Fighting for Equal Opportunity

Revolutions elevate a new and unexpected group of people to power. In East-Central Europe in 1990, an electrician became the president of Poland, a playwright the president of Czechoslovakia, and a philosopher the president of Bulgaria. After this brief period of the world turned upside down, the professional politicians took over again (or in the case of Vaclav Havel, the playwright morphed into a professional politician). But for a year or two or three, “ordinary” people were suddenly in charge of transforming the country.

Marina Grasse is a biologist who was involved in the independent peace movement in East Germany in the 1980s. I met her in 1990 (when she was Marina Beyer) to talk about the Pankow Peace Circle and how it was adapting to the new circumstances in a democratic East Germany. As the mother of four children, she was also passionately interested in educational reform. In fact, on the evening just before the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, she helped to organize a forum on educational reform in East Berlin. They expected 10-20 people. A couple thousand showed up.

Later, in 1990, Grasse joined the newly democratic East German government as a state secretary for equal opportunity. Her confirmation process inadvertently revealed the need for just such a government position.

“There was a coalition between the new East German Social Democratic Party and the old CDU,” she told me in an interview in June 2013 in her apartment in Pankow, a neighborhood in Berlin. “And in this coalition, they agreed that there should be a kind of state secretary responsible for equal opportunities for women and men. They were looking for somebody who could do that. Some people in the Social Democratic faction knew me. So they asked me if I would do that. I did. I didn’t know what a state secretary was, and I didn’t know what “equal opportunity” meant. But nevertheless they invited me. This was such a crazy time. I already had four children at this point, two boys and two girls. I was invited to come to the Volkskammer to introduce myself. I didn’t know why I should go there. But I went there.

They asked me, ‘Now, what are you going to do?’

‘What should I do?’ I asked.

‘You’ll be the state secretary for equal opportunity.’

‘But I don’t know what that is!’

‘It doesn’t matter, we don’t either! Now tell us your biography and some ideas about equal opportunity…’

I didn’t know what to say. But in the end, I said, ‘Okay, equal opportunity for women means that, since probably women are discriminated against, they think they need equal opportunity…’ So I talked for some time about that.

Then it was time for questions, and a man stood up and asked me as the first question. ‘We have heard you are the mother of four children. How do you think you can combine your private responsibilities as a mother with your responsibilities as state secretary?’

And I thought, really, what am I doing here? This is completely stupid! But then another person stood up and said, ‘That’s a very interesting question because in this group there are many men who have two, three, four kids. And never, never, never, never has somebody asked them how they could combine their responsibilities.’

That’s when I understood what it was about, and I agreed to do it. I needed some days to talk with my family and with my husband and with my kids to see if they would agree. Nobody knew what it was all about, but they agreed. As I said, that time was crazy. So I became state secretary for equal opportunity.”

Grasse discovered soon enough that equal opportunity was not on the agenda. The East German parliament, tasked to oversee the transformation of East Germany into a democratic society, very quickly became focused on one issue about everything else: reunification. And reunification, in turn, imposed a very abrupt term limit on all the new members of the East German government. Grasse decided to apply the principles of equal opportunity for women more broadly in the region.

“Then the so-called unification came, and my job was over because the government was over,” Grasse explained. “And I was not so interested to work with the new government. But I was also not so interested in going back to the university. So, together with some women from this Peace Circle and some other friends, we sat down to think about what we should do next. And we decided to set up a project called the East-West European Women’s Network (OWEN). The idea was that after the fall of the Wall, it would be very important that women who are interested in politics and women’s issues to organize a kind of exchange to understand what other society and what it meant to grow up in this other society.”

We talked about the work she and OWEN did in Ukraine, the unfortunate careerism of both the educational system and NGOs, and why change is about people and not ideas.

 

The Interview

 

Do you remember where you were and what you were thinking when you heard about the fall of the Berlin Wall?

 

I remember. You know this was a very exciting time full of hope. And in the DDR that was the time of many citizen…

 

Burgerbewegung? Citizens’ movements?

 

Yes, Burgerbewegung. I was working at the university, and I was always interested in education. In spring 1989, not only in our university but in also in many other places in the DDR, people set up citizens’ initiatives for changing the educational system because there were a lot of things that we didn’t like. The Neues Forum also had an interest in the education field. So we decided to organize an open forum about what kind of education we would like to have for our kids, for the next generation. We organized this in a big conference hall in the Alexanderplatz. We didn’t know who would come because there was no e-mail and no Internet. We held it on November 9. 1989. And it was scheduled to start at 6 pm. I was one of the few who were helping to organize it. We thought maybe 10 people would came, maybe 20. And it was completely full.

