Rereading German History: From Unification to Reunification, 1800-1996

By Richard J. Evans | Go to book overview

Part V

REUNIFICATION AND BEYOND

Memories of the Third Reich played a complex and contradictory part in German reunification and its aftermath, and the essays gathered together in Part V explore this from a number of different angles. Chapter 18 was written for the now-defunct magazine Marxism Today in the Spring of 1990, just as it had become clear that the process of reunification begun a few months before had become politically unstoppable. The magazine, originally an organ of the British Communist Party, had become by this time a forum for a whole range of political ideas very far removed from the encrusted ideologies of the traditional left, and its editor, Martin Jaques, was subsequently to found the non-party think-tank ‘Demos’, so it is no wonder that the magazine lost the support of its Communist financial backers and had to close down not long after this article was published. The invitation to write it provided a welcome opportunity to rethink the categories and ideas of the 1980s, when in common with virtually everyone else I had thought of German reunification as something that would only happen in the very distant future.

At the time it was written, voices were being raised on the right and the left in Britain warning against the revival of German nationalism and the creation of a ‘Fourth Reich’. The British left had a long tradition of anti-Germanism, going back to the anti-fascist movement of the 1930s and the campaigns of Aneurin Bevan and the Labour Party left against German rearmament in the 1950s. It lived on in the sympathy of elements of the far left in Britain for the Serb side in the Bosnian civil war of the 1990s as a reaction against what were perceived as historic and political links of the Croats with German capitalism and imperialism. On the right, Conservative Eurosceptics, whether or not living off the Churchillian myth of ‘Britain alone against Europe’ in the Second World War, saw German reunification as reviving old demons of German militarism and world-power ambitions. Written in this atmosphere of suspicion and hostility, Chapter 18 tries to set reunification in its historical context and to argue that German nationalism has changed many times in its history, and has come in many different

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