How effective is controlled opposition

The establishment of the political opposition in the GDR in the 1970s

Table of Contents

1. The political opposition and the SED's claim to omnipotence

2. The Honecker era and the political opposition
2.1. Protestantism and state dogmas
2.2. Artistic diversity in the SED's domain
2.3. The inconsistent unity party

3. The development of the church into an "opposition party"
3.1. The Political Potential of the Church - The Open Work
3.2. Peace and human rights movement - the basis of the churchopposition
3.3. The concentrated opposition

4. The 1970s - Basis for the Peaceful Revolution in 1989?

5. Bibliography

1. The political opposition and the SED's claim to omnipotence

Since its foundation, the history of the GDR, which can be understood as a counter-reaction of Soviet Stalisism against the constitution of the West German Republic, has been shaped by a constant dispute between the ruling communist party and the unacceptable political counter-currents. While in the 1950s it was primarily opponents of the socialist system, i.e. people who were characterized by the fundamental nature of their resistance, this changed over the years and a real extra-parliamentary opposition emerged. The activists of this political and socially critical opposition took a critical look at the political system of the SED and socialism in general and looked for ways that made it possible to translate the philosophical foundations of the socialist idea into reality. In doing so, they very quickly recognized the dilemma in which the GDR found itself - reality and theory were far apart. This enormous difference between the resistance in the 50s and the opposition in the 70s / 80s was mainly due to the fact that the political framework had changed significantly. In particular the international recognition, the "first successes in foreign policy"1, the building of the wall and the resulting ban on leaving the country and the partial elimination of Stalinist methods were decisive for the attitude of this new generation of political opposition. Ultimately, the young opposition activists grew up in the GDR as a result of the building of the Wall and by and large did not know the Federal Republic or Western Europe.2 Although anti-fascism and Marxism-Leninism were always propagated as state doctrine and the reality in the heads of the SED leaders looked accordingly, these ideas could never be implemented in the 40 years of the real GDR. And if today the PDS vehemently advocates that "Stalinism" alone has degenerated the originally positive traits of Marxism-Leninism, this is aimed solely at concealing the actual genesis of this inhumane teaching structure.3 For both the thinking of Marx and Lenin laid the foundations of the communist dictatorship and the communist form of totalitarianism. In the numerous historical literature that has arisen thanks to the opening of the GDR archives since 1990, one thing becomes clear again and again: Over the years, the SED, especially in the upper ranks, has increasingly lost its sense of reality and its catastrophic consequences . And those of the partisans who did their work on the grassroots and had to know the problems of the ailing GDR society through their daily work were condemned to silence or voluntarily remained silent for various reasons. The catastrophic truth or critical statements were kept secret or nipped in the bud by disciplinary and propaganda measures. "The party, the party that is always right" became a dogma for a large part of the GDR population. In addition, subordination and the subject mentality helped to lead a relatively carefree life, which was often associated with privileges. The SED alone claimed a universal one It saw itself as the vanguard of the working class, which was supposed to help social progress, i.e. socialism and later communism, to achieve a breakthrough. Marxism-Leninism played the role of a substitute religion (political religion) with irrefutable dogmas Reality constructed by this doctrine of salvation gave its followers constant certainty that they were on the right side, but inevitably led them into contradictions and conflicts with the actual social reality. This reality, the real existing socialism, was characterized by banality and hopelessness for many GDR citizens The SED is trying e to enforce the everyday life of their increasingly secularized society with their own rituals, which people gladly accepted in order to escape everyday life. In addition to party events and festivals, it was above all, and I can say this from my own experience, the allotment gardening, vacation in the "friendly" countries and, to a certain extent, club life.4 At the same time, close circle of friends were repeatedly treated very critically with the existing conditions, so that in some cases forms of covert and open resistance emerged.

On the other hand, with the advancing development of GDR society, there were more and more people who publicly freed themselves from the general "shackles" of SED tutelage and wanted and led a more individual life. They did not allow themselves to be abandoned by the communist dictatorship and their implausible slogans but rather sought publicity in order to be able to express their own thoughts and goals to the outside world, which inevitably led to a conflict between them and the SED state, including its security forces. These people, often young people and Christians of all denominations, finally joined together in groups of the so-called subculture, which formed under the roof of the church. This is where the nucleus of the later peace, civil rights and environmental movements emerged, which have been in constant, sometimes violent conflict since the early 1970s There were also many system-critical and r Realistic artists who did not want to subordinate themselves to the SED's understanding of art and culture and those SED members who recognized the grievances of society and who wanted to reform this society from within the party. The emergence and work of this opposition, the non-conformist citizens, and especially the church groups, will be discussed in more detail below. The 1970s, in which this movement emerged and in which the course for the emancipatory development of the extra-parliamentary political GDR opposition of the 1980s was set, will primarily be considered. Ultimately, the aim is to show the courage and strength of those who, despite the unrestrained repression on the part of the state, committed themselves to improving the political system of the GDR.5

2. The Honecker era and the political opposition

After Walter Ulbricht was replaced by Erich Honecker in May 1971 due to an intrigue by the SED Politburo and with the consent of the Soviet head of state Leonid Brezhnev, the GDR was finally integrated into the Soviet empire, the economic reforms and a socio-political offensive began. "Bread and Games" was intended to bind the population more closely to the SED and the GDR. At the same time, a period of limited and controlled loosening of art and cultural policy began, which aroused great hopes among the GDR's artists and cultural workers the Soviet-American policy of détente also in the internal German relationship to a "normalization". On the one hand, the basic treaty between the GDR and the Federal Republic was signed, whereby the GDR was officially recognized as a state by the Federal Republic and this also gave it the possibility of international recognition. In this context, the hope arose for a democratic development that was really oriented towards the needs of the people. Soon, however, even the last of the optimists had to recognize that the new policy was not a real break with Stalinist opportunism, but only perhaps the "most refined modification of the war communist type of policy" up to that point.6 In particular, the intensified anti-capitalism denied the natural plurality of human society and the advancing collectivization reduced individuals to functional properties (work and class). This internal demarcation, caused by the new socialist image of man, was followed by new strategies of demarcation towards Western influence, especially that of the Federal Republic, despite intensive policy of détente.7

