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GDR theses on the Luther year 1983

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Post 18 Oct 2020, 00:17 ... n-der-ddr/

GDR theses on the Luther year 1983
On the occasion of the 500th birthday of Martin Luther, a working group of scientists from the Academy of Sciences of the GDR and representatives of the universities wrote 15 "theses about Martin Luther". It said:

Martin Luther (November 10, 1483 - February 18, 1546) paved the way for the great intellectual and political conflicts with which Germany and Europe entered the era of the decline of feudalism, the emergence of manufacturing capitalism and the first bourgeois revolutions. He is one of the great personalities in German history of world renown.

The German Democratic Republic is deeply rooted in all of German history. When
socialist German state, it is the result of centuries of struggle of all progressive forces of the German people for social progress. Everything that has been progressive in German history and all those who have brought about it belong to its indispensable traditions that have shaped national identity. “The progressive traditions that we maintain and carry on include the work and legacy of all those who have contributed to progress and the development of world culture, regardless of what social and class ties they were” (Erich Honecker). In this sense, the GDR pays tribute to Martin Luther's historical achievements and cherishes the progressive legacy he left behind.
I. (…) The given social and church conditions determined the central importance of theology in the political, social and ideological disputes and the religious justification of the revolutionary demands. Martin Luther triggered the Reformation through his struggle against the "international center of the feudal system" (Friedrich Engels). This is his lasting historical merit. The Reformation became an essential part of the beginning revolution, formed the ideological bracket for the very different class forces that supported it and, in the further course of the revolutionary process, provided the framework for their rapid differentiation. The revolution culminated in the German Peasants' War of 1525, which however ended in defeat.

II. (...) With this (ie with his criticism of the indulgence trade, ME) Martin Luther created theological foundations for the development of a Reformation ideology that achieved revolutionary effects under the given social conditions; for the Reformation meant not only a reform of the church, but a more or less far-reaching change in society. To have defended this foundation tenaciously and unwaveringly is that personal achievement of Martin Luther for the development of the early bourgeois revolution, which was repeatedly forced from him by his opponents.
III. (...) The upper classes of the bourgeoisie and forces connected with early capitalism, the councils in many cities saw their own interests in this or adopted these goals as their own. The Reformation unleashed potential to promote the beginning transition from feudalism to capitalism. This gave it an essentially bourgeois-progressive character. At the same time, a Reformation popular movement, initially supported by the bourgeois-urban opposition, developed, whose forces enthusiastically supported Luther (...)
V. (...) The popular movement used the arguments and biblical reasons given by Luther and the other reformers, but did not limit itself on leaving the fulfillment of their demands to the good will of the authorities, in the spirit of Luther.

The relationship to the authorities as well as the question of the means to implement the Reformation goals therefore became the most important point of contention between Luther and the popular movement from 1523/24. Initially, Martin Luther still partially supported the people's movement and tried to bridge the widening gap to the aristocratic class opposition, although he was now criticized and attacked by forces pushing further, in particular by Thomas Müntzer, and in turn dealt with this. While still at the Wartburg, he justified the abolition of the mass in Wittenberg, the invalidity of the monk's vows, the introduction of the lay chalice and the German language into church services, the transfer of church assets to municipal administration and their use for the welfare of the poor.

At the beginning of 1523, Luther founded the secularization program of the middle-class moderate Reformation. The aim of this program was to transfer intellectual property into secular possession, primarily for the benefit of secular feudal lords, the bourgeois upper classes and the community.
Luther elevated the community's right to make decisions to the principle of the Reformation. So Luther developed his Reformation program by 1524, which was to be implemented by peaceful means in alliance with the secular authorities. To the extent that the popular movement was radicalized and directed against secular feudalism and the princes, Luther turned away from it. ...

VIII. Martin Luther's Reformation had a lasting effect on European countries. It promoted the resolution of fundamental contradictions in feudal society and therefore very quickly became a European phenomenon that accelerated the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Europe entered the epoch of the bourgeois revolutions, in which the bourgeoisie gradually fought for economic and political power over the next centuries. ...

X. The early Reformation was a very broad, class-wise heterogeneous, all social class movement for revolutionary transformation. The victory of the princes over the rebellious people in the peasant war curtailed the class base of this movement and, in cooperation with the bourgeois upper classes, ensured the maintenance of feudal class rule. ...
XII. With the foundation of historical materialism, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels also created the outlines for a scientific understanding of the Reformation and Martin Luther. They praised Luther as the initiator of the Reformation and this as the first decisive battle of the European bourgeoisie against feudalism. At the same time, they showed that the Peasants 'War and Thomas Müntzer, to whom the revolutionary workers' movement felt particularly committed, embodied the necessary consequence of the impetus given by Luther. (...)

