* INTELLECTUAL PURGE
|Wrapping Up' East Germany
Socialism in East Germany was not defeated by capitalism; the system--which had some elements of socialism in it--was overthrown by the people of East Germany. As it was being broken up, an opening briefly appeared for the consideration of a "third way," something neither capitalist nor Stalinist but combining the formal freedoms and market advantages of the first with the equality and stated social goals of the second. With unification and the complete domination of events in East Germany by the West, those possibilities have, for the moment, been suppressed. The termination of the pre-existing rights of every professor in every institution of higher education in East Germany, and the layoff of thousands of researchers in the academies, are a significant part of that process of suppression. While de-Stalinization is certainly needed, the course of the Abwicklung ("wrapping up"), the official euphemism for the dissolution of university departments and institutions, is making it crystal clear that the goal of the German authorities is the simple integration of East into West without reflection. The effort to find alternatives to capitalism and Stalinism is to be buried before it is fully born.
Most of the early leaders of the Wende (literally, the "turn") in East Germany were committed to socialism as an ideal. They saw de-Stalinization, the overthrow of the centralized, overplanned, despotic system of the German Democratic Republic (G.D.R.), as a step toward a better, more democratic socialism, not a repudiation of it. But the general dissatisfaction with the existing system was too great to permit that kind of reform. Twenty years earlier, at the time of the Prague Spring, it might have been possible to have thoroughgoing reform from within the system, especially in East Germany, where things were going pretty well economically. Even in 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev initiated perestroika in the U.S.S.R., it might also have been possible in East Germany. But Erich Honecker's remark--that just because one's neighbor puts up new wallpaper doesn't mean one's own walls need redoing--ended that possibility. By 1989, the people of East Germany wanted out.
Intellectuals played a leading role in the G.D.R. reform movement in the early days: Writers, artists, theologians and professors spoke, wrote, marched, founded citizens' …