 

So, like a hundred people?

 

It was two or three thousand people.

 

Two or three thousand people?!

 

They came from cities all over of the DDR. There were teachers, students, parents, young people… it was completely full. And together with some colleagues of mine I had to moderate it. Our idea was that people could stand up and talk about their experience and nothing more. People started to do that, and it was very surprising that the others were listening. For many of them, it was the first time that they talked in the public. But they had the courage to do that. And all of us there were just listening. And it was not easy to listen. And then around –

 

Why was it not easy to listen?

 

Because people were talking about very different experiences. Therefore it was not easy to keep an atmosphere where the people in the audience didn’t say, “No, you’re wrong,” or were disgusted by something someone said. It was about experiences, not about wrong and right. It was about us. It was very important, again and again, to say, “This is about us.”

We started around 7 pm, and then it was 8:30, and something was going on. People were running around, coming and going. I asked my colleague to go and to ask, “What’s going on?” And he came back, and he said, “The Wall fell down.” I don’t think I understood what he said because I answered, “It doesn’t matter, we’ll continue.” After another 30 minutes, the hall was empty.

 

Everybody just started leaving…?

 

Around maybe 30 or 40 people decided to stay. For me that was a shock. And I understood that it was over. The DDR was just over. And I started to cry. Because for me that was… I thought we really had a chance. A friend of mine came up from Dresden that night, and she said, “Oh, the Wall came down, let’s go!” But I was not interested in doing that. I was very, very angry. I was very disappointed, very angry, very worried. And so we ended up staying at home. It was already very very late. Then my husband came home and said to me, “Oh, you have heard? The Wall came down! It’s over.” And then we started to discuss, and I was really very angry. We went to bed around 1 am.

Then somebody knocked at the door. It was our very close friends who had left East Berlin for West Berlin in the 1980s. And they said, “Come on, open up, let’s go!” And so, I decided to go with them to go into the West. We had a wonderful night. In the end we had a wonderful night, and then we crossed back. So, something opened and something closed. And I would say I’m still in the same situation, still trying to understand what it means to say goodbye to something and whether to welcome something else.

 

That’s quite an experience.

 

Yes, I would say it was very symbolic. In the end, I’m happy that I could be a part of this kind of event.

 

Tell me a little bit about how you got involved in the Pankow Peace Circle?

 

Hans Misselwitz and I were old friends. I met him again in the 1970s, in 1975 or 1976. He’d formed with other people a little circle, the so-called Adorno Circle, and he invited me to go there. It was self-organized and very interesting. We talked about the Avant-Garde in the Soviet Union during the 1920s and about philosophy, and so on. Then in the 1970s, Hans and Ruth, and me also, we all had children. In 1981, there was a new phase, this nuclear policy of over-kill. And we had a feeling that it was time to do something. It was not enough to sit down and to talk. We had to do something. I had two sons at the time, and I was really afraid. At school, there was more and more of this “creating an enemy” picture. I come from a family that was really fed up with any kind of war. So I was really afraid. I could see that these little boys were a little fascinated with these bombs, and I could see how easy it would be to instrumentalize this feeling.

At this time Ruth was already in this community here, and she thought it was a great opportunity at least to invite people from society to talk about their own life and what they were afraid of. We organized the first meeting in November 1981. And after this we invited people who were interested in continuing. So people came. And that was the beginning of this Pankower Friedenskreis, the Pankow Peace Circle.

 

And at that time you were at university?

 

No, at that time I worked in the Academy of Science. I’m a biologist, as you already know. I changed my job a little later to the university. And also Hans, he worked at the Academy at this time. He was also a biologist. I specialized in behavioral science, and I think he did biophysics.

 

Were you worried about losing your job when you became involved in the Peace Circle?

 

I never lost my job, but of course I did get into a little trouble. I expected to get into trouble since I was getting involved in something that the government didn’t really like. So, I was not really afraid. Also, there was my family background. My grandfather and other people in my family were in the resistance during the Nazi time. So for me, I felt that I had to do it. But I wouldn’t say that I’m a “victim” of the system. If you decide to do something that is not very opportune, sometimes you get trouble. And I was a little afraid that they could take me away for some time – and I had these two boys. So we organized something so that it would be clear what would happen with the kids. That was important. It was also quite clear that the Stasi was there, in the Circle.