2.1. Protestantism and the state dogmas

The power of the SED was maintained on the one hand through the massive control of social resources, on the other hand through the implementation of its universal truth and explanation monopoly. A modernization of these resources or their monopolies was out of the question, which, among other things, prevented the development of a differentiated industrial infrastructure suitable for the global market. Unofficial structures were attached to these official economic structures - the structures of redistribution and barter.

We find the same dual structure in the GDR public. In addition to the officially staged public, a separate discourse has developed, especially since the beginning of the 1970s, in which processes of communicative understanding, political decision-making as well as rudimentary forms of legitimation of rule or the questioning of it could be developed.8 Since these independent forms of communication questioned the party's omnipotence and therefore represented a political risk, the socialist bureaucracy reacted with an enormous increase in conspiratorial investigations.

In addition to the use of IMs, the so-called "main weapons in the fight against the enemy"9, the CDU and its influence on the Christian Peace Conference was exploited.10 In this process of critical confrontation with the state, the church and the groups organized in it played a prominent role. Within the 70s and 80s all those who wanted to actively oppose the state and in particular against the authority of the SED came together in it. This so-called ecclesiastical subculture, which developed in the parishes of the parishes, refused, although they were confronted daily with it, to recognize the dogmas of the SED and the official real-life socialist society as theirs. The fact that this entailed many problems and disadvantages for the active could not slow down their commitment, especially because the church was able to provide both material and spiritual support and this meant a certain independence from state resources. The reason for this was that the church was the only organization in the GDR that could rely on massive support from the West and thereby fight for independence from state doctrine and its resources.11 The pastors and church workers often had to use this freedom and, at the same time, expand it against the bitter resistance of church orthodoxy. In particular in the area of ​​open youth work and, subsequently, in the activities of the peace, human rights and ecological movements, there have been repeated measures by the church leaderships and the synods, in addition to the repressive measures taken by the state and the state security service, to ensure effective and continuous work systemic opposition made difficult.12Nevertheless, there were always new and often successful attempts to stand up against SED socialism. One of these representatives, who for a long time was extremely committed against the ruling system, was the bishop of the Confessing Church of Görlitz, Hans Joachim Fränkel. As a spokesman and advocate for many opposition groups, however, he was largely alone at the level of church leadership. Openly and frankly, like few other church leaders, he spoke out against the SED and denounced its claim "to the truth in the ultimate sense". He also expressed what many thought but did not dare to say: The SED established a totalitarian regime , which has a resemblance to the Nazi state. In doing so, he broke with all tenets of the SED and, perhaps more seriously, he deprived the SED of its main legitimation - antifascism. The consequences of this opposition stance were measures such as damage to the reputation of the church and the population (Reactionary) as well as overt and covert isolation measures by the SED and the MfS.13 Although as a result Fränkel always withdrew from the opposition and ultimately lost his opposition profile, he can serve as an example of the way in which the church opposition movement in the GDR fought against the claim to omnipotence and the teachings of the SED. In their eyes, a real socialist society was therefore only possible through democratization, real legal security, intellectual and cultural independence and the assumption of political responsibility. The fact that this of course meant the final break with the ideas and goals of the SED made the realization all the more difficult.

2.2. Artistic diversity in the SED's domain

As mentioned above, the political reorientation at the beginning of the Honecker era brought unprecedented freedom for artistic work in the GDR. At the 4th plenum of the Central Committee of the SED in December 1971, a decisive statement was made that radically changed previous policy under Ulbricht, at least theoretically. Accordingly, there could be "no taboos for artists on the soil of socialism".14With this opening, socialist art and culture should both be placed on a broader reception of the national heritage and selectively take up bourgeois criticism from the West. In addition, many artists received additional material and immaterial privileges (trips to the West, West cars, etc.), many films, books, etc. that had previously been banned were allowed, and censorship was more moderate. This created a certain relaxation in the permanent crisis between the SED and the artists, but indirectly encouraged writers and artists all the more to exercise and expand their claim to autonomy.15In this way, the enduring goal of the oppositional cultural workers was to create a space that was largely exempt from state requirements and thereby granted a relative autonomy for person and work, at least in principle, fulfilled.16However, this new path was soon broken off and a new, very strict art and cultural regime was built, showing the inability to reform that the SED dictatorship had until its end.

The reason for this rapid change of direction in the cultural policy of the SED state was due to the fact that the few who had used the new freedoms, most of them practiced party discipline, brought the realities of GDR society and the contradictions to the SED templates to light . In many youth and student clubs there were critical readings and unconventional music was performed. In Jena in particular, where the Carl Zeiss plant had recruited apprentices from all over the GDR, a culturally and ecclesiastical system-critical scene emerged in the adjoining Kulturhaus under Lutz Rathenow. Furthermore, critical circles were formed at the universities that dealt with the new art and culture.17

So it can be seen that this art and culture has had a great influence especially on young people. This in turn was a thorn in the side of the state party, which had enormously intensified the ideological education of the youth since Honecker came to power. So it was only logical that the state observed such activities very critically and ultimately banned them. The real danger of this "state-desired" art and culture lay in the interpretation, ie in the reception of the critical works by the consumers, especially the young people. Even the smallest deviations of the respective work of art from the forced GDR worldview reflected forbidden wishes and hopes or were so interpreted.18The result, stricter censorship than under the Ulbricht dictatorship, forced many very critical artists into private space. In circles of friends and acquaintances, alternative art and cultural circles critical of the system established themselves, who found previously unknown forms of free speech and counter-speech at their get-togethers. Up until the 1980s, these discussion groups (cultural opposition) developed into a real alternative art and culture scene. New movements - singer-songwriters, independent groups, etc. - were added and were targeted by the State Security.

