Реферат: Germany Essay Research Paper CommunismThe shocking fall

Germany Essay, Research Paper


The shocking fall of communism in Eastern and Central Europe in

the late eighties was remarkable for both its rapidity and its scope.

The specifics of communism’s demise varied among nations, but

similarities in both the causes and the effects of these revolutions

were quite similar. As well, all of the nations involved shared the

common goals of implementing democratic systems of government and

moving to market economies. In each of these nations, the communist

regimes in power were forced to transfer that power to radically

different institutions than they were accustomed to. Democracy had

been spreading throughout the world for the preceding two decades, but

with a very important difference. While previous political

transitions had seen similar circumstances, the actual events in

question had generally occurred individually. In Europe, on the other

hand, the shift from communism was taking place in a different context

altogether. The peoples involved were not looking to affect a narrow

set of policy reforms; indeed, what was at stake was a hyper-radical

shift from the long-held communist ideology to a western blueprint

for governmental and economic policy development. The problem

inherent in this type of monumental change is that, according to

Ulrich K. Preuss, “In almost all the East and Central European

countries, the collapse of authoritarian communist rule has released

national, ethnic, religious and cultural conflicts which cannot be

solved by purely economic policies” (47). While tremendous changes

are evident in both the governmental and economic arenas in Europe,

these changes cannot be assumed to always be “mutually reinforcing”

(Preuss 47). Generally it has been theorized that the most successful

manner of addressing these many difficulties is the drafting of a

constitution. But what is clear is the unsatisfactory ability of a

constitution to remedy the problems of nationalism and ethnic

differences. Preuss notes that when the constitutional state gained

favor in North America, it was founded on the principle of the unitary

state; it was not designed to address the lack of national identity

which is found throughout Europe – and which is counter to the

concept of the constitutional state (48). “Measured in terms of

socioeconomic modernization,” writes Helga A. Welsh, “Central and

Eastern European countries had reached a level that was considered

conducive to the emergence of pluralistic policies” (19). It seemed

that the sole reason the downfall of communism, as it were, took so

long was the veto power of the Soviet Union. According to theories of

modernization, the higher the levels of socioeconomic achievement, the

greater the pressure for open competition and, ultimately, democracy.

As such, the nations in Eastern and Central Europe were seen as

“anomalies in socioeconomically highly-developed countries where

particularly intellectual power resources have become widespread”

(Welsh 19). Due to their longtime adherence to communist policies,

these nations faced great difficulty in making the transition to a

pluralist system as well as a market economy. According to Preuss,

these problems were threefold: The genuine economic devastations

wrought by the communist regimes, the transformation of the social and

economic classes of the command economy into the social and economic

classes of a capitalist economy and, finally, the creation of a

constitutional structure for political entities that lack the

undisputed integrity of a nation state (48).

With such problems as these to contend with in re-engineering

their entire economic and political systems, the people of East

Germany seemed to be in a particularly enviable position.

Economically, they were poised to unite with one of the richest

countries, having one of the strongest economies, in the entire world.

In the competition for foreign investment, such an alliance gave the

late German Democratic Republic a seemingly insurmountable lead over

other nations. In regards to the political aspects of unification,

it effectively left a Germany with no national or ethnic minorities,

as well as having undisputed boundaries. As well, there was no need

to create a constitution (although many of the pitfalls of

constitution-building would have been easily-avoided due to the

advantages Germany had), because the leaders of the GDR had joined the

Federal Republic by accession and, accordingly, allowed its Basic Law

to be extended over their territory. For all the good that seemed to

be imminent as a result of unification, many problems also arose

regarding the political transformation that Germany was undergoing.

Among these problems were the following: the tensions between the

Basic Law’s simultaneous commitments to supranational integration and

to the German nation state, the relationship between the nation and

the constitution as two different modes of political integration and

the issue of so-called “backward justice” (Preuss 48). The Federal

Republic of Germany’s Basic Law has been the longest-lived

constitution in Germany’s history. Intended to be a short-lived,

temporary document, the Basic Law gained legitimacy as West Germany

continued to march towards becoming a major economic power and

effective democratic society. There seemed to be, at first, a tension

between the Basic Law’s explicit support of re-unification and its

promise to transfer sovereignty to a supranational institution that

would be created. The conflict between West Germany’s goals of

national unity and international integration remained the main issue

in the country’s politics for many years.

