Ostalgie – The longing for the GDR

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

One might think that this longing would never have come up and that it would be a malaise from which only the former elite would suffer but the fact is a different one.

ostalgie_sml Ostalgie is, in fact, widespread amongst people from the German Democratic Republic, aka East Germany, and it has even afflicted some from the West.

It is not something that the rulers of the “united” Germany – or “reunited”, as they would regard it as – are very happy about. Apparently a ban on it, on Ostalgie, has been considered, making it illegal. No, I am not kidding.

Various vendors on the Internet, and there are also real shops in existence, do make a good business from this form of nostalgia.

But, it is more, I would suggest, than a nostalgia per se. People genuinely, a great majority of former East Germans, long for what the First Worker and Peasant State on German Soil offered in way of community, and which, in capitalism, in the rat race in Germany, has gone to the wall many years ago.

While people may not have a desire to see the return of the Stasi, etc., they do, nevertheless, miss what the country was and represented despite, or maybe because, of now several decades under capitalism in a “united” Germany there are many who wish for a return of the First Worker and Peasant State on German Soil that was the German Democratic Republic. They have had, it would appear, their fill of western democracy and freedom where corporations and profit count more than people and their needs.

Sure the system, and most admit that, as it was administered in the GDR, was far from perfect, but people were more central in all things and not profits and dividends. The rat race, as in capitalism, did, basically, not exist.

In the “unified” Germany the people found that the streets were not, as they had believed and as it had been suggested to them, paved with gold and that all the adverts did not match the reality. In fact, the “New States”, what was the GDR, despite money supposedly being “pumped” into them, more or less became backwaters and unemployment – something they did not know in the GDR – became rampant as one socialist business after the other was shut down.

Fascism too has begun to rear its ugly head again in those areas, finding a breeding ground especially amongst the young people who were, and still are, out of work and who have difficulties seeing a future for themselves.

Unemployment is still running rampant in much of what was the GDR and despite all the promises made when reunification was forced through most of them have not, as yet, been delivered.

On top of that, and because of this, many communities have been broken apart and in other areas, such as in Berlin Prenzlauer Berg, an old working class quarter, yuppies have moved in because it was cool to develop places there.

The influx of the rich folk, the yuppies, have – one – made property prices and rents unaffordable for those that have lived there for generations and – two – also made living there more expensive in general.

Entire homogeneous neighborhoods are being destroyed and its original residents displaced. And, looking from the outside in, as it were, one can but wonder as to whether this is the purpose of this redevelopment: to break up the old communities and displace its residents so that a reemergence of a revolution for a new GDR may not happen or at least not easily.

Anything East German and especially of it politics have been made, more or less, illegal in the “united” Germany, such as the Free German Youth, the Young Pioneers, the SED, and roads that were named after fighters of the working class have been forcibly renamed, such as the Otto Grotewohl Street and the Ernst Thaelmann Place in Berlin, and the city of Karl-Marx-Stadt, which was given the name it had during the Nazi time, Chemniz, to name but a few.

However, fascist organizations can exist up to and even being involved in violence against foreigners, communists, Gypsies and those that believe in freedom. So much for Germany being a democratic open society. About as much as Vlad the Impaler having been a saint.

The German state and capitalism not only destroyed old communities and displaced its original residents, it also is cold and impersonal and most neighborhoods are not communities. No one takes an interest in his or her neighbor and many people fall by the way because of this. West Germans, in the main, as people in many other western countries, are only interested in more, more and still more. In the GDR things were different in that respect and in others.

You could, that it true, only buy a limited, in capitalist views, amount of goods and products and it did not matter whether you went to the little corner shop or the HO or Konsum; it was all the same price.

Thus there was less of a rat race, if it even existed, and of a keeping up with the Joneses, and most people, despite capitalism's propaganda to the contrary, were content with what they had.

It is for that and a couple of other reasons that Ostalgie exists and, so it would appear, it is getting stronger even. And this does not please the powers that be in the Reichstag one iota and, as I have said, the talk has been even of making Ostalgie, the longing for the GDR, illegal.

If the “free” democratic Germany is so much better than the First Worker and Peasant State on German Soil that was the German Democratic Republic, as those in the Reichstag believe, why then are they so frightened of a little Ostalgie?

© 2012