However, it must also be noted critically that a targeted political criticism that is based on

The SED did not want to limit its power - the privileges did not want to endanger those who work in the arts and culture. Most of the critical artists remained apolitical, which made them very different from the church opposition.19The reason for this can be seen primarily in the depoliticization strategies of the Stasi and the SED.Numerous party-loyal artists and IMs were infiltrated into this scene and were able to maintain the apolitical character through their work. Only in the 1980s, when the systemic opposition was concentrated within the framework of the church, did a few artists who had joined the church groups address political issues. Increasingly, after Biermann's expatriation and the subsequent resignation, the cultural circles broke up and those who were really interested in change went to the church groups and were not infrequently among the most active supporters there.

2.3. The inconsistent unity party - SED reformers

Although there is no consistent opposition in the history of the SED as a direction or

Evidence of a current or an organized movement for profound reform changes in the party and society, from 1946 to 1989 had more critical potential than previously assumed. Restless, critical attitudes, contradiction, disagreeing, opposing behavior, spontaneous to organized opposition of individual persons or groups, passive and active resistance as well as flight reflected diverse protest behavior against the Stalinization of the SED and against party bureaucratic, dictatorial power, for intra-party democracy and for a democratic one Shaping the state order in the GDR.20However, it should be noted that almost all SED members who took up this battlefield did not feel like opponents and that such activities should not be overestimated.21Especially when you consider their goals, the image of an opposing group in the SED is put into perspective. So they did not want a democratization of society and the SED, but only a partial opening. Furthermore, they strove to keep the SED in power, which was tantamount to a hegemonic claim and, especially in connection with the other opposition groups, led to major differences. Ultimately, they wanted to take power themselves, with their main goal being a more efficient GDR system. And yet such movements were not permitted in the SED or outside its ranks. What was only roughly moving in these directions was referred to in particular as "social democracy", "Trotskyism",

"Diversion" and "counter-revolutionary" activity stigmatized or criminalized.22

In this regard, the universities and colleges, especially those in Halle and Berlin, were of particular importance in the 1970s. Here, students, members of the SED, gathered in more or less strongly organized groups, grappling with Trotskyist and reformist-socialist-Yugoslav approaches. In addition, the Prague Spring played a special role, even if it did not have as great an impact as in Poland, for example. Robert Havemann and Rudolf Bahro in particular were motivated by the events in Czechoslovakia to continue on their own path for a better GDR.23

Instead of actively influencing the party committees, they sat, especially in the moderate ones

"Opposition" groups to a pact with the powerful. They sought contact with the leading functionaries from the party and state apparatus instead of promoting the establishment of their own base. And so it does not seem surprising that they were only quasi-conspiratorial and themselves They dissolved again at the end of the 1970s at the latest, ie they were absorbed into the church groups, founded follow-up groups or left the opposition movements entirely.24On the other hand, this also shows, especially for the young SED reformers, the decreasing attraction of the Marxist and left-wing utopias and concepts on the one hand and the increasing influence of the churches on the other.

On the other side were those reformers who wanted to reproduce or

Changes in the political situation were aimed from within. They were no longer looking for ways to a reality better suited to their ideals, but for a new theoretical approach to socialism. The change of course, so their aim, should take place from within the state party itself. They strived to maintain and stabilize the given societal and social structures through their change. The vision of a "new", "better" socialism played an important role in this. The decisive factor for this new approach was the trauma of Biermann's expatriation, which hit not only SED reformers and left-wing intellectuals, but also many activists in church groups and the cultural opposition, hard in 1976. This turning point gave the impetus to research the structural causes of the problems, specifically the causes of the deformation and limits of real socialist developments that are fundamentally in the concept itself. In doing so, however, they encountered their limits, which lay in the fact that they had recognized the essential conditions for a reform, but political implementation contradicted their own social situation. If they had consistently proceeded in a reformatory way, they would have lost their own political self-image and would have had to give up the inherent identity of their own social group - their own power to shape political relationships and the prerequisite for the implementation of the reforms.25

In summary, the concept of the "Third Way" was based on cooperation with old communists and the building generation and not on understanding with the church opposition. Ultimately, until 1989 these reformers were unable to understand that the opposition was allowed to control and participate in the exercise of power At the same time, however, it was not recognized that state socialism could not be reformed, which was particularly evident in the failure of Gorbachev's reforms in 1889/90 and thus the failure of the reform of state socialism itself.

