real socialism" (it was). Especially vital is the light it shines on the economic an I loved this book. Written with frankness and genuine passion by a citizen of the former GDR, it tells the unvarnished truth about a nation of people who tried and ultimately failed to build a sort of paradise in the ruins of fascism. Essential lesson in materialism that will broaden the perspective of both liberals and bedroom revolutionaries alike, whether they view of the GDR as a dystopia (it wasn't) or "not real socialism" (it was). Especially vital is the light it shines on the economic and social crimes committed by West Germany during reunification in its haste to assimilate the territory and wipe the GDR's achievements out of history.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kriegslok

    Most books written in English about the DDR start from the premise that the country was at least deeply flawed, its decline was inevitable and there was little to cry about when it disappeared. In their book provocatively titled 'Stasi State or Socialist Paradise?' La Motte and Green attempt to go beyond the hype and propaganda which accompanied what was effectively the anschluss of the DDR by the BRD while the DDR was at its lowest. The authors accept that the DDR was hamstrung by an intransige Most books written in English about the DDR start from the premise that the country was at least deeply flawed, its decline was inevitable and there was little to cry about when it disappeared. In their book provocatively titled 'Stasi State or Socialist Paradise?' La Motte and Green attempt to go beyond the hype and propaganda which accompanied what was effectively the anschluss of the DDR by the BRD while the DDR was at its lowest. The authors accept that the DDR was hamstrung by an intransigent and moribund leadership under Honecker, and by a state which - very much to its detriment - did not, at a national level at least, listen to its people. However, rather than following the normal approach of looking for only the defects of the system the authors examine each area of society in turn and look at how it stood up to comparison elsewhere. They also look at how the value system of the DDR created a different and arguably better society in which work and leisure had a purpose and meaning beyond consumption and accumulation. Their point is often corroborated with research from the West and sources which had no reason or need to defend the 'Really Existing Socialism' of the East. The democratic deficit is studied but while at national level it is found seriously wanting at a community level an involvement by people in their community, legal issues and decision making reveals a different picture and one which suggests participation beyond rubber stamping. In some areas the DDR excelled, not least in gender rights where it was a world leader. An important thread through the book is the less than favourable conditions in which the DDR performed a miracle of resurrection. While the fledgling BRD was pumped with American money the DDR was still being stripped in reparations to the USSR. When the DDR began to rebuild it did so as a sliver of a former Germany, lacking in natural resources and industry, subject to embargoes and sabotage by the West as the Cold War grew hotter and with the Soviet Union holding the country on a tight leash. Despite this the DDR rebuilt industry and farming and in so doing began to raise the standard of living for its people by ploughing back into society what it generated. Not only did the DDR rebuild industry but in certain areas excelled despite the efforts of the West to deprive it of technology. It also enthusiastically supported politically, materially and through international solidarity other people in struggle especially the fight against apartheid and solidarity with the Vietnamese liberation struggle and the people of Chile against the Pinochet regime. The DDR leadership measured success in statistics and output rather then overall happiness, criticism was taken seriously and rather then attempting to process constructive criticism it was taken as an act of subversion and to be anti-state (just look at the list of experts and intellectuals who were silenced or exiled for questioning if the Central Committee might have got things wrong or could benefit from a rethink or looking at the bigger picture). Despite this until Gorbachev washed his hands of the DDR and then proceed to give the state away like chattel there was a level of disengaged basic satisfaction with a simmering resentment at what was not possible (DDR residents were not unaware of the rest of the world, they could receive BRD television and radio broadcasts) especially freedom to travel. What the DDR was not ready for however say the authors was the onslaught from the West as the homegrown movement for political renewal of the socialist system was steam rollered by a slick and corrupt invasion of Western propaganda and money-men. La Motte and Green argue that the seduction of travel and promise of an immediate equalisation in material wealth brought most of the population who had not considered that the offer might for most be phony and secondly require the sacrifice of all the things they did value about the DDR. The section of the book which dismantles and analyses the war machine which decapitated the DDR while it was down and the blatant cynicism with which it was done is laid bare. Once again the words and work of many of those involved, including those who became disgusted with what they had become involved in provide a very different picture to that of received opinion. It is hard to conclude that the so called 'unification' was anything but and invasion, annexation and dismembering of the country. The DDR was constitutionally the work and property of all DDR citizens, their work was stolen from them, smashed up and trampled before their eyes, their lives they were told had been a lie and meant nothing, Greater Germany was the BRD and it must be embraced, and three decades later the wounds remain unhealed. I am sure many will dismiss this book as partisan - which it is - but it is partisan with a determination to uncover uncomfortable truths and say what has remained unsaid providing a voice for the vanquished. As neo-liberalism rides roughshod across the globe it is able to do so having wiped out the system which despite all its imperfections held at bay the worst ravages of capitalism in the west by forcing a degree of humanitarianism to maintain the loyalty of a working class which might otherwise rise against its rulers. Well worth a read even if you disagree with the findings and conclusions.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Vivek Singh

