From the Collapse of the Communist Regime to the Unification of Germany Part II

One of the first protests in September, in East Berlin, had been directed against the fraud of the municipal elections of 17 May 1989. Although it was, as usual, single-list and patently fictitious elections, an unusually higher number of citizens had reported his dissent; but in order to reach the usual 98.85% of votes in favor, the government had not hesitated to make general use of false, unleashing an unexpected adverse reaction, with protests from voters and requests for investigations, also supported by the Churches. The demonstrations, shouting “we are the people”, soon saw the prevailing demands for democratic reforms and fundamental freedoms (such as freedom of assembly and opposition), then moving on to the request for the legalization of the opposition.

Apart from the Initiative Frieden und Menschenrechte and the groups already operating within the Churches, the future protagonists of the German revolution, the civil rights movements (Bürgerrechtsbewegungen), were regrouping between the summer and the early autumn of 1989, now proceeding with their formal constitution. The Demokratischer Aufbruch (DA) from a nucleus of Protestant origin formed a party on 30 October; in September Demokratie Jetzt was formed, a civic movement that arose from the protest against systematic fraud in the municipal elections in May, and the largest of the movements, the Neues Forum (NF), thanks to a network of local groups, with about 100,000 members. On the far left, on the other hand, the Vereinigte Linke (United Left), decidedly Marxist, was grouped, attracting dissident communists. Despite their ideological and philosophical differences, these movements all moved in a perspective of reform and democratization of the GDR, without questioning its existence as a state and without refusing (perhaps with a partial exception of the NF, more open also on this point) “ socialism ”, with respect to which, with the exception of Vereinigte Linke, however, demanded economic reforms, in the logic of de-bureaucratization and the market, and with the addition of ecological themes. However, they intended to move on the level of legality and within the Constitution. A new element, qualitatively different and of particular importance – due to the implicit contestation of the forced unification of KPD (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands) and SPD in 1946 and the monopoly of representation of the “ working class ” demanded since then by the SED – was the reconstitution of social democracy, promoted since August 1989, and whose manifesto of September 26 claimed an “ecologically oriented social democracy”, the rule of law, parliamentary democracy, party pluralism,and local autonomy, the social market economy.

Together with the increasingly open stance of the Churches in defense of dissent and freedom of travel, and against a line of mere repression; at the first signs of disengagement by some satellite parties; to the marked distancing of Gorbačëv on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the GDR, the double increasing pressure of mass escapes and demonstrations (16 October: more than 100,000 in Leipzig, 10,000 in Dresden) led to the resignation of Honecker, who was replaced as general secretary of the Central Committee of the SED by its dolphin E. Krenz. The attempt at a change of the guard at the top, supported by party exponents known as reformers, and therefore of an alignment on Gorbachev’s positions, clashed with the demand for free elections and freedom of the press, assembly, etc. Wendehälse (turncoat) and in opposition to the continuism represented by Krenz. Neither the sacrifice of a large part of the nomenklatura (from the top economic executive, Germany Mittag, to the wife of Honecker, Minister of Education for 26 years, to Minister Mielke, head of the secret police since 1957), nor the amnesty announcements and radical reforms and a new regulation of travel to the West were able to halt the disintegration of the regime.

On the evening of November 9, 1989, the wall in Berlin and all the borders with the BRD were opened, apparently following a misunderstanding (the intention of the new secretary general was actually only to liberalize travel, but no one dared to oppose the force to the massive mass movement): from the night, millions of East Berliners and East Germans began pouring into West Berlin and the Federal Republic, greeted with thrilling scenes of joy.

On November 13, according to Proexchangerates, the Volkskammer elected a well-known member of the reform wing of the SED, H. Modrow, as chairman of the board. On 1 December the provision relating to the leading role of the SED was canceled from the Constitution. Despite this, public outrage, which was beginning to glimpse both the actual dimensions of the corruption of the nomenklatura, and the degree of infiltration of the Stasi in every sector of life, increased, inspiring gigantic demonstrations. The SED itself, part of whose members were now asking for purges and reforms, was put in crisis by a massive exodus, to the point that within itself the request for a self-dissolution was raging. On 6 December Krenz had to resign from office.

Until then, the government and the main political exponents of the Federal Republic had limited themselves to asking for incisive reforms in the GDR, offering help, after the opening of the wall. On November 28, Chancellor Kohl took the initiative, unbeknownst not only to public opinion but also to Western allies themselves, surprisingly proposing a 10-point program. The program not only offered aid on the condition of lasting change, but, going beyond the “bargaining community” envisaged by Modrow, envisaged the creation of “confederal structures” between the two German states, envisaging, in the long term, the birth of a German federal state. This gradual process should have taken place in the context of the CSCE and without prejudice to integration into the EEC. The reaction of the Soviet government was openly against; that of the Western allies, beyond the recognition of principle of the right of the German people to self-determination, remained rather cold, especially that of the British and French governments. Even the EEC initially showed little inclination to consider joining the GDR in the short term.

From the Collapse of the Communist Regime to the Unification of Germany 2