This book is the first in a series of three about the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). The complete series is the product of a variety of studies of (1) the nature of socialist theory; (2) the political, social, and economic life of the former East Germany; and (3) East German courts and law. The present volume can be read in two ways: as an introductory text to the discussions of East German politics (described in Book II, Oppression and Scarcity: The History and Institutional Structure of the Marxist-Leninist Government of East Germany) and East German law (described in Book III, The East German Social Courts: Law and Popular Justice in a Marxist-Leninist Society), or as a critique of socialist (Marxist-Leninist) ideology and of much of socialist literature. Book II contains a critical review of socialist practice—mostly as executed in East Germany, but with occasional examples drawn from the other socialist countries. While Books I and II are almost entirely critical of East German socialist theory and practice, Book III, dealing with the legal system of the GDR, includes some positive evaluations. The social courts (lay courts) of East Germany were reasonably successful institutions. Indeed, with the American courts forever “in crisis, ” it may even be possible to learn some useful lessons.
I did the field work for this project 1 throughout the 1980s as part of several visits to the GDR. I also explored the archives and documentations available in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the United States. Given the general lack of cooperation on the part of the East German authorities (to be discussed in detail in Book III), the work was slow going.