 

You even knew who it was?

 

Yes, we knew. In the end, we were disappointed. I was disappointed. But if I had been on the other side, I would have done it in the same way. It’s very logical. It’s a very very odd story to break somebody this way.

 

When did you become interested in reforming the educational system?

 

Ever since I went to school myself! Not really, but I never really liked to go to school because I was always a little afraid there. When I finished school and I took my Abitur, I decided to become a teacher, and I studied for two years in Potsdam. During those two years I noticed that it would be a little too much to reform the education system just by myself. I would need to have at least some other friends who are also interested to do it. Then at the end of the 1980s, it became clear to me that it was time to do something. Education is such a crucial thing. I’m very close connected to Paulo Freire. Also during the 1980s, when we had different circles and this peace group, I was in a group devoted to peace education. That was when I started to read Freire. That’s when I began to understand that education is about emancipation, and about consciousness, and it’s not about this “boom, boom, boom”…

 

Pouring information into people’s heads…

 

Yes, people are not empty vessels. I think education is an instrument, and you can make people completely stupid or you can make them very brilliant.

 

After 1989 did any of the aspects of the emancipatory side of education enter the new education system?

 

In the united Germany? No. There are some islands. But more and more this educational system is directed toward careers and the labor market. So, people start to think about education only in terms of the labor market, their career, money, and status. There is a lot of manipulation as well, and it’s very specific because it is so liberal. You’re so free. This is what Freire talked a lot about. In the DDR you could feel the pressure. But now you don’t really feel the pressure. In the end, people stop thinking, which is very dangerous.

 

I work now in Neukoelln, a district in Berlin.

 

It’s a poorer district?

 

It’s a very, very poor district, where 80% are migrants. Many of them came from Turkey, from Lebanon and the Arab world. There are also Roma. There you can see what is missing in the education system. It is not about integration – I don’t like this “integration” at all – it’s all about “giving them something.” That makes me a little afraid, to have a next generation that is not educated to feel really responsible. The education is not about dignity. It’s not about how to be a human. It is about knowledge, about some facts. But people don’t understand what all these facts mean. It’s just feeding. Here in this middle-class district, on the other hand, we have more and more private schools, which I don’t think of as a solution. Separating kids from very early on — what kind of society will they create if they’ve never had contact with people from different social backgrounds?

 

Why do the parents send their children to private school?

 

They think it is better. Or so that their wonderful kids will have a much better career. Or because “this education is more liberal.” Or because of personal freedom. But behind this, the parents are afraid.

 

It’s the same problem in the United States.

 

It’s even worse, I would say.

 

Yes, it is. The public schools generally are not as good as in Germany. The problem also is the yardsticks of measurement. You can use the rather simple one of better scores on tests, which is what they use in the United States. The other would be the Freirean model of creating a critical environment.

 

It is important that people understand why things are as they are. This is the idea of education. And it is missing, also in many of the so-called private schools here.

 

I’ll come back to the education. But I’m curious about what happened after that first night, November 9. What happened in the next week or so for you as things were changing so quickly?

 

I still was in the university at that time. And I was involved in education and this group. And then the election came. I was very disappointed with the results of the election. Now I understand the results, but at the time I couldn’t understand why people voted for the CDU.

There was a coalition between the new East German Social Democratic Party and the old CDU. And in this coalition, they agreed that there should be a kind of state secretary responsible for equal opportunities for women and men. They were looking for somebody who could do that. Some people in the Social Democratic faction knew me. So they asked me if I would do that. I did. I didn’t know what a state secretary was, and I didn’t know what “equal opportunity” meant. But nevertheless they invited me. This was such a crazy time. I already had four children at this point, two boys and two girls. I was invited to come to the Volkskammer to introduce myself. I didn’t know why I should go there. But I went there.

They asked me, “Now, what are you going to do?”

“What should I do?” I asked.

“You’ll be the state secretary for equal opportunity.”

“But I don’t know what that is!”

“It doesn’t matter, we don’t either! Now tell us your biography and some ideas about equal opportunity…”

I didn’t know what to say. But in the end, I said, “Okay, equal opportunity for women means that, since probably women are discriminated against, they think they need equal opportunity…” So I talked for some time about that.