As Preuss notes, “It will be extremely difficult to escape the

economic and, in the long run also political, implications of this

double-bind situation of Germany, one that remains a legacy of the

postwar order” (51). Since the unification of Germany was

accomplished through accession, it meant, strangely enough, that

neither West nor East Germany had a say in the other’s decision on

whether to form a unified state or what conditions such a unification

would be contingent upon, respectively. Put simply, the net effect of

the extension of the Basic Law to all of Germany did not guarantee the

implementation of a new joint governing policy or a new constitution

for the country. It seemed, as a result of some esoteric articles of

the Basic Law, that the GDR would cease to exist legally and the FRG

would survive. It was impossible to draw the conclusion that both

would die out and be replaced by a new political identity. Many of

the Federal Republic’s laws immediately applied in the GDR (Gloebner

153). Article 146 of the Basic Law, put simply, allowed for the

annulment of the Basic Law, to be replaced with another governing

system, without previously binding the people to any specific rules.

Seemingly, it sanctions revolution, and, “as proved to be the case in

1990, this is not a purely theoretical conclusion” (Preuss 52). Some

suggest that, by unifying through accession, Germany has made problems

which could end up overshadowing the benefits of unification. The

suggestion is that the implementation of a constitution by a society

without experience in utilizing it, without the necessary institutions

and without the corresponding value system will bring about more harm

than good (politically). The imposition of the Basic Law was the root

for much of the mistrust between East and West Germans following

unification. In regards to the East Germans, the Law was effectively

self-imposed, and “neither submission nor voluntary self-submission is

likely to engender the social and political coherence which is a

necessary condition for a stable democracy” (Preuss 54). In regards to

the economic aspects of unification, some major problems exist in the

transition to democracy and market economics. According to Preuss,

the two main issues included in the realm of “backward justice” are

the privatization of large pieces of state property, and the

punishment of the elites of the previous regimes and their comrades

under the headings of “self-purification” and “collective amnesia.”

The privatization issue is among the thorniest involved in any

country’s transition from communism. For one, a system of procedures

must be developed simply to transfer such large amounts of property to

private citizens. Also, there must be mechanisms put in place to both

protect new owners from claims of previous owners and to satisfy

former owners without alienating possible future investors. The

problem boils down to the fact that private property laws do not

always coincide with the “fair” concept of restitution. As Petra

Bauer-Kaase writes, “East Germans still have difficulties in adjusting

to a political system where individuals have a great deal of

responsibility for their own life” (307). The former East Germans

look upon this issue with contempt, because it is the Westerners who

have control over the rules, as well as the enforcement of those

rules. This is merely one of a multitude of instances where this

mistrust manifests itself.

There are also the issues of self-purification and collective

amnesia. Due to the pervasive nature of the communist regime’s

surveillance programs and so forth, there is very little room for

anyone to claim pure hands. While West Germans can claim that they

are innocent by virtue of geography, East Germans are never able to

escape the suspicions that they may have been part of the machine.

Government jobs are denied to those who were affiliated with the

Stasi, and private businesses also may deny employment to these

citizens. While unification has occurred theoretically, in reality

the Germany today is one of de facto separate-but-equal citizenship.

There is no denying that there have been many problems

associated with the unification of East and West Germany. The

transition from communist state to liberal democracy is a very

difficult one, and there is no real way to predict how the German

experience will turn out. As Preuss writes, “The transition from an

authoritarian political regime and its concomitant command economy to

a liberal democracy and a capitalist economy is as unprecedented as

the short-term integration of two extremely different societies – one

liberal-capitalist, one authoritarian-socialist – into one nation

state” (57). In other words, the unification of Germany is one of

the most complicated and unprecedented historical events since the

unification of Germany.


Bauer-Kaase, Petra. “Germany in Transition: The Challenge of Coping

with Unification.” German Unification: Processes and Outcomes. M.

Donald Hancock and Helga A. Welsh, eds.

Boulder: Westview, 1994. 285-311. Gloebner, Gert-Joachim. “Parties

and Problems of Governance During Unification.” German Unification:

Processes and Outcomes. M. Donald Hancock and Helga A. Welsh, eds.

Boulder: Westview, 1994. 139-61. Preuss, Ulrich K.

“German Unification: Political and Constitutional Aspects.” United

Germany and the New Europe. Heinz D. Kurz, ed. Brookfield: Elgar,

1993. 47-58. Welsh, Helga A. “The Collapse of Communism in Eastern

Europe and the GDR: Evolution, Revolution, and Diffusion.” German

Unification: Processes and Outcomes. M. Donald Hancock and Helga A.

Welsh, eds. Boulder: Westview, 1994. 17-34.

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