3. The development of the church into an "opposition party"

"The abuse of the churches in the GDR is characterized by attempts by hostile agencies and church institutions in the operational area in cooperation with hostile-negative forces inside and outside the churches to expand or exceed the legally secured scope of action of the churches in the GDR and to exceed the legal church Abusing opportunities for action for anti-socialist goals. The enemy and hostile negative forces try in particular the position of the churches, their close connections to the churches in the FRG, West Berlin and other capitalist states, their relative material independence, the existing church structures, organizational forms and material-technical possibilities, the well-educated and to exploit the workforce of the churches trained in ideological influence on large sections of the population for the realization and camouflage of their anti-socialist activities. "26

This definition, which can be found in the "Dictionary of State Security" under the heading "Abuse of the Church", describes in its special way the organization and working methods of the opposition groups in the area of ​​the Church. However, based on ideological principles, it completely misjudges the goal of the emerging political opposition groups within the church. But it is true that in the parishes they had the opportunity to develop their reform-oriented political theories relatively undisturbed and with material and immaterial support, to discuss them and finally to convey them to a broad audience. Almost all noteworthy opposition groups in the GDR were "born" in the church and it was here that they found the so important public in the form of parishioners. They were often the first to be confronted with the new ideas and to have initial discussions about the real one It was these churchgoers who made their church rooms available to the opposition movement in the 1970s. In addition, and this seems to have been particularly important, many parish priests, parish deacons and youth wardens worked with the mostly youthful opposition members and helped to build up their opposition work structurally. This development, which must always be seen in connection with intensive surveillance activities by the MfS, especially Department XX "State Apparatus, Art, Culture, Underground", ultimately laid the foundation for personal growth and that increasing self-confidence of the O pposition groups in the 1970s. This development and development of the oppositional groups within the Church will be the focus of the following chapters.

3.1. The Political Potential of the Church - The Open Work

When Honecker came to power, the already immense ideological and ideological pressure on the children and young people in the GDR increased.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of the GDR youth were forced to be loyal to the Honecker regime and thereby, willingly or unintentionally, became a stability factor for the SED state, there were also more and more children and young people who resisted this totalitarian rule - the rebellious Youth.27 Mostly church-bound youths and so-called "anti-social elements" were discriminated against because their professional and school development were massively hindered. Ultimately, however, it was precisely the young people who later became construction soldiers, emigrants and activists for peace, human rights and the environment in the GDR opposition opened.28 They gained their first experience in this regard at the beginning of the 1970s. Within the framework of the social diaconal work of the church, a movement developed which, in principle and from the group of people who were involved, was to represent the basis and roots of the opposition movements of the 1980s. This so-called "open work" was basically the first tangible political opposition in the GDR, that is, alternative ideas about life in the GDR were discussed within an organized framework revolted in any way against the dogmas propagated by the state and the actually existing socialism. They found refuge in the church and were originally supposed to work together through a strictly social context and their person, who in most cases was officially regarded as the "customer scene", reintegrate them into orderly relationships. The aim was basically to give the young people the opportunity to make independent and responsible contributions to their socialization. There should be no caring and patronizing care, as the so hated SED state did, but one's own social maturity should be acquired through the experience of the community. The space of the church gave them the opportunity to discuss problems and current issues that had no place in public and especially in ideologically influenced teaching institutions and whose discussion place was originally in parliaments, citizens' assemblies and parties.29Thus, the "Open Work" and later all other opposition groups took on functions of the political system, such as articulating interests, warning of grievances and leading an open-ended political discourse.30In addition to the theological approaches, the official basis for the "open work" was formed by the accessible materials of the GDR youth work, which meant that at the beginning one was in a favorable position because one did not have to fit into the narrow ideological framework.31This changed very quickly, however, and "open work" increasingly distanced itself from diakonia. The claim to want to live out the "I-being" and to see society as in need of change brought first the church with the state and finally the church with the "Open work" into an insurmountable conflict. As a reaction to the increasing independence efforts of the young people and their leaders, the church leaderships took part in the deportation, transfer and dismissal of critical church workers in order to weaken or depoliticize the "movement".32Since the "open work" or its members had become independent in the meantime and helpers and assistants blurred into one another, these measures usually led to nothing.

For the first time in the history of the GDR, the "open work" brought together young Christians and non-Christians who went together on a path that quickly became politicized and ultimately became an observation center for the state security. Inevitably, there was a conflict with the SED, since such socio-political work was not compatible with the state educational goals. In addition, the "open work" referred not only to the rejection of state authority in many areas, but also to the attitude of the institutional church. In the 70s, contrary to the tendency of the 50s, 60s and 80s, the latter pursued a comparatively calm path of coexistence with the SED state and a limited rapprochement between their own and the state ideology.33

In particular, the above-mentioned mixing of youthful subcultures, Marxist sectarians, critical intellectuals, artists and youthful Christians from all strata of society was a thorn in the side of the state and the official church. That is why even the infamous attempts at criminalization by the State Security, which often appeared in the form of official representatives of the state at church leaderships, found fertile soil within Orthodoxy. However, this very rapidly progressing criminalization of the active resulted in the opposite of what was actually planned - the politicization and the quality of "open work" increased. In the numerous, often arbitrary, meetings, not one emerged over the years Sharp, civilization-critical and emancipatory notion of socialism but a social revolt, which, with its ecclesiastical and legal background, was political opposition.34 During this time she found publicity mainly at major church events, such as the various church days. There they were able to reach a large audience, albeit not welcomed by the official church and the state security, and thus find an audience interested in spreading their ideas. In addition to the Dresden pastor Christoph Wonneberger, the Thuringian deacon Walter Schilling was one of the main actors in the "open work" of the 1970s. Above all, he helped young people who were subjected to every conceivable form by the security organs of the GDR - spy blackmail, refusal to study and high school diploma, disqualification35i.a. - were harassed. Above all, he had to defend himself against his regional bishop Braechlein, who took offensive action against Schilling on behalf of the district and district party leaderships. Even his dismissal as head of the Diakonisches Heim in Jena and the repression of the Ministry for State Security could not stop him in his work. Unique for his time and as one of the very few, he defended himself against the repression of the Stasi by publishing them in various media. Even if he had now lost the Diakonisches Heim as a place of work, he was committed to decentralizing and spreading open work throughout Thuringia and later throughout the GDR.36As a result, despite the ruthless state oppression mentioned, not least due to the tireless work of many church workers, new centers of "open work" emerged throughout the GDR, especially in Leipzig, Dresden and Berlin Activities which, in addition to social diaconal work, also included the fight against military education, for the rights of conscientious objectors, the disabled and squatters. In addition, so-called "workshops" and working groups were formed, which ultimately formed the basis for the emerging human rights and peace groups.

