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

The revolution in the GDR had suddenly given topicality to the problem of unity of the Germany, first of all in the eyes of the Germans themselves. After the first phase, all aimed at the reforms and democratization of the GDR, starting from early December the question of unification, and in the short term, was gaining prominence in East German opinion. In the demonstrations the cry Wir sind das Volk (“we are the people”) was gradually replaced by that Wir sind ein Volk (“we are apeople”) and black-red-gold tricolor flags, improvised by cutting off the communist symbol from the official ones, they appeared everywhere, alongside those of the historical Länder, until then banned. A rapid unification was beginning to appear the only way, not only for the reconstruction of the economy, but at the same time to avert the danger of a return of the forces of the collapsed regime, which still showed that they still had many resources. The historic pairing of unity and freedom, often interpreted in the past as implying a choice, instead acquired the meaning of national unity to guarantee the freedom, just conquered, of the 16 million East Germans.

Under the Modrow government, the GDR was in the balance between two conflicting situations. On the one hand, the progressive elimination of the leaders of the old leadership, with the indictment of its main exponents, the disintegration of the Block (the organization that linked the satellite parties to the SED) and above all the establishment of a ” table rotunda ” which saw the SED, the old parties and the ” mass organizations ” up to now satellites of the SED, gathered together with the new movements and opposition parties (Bürgerrechtsbewegungen, Verdi, SDP, DA, etc.) with the representatives of the Churches who acted as moderators (already from the first meeting on 7 December the recommendation of free elections to be held on 6 May 1990 emerged). On the other hand, the high bureaucracy, the administrative machine, the municipalities, the justice system, the economic apparatus, the television, the radio, and the universities that continued to be in the hands of the men of the old SED regime. At the extraordinary congress held in December 1989, the SED, averting the risk of a complete disintegration, renewed its leadership, electing Germany Gysi as president (personally not compromised with the crimes of the regime, indeed with a past as a lawyer defending dissidents), renewed the statute and structures and adopted a programmatic orientation which, breaking with Stalinism, the it aligned with the reformed communist parties of the East; adding diction Partei des demokratischen Sozialismus (PDS) the old acronym would have been adopted as the only name in February 1990 to underline the break with the past and the character of a new party.

Until mid-January 1990, the ” round table ” (which the NF had not managed to have a formal right of veto recognized, but which, faced with the lack of democratic legitimacy of the Volkskammer, had immediately gained considerable control functions and legislative preparation) was the scene of a tenacious struggle by the new oppositions to dismantle the monopoly apparatus of SED- Stasi power: the fate of the former MfS and the Stasi staff (which turned out to be more than four times the previously estimated figures) was in fact at the center of the decisive battle. Backed by massive demonstrations, which culminated on January 15 in the occupation of the Stasi headquarters, the new oppositions prevailed; the ” round table ” acquired a central role in the decision-making process, and Modrow was obliged to ask for the participation of the new oppositions in the cabinet.

Perhaps the most fraught with consequences was the action taken by the government and the bureaucracy in delaying the conversion of the GDR economy into a market system. While impressive demonstrations were renewed against the persistence of SED-PDS power, which also insisted on demanding a rapid unification of the Germany, the uncertain political and economic situation caused a strong resumption of emigration to the Federal Republic. From this dynamic was born the proposal of a monetary and economic union, which later became social too (WWSU, Wirtschafts-, Währungs- und Sozialunion), first advanced by Social Democratic exponents and then endorsed by the federal government, with a rapid introduction of the DM into the GDR. Bold shock therapy, which would have preceded monetary unification after economic recovery, the WWSU also corresponded to the de facto impossibility of maintaining two areas with a very strong economic-social difference, but united by a common language and multiple ties that favored migrations.

According to Prozipcodes, the dynamics of the disintegration of the GDR had rapidly rendered obsolete not only the gradual program proposed by Chancellor Kohl on November 28, 1989, but the same “ bargaining community ” agreed by him with Prime Minister Modrow on December 19. In February 1990 the international conditions for the unification of G were established: the US President Bush had long ago adopted a line of support for unification, without prejudice to the German “ commitment ” in NATO and the EEC, conditional only from the lively concern not to weaken Gorbachev’s position. By February, by now, the US tacitly supported the policy of accelerating the unification process pursued by the federal government. The question turned out to be more delicate for the United Kingdom and France which, with the solution of the German question, would have lost valuable elements of international status. The two governments, after some hesitation, aligned themselves. Full of contrasts was the picture of public opinion in Europe, divided between the basic satisfaction of the collapse of the wall and the acceptance of unification (as the opinion polls revealed in most European countries), and the memories still today living of the Third Reich, which aroused fears, spread by the mass media, for a return of a ” Fourth Reich ”. Of great importance was the initiative taken by the President of the Commission of the EEC, J. Delors, on January 17, 1990: he argued that the GDR, given its particular status in the German context, could quickly find its place in the EEC and in a way that to be decided mainly by the Germans themselves. The Commission would then translate it into a program for rapid insertion of the GDR, presented on April 20.

From the Collapse of the Communist Regime to the Unification of Germany 3