Stalinism Revisited: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in East-Central Europe

By Vladimir Tismaneanu | Go to book overview

JOHN CONNELLY


The Paradox of East German
Communism: From Non-Stalinism to
Neo-Stalinism?

The German Democratic Republic (GDR) figured as one of the world's most orthodox Communist states. This was especially apparent against the background of the Soviet Bloc. As one author has stated of the post-1961 period: “Close Party control over all aspects of national life was more systematically elaborated in the GDR than in any other eastern European state…”1 While Poland or Hungary gradually liberalized, the East German leadership resisted reform so tirelessly that western commentators have called it “neo-Stalinist.”2 “Neo-Stalinist,” when applied to Brezhnev's Soviet Union, referred to a repressive, strictly centralized political regime that had been created in the 1920s, and persisted despite the de-Stalinization of the 1950s. East Germany, however, supposedly never had Stalinism to begin with. At best, most scholars agree, it experienced a mild form of Stalinism. It lagged behind neighboring states in the severity of inner-Party purges, and in the socialization of the economy. In some scholars' views, these anomalies even placed East Germany outside the context of Eastern Europe. The challenge in telling GDR history is to bridge this gap between that country's supposed failure to fully institutionalize Stalinism during its

1 L.P. Morris, Eastern Europe since 1945 (London: Heinemann, 1984), p. 51.

2 Dietrich Orlow, A History of Modern Germany, 1871 to the Present (Upper Sad-
dle River: Prentice Hall, 2002), p. 298; Bruce Allen, Germany East: Dissent
and Opposition
, 2nd ed. (Montreal: Black Rose, 1991), p. 157. (First ed. was
1989); Alexander Wendt and Daniel Friedhelm, “Hierarchy under Anarchy:
Informal Empire and the East German State,” International Organization, Vol.
49, No. 4 (1995): 714; Jonathan Zatlin, The Currency of Socialism: Money and
Political Culture in East Germany
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2007), p. 10.

-161-

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