The revolutionary German labor movement distinguished between the epochal historical achievement of Martin Luther, his class-wise limitation and the reactionary abuse of his inheritance and fought against the unholy alliance of Thron, which for its purposes invoked the name of Luther. It neither heroized nor disregarded Luther, but honored his place in the diversity of progressive and revolutionary movements in German history. ...

XV. With the victory of the working class and its allies, with the building and shaping of socialism, the social prerequisites have been created in the German Democratic Republic for a scientifically justified and fair appreciation of Martin Luther on all sides. We honor the fighters of past generations who, under their conditions, have advanced progress and enriched culture with the use of their personality. We give them a critical appreciation without overlooking their time and class-related contradictions and without applying unhistorical standards. (...)

The GDR maintains the memorials for Martin Luther and the Reformation and respects the intellectual character of the cultural and ethical values ​​associated with them. Like all other religious communities in the GDR, the Protestant churches inspired by Luther and referring to him have a wide range of constitutionally guaranteed opportunities for their activities. In the struggle for a solution to the vital question of humanity in the present, the preservation of peace, all citizens of the GDR, including Christians, are committed to peace-stabilizing measures, relaxation and effective disarmament in view of the more complicated world situation. Evangelical Christians with Lutheran stamps, like all other believers, prove themselves to be co-shapers of the developed socialist society. Not least because of the Christian obligation to love one's neighbor, especially in diakonia, they have a self-sacrificing effect in caring for the disabled and sick, children and the elderly. They preserve and enrich their specific historical traditions that have shaped and enriched the culture and ethics of German and other countries over the centuries.

The party and government of the GDR were and are always open to the humanitarian concerns of the Christian churches and have always taken care of cooperation in this spirit. Luther's progressive legacy is canceled out in the socialist German national culture. The founding of the Martin Luther Committee of the German Democratic Republic under the chairmanship of Erich Honecker, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED and Chairman of the State Council of the GDR, testifies to this. The appreciation of Luther and his work also includes the efforts and the struggle of those forces who today fight for social justice, progress and peace in the world based on the teaching, example and achievement of Martin Luther. "May the honors on his 500th birthday, as it corresponds to the worldwide impact of the reformer,
Post 19 Oct 2020, 20:08
Beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing. I've often heard it argued in various articles, forums and youtube debates (I often sneak into German-language ones to get that authentic viewpoint) that the GDR was more proud of its German identity and past than the FRG. Pretty hilarious then that in the West the GDR is dismissed as a mere Soviet puppet...
Post 20 Oct 2020, 16:16
Yeah one of my interests is Marxist evaluations of the Protestant Reformation as the 1st bourgeois democratic revolution and I've been doing a lot of googling on this topic trying to find Honecker's 1980 speech where he lays out the official SED line. And I also came across some German nationalist forum, where they were claiming GDR was the puppet of Moscow, and a GDR defender was mentioning the Luther stance as part of the GDR's embrace of the German legacy.

Its also interesting that while most of the sites I've found on this are historic academic, the above link is from the current German Communist Party, showing how that legacy still plays a role in current politics and the ideology the KPD wishes to embrace.

I've also been reading a lot about this, which opened in Sept 1989 ... -republic/ ... in_Germany
Post 23 Nov 2020, 23:27
Post 25 Nov 2020, 22:00
Its a complex historic topic. And Luther is a complex figure. The early GDR viewed Luther mostly negatively. Connecting him to the reactionary historic trends in German politics. I'm not sure if they connected his anti-semitism to the origins of Nazism as was done by some scholars in the West. But they strongly emphasized his betrayal of Muntzer and the Peasant's War. Perhaps the GDR did go too far in rehabilitating Prussian national figures such as Frederick the Great and Bismarck, to create a uniquely East German identity.

The panorama art exhibit, was even criticized by some GDR authorities for having a "janus-faced" Luther. Which had been the traditional GDR view before. That he looked both forward and backwards. ... ma&f=false

Luther is often given a lot of credit by both Marxists and Weberians for ushering in the bourgeois age. But a contrary view is that of Mehring. That Lutheranism served the Junker landlords of the more backward parts of Germany. And if you look at the economic history of Germany, its not as simple as Max Weber makes it. Prussia was a militarist backwater. While the main economic and liberal centers were in the Catholic Rhineland.

Despite the historic breakthrough of Luther against feudal Catholicism, Lutheranism as a sect has been a buttress to the Junker, Prussian, Kaiser, Nazi regimes. There were individual progressive Lutherans but they were never the dominant trend in the state church. But there is no doubting that Luther's extreme antisemitism is a part of his legacy, and that the Nazis republished many of his tracts.

I also learned about this 1983 GDR film of Luther that is mostly positive

This historian was an advisor to it, and his biography of Luther was translated into English, largely representing the dominant trend of GDR historians
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