A second revolution in the east

“Aren’t you afraid of a second revolution in the East?”, was a question directed by a TV-interviewer to Carsten Rohwedder [1], the then head of the Treuhand Agency (the agency tasked with the privatisation of East Germany’s formerly state owned enterprises). The question points to the largely forgotten history of post-1990 protests in East Germany. Contrary to common historiography, which considers the East German revolution as concluded and completed with the German unification (the accession of the GDR to the Federal Republic of Germany), demonstrations and other forms of protest did not stop in the post-GDR on October 3rd 1990. The first of several waves of protests began as early as March 1991, and saw 150 – 200 annual strikes, protests and factory occupations all directed against the privatisation and closure of East German industries until 1994; a second wave of protests brought tens of thousands (45.000 at their height in Leipzig) back to the streets against the Iraq War in 2003 and then again against the “Harz IV” social reforms in 2004. Long before their appropriation into the right-wing, xenophobic and anti-immigration marches after 2014,  these protests drew on the 1989/90 protests in their iconography, formats, slogan, including their name “Monday demonstrations” and the call “Wir sind das Volk.” (See: www.mythos-montagsdemonstrationen.de/)

[1] “Haben sie nicht Angst vor eine zweiten Revolution in der DDR” in: Jan Peter and Georg Tschurtschenthaler, ‘A Perfect Crime (German: Rohwedder: Einigkeit und Mord und Freiheit)’, 2020, Episode 4.