by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
Some was bad but most was good, in the German Democratic Republic, what was known as East Germany or communist East Germany. That, at least, is what now a great majority of those that lived there say after having experience the “freedom” of the capitalist system.
While there was state oppression through Stalinism – it was not Communism nor real Socialism – many things were good to very good, as we can see today. Even West Germans who now learn how East Germany functioned are finding that there were things that were very good. Not that the government of the capitalist state would agree, obviously, for there was no consumer society as it is in the West in those days.
Everything had its fixed price – almost – and it did not matter as to whether you bought your soap, bread, or whatever, in the Komsum or the HO or whatever other shop.
Few West Germans, until the “fall of the Wall” realized that many of their goods that they bought in their stores were often made in the GDR (they rarely bothered to check the label) whether it was clothes, watches, or stationery.
Unfortunately environmental protection did not exist and much of the land was ravaged through mining and other kinds of exploitation. Not that it was much different in the West, I hasten to add.
People, however, were looked after in an unprecedented manner and there was real community even in towns and cities, not just in the villages, and it is that, and the fact that the consumer society did not exist, is what many of those that lived there before the takeover and occupation of East Germany by West Germany long after.
If we want to build a new an fairer society we could do worse than looking at how real communism was meant to function and despite that East Germany and the other Warsaw Pact countries, including the USSR, after the death of Lenin, were run Stalinist and then merge that with the best from the West.
The lack of the rat race for one is something that has much going for it. While it may be true that consumer goods were lacking, for lack of a better word, and those that did exist were expensive it must also be said that, as it would appear, those things that were made, in the main, were made to last and, very important, could be repaired.
Why else,do we think, that there are still so very many GDR products still working to this very day while the people in West Germany have replaced their stuff ten times over.
The planned economy was not one that was based and designed with a continuous growth in mind and even though often it did not work all that well it did work. The western model has been created so as to make some people rich on a continual basis and therefore obsolescence had to be, in the end, designed into the products.
When things keep going and going people are not going to all the time buy new and that would hit the profits of the capitalists. Hence a redesign of products to be no longer repairable. And thus the West became a throwaway society.
This model, however, is so very unsustainable that we now wonder what to do even though the blueprint already exists.
A new society and system is possible by merging the best of both worlds, that of the free market system and that of communism-socialism and a the best from another couple of ideas.
We need a new society where people and Planet matter and where we live again in the way we should be living, not stacked in hives called apartment blocks and such like, where, despite the fact that people live cheek by jowl they do not even know their neighbors and often also dare not even greet them when they encounter them on the stairs, in the elevator or the lobby.
Humans are not meant to live like that but living like that has made us fearful of even our next door neighbor, let alone the stranger in the street or the metro. But a stranger only remains a stranger until one talks to him or her. But I digressed.
While the block warden became something rather sinister in the times of the GDR as time went on and was, in a way, something that was taken from the Nazi past, a block committee on the other hand can bring life into a complex. And community gardens and other such activities, as we see now in certain parts of Berlin, even more so.
In the days of the old GDR, however, neighbors also helped each other and this is what has gone in the capitalist West (and is beginning to fall by the way also in what was the GDR) and this makes for an area that is void of community spirit and of life.
We cannot all go back to living on the land in small villages and in communes. For that there are simply too many people in our respective countries, let alone the world. But we can make our villages, towns and cities livable and alive again by creating community again though a variety of means and activities.
Community gardens and even woodlands where everyone partakes in the construction and management, thus greening our living environment, will go a long way towards creating a togetherness and community and even more so if the produce and products can be used for the benefit of all.
There is much derelict land in our towns and cities, and even in our villages, where such projects can be run and by involving everyone, though without conversion, including the often troublesome teenagers, a new society can be build that will benefit everyone.
Let's take some leaves that were good out of the book of the various systems and merge them to create a new way of doing things that will benefit all and not just the few.
We need a new system, not a new government. In fact, we need no government at all for government is but established by the few; and these few assume the consent of all the rest, without any such consent actually being given.