    A must read for everyone who has been confused by the propaganda onslaught over DDR's history. A must read for everyone who has been confused by the propaganda onslaught over DDR's history.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ronan

    varadkar said sinn féin are gonna turn ireland into east germany ✌️✌️

  7. 5 out of 5

    Graeme Hanna

    I found this book to be very interesting. It comes from an admittedly biased perspective given that the authors are leftists and sympathetic to the aims of the GDR. That said, the book is not a whitewash. The failings of the state are underlined and scrutiny is applied in relation to the role of the Stasi. Said failings were obvious, particularly with hindsight but at the same time there were successes in terms of provisions for people around healthcare, education, equality, housing, preventing I found this book to be very interesting. It comes from an admittedly biased perspective given that the authors are leftists and sympathetic to the aims of the GDR. That said, the book is not a whitewash. The failings of the state are underlined and scrutiny is applied in relation to the role of the Stasi. Said failings were obvious, particularly with hindsight but at the same time there were successes in terms of provisions for people around healthcare, education, equality, housing, preventing homelessness and policies for the common good. History is most often written by the victors so it is important to learn from those who were there and how we can learn from the life and times. GDR/East Germany is a fascination of mine and one that I will continue to read about, to learn of the lived experiences of the citizens.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matteo Mugnaini

    Libro sicuramente interessante, che presenta una descrizione piuttosto completa delle strutture di aggregazione e i vantaggi concreti del sistema DDR, però pecca pesantemente nel dare un’analisi equilibrata (come uno si aspetterebbe dal titolo) mancando totalmente un’analisi critica approfondita del sistema e delle cause della sua caduta. Approccio molto giornalistico (lo dimostra anche la scarsità di fonti usate) più che storico cosa che lo rende meno completo e affidabile di quanto servirebbe Libro sicuramente interessante, che presenta una descrizione piuttosto completa delle strutture di aggregazione e i vantaggi concreti del sistema DDR, però pecca pesantemente nel dare un’analisi equilibrata (come uno si aspetterebbe dal titolo) mancando totalmente un’analisi critica approfondita del sistema e delle cause della sua caduta. Approccio molto giornalistico (lo dimostra anche la scarsità di fonti usate) più che storico cosa che lo rende meno completo e affidabile di quanto servirebbe per quanto ben scritto e scorrevole. Sicuramente interessante ma poco scientifico e obiettivo nella sua costruzione.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kelbaenor (Dan)

    An excellent short counter-history to the anticommunist propaganda that serves for the hegemonic narrative about the GDR in the West. The GDR certainly had plenty of flaws, it needed major changes, but more importantly than that it represented a genuine societal advance, allowing for the free development of its citizens. On workers' rights and housing alone, the lifestyle of the average East German worker looks pretty incredible in light of today's era of neofeudal precarity. An excellent short counter-history to the anticommunist propaganda that serves for the hegemonic narrative about the GDR in the West. The GDR certainly had plenty of flaws, it needed major changes, but more importantly than that it represented a genuine societal advance, allowing for the free development of its citizens. On workers' rights and housing alone, the lifestyle of the average East German worker looks pretty incredible in light of today's era of neofeudal precarity.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alfonso Parada

    fuck west germany

  11. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Tackney

    This is a brilliant book, it's unbiased and shows the progress, benefits and the disadvantages and failures of state socialism in the german democratic republic. This is a brilliant book, it's unbiased and shows the progress, benefits and the disadvantages and failures of state socialism in the german democratic republic.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Really enjoyed this book. For a long time ever since first visiting Berlin and discovering it's history I was sure there was more to the GDR than the Stasi. I don't see things in black and white and sensed there must have been some good points to the GDR along with the known bad points. This book unashamedly presents the more positive aspects of the GDR giving the reader an real insight into how this society was organised. I learnt a lot from this book and it has widened my understanding. It appe Really enjoyed this book. For a long time ever since first visiting Berlin and discovering it's history I was sure there was more to the GDR than the Stasi. I don't see things in black and white and sensed there must have been some good points to the GDR along with the known bad points. This book unashamedly presents the more positive aspects of the GDR giving the reader an real insight into how this society was organised. I learnt a lot from this book and it has widened my understanding. It appears that most readers have enjoyed this book too but I've been intrigued by the few very negative reviews. They seem to suggest the book is a biased whitewash and one review even suggests it was written by 'UK lefties.' This intrigues me because the book states right at the start it is an attempt to redress the balance of the overly negative coverage so is bound to focus more on the good than the bad. Secondly, the book is co-authored by a former citizen of the GDR so one assumes she knows what we she is talking about. The book is well written and although very factual is an easy swift read. If you have any interest in the GDR or socialism in general this is a great book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marco Bonifazi

  14. 5 out of 5

    Xiphos

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jae Kay

  16. 5 out of 5

    Hora

  17. 4 out of 5

    Craig Turp

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jack

  19. 5 out of 5

    Owen Blacker

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hans Mann

  21. 4 out of 5

    Efrén Ayón

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ethan Everhart

  23. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Cale

  24. 4 out of 5

    Caleb L. Carman

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brian Hamilton

  26. 5 out of 5

    Max

  27. 5 out of 5

    Beatriz Santos

  28. 4 out of 5

    Connor Cashell

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karol

  30. 5 out of 5

    Drew Smith

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