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Ecologies of Socialisms

Germany, Nature, and the Left in History, Politics, and Culture


Edited By Sabine Mödersheim, Scott Moranda and Eli Rubin

This volume explores the complex webs of interaction between the environmental movement, socialism, and the «natural» environment in Germany, and beyond, in the twentieth century. There has long been a divide between the environmental, or «green,» movement and socialist movements in Germany, a divide that has expressed itself in scholarship and intellectual discourse. And yet, upon closer inspection, the split between «red» and «green» is not as clear as it might at first seem. Indeed, little about the interaction between socialism and environmentalism, or socialism and the environment, fits into a neat binary. In a way, the discourses, positions, and policies
that structure the interactions between environmentalism, nature, and socialism in German history and culture can be said to constitute a kind of ecology – a complex and interdependent web of relations, which can appear as antagonisms, but which can also contain deeper, less immediately visible, interdependencies. Ecologies of Socialisms attempts to combine the work of scholars from a wide range of disciplines (history, literature, German/Austrian studies, philosophy, geography) in order to contribute to a better and more nuanced understanding of how «green» and «red» have clashed and also merged in German history and culture.
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The Greens, the Left, and the GDR: A Critical Reassessment (Eli Rubin)


Eli Rubin

The Greens, the Left, and the GDR: A Critical Reassessment

By the time the GDR collapsed, it was one of the most polluted territories in Europe. Over 9,000 lakes were biologically dead.1 The groundwater near the Bitterfeld chemical factory was so polluted it had a pH between battery acid and vinegar.2 Sulfur dioxide and other particulates spewed from aging smokestacks, choking cities with smog, and showering acid rain down on cities, forests, and crops. Rivers ran with contamination, and even the Palace of the Republic, a marvel of socialist-modern architecture, turned out to be packed full of asbestos. As the GDR began to dissolve over 1990, the extent of the pollution in East Germany became a revelation to those in the West, and even to many East Germans.

1990 was a year of many revelations in East Germany. The extent of the GDR state’s human rights abuses also came to light at the same time, especially the massive domestic surveillance and persecution perpetrated by the Stasi. The extent of the state’s Mißwirtschaft [financial mismanagement] and indebtedness also was revealed once the GDR’s books were opened. All of these disclosures unfolded in connection with each other over the course of the Wende. The same was true throughout Eastern Europe, as state socialism crumbled and both the extent of the environmental contamination and the depth of human rights abuses came to light. It was Vaclav Havel who best helped frame this in...

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