Nonviolent Struggle and the Revolution in East Germany
Roland Bleiker examines the role that "exit" and "voice" forms of protest played in the collapse of the communist regime in East Germany. He includes a chronology of the East German Revolution of 1989-90 and extensive notes.
--Taken from aeinstein.org
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1. A Brief History of Domination, Opposition, and Revolution in East Germany
2. The Power-Devolving Potential of Nonviolent Struggle
3. The Mediation of Nonviolent Struggle: Complex Power Relationships and the Engineering of Hegemonic Consent
4. In Lieu of Conclusion: Viewing the Power of Agency in its Structural Context
Appendix: Chronology of the East German Revolution 1989/90
About the Author
"We were more afraid of the people than the people had reason to be afraid of us."
[Statement by a member of the much feared Stasi, the East German State Security Service].
"We are the people" was the main battle cry of the nonviolent struggle that swept away the East German Communist regime in 1989. "We are the people," echoing hundreds of thousands of times through the streets of East Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig, and Karl-Marx-Stadt, came to symbolize the protest of the people against an alienated government and the power of these unarmed masses to overthrow their tyrannical rulers.
The East German revolution is more than a watershed event in European history. The crumbling of the authoritarian regime also contains seminal instructive value, since it can provide us with insight into the nature of power as well as the potential and limits of nonviolent struggle. This monograph examines the events in East Germany with this particular interest in mind.
Many causal aspects, preconditions, and contextual influences were responsible for the specific course of evolution in East Germany. Yet, two factors must be singled out as having played a key role in causing the downfall of the oppressive regime, namely large-scale popular demonstrations and massive waves of East German citizens leaving illegally for the West. These so-called "voice" and "exit" forms of protest are classic examples of nonviolent direct action and were mentioned explicitly as such in Gene Sharp's influential 1973 study of the subject.
The stunning impact of these two methods of nonviolent action can be understood better with the help of a parsimonious insight about the nature of power, first proposed almost half a millennium ago by Étienne de la Boétie. As a young student at the University of Orléans, he hypothesized that any form of government, no matter how despotic and violent its nature, is always dependent upon the tacit consent of the population. De la Boétie further argued that since this consent rests upon voluntary grounds, it can be withdrawn at any time, which subsequently would lead to a disintegration of the existing authoritarian societal structure.
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