3.2. Peace and human rights movement - the basis of the church opposition

Since the introduction of general conscription in 1962, the SED has been confronted with more than 1,000 conscientious objectors every year. The party thus faced a dilemma. On the one hand, the legal situation in the GDR ruled out conscientious objection; on the other hand, imprisonment of the predominantly Christian-motivated objectors was not compatible with the socialist human community advocated by Walter Ulbricht and the associated minimization of conflict between church and state. Thus, after long deliberations and weighing up the advantages and disadvantages, according to the order of the national defense council of the GDR of September 7, 1964 about the installation of structural units, a soldier was "born" without a weapon and without oath of the oath.37At the same time, however, there was more or less open discrimination against these conscientious objectors. This particularly concerned the refusal or limitation of study opportunities, but also occupational bans and occupational restrictions, especially of construction soldiers who were not affiliated with the church.

Out of this practice and above all due to the now legal concentration of system-critical and pacifist Christians and non-Christians within the building soldier units, a politically active building soldier movement developed in the GDR, to which the total objectors also belonged. In small regional groups, but especially at the annual building soldiers' meeting in Leipzig, there was an intensive discussion of the subject of "real social peace service", which remained a central theme of the peace movement until the end of the GDR Seventies in the critical questioning of the peace problem, which included human rights issues in particular, and in practical behavioral orientations under the real conditions of the GDR.38At the center of these behavioral orientations was the teaching of the principle of non-violence. The supraregional "Church Working Group Peace" of the Jungmännerwerk in East Berlin and the peace seminar in Königswalde, which has been taking place twice a year since 1973, should also be emphasized. Due to seemingly immovable differences of opinion with the other members of the youth commission and the CFK and, which is certainly not to be underestimated, the enormous burden on the commission with IMs, which was tantamount to aligning with the state "peace policy", this concern failed.39

The construction soldiers therefore concentrated on their own possibilities and were largely active in the parishes and the working groups mentioned. Close cooperation with former construction soldiers also developed in all areas and institutions of church youth work. Thus between 1972 and 1978 a peace movement emerged as a grassroots movement that spoke out clearly against the peace policy guidelines of the SED state and at the same time criticized the peace policy of the BEK, which was closely based on the state guidelines.40Furthermore, it was the student communities that dealt with the subjects of military service, violence, armaments in the 1970s and, after 1978, with the subject of military studies at the polytechnic high schools. Both groups, which were mostly closely intertwined in terms of personnel, began to work together more or less intensively during this time. And yet at this time it is not yet possible to speak of a coordinated and cooperative freedom movement. This only began after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, when the issue of peace policy became more explosive. In connection with the armament plans and decisions, a real peace movement developed from this in the early 1980s, which undoubtedly had one of its climaxes with the actions "Swords to Plowshares" and the Peace Decades.41During this time, the state security began to intensify the pursuit of peace work, which should be crushed as a result.

At the same time, but especially after the signing of the CSCE Act in Helsinki and the "Basket 3" contained therein with the obligation to grant human rights, individual groups within the Church, which were often also integrated in peace work, began to form To deal more intensively with the problem of human and civil rights in the GDR. The basic design of the human rights discussion was almost exclusively left to the numerous working groups at community level. The overriding aim of these working groups was to hold an ecumenical discussion about human rights and their realization and violation in the GDR At the same time, statements on official church pronouncements on the human rights issue were worked out and their peace work was critically reflected. In analogy to the Czech "Charter 77", Naumburg theology students, for example, developed the "Querfurt Paper for Peace and Justice" opportunity today ".42This internal church debate became the only forum on human rights in the GDR. The few texts and information on human rights issues that had a current reference to the GDR were available here. In addition, Helsinki and the UN Charter created excellent legitimacy for the criticism of the political opponents of the SED in East and West. With this legal foundation of the opposition politics began a continuous development and expansion of the legal scope for action as well as the improvement of the argumentative basis.

After they were signed, the CSCE texts were officially available in the GDR and attempts were made to enforce compliance. The activists were primarily concerned with religious freedom, which was increasingly restricted with Honecker's ideological demarcation offensive, especially against religiously bound children and young people. Furthermore, topics such as freedom of travel, problems of the construction soldiers and the restrictive handling of the event regulations were the focus of the human rights discussion.43Above all, however, the so-called emigrants referred to these texts and could no longer be officially criminalized. But Robert Havemann also supported the human rights groups after 1976 by demanding the legalization of opposition groups and, in particular, answering the human rights question in favor of the opponents of the SED.44

In this dispute, however, the SED had to interpret, explain and justify its practice on the defensive. In particular, by emphasizing social human rights, which were fulfilled at a more or less high level in the GDR, the emerging demands for individual human rights were to be suppressed. In addition, the SED declared the realization of human rights as an internal matter in which outside interference should not be taken. The communists also had a strong ally in their "traditional orientations", such as obedience, duty and discipline of the subject towards the state. And in general, in the self-image of the SED and many of its party members, the happiness of the collective was valued higher than civil rights However, ideological neutralization of the human rights debate failed, at least at the level of the church base - the GDR's involvement in the CSCE process thus became a serious political problem for the SED.45And so in turn the Ministry of State Security had to intensify its repressive activities, which had a completely new "quality" in the 1970s and 1980s. These "soft forms" of persecution and oppression46- Damage to reputation, organization of professional and social failures to undermine self-confidence, etc. - are not recognizable as human rights violations at first glance, and still violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN and were hardly less effective than the "rough" methods of repression .47In the interests of and to strengthen the international reputation of the GDR, however, this new path of silent repression had to be taken, as the socially undesirable circumstances meant that such disciplinary measures could not be dispensed with. Furthermore, the GDR criminal law was modified in such a way that every attempt by a GDR citizen to exercise the established rights and legal remedies of the international organizations was punished.

