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Is xenophobia a legacy of Stalinist-ruled East Germany?

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Post 11 Oct 2012, 17:30
An interesting ( albeit somewhat old, from 2000 ) article by ICFI ( Trotskysts of course ).

Is xenophobia a legacy of Stalinist-ruled East Germany?

Widespread hostility and violent attacks on foreigners in the east of Germany have given new impetus to discussions concerning whether this phenomenon is exclusively a consequence of German reunification in 1990 or whether its roots go back to Stalinist-ruled East Germany (the German Democratic Republic—GDR). ... -s13.shtml
Post 12 Oct 2012, 01:12
As far as I understand it, seeing the connection between xenophobia of today and the political culture of East Germany depends on whether or not one values national culture or strives for a nation-less world.

That Otto Grotewohl promoted the restoration of national art and opposed cosmopolitanism and globalism does not make the cultural policy of the GDR 'reminiscent of the Nazis'. There is no problem for socialists in recognizing the important national figures of the past and appreciating them within the appropriate context. Nor is there anything wrong with "socialist patriotism" standing side by side with "proletarian internationalism". The latter has never meant the destruction of national culture in favour of cosmopolitanism, but promoted the unity of all national cultures as a sign of the true richness of a country. Hence in the USSR children were exposed to this:


rather than this:


That the SED eventually allowed former members of the NSDAP and of the Hitler Youth to join the party is nothing exceptional, given that like any political situation where only one party is allowed to exist, the NSDAP was a political and social organization more than it was a party. This meant that for virtually every class of professional, membership was necessary. Incidentally the GDR has a much better record toward the worst Nazis than the FRG and the West in general. East German historical education regarding the Nazi past was also very clear in explaining why the Nazis were wrong, pointing among other things to the ethnically-motivated destruction of tens of millions of people (and again here, because of the GDR's strong connection with the USSR, the killing of people from Eastern Europe were given just as much weight and seriousness as that of the Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, resistance fighters, etc., whereas in the West, certain prevalent political considerations resulted in the downplaying of the suffering of the Nazis' greatest victims).

I would also like to throw it out there that among the Soviet-led socialist bloc, the GDR did more to promote socialism abroad than any other country, Cuba and the USSR excepted.

With regard to living conditions for foreign workers, I would really like to research more on the subject, given that this is not the first time I've heard that they had a hard time in East Germany. Perhaps there really is something to this point, or perhaps its source was the same 'Potsdam paper'...

With regard to the growth of skinheads in the late 1980s, I know this phenomenon grew in the USSR in the late 1980s as well, although it was mainly the result of the loosening of social control by the KPSS. I'm wondering whether a similar case can be made for the situation in East Germany as well. Pointing to this guy Riechert's case and then generalizing that extreme right wing nationalism "comes from the loins of the ruling bureaucracy" is ridiculous in its simplicity.

Finally, the point about the 'Stalinists' own responsibility for Hitler's ascent' reminds us where the author and the political strain of thought he represents stands with regard to the 'Stalinist' USSR (i.e. the USSR from the late 1920s to the 1980s). Even if the USSR was to an extent responsible for Hitler's rise, this was the result of a massive political miscalculation, rather than a consciously malicious policy. This is proven by the later policy of a united front against fascism, which if I'm not mistaken was later criticized by Trotskyists all around the world in the countries where it was implemented. I'm not even going to address the last section and the supposed connection between "Stalinism and Nationalism", given its twisting of the facts on everything from Stalin's views on Great Russian chauvinism to its treatment of the Spanish civil war. Needless to say on the matter of Stalin and Stalinism I'm just going to have to agree to disagree with a Trotskyist.
Post 12 Oct 2012, 06:46
Thank you for the detailed response.
I agree with it.
Post 29 Jan 2013, 15:25
Sorry for my somewhat "belated" answer, but at least my answer is clear: Is xenophobia a legacy of Stalinist-ruled East Germany? Not at all!

In the GDR, fascists were in prison. In the FRG, they were in the parliament or held other high positions (Globke, Heusinger, Speidel, Gehlen, Kiesinger, just to mention some). It is true that in the GDR some parlamentarians, generals and so on had a fascist past as well, but the difference is that in the GDR there were only few of them who obviously had changed their mind, whereas in the west they basically took over the old structures minus the dead main leaders. So one can say that in the GDR the "De-Nazification" was carried out seriously and hence successfully, whereas in the west it wasn't even done properly. Many of the judges who tried communists in the 1950s did basically the same as they already used to do in the 1930s, with the only difference for them being that their "boss" was no more Hitler, but Adenauer.

In the GDR, fascism was forbidden. Fascist parties were forbidden, fascist propaganda of any kind was punished hard, and the state leadership propagated internationalism and equality of the peoples. In West Germany, however, though the SRP was forbidden, its founder Otto Ernst Remer (mainly responsible for the crushing-down of the Stauffenberg coup) could further be active in fascist politics. The NPD has been tolerated, xenophobia and revanchism came from the middle of the political system in Bonn (especially from CDU/CSU, but not only from them; I could give you some really frightening quotes, but I would have to translate them first), and if it hadn't been for the so-called "68er", the Nazi past and its present continuity would have been hushed up maybe even till today.

So, in West Germany there was an uninterrupted continuity of old Nazi politics (I don't say West Germany was fascist, but in its very essence, the political line and in many cases even the personell was basically the same), whereas the GDR broke with that continuity. This is a fact that can't be denied, and those who try to put the blame on the GDR (even though it is history for more than 20 years) only try to detract attention from this uninterrupted continuity in West Germany.

But you might ask: Why all these racist riots in East Germany then? The main reason was the re-unification of Germany, in two ways. On the one hand, it led to a new nationalist mood, the old atmosphere of spread again among the people. On the other hand - and this is even the more dangerous thing - many West German fascists came to the East after the reunification, as they thought it to be a perfect area for their propaganda. There was kind of a vacuum of power in these days, and they tried to benefit from the nationalist atmosphere. Nowadays, many East Germans are deeply disappointed by the (basically still) West German politics and despise the system, which is also a good situation for the fascist scum. If you look at the NPD leaders in East Germany as well as at many of the "prominent" local fascists, most of them have their origins in West Germany. So basically one could say that not the GDR is the reason for xenohobia and fascism in East Germany, but rather its utter disposal.
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