Then it was time for questions, and a man stood up and asked me as the first question. “We have heard you are the mother of four children. How do you think you can combine your private responsibilities as a mother with your responsibilities as state secretary?”

And I thought, really, what am I doing here? This is completely stupid! But then another person stood up and said, “That’s a very interesting question because in this group there are many men who have two, three, four kids. And never, never, never, never has somebody asked them how they could combine their responsibilities.”

That’s when I understood what it was about, and I agreed to do it. I needed some days to talk with my family and with my husband and with my kids to see if they would agree. Nobody knew what it was all about, but they agreed. As I said, that time was crazy. So I became state secretary for equal opportunity.

It was very challenging because very soon I could see that nobody was really interested in this topic. This was the time of the parliamentary negotiations around unification. And the idea of equal opportunities was not on the agenda. But nevertheless it was very very interesting because I could see the rules of the game: who set the rules and how it worked. At the beginning, you’re very clear what you want. And then step-by-step you reduce your intention. By the end people are also very afraid. For many of them it was clear that in this so-called “united Germany” they could lose their job. Nobody really knew what would happen. But people from the West, since they knew this society already, were our teachers.

This was not only a time when Germany was changing but the entire region of Central and Eastern Europe. We were blind to the impact of unification on the rest of the world. It was very very risky. And also in East Germany you could see what was going on with the labor market. People lost their jobs. That happened later in in Central and Eastern Europe, and it was not from one minute to the next like it was for us. Also we had this wonderful rich big brother, West Germany, that paid us a little bit. So we could be a little satisfied and say, “Thanks, my brother.” We had to be also a little grateful for all these presents. This was also a rule of the game.

Then the so-called unification came, and my job was over because the government was over. And I was not so interested to work with the new government. But I was also not so interested in going back to the university. So, together with some women from this Peace Circle and some other friends, we sat down to think about what we should do next. And we decided to set up a project called the East-West European Women’s Network (OWEN). The idea was that after the fall of the Wall, it would be very important that women who are interested in politics and women’s issues to organize a kind of exchange to understand what other society and what it meant to grow up in this other society. We did this because we didn’t know very much but also because we had very strong pictures in our head. We created this project, and we were unemployed. There was a lot of money at the beginning for people who were unemployed. If you had a wonderful idea then you could get money. We had a wonderful idea, and we got money. This was in 1992. And I’ve been in this NGO ever since.

 

It’s still going on today?

 

It’s still here. In the 1990s, we saw an elite develop here in Eastern Europe. It wasn’t exactly a new elite. It was a small group of government people who were known in the West as key actors. They were put on a list to travel around and to talk and give papers. These people were more from an intellectual or academic background. I met a lot of them. There were some very clever and very intelligent and very political women. But they had no link to the larger group of people in their countries – the poor people, the people who became unemployed. These were people who had other lives and spoke another language. We could talk about feminism and blah blah blah. But what about these women? Then we realized that poverty is not new in the world. It is a very common phenomenon. Women in other parts of the world were for many many years already forced to survive. So, this was about survival and self-organizing and dignity.

In 1991, I received an invitation from the Goethe Institute to go to the United States to talk about the unification. Through a friend of mine, I made contact with the National Congress of Neighborhood Women. This is a network of grassroots women in the United States that is connected to other networks in the so-called Third World countries. They are inspired by the community organizing idea, connected to the Chicago School of Community Organizing. Their work is very much about the daily needs of women. They invited me to see some of the groups organized according to this philosophy. It was very close to Paulo Friere’s ideas as well. This was a completely new world. It had nothing to do with what I had thought of the United States. It was brilliant. And I tried to bring this idea back to what we started to do in Eastern Europe.

We started to work in the eastern part of Ukraine in the 1990s. It was just like an inferno there, just terrible. And poverty became such a major issue. We created a four-year project to work with women in self-help, community-based groups. This was a great experience. We learned a lot, and through this we could learn the importance of the past. The idea of this self-help group was that it was self-organized and that the women in this group shared the resources they had for the common good. This was also a great challenge because you had to negotiate. And in this process of negotiation, the past became very important. Who was this person in earlier times? Why did she have this kind of status, these connections, while we did not? It was full of conflicts.

Then we started working on something else called “Women’s Memory.” It was not our idea. The idea came from our partners at the first women’s center in Prague.

 

With Jirina Siklova?

