“Stasi Reloaded”

Ever heard of the term “ostalgia”? More accurately, it’s spelled ostalgie because it’s a German word, basically meaning “nostalgia for the Ost,” that is, for the old East Germany. Citizens of that erstwhile DDR (German Democratic Republic) had sky-high hopes for their lives once the Wall was torn down and the DDR was folded into what was West Germany; inevitably, those hopes were to a lesser or greater extent disappointed, leading some to pine back for the “good old days” of German socialism in the Eastern third of the country.

You surely didn’t much notice if you are not yourself German, but two weeks back from last Sunday (on 27 January) local elections were held in the (West) German states of Hesse and Lower Saxony. In the latter state, whose capital is Hannover, it is fair to say that “ostalgie” won a seat in the state parliament – and how! The Süddeutsche Zeitung reports on the rise of one Christel Wegner, a trained nurse of some sixty years of age, but also a founding member of the German Communist Party (DKP – Deutsche Kommunistische Partei). Now, it’s not as if she owes her new seat in the Lower Saxon parliament to being directly elected to the position – it doesn’t work that way in the German political system. Rather, the different parties make up their own lists of candidates, and how far down the list you go in giving the candidates seats in the new parliament is a function of how many votes that party receives in the election. Although formally of the DKP, Wegner was nonetheless taken up on the electoral list of the party that calls itself The Left (Die Linke), that did rather better than usual in the 27 January elections. And so Christel Wegner is going to Hannover.

What’s the problem? you may ask. The problem lies in Wegner’s vision for Germany, which she laid out on the German TV program “Panorama.” (Actually, it’s on tonight’s show – Thursday, 14 February, 21.45 on Germany’s first TV channel ARD.) She’s not some sort of half-stepper when it comes to reforming society by passing a law or two – like, say, the Die Linke folks who were kind enough to list her so she could get into parliament in the first place: “Die Linke can achieve various reforms, but we [i.e. the DKP] are of the conviction: That’s not enough. We want a transformation of society.” What sort of “transformation”? “The power of Capital can only be overthrown by nationalizing the means of production.” And what else? How about a return of the Stasi – the Staatssicherheitdienst: “I think . . . when you set up another form of society, then you need such an organ, because you have to protect yourself against other forces, reactionary forces, that will use the opportunity to subvert such a state from within.” Oh, and by the way, she also made it clear that she thought the Berlin Wall was a pretty good idea.

Again, right now it’s the Süddeutsche Zeitung and other newspapers (i.e. other links on the subject I have run across) that are pointing out this rather new, exotic bird who has found her way into the Lower Saxony parliament. After her TV broadcast tonight, who knows how much further and faster this story will spread. (If the follow-on is worth remarking on, I might return to this subject in a later post.) But as for Die Linke co-chairman Gregor Gysi, he has already had enough of the story. As he is said to have made clear to “Panorama”: “There is for us no way back to the DDR. There is for us no way to nationalization of the means of production. And if someone is of another opinion and is within our legislative faction, then that person must be overruled. Period!”

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