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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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Shrinking Green Cities: Trees and the Afterlife of Eco-Socialist Planning in Vietnam (Christina Schwenkel)


Christina Schwenkel

Shrinking Green Cities: Trees and the Afterlife of Eco-Socialist Planning in Vietnam

In a recent article that questions the uniqueness of the so-called socialist city, Sonia Hirt argues that one of the lasting legacies of socialist urban development is, ironically, its greenness; its verdant public parks and grassy open spaces. I say ironic because in conventional thinking, socialist cities are often associated with unlivable, concrete settlements1 – the infamous asphalt jungles reified in films such as This Ain’t California (2012) – rather than lush urban environments. And yet, Sonia Hirt shows in her comparison of two European cities with intersecting imperial histories, Budapest and Vienna, that public green space in the former exceeded that of the latter by nearly four times.2 A reading of manuals and journals on urban planning in the early years of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), such as Deutsche Architektur, shows an explicit concern with ecological planning in debates over the Wohnungsfrage, or housing question, and the (re)construction of planned socialist cities, such as Hoyerswerda, Cottbus, and Rostock. Moreover, Ruth May has shown how early drafts of the master plan for Stalinstadt, as the first socialist new town, contained “spaciously planned connected green zones” with recreational amenities such as lakes and parks as an expression of the GDR’s Sixteen Principles of Urban Development of 1950 to help residents realize the socialist good life.3 Even with the←251 | 252→ shift to mass-produced housing as part of the Wohnungsbauprogramm of the 1970s there...

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