Author(s): Bruni de la Motte & John Green
Report Published: 7th June 2016
QUAKE Books Bonus Material: Q&A with the authors
Victors do more than re-write history, they dictate the present and future, through the ideologue they have an interest in maintaining and promoting. Facts get conveniently forgotten and distorted; lies take on new insidious lives of their own. And, this is why books such as this one, by de la Motte and Green, are so important.
Stasi State or Socialist Paradise is written by a husband and wife team who worked and lived in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Green as a British journalist, whilst de la Motte was born there. With no ulterior motive or narrative to protect, they are perhaps the best placed non-political figures to talk about what really happened behind the German Iron Curtain, on a day to day basis.
Interesting facts highlighted in this book (and which I checked in Spanish, as the English press told a different story) and which you might not know, include the asylum granted to current Chilean President Michelle Bachelet who lived, married and studied in the GDR for four years (1975-79), whilst she waited for the demise of Pinochet’s fascist dictatorship that had imprisoned her father. Another interesting fact is that current Chancellor Angela Merkel’s father voluntarily migrated from West Germany to the GDR. He was a church leader and saw the move as an opportunity to enhance the co-existence of Christianity within the socialist State, which contrary to popular belief didn’t ban religion (although it didn’t actively encourage it, a position seen as a pillar of democracy in secular Republics today).
Consequently, Stasi State or Socialist Paradise is for anyone brave enough to challenge misconceptions and search for the truth amongst a sea of Red Herrings. It is a sobering account of what it means to take pride in identifying as East German, first under a socialist government and then under a capitalist one, following re-unification. Whilst this book doesn’t make for comfortable reading, it should make the list for anyone who knows that there are two sides to every argument.
“To judge any country simply on Western media reports, selective statistics or the views of dissidents is to accept a one-dimensional picture.”
“In the West, freedom and democracy have always been largely defined as the right to the vote within a multi-party system and to act and speak relatively unstrained; but it does NOT include the right to be free from something e.g. homelessness or unemployment.
“Many East Germans do not feel that there has been a unification of two States but that they have been taken over and treated as a colony of the West.”
The shaking started before I read this book or had even heard of the authors’ names. I was in Berlin at the DDR (initials of GDR in German) Museum and whilst I found the displays fascinating, it didn’t take me long to become acutely aware of the capitalist propaganda (its presence surprised me) that undermined the “facts”. There was a story being told but it certainly wasn’t the complete one!
From women’s rights to environmental consequences due to mining, it was as if capitalism had never contributed to ecosystem devastation or infringed union women’s rights and roles in society. Furthermore, the person who wrote the information boards in the GDR Museum directly accused the Socialist government of being responsible for keeping women in the kitchen. You can just imagine the outcry if the GDR had taken away a family’s right to decide who cooked! It is even more absurd if you take a look at the United Nation’s gender equality statistics at the time, which placed East Germany light years ahead of most of Europe and the world.
The other alarming distortion, which is equally applied to Cuba today, is the neglecting to mention the trade embargo which prevented the DDR access to imports and consequently basic goods such as cotton. The museum stated that the socialist factories used chemical fibres instead of cotton, which sounds terrible until you realise such fibres were actually polyester (which just about incriminates every football shirt in the world!). On your way round the displays you could be forgiven for thinking that the socialist State had nothing good to contribute – which doesn’t exactly match the UN’s statistics or the opinion of East Germans today. It really smells to me like blanket censorship.
That small tremor rumbled into an almighty bookquake after I read with shock about the criminalities and blatant disregard for human life and achievement during and following the re-unification process. The credibility of academics, nurses and doctors was stripped, industry plundered and the collective East German soul sabotaged. That was a truly dark and unsavoury period of German history that is remarkably never mentioned anywhere in Berlin. I hope I can do my part by writing this review to raise awareness of this fact.
We should always be careful which sources we consider true. As Quake Books Agents we have a duty to read widely, if for nothing else but to challenge our own prejudices and blind spots.
The Matrix is not just about keeping individuals in their place. It is about keeping the system alive and the Establishment happy.