The official church then restricted its activities in this area, especially in the interests of better cooperation between state and church. In 1981 the church's human rights debate finally broke out when the church leaders officially subordinated civil liberties and individual rights to social rights. The official church's conception of human rights was brought into line with that of the SED and the human rights movement had to admit its failure and was absorbed in the rapidly developing peace movement.48 With the takeover of power by Honecker, the increasing integration of the GDR in the international state system and the German-German détente policy, which ultimately brought about a brief rapprochement between the two blocs, a systemic resistance movement began to develop in the GDR. The central themes of peace and human rights formed the thematic basis and mobilized a large number of GDR citizens who were critical of the system in the 1970s. In addition to the aforementioned conscientious objectors / construction soldiers, the youth of open work, many church workers and other Christians, there were also critical Marxists (Havemann, Bahro, Biermann) in the ranks of these opposition groups. And although their work had to withstand state repression and in some cases a hindrance on the part of the church leadership and also suffered many setbacks, an institutionalized opposition developed in the GDR, at least since 1977.49This opposition, which could only take place at the level of the relatively independent church, finally formed the basis in the 80s and to a large extent also the leadership of the immensely growing opposition circles towards the end of the 80s.

3.3. The concentrated opposition

After 1976, several important events led to an increased concentration and institutionalization of the GDR opposition under the roof of the church.

On the one hand, Wolf Biermann's expatriation on November 13, 1976 led to a wave of protests that was previously unknown. Biermann, as a representative of a group of oppositionists who embodied the vision of a completely different National Socialist Germany on the basis of democratic socialism, thus became the initiator of a completely new quality within the history of the opposition movement in the GDR.50The discussion groups in the Protestant communities experienced a significant increase in participants, from which the later core of an informal and political opposition was recruited. Furthermore, there were numerous cases of critical statements within state institutions and organizations, which led to a large number of party exclusion proceedings.51Thus the sympathizers and fellow campaigners at church level no longer only came from church circles, but also came from artistic, left-wing intellectuals and other groups critical of the system. In particular, however, the critical artist scene had withdrawn with resignation after Biermann's expulsion and only a few worked actively in this new movement or joined forces to form an alternative cultural scene.52

Furthermore, and probably one of the most important events in the history of the East German resistance, was the self-immolation of Pastor Oskar Brüsewitz on August 18, 1976 at 10:20 am in front of the Michaeliskirche in Zeitz. This resistance action of the pastor in the struggle for individual self-assertion and against the total ideological claims of the SED was a conscious act aimed at a public-political and ecclesiastical effect. While the church superiors were unable to understand the events surrounding Brüsewitz as a political issue, many opposition theologians and laypeople who had been resigned until then began to look for political alternatives. This mobilization effect, which already turned Brüsewitz's funeral into a demonstration against the SED and its practice of rule, ultimately gave the entire opposition movement in the GDR new impetus by dealing more intensively with Brüsewitz's ideas and goals - above all, religious suppression bound children and adolescents. An unwanted side effect, however, was a real wave of suicides, especially among young people in open work, due to years of exclusion and repression and as a particularly depressing form of political protest.53

Ultimately, at the international level, the invasion of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in 1979, the Polish crisis 1980-1982 and the NATO double resolution in 1979 were decisive events that caused the GDR to grow and increase the quality of the opposition inherent in the system. The latter led to the retrofitting of the USSR and so the feeling of the threat of a possible nuclear war grew in the population. Above all, however, the events in Poland, which caused a storm of indignation in the socialist camp and, not least on the initiative of the SED, should be fought with military countermeasures54, were an important moment for the GDR opposition members to get in touch with those of like-minded people there. In contact with system critics from Poland, the CSSR and the Soviet Union, materials were obtained that were of the greatest importance for the development and expansion of one's own work. In addition, a solidarity campaign was launched within the opposition circles, with which the affected Polish activists were supported and the GDR population was provided with ideologically unaffected information about the events there.

This also includes, in particular, as already explained above, the introduction of military instruction at the polytechnic high schools.

All these events had one common consequence in the GDR - the continuous improvement and intensification, as well as the concentration of the political opposition under the roof of the church. The resulting strong peace movement was supplemented by an environmental movement critical of civilization - the human rights debate took a back seat. Both movements, complementary in their functions, began to use the taboo Western public and to coordinate and implement their actions across the GDR. This naturally also involved a larger public, which was confronted with the social reality of the SED regime through targeted information, partly through events, partly through the forbidden writings. Ultimately, networks emerged from this that used and expanded the legal scope of action of the church. Since 1980, the regular decades of peace and the resulting movement "Swords to Flyers" have been particularly important.