 

Yes, with Jirina Siklova. She had the idea to create an international project called “Women’s Memory.” And she asked us to take part in this project. And we were very proud because we noticed that Jirina understood that we came from the same background. We were from the East. The project did 500 or so interviews in all, and we did 120 of them with women from East Germany born between 1920 and 1960. It was three generations, more or less. That was the best history lesson I’d ever had. I realized that my idea of the DDR, even though I’d lived in the country for years, was completely wrong. I heard from all these women who came from quite different backgrounds that I’d never met before, women who worked in factories or in the Genossenschaft (cooperatives). It was a completely different world. It forced us to ask ourselves, “What does it mean if we understand ourselves as feminists but we don’t know about the lives of so many women?” This is again about education and about Freire. You have to change your language, your attitude.

In the 1990s, there were conflicts not only in the former Yugoslavia but also in the former Soviet Union – in the Caucasus, in Nagorno-Karabakh. So that means that change was not so very peaceful. We decided to think about how to combine the idea of feminism and the idea of peace. In 2002, when our network was 10 years old, we invited people from the so-called Third World countries, from the United States, from Eastern Europe, and from the former Soviet Union here to Berlin to a conference — to reflect on what went on during the previous 10 years and what we thought were the most important things to put on the agenda. We decided the most important thing was peace. All of the women from South Africa told us of their great hope for the transformation process but that 10 years later it had become very very difficult. We also talked about xenophobia and Islamophobia. And we concluded that we were in a new system that needed enemies, that kept looking around for enemies.

For the last eight years, we have worked mainly in the international context with peace activists in the former Soviet Union, in Russia and the Caucasus. Because of this experience, we decided that it was important for our network also to look more at what’s going on in our own country because there is a link. It’s not only there, it’s also here, how this society relates to these strangers, to the migrants. Our “migration policy” is more and more about the labor market, and it’s like what it was with slaves: we need you because you have strong teeth or whatever. We were talking about peace, but we weren’t doing it. So we decided to move our little office to Neukoelln.

We are now in a deep crisis. We don’t have any money, and it’s not easy. I’m unemployed, but I’m still working there because I like this kind of work. But I ask myself, “Is this idea of social movements over? Do we need all these NGOs? Do we need all these projects? Did all these NGOs destroy the idea of social movements?” Social movements only work if you keep the idea of solidarity. But this society doesn’t seem to need the idea of solidarity. It needs the idea of business. This civil society sector more and more embraced the idea of business: the peace business, the poverty business.

 

You have to have a business plan to survive in civil society today.

 

Yes, a business plan! In Georgia, it was terrible. And Soros was very big on bringing in all this money so that they could set up the NGOs. And then these organizations started to compete. I understand that there’s a theory behind all this. But I think it was wrong. When the labor market collapsed in this region, many people who were very educated, in various academic fields and so on, lost their jobs or they didn’t get paid. Then in this NGO period a new kind of labor market emerged, so these people tried this new opportunity. But the idea of civil society is not the idea of a labor market. It’s a completely different idea.

 

So the same problem in education–education geared toward career–is reproduced in civil society, which is no longer about empowerment or emancipation, but about career.

 

Yes, it’s about career, and it’s about money. On the one hand, everybody needs a vision, an idea, and hope. So I ask you, what do these young people hope for? But on the other hand, we also have to be realistic. How can you combine your dreams with realism and avoid getting depressed? You have to look for people who are just as crazy as you are.

 

Your point about the NGO culture that has emerged in this part of the world is a good one. One argument is that NGOs are just representatives of neo-liberalism because they take over the state services that that no longer available because the state has shrunk through privatization.

 

I’ve always been critical of that. For example, OWEN refuses any kind of service. But in the end we don’t have any money. Our colleagues are unpaid, and many of them are very educated young women. They need to earn money. And I have to make money too. So it is not easy to find a way.

 

When I was doing conflict resolution training in Korea, I was working with peace groups that also had difficulty raising money. One possibility was to continue to do social movement work but also have a paying job doing conflict resolution or mediation work. It’s still working on peace issues, but it’s a slightly different focus. Instead of combining movement work and career work in one NGO, you continued to do unpaid movement work and a paying job in a related field. Maybe that’s a third way of resolving this issue.

