Posted On: Saturday - January 9th 2021 11:24PM MST
In Topics:   Commies  History  Socialism/Communism  World Political Stupidity
A few months back some unz commenter mentioned the uprising in East Germany for a few days in the long ago summer of 1953. (The war in Korea would be "settled" in another month, and Ike Eisenhower had only been President for 5 months - that's how long ago.) I'd never heard of it before, even though I do know some history of the Cold War.
This was pretty interesting reading, here on Wiki. In case the younger Peak Stupidity readers (if we haven't pissed them off too bad) don't know anything about the Cold War in Europe, let me give a short bit of background:
Just after the end of World War II, by 1946 anyway, it was clear that the Communist USSR and the US were enemies already. It was also clear that the USSR would not give up any land that it had taken while defeating the Nazis and other Axis countries. The "Iron Curtain", a term coined by Winston Churchill (or his speechwriter), had descended, and was in place north to south from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic Sea. This means that the countries of Poland, Czechoslovakia (peacefully divided into Czechia and Slovakia 28 years ago), Hungary, Yugoslavia (split into an ungodly number of pieces, also in the early 1990s), Albania*, Romania, and Bulgaria were all under the Soviet influence. "Influence" sound too mild, though. These countries may as well have been part of the USSR, militarily speaking. Communism of sorts was installed in all of them. They were the "East Bloc".
I left out one country though. Whatever portion of Germany the Russian Army had taken, they also kept. Since they came from the east, it was the eastern portion of Germany that was made Communist, with that weird exception of West Berlin, 120 miles inside East Germany, which had been formed from the American, British, and French controlled zones in place when the city fell in May 1945.
These countries all had to suffer from Communism for 45 years or so, which was better than the situation for the poor Russians (and Ukrainians, Belorussians, and the 3 Baltic countries), who had to endure it for over 70 years. That's 3 generations growing up under the poverty, oppression, and other stupidity.
There were uprisings against the strangling yoke of Communism in a number of these countries - Hungary and Czechoslovakia being cases in 1956 and 1968, respectively. They didn't take.
The economic situation in East Germany had gotten bad in 1952 due to, well, the usual Communist stupidity that is to be expected. Wiki describes it:
The result of this change in the GDR's economic direction was the rapid deterioration of workers' living standards, which lasted until the first half of 1953, and represented the first clear downward trend in the living standard of East Germans since the 1947 hunger crisis. Travel costs rose as generous state subsidies were cut, while many consumer goods began to disappear from store shelves. Factories were forced to clamp down on overtime: in the context of a now restricted budget, the wage bill was deemed excessively high. Meanwhile, food prices rose as a result of both the effects of the state's collectivization policy – 40% of the wealthier farmers in the GDR fled to the West, leaving over 750,000 hectares of otherwise productive land lying fallow – and a poor harvest in 1952. Workers' cost of living therefore rose, while the take-home pay of large numbers of workers – many of whom depended on overtime hours to make ends meet – was diminishing. In the winter of 1952–53, there were also serious interruptions to the supply of heat and electricity to East Germany's cities.To try to solve the problems and with Stalin having just died, a "New Course" was prescribed by the USSR for the East German economy. It wasn't left up to the Germans. It was an end to forced collectivization, and a switch from subsidization of heavy industry to subsidization of consumer goods. It was still a top-down 5-year plan. You can't please everyone this way, as you can with a free market, so workers were not happy. It was then that they started strikes and demonstrations:
On 12 June, the next day, 5,000 people participated in a demonstration in front of Brandenburg-Görden Prison in Brandenburg an der Havel.The full-bore uprising happened on June 16th, and I'll let the reader go to the Wiki page for that.
On 14 June, more confusion followed as an editorial in Neues Deutschland condemned the new work norms, yet in that very same issue, news articles praised workers who had exceeded the new norms in contradiction to the editorial.
On 15 June, workers at the Stalinallee "Block 40" site in East Berlin, now with their hopes raised about the possibility that the work norms would be rescinded, dispatched a delegation to East German Prime Minister Otto Grotewohl to deliver a petition calling for a revocation of the higher work norms. However, Grotewohl ignored the workers' demands.
The word spread. Protests were held in 24 big East German cities.
The demand was initially about a certain type of pay scale, called the "norm", which was obviously too low. Just as during the Tiananmen Square protest, 36 later in China, once you go all out like this, marching in the streets and confronting government officials, you may as well go in for a pound rather than just a penny. Some of the demands were about the re-forming of a different political party. No, you just don't do that under Communsim.
The Soviet Union didn't wait even till the next day to make the decision to send in the tanks.
The Soviet army with its infantry and tanks arrived in E. Berlin on the morning of the 17th. Not all of the Soviet soldiers complied with orders to attack the troublemakers. At the end of it, 10,000 people had been detained, and 32 - 40 people were executed.
What's this post got to do with ANYTHING, the reader may very well ask. Well, I already had the pictures saved, so... More importantly, the East German uprising of 1953 is just another example of an uprising that failed. That is, most of them. The lesson is to not let things go so far to begin with. Once it goes so far, the tools (as in guns and ability to safely organize) have been taken away. It's hard to have a successful uprising, it seems, as the time to reverse course has passed. Communism and any other kind of Totalitarianism must be nipped in the bud. Just nip it! Nip it, Andy! /Barney Fife]
We are at that nip it stage in America right now. Peak Stupidity included a very famous passage from a famous book in our post Alexander Solzhenitsyn on Gulags and avoidance thereof. We'll just include it again:
And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand? After all, you knew ahead of time that those bluecaps were out at night for no good purpose. And you could be sure ahead of time that you’d be cracking the skull of a cutthroat.Nip it in the bud!
* Albania was a bit of an even weirder deal, a place like N. Korea where nobody knew what kind of really stupid shit was going on and how deep in Communist hole they were. It was a bit more independent from the USSR, but that didn't make it any better. OTOH, Austria, even though part of "the West" was just a little closer to the East Bloc.