Basically, the peace activists were not concerned with rejecting socialism, but with a new domestic political climate that would create tolerance, trust, the willingness to rethink and gain insight into the previous undesirable developments. The movement considered the willingness to come to an understanding and compromise, the renunciation of psychological and physical violence, the willingness to reconcile and the dismantling of enemy images to be particularly important. In terms of content, these goals were used to determine the position of the entire GDR peace movement in 1980 and

1981/82 in the "Framework Concept Education for Peace", the pacifism paper and the call for the "Social Peace Service". On this basis, a thematically more extensive political opposition within the church (ecology, women, peace, homosexuals, third world, etc.) expanded in the course of the 80s whose space had to fall back, was added.55

4. The 1970s - Basis for the Peaceful Revolution in 1989?

Regardless of whether one wants to describe this system-critical movement in the GDR in the 1970s as opposition, dissidence or resistance, it is clear that most of these committed citizens made a significant contribution to the peaceful revolution in 1989/90. The GDR's new political groups or groups with the largest number of members have their roots in 1989 - the "New Forum", the "Social Democratic Party", the "Democratic Awakening" party, the "Green Party", the citizens' movement "Democracy Now" and the collecting movement " United Left "- in those opposition circles that had developed under the umbrella of the Church in the course of the 1970s and especially in the 1980s.56In particular, in the days of the revolution in autumn 1989, many ideas were taken up that were born in the 1970s and that were then given more concrete content - peace, freedom, human rights, democracy, demilitarization of society, etc. At the same time, these were the programmatic objectives of these initiators of the revolution inconsistent, and, as it quickly turned out, partly illusionary, because through them the so-called "Third Way" was thematized as a profound reform of the GDR.

The dominant role played by the Protestant churches and their strong influence on the consciousness and shape of the opposition created identity; Christian beliefs, religious patterns of action, not least of which the material and human resources of the churches were the livelihoods of the churches.

Starting with the construction soldiers movement, which had its origins in the 1960s, through to the first decades of peace and the movement “Swords to Plowshares, the third decade of the GDR's existence formed an essential basis for the emergence of a politically motivated opposition, without which the "October Revolution" in the GDR would not have been possible. In addition, the signing of the CSCE Act by the GDR and accession to the UN strengthened the legal basis of opposition work. For the first time, the opposition members in the GDR had legal legitimacy for their work, which could not be rejected or criminalized by the SED regime.Nonetheless, the SED and its repressive apparatus found ways of continuing to effectively suppress its own population and especially unwelcome people under the constraints of international consideration (soft forms of repression). Despite many setbacks (especially the expatriation of leading opposition members) that the opposition had to accept, the state security was never able to bring the so-called "hostile-negative forces" under full control, so that this ongoing conflict is also an element in the process of the decline of the SED. Regime became.57Regardless of this, however, the State Security prevented a larger system-critical public from emerging or from existing in the 1970s, as was the case in the 1980s, when GDR-wide cooperation and coordination were improved. International events, such as Gorbachev's policy of détente and reform, did the rest and motivated people to rebel against the existing conditions and the politically created isolation of the GDR.

During this time it appeared particularly problematic that the official church had increasingly adapted to the views of the SED government, especially in the area of ​​peace and human rights policy. Organized thematic groups developed at the level of the church base, and since the late 1970s there has been a slow but continuous improvement in quality and quantity. This effectively replaced the work of the church leaders in the controversial subject areas. At the beginning of the 1980s, the formation of the so-called networks, which had a connecting and coordinating function between the individual regional groups, also played a decisive role. They intensified the cooperation of the opposition groups throughout the GDR - despite increasing repression by the Ministry for State Security, which was partly supported or approved by the official church.

As now, in the years between 1985 and 1989, a “profound change in the international environment through Gorbachev's perestroika, the reform processes in Poland and Hungary, the opening of the Hungarian-Austrian border with the onset of mass exodus and, last but not least, the completely narrow-minded and in the sense of securing own rule downright suicidal strategy of the SED and its police apparatus ... "began, it was many of those members of the opposition of the 1970s who set the stone of decline in the GDR rolling. Initially only a few, for example, regularly held a counter-demonstration in January carried out the state Bebel / Luxembourg demonstrations as best they could, the revolutionary events in Poland and Hungary in particular brought about a mobilization process that ultimately led to the Monday demonstrations in Leipzig and other cities in East Germany possessed a profile of the Polish opposition and could only hope for limited social support at any time, they made a decisive contribution to uncovering grievances in the GDR and offering appropriate solutions. This ultimately resulted in a public discussion that, based on West German standards and the hope for a better life, brought about the overthrow of the GDR regime.

4. Bibliography

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2. Fricke, Karl Wilhelm: MfS internal - power, structures, dissolution of the GDR state security. Cologne 1991.

3. Haese, Ute: The Protest Behavior of the Catholic Church in the GDR In: Germany Archive, No. 9, 1993, pp. 1049-1057.

4. Haese, Ute: Catholic Church in the GDR and MfS. In: Germany Archive, No. 2, 1994, pp. 130-140.

5. Haspel, Michael: GDR Protestantism political protest - political diakonia of the Protestant churches in the GDR in the 70s and 80s. In: Pollack, Detlef & Rink, Dieter (ed.): Between denial and opposition - political protest in the GDR. Frankfurt a. Main & New York 1997, pp 78-105.

6. Henke, Klaus-Dietmar & Steinbach, Peter & Tuchel, Johannes (eds.): Resistance and opposition in the GDR. Cologne, Weimar, Vienna 1999.

7. Jander, Martin: The protest against the Biermann expatriation - stimulant of the opposition. In: Henke, Klaus-Dietmar & Steinbach, Peter & Tuchel, Johannes (eds.): Resistance and opposition in the GDR. Cologne, Weimar, Vienna 1999, pp. 281-294.

8. Judersleben, Jörg: “Nobody can get through in the rain.” In: Germany Archive, No. 7, 1993, pp. 818-829.

9. Kleinschmid, Harald: 20 years ago: Wolf Biermann was expatriated. In: Germany Archive, No. 6, 1996, pp. 913 - 917.

18. Kleßmann, Christoph: Opposition and dissidence in the history of the GDR. In: From Politics and Contemporary History, Vol. 5, 1991, pp. 52-62.