 

The risk is that you set up this situation in which you have the word of the experts and then you have the word of the people who are really in the conflict. Freire’s idea was that “we” are not the experts but “they” are the experts. This is so difficult, but I always try to keep in mind that I am not an expert. I am privileged. I’m still privileged. I’m not ashamed to be privileged, but still I am privileged. I live in this wonderful flat. And they are the experts. When working in Neukoelln, we try to do something like confidence-building in our relationship to women who live in this district. It’s not easy to get their confidence, and I understand why it is. But step-by-step, they start to talk about their daily life. And I understand more and more that I don’t know. I could be an expert at asking good questions and maybe an expert in learning. But I don’t know about them. It’s another world.

 

When you think back to what your perspective was in 1990, how you looked at the world, how is that changed? Have you had major second thoughts or major reappraisals over the last 20 years?

 

In 1990 my perspective on the world was naïve. I couldn’t travel around. I had an idea of the East but nothing beyond that. Now I would say I’m not so naïve. And I’ve noticed that sometimes people who live far away are closer to me than people who live nearby. We have more in common. Now that I can travel around, my perspective is broader. This broader perspective has been painful but it has also allowed me to meet people who give me hope. You can find them everywhere.

Before 1990 it was not so clear to me, but now I realize that the change is about people. I grew up in this society with big ideas of socialism and parties and so on. But the change is not about an idea. It is about people. That kind of change takes time and several generations. We just have to be patient. Maybe there are not so many of us. But you can find us everywhere. You can smell us, I think. It’s more about the nose.

 

Berlin, June 1, 2013

 

Interview (1990)

 

I met with three members of the group: Barbara Hahnchen, Marina Beyer, and Frau Olszewski (I didn’t catch her first name). The group began in 1981 around the issue of the Euromissile deployments though many in the group were interested in other questions such as ecology and peace education. Originally, the members had worked within the church and then decided that there should be a group outside the church that dealt with peace issues. They decided that although they could not influence the deployment of U.S. Cruise and Pershing missiles on West German soil, they could try to prevent the deployment of Soviet intermediate-range nuclear missiles on East German soil. “It was OK to be critical of the Americans but as soon as we were critical of the Soviet Union, then…” said Marina Beyer. From 1983 on, the Stasi clumsily infiltrated their meetings, sometimes comprising half the audience. Everyone knew who they were. But the Stasi never threw the whole group into jail, fearing that if it did, there would be too much protest. Above all, the Stasi wanted to keep the peace.

Two major events that influenced the growth of the movement were the JPIC process and the legitimization that Gorbachev gave to internal reform when he came to power in 1985. When we discussed events after 1985, the history of the group seemed difficult to separate from the history of the opposition in general.

The 1988 Rosa Luxemburg–Karl Liebknecht demonstration was a turning point. Traditionally a day commemorating the martyred German Communist party leaders (Luxemburg was actually Polish-German), this January event was the scene of a counter-demonstration in 1988. Using Luxemburg quotes to place into ironic contrast the positions of the government, many protestors came out into the open–but these were generally those dissidents who wanted to leave the country. They were arrested, some thrown out of the country, some thrown into jail. What the Stasi had feared the most happened. The arrest of so many people triggered substantial solidarity and the churches were packed with concerned people. The lawyers who chose to defend the activists would eventually become the leaders of the new Germany: Gregor Gysi, Ibrahim Bohme, Lothar de Maiziere, Wolfgang Schnur. Though unquestionably courageous for their decision to defend the activists, these lawyers also had to work with the Stasi. Thus the question has now emerged–to what extent were these soon-to-be politicians compromised by their connections. The key issue has not been whether they talked with the Stasi, but whether they received any money for the work. This was the discovery that precipitated the downfall of Schnur in March.

From this point in 1988 to September 1989, political discontent continued in the churches. Then, after Leipzig, the opposition enjoyed its greatest influence from October 9 to November 9. [I will be going over this history in more detail in the next report when I write up two discussions I had with Leipzig pastors]. After the wall fell, however, it was the Deutschmark that captured people’s attention.

The day we met in Pankow there had been a demonstration in front of the Volkskammer against elected parliamentarians with suspected Stasi connections. One of the women said that the atmosphere at the 10,000 strong demo was like that of old with cries of “Stasi out, Stasi out” reverberating through the square. We talked about the potential for a continued citizen’s movement and they stressed the need for “mature” citizens. The following somewhat paradoxical formulation emerged: a citizen’s movement is necessary to create mature citizens who then in turn create a successful citizens’ movement. Which comes first: the maturity or the movement?

 

 


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