Thirty years ago today, on 3 October 1990, the GDR was integrated into the Federal Republic of Germany. Today, all German TV channels are practically single-issue. In the press and news broadcasts, all politicians, from the heirs of the stalinist SED, which ruled the DDR, to those of the ultra-right-wing AfDm congratulate themselves on the liberation. There is always a moment of remembrance for the social situation in the East, of course. It is difficult to escape the fact that unemployment is still two points higher than in the West, salaries are 14% lower on average, and that decapitalization and deindustrialization never reversed their course.
But what really pisses off the German media is that, timidly, without actually questioning anything, some minor voices of the mainstream claim that the East liberated itself and that nobody asked the locals if they wanted accelerated reunification at the cost of losing their jobs. The skin of the German bourgeoisie is thin.
The “fall” of the wall, seen from the FRG meant the double opportunity of a territorial expansion and of putting an end to the bipolarity of the cold war. The first collided with the workers’ mobilization and its evident danger… both to the East and West of the bloc border. The second clashed with the resistance of the bureaucracy leading the DDR itself – mortally wounded by the mass strikes and the generalization of the revolt – and the reticence of the two heads of the imperialist bloc. The “solution” would take them a year and was a combination of democratic-nationalist bombardment and economic promises to the masses -which to this day have still not been fulfilled-, exchanges of impunity for pillage between the bureaucracies of the two Germanies and balances between Washington and Moscow.
“Lessons from the end of History (in Spanish)“, 13/11/2019
No wonder the German press is irritated at the slightest sign of disagreement with the official litany about all this. If you question even the crudest of a story that is untenable for anyone who lived through it, the next step is to remember that reunification really consisted of the hasty and destructive distribution of the capital accumulated by the DDR state between the West German bourgeoisie and a few, very few, outside friends.
But all that ruthless pillage did not go unnoticed by the workers of the East. There were thousands of people in the streets day in and day out. So the inevitable corollary, of recognizing what happened, is that the line between the worker insurrection of 1953 in the East and the Monday movement that ended up tearing down the wall and its continuation after reunification is very difficult to miss. Because the Monday demonstrations, a movement of thousands of workers from the East who refused to accept the massive closures and millions of layoffs, carried on after the fall of the DDR. It was in fact one of the reasons invoked at the time for accelerating reunification by Kohl. And even after reunification it was considered his main obstacle. A danger that at the time could not be covered up or made invisible. And yet, it ended suddenly and in demoralization just when it threatened to become decisive.
The moment of rupture? For some, Detlev Rohwedder’s assassination in 1991, the manager who at the time had reconverted Hoesch – one of the historical flagships of German capital – on the basis of thousands of layoffs and who Kohl literally commissioned to restructure or liquidate all the assets of the East, from newsstands to steel and automotive factories. That is, to organize the great piñata of the German bourgeoisie.
It is true that the assassination of Rohwedder, both in the official version which blamed the RAF -an ultra-stalinist terrorist group born of the 1968 student movement- and in the version which pointed directly at the Stasi, served then as confirmation of one of the great ideological campaigns of history: the discourse according to which when the movement and the struggles of the workers go beyond reasonable demands, that is to say, when it puts universal human needs before the profit of capital invested in the companies and the national economy, it can only lead to terror, totalitarianism and economic disaster. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Frankly, at that time the movement was already docile. The bombardment of images and discourses about the capitalism’s triumph, the repressed consumerist desires in the East and the end of communism, contributed to it. But above all, it was the salvific idea that democracy would allow the workers to defend themselves from dismissals and misery which handed over the leadership of the movement to the largest part of the left-wing apparatus in the FRG, from the big social-democratic trade unions to the Greens. If it was not difficult for them to dissolve it after the crime, it was because there was total political confusion. The assassination of Rohwedder served to give them the coup de grâce, not the green light.
The Netflix scandal
Even tangentially, the Netflix documentary, Detlev Rohwedder: Unification and Murder and Liberation, in the form of an investigative report, brings all that contradictory atmosphere back to the table. It is shocking for German public television that the program makes serious accusations. After all, its anniversary programming is full of spaces with such evocative titles as Reunification: The Time of the Millennials?, which obviously do not offend anyone while caressing the official history. The old Süddeutsche Zeitung, on the other hand, more accustomed to the order and command of the factory, is clear about where the documentary should be cut:
Technically, especially visually brilliant, Rohwedder investigates the still unsolved murder of the man under whom the Treuhandanstalt privatized the ailing economy of the DDR and who in 1991 was one of the most hated people in East Germany, devastated by sudden unemployment. Episode one, the introduction, and episode two, “RAF Connection,” make a powerful documentary worth watching. If only its creators had stopped there, or at least after the Stasi episode. But then the documentary slides slowly like a rudderless ship, then unstoppable and faster and faster into the darkness of the sea.
What does the last chapter tell us? What emerges that takes us headlong into the depths of the sea? In the search for a motive, it simply asks what happened after the murder. And it shows us how the rising Monday movement, which manifested itself precisely in front of the offices of the liquidation agency led by Rohwedder, suddenly ended with… a minute’s silence in repulse of the assassination.
And in closing, this observation is followed by the account of the death of the two members of the RAF who allegedly committed the crime according to the version of one of the German intelligence services, seasoned with the statements of a member of another of those services who pointed to a false flag crime by one of the various intelligence and counterinsurgency organizations of the Federal Republic. A mess, yes. But not by the storytellers, but by the organization of the German state.
Whatever it may be, solving the case is only the documentary’s excuse. Its real aim is to tell us what Germany, and by extension Europe, was like in 1989-90. It is the first German audio-visual product with a Europe-wide distribution that does so by breaking the leaden discourse of happy liberation and the reunification of the German nation. It has taken 30 years for us to see the strategy of the German bourgeoisie for what it was, a true crime.