19. Knabe, Hubertus: Political opposition in the GDR - origins, program, perspectives. In: From Politics and Contemporary History, Vol., 1/2, 1990, pp. 21-32.

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14. Knauer, Gerd: Internal opposition in the Ministry for State Security? In: Germany Archive, No. 7, 1992, pp. 718 - 727.

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16. Neubert, Erhard: The MfS and the church policy of the SED. In: Germany Archive, No. 4, 1992, pp. 346 - 358.

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18th December: The CSCE process and the civil rights movement in the GDR. In: Henke, Klaus Dietmar & Steinbach, Peter & Tuchel, Johannes (eds.): Resistance and opposition in the GDR. Cologne, Weimar, Vienna 1999, pp. 295 - 308.

19. Otto, Wilfriede: Similarities and differences of oppositional actions in the SED up to the disempowerment of the state party. In: Timmermann, Heiner (ed.): Dictatorships in Europe in the 20th century - the case of the GDR. Berlin 1996, pp. 437 - 448.

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27. Wilke, Manfred & Kubina, Michael: "The situation in Poland is worse than 1968 in the CSSR" The demands of the SED-Plitbüro for an intervention in Poland in autumn 1980. In: Germany Archive, No. 3, 1993, p 335-340.

28. Zech, Karl-Adolf: he hit the nerve - Oskar Brüsewitz's self-immolation in August 1976 and its consequences. In: Germany Archive, No. 4, 1996, pp. 587 - 607.


1 Here I am also thinking of the sporting successes of the GDR athletes at the Olympic Games, World Championships and European Championships, since there was an independent GDR team. These were systematically exploited by the SED leadership for propaganda purposes.

2 Pollack & Rink (1997) p. 11 f ..

3 Schroeder & Alisch (1998) p. 547.

4 In the latter, I would like to name the fishing clubs, also here from my own experience, when joint fishing trips became a "collective breakout" from everyday life ordered by the state. Even seasoned SED comrades who gave propaganda lectures at the meetings left their narrowly limited scope of action and acted as they really were.

5 For a typology of the opposition currents and the opposition movement, see Rink in Pollack & Rink (1997), pp. 54-77.

6 Teichmann in Germany Archive, 8, 1990, p.1212.

7 Schröder & Alisch (1998) p. 199 ff.

8 Haspel in Pollack & Reich (1997) p. 82.

9 Fricke (1992) p. 45.

10 Neubert in Germany Archive, 4, 1992, p.349.

11 Rüddeklau (1992) p. 26.

12 Neubert (1997) p. 202.

13 Ibid p. 263 ff.

14 Erich Honecker at the 4th plenum of the Central Committee in December 1971 quoted from Neubert (1997) p. 214.

15 Kleßmann in From Politics and Contemporary History, 5, 1991, p. 60.

16 Klaus in Rink & Pollack (1997) p. 107.

17 Rüddenklau (1992) p. 18 ff.

18 Neubert (1997) p. 214.

19 Rink in Pollack & Rink (1997) p. 61.

20 Otto in Timmermann (1996) p. 437.

21 On the resistance in the MfS Knauer in Germany archive, 7, 1992.

22 Ibid p. 439.

23 Kleßmann in Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, 5, 1991, p. 61. See also Section 3.2.

24 Rink in Pollack & Rink (1997) p. 63.

25 Land in Pollack & Rink (1997) p. 141.

26 Suckut (Ed.) (1996). P. 211.

27 Rüddenklau (1992) p. 26.

28 Neubert (1997) p. 250.

29 Rink in Pollack & Rink (1997) p. 55.

30 Haspel in Pollack & Rink (1997) p. 85.

31 Neubert (1997) p. 289.

32 Rüddenklau (1992) p.26.

33 Kleßmann in materials of the Enquete Commission "Working up the history and consequences of the SED dictatorship in Germany", Volume VII / 2, p. 1095.

34 Neubert (1997) p. 291.

35 This withdrawal of ID was probably one of the most notorious means of repression of the SED state. In addition to the travel restriction even within the GDR, this ID meant constantly being harassed by the People's Police. One of the best-known victims of the disqualification was probably the Claus-Renft-Combo, who had been exposed to this chicane since the mid-1970s, in addition to being banned from performing.

36 Neubert (1997) p. 293.

37 Eisenfeld in Germany Archive, 3, 1995, p. 256.

38 Ibid p. 261.

39 Ibid p. 260.

40 Neubert (1997) p. 299.

41 Rink in Pollack & Rink (1997) p. 55.Schmid in Pollack & Rink (1997) p. 174 f ..

42 Neubert (1997) p. 316.

43 Neubert (1997) p. 257 ff.

44 Neubert in Henke, Steinbach, Tuchel (1999), p. 301.

45 Ibid p. 297.

46 More detailed in the guideline 1/76 "Development and processing of operational processes" of the Ministry for State Security.

47 Knabe in Deutschland Archiv, 5, 1997, p. 715 ff.

48 Neubert in Henke, Steinbach, Tuchel (1999), p. 305.

49 Neubert (1997) p. 202.

50 Jander in Henke, Steinbach, Tuchel (1999), p. 289.

51 Neubert (1997) p. 229.

52 Rink in Pollack & Rink (1997) p.61.

53 Ibid p. 275 ff.

54 More detailed on this Wilke & Kubina: "The situation in Poland is worse than 1968 in the CSSR ..." in Germany Archive, 3, 1993, p. 335 ff.

55 Knabe in From Politics and Contemporary History, 1/2, 1990, p. 22.

56 Knabe in From Politics and Contemporary History, 1/2, 1990, p. 22.

57 Kleßmann in From Politics and Contemporary History, 5, 1991, p. 60.