The German Democratic Republic had few raw materials

by Michael smith (Veshengro)

The German Democratic Republic had few raw materials and therefore they had to base their production of goods had to be based on longevity and as can be seen was no mistake as still to this very day many products made in that country some forty or fifty years ago work as good as the day they were made.


The photo here shows a raw food processor for the RG 28 hand food mixer made by VEB Elektrogerätewerk Suhl which still works after well over thirty years since it was made.

This product, like others made in the GDR, can be opened and easily be repaired. Something that today, unfortunately, simply is no longer possible in most cases, which is stupidity in the extreme.

We too now, despite of what we are led to believe, are facing a raw material shortage, such as in the case of bauxite, the ore from which aluminium is produced, but also others and, for the sake of the Planet too, we must therefor change the way industry (and we in general) work. Products must be made – once again – with longevity and repairability by design. And we must get away from needing to replace things every six month to a few years simple because they have become “obsolete”.

Non-renewable raw materials are under pressure and thus, aside from needing to look at the use of secondary raw materials, we must turn (back) to renewable materials for the production of our goods, such as wood, where appropriate.

Wood used to be used for many application where we, today, find aluminium or, more often, plastics, and that included cases for radio and television sets, and there is no reason why this should not be the case again.

And, there are also plastics that are not oil-based and while they are not the greatest thing either as to environmental friendliness if and when the products are made in such a way that they can be repaired and kept alive for as long as at all possible then using such materials for casings and such like may be excusable.

Facing a serious shortage of non-renewable raw materials of all kinds leading us to a situation, on a worldwide level, as the German Democratic Republic faced from almost day one, and we thus need to take a look how they overcame the problems.

It is true that it did lead to shortages, compared to what was available in capitalist countries where raw materials came could be had by the boat load from anywhere in the world. And this, in turn, as products were thus also expensive, compared to the equivalent ones in the West, led products having to be made in such a way that they would last and could be repaired and thus kept alive almost indefinitely.

And, while it is true that the German Democratic Republic certainly was not a model of green this was a rather sustainable way of working and we must get our industries to get back to this.

In addition to that an entire sector of the economy in East Germany, as the German Democratic Republic was often referred to in the West, was geared to repairing things that stopped working or that got damaged and that economic sector was a thriving one. Not because things got broken and damaged but because people wanted to keep things alive; had to, in fact, and that included everything from bedlinen to radios and television sets and everything in between.

There is maybe, just maybe, a lesson in this we all can learn from.

© 2014