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The Environmental Dilemma

Catastrophic Loads

Shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall, the GDR-government decided, under Hans Modrow, a German-German environment Commission. For the first time this meeting was held in February 1990. Air, water and soil are loaded “part of catastrophic,” said the FRG Cabinet under Helmut Kohl (CDU), three months later, with a view to the data collected by the Commission.

After that, in some places critical amounts of pollutants concentrated in the air. On average, the emissions of sulphur dioxide and dust were many times higher than in the former Federal Republic. In the industrial areas, respiratory and skin diseases increased, it was said. Many forests suffered severe damage.

Also, a large part of the waste water was discharged untreated in rivers or lakes. According to the commission, just one in three households was connected to a sewage treatment plant. In the Old Federal Territory, this was at that time a good 90 percent. The Elbe was considered one of the most polluted rivers in Europe.

Most of the approximately 13,000 dumpers were therefore “wild”, so they were operated without regard to environmental damage. Above all, military and industrial contaminated sites had in many places poisoned the soil. The soil eroded by the extraction of lignite and intensive agriculture. The extraction of uranium ore by the SDAG Wismut caused a high radiation exposure.

Repaired and recycled

It seems that this is opposed to the commitment of the GDR. In its constitution, it had already established itself as one of the first countries in the world in 1968: “in the interests of the well-being of citizens, the state and society are responsible for the protection of nature.“In 1972, the GDR established an environment ministry as an international leader. How does it fit together?

First of all: there was quite a progressive side of the GDR’s environmental policy. Who grew up there, the Sero System- “Sero” was the abbreviation for secondary raw materials — well known. The teachers have already stopped first graders to collect glass, waste paper and metals. They were able to give it away for a small amount of money in places they had set up for it. Children’s clips, which were on the way with hand trolleys to collect newspaper bundles and glasses, were everywhere to see. In addition, there was a comprehensive deposit system. Even the milk was sold in the 1980s in returnable bottles. The GDR economy was based on recycling.

The shelf-life of consumer goods also exceeded that of the West German goods by many times. People took advantage of the products for a longer period of time and let them repair them again and again. The West German disposable company stood in the pockets of shareholders and Group owners for the purpose of unbridled maximization of profit.

The GDR also managed to establish an ecologically advantageous district heating system. Many households were connected to it. The state supplied them with heat from power stations via pipe systems. In this way, energy was used much more efficiently than was the case in the West. In addition, the state placed great emphasis on leaving as many areas undeveloped as possible and explaining them to nature reserves.

Lack of raw materials, hardly any industry

Both the (extreme) negative and positive aspects of East Germany’s environmental policy cannot be regarded as the basis of life for people regardless of economic conditions. We must involve the post-World War II situation, imperialist embargo policy and the resources of our own resources in the investigation of causes.

The territory of the Soviet occupation zone was, on the one hand, far more severely destroyed by the war than was the case in the West. The Soviet Union had to contend with its own losses and profound dislocation as a result of the war, so that aid — as the West received by the United States — could not be thought of.

On the other hand, important raw materials such as iron ores and hard coal were almost completely absent. There was no significant heavy industry. Of the pre-war production of pig iron in the German Reich, only slightly more than one percent was accounted for in this area, with steel accounting for almost seven percent. The share of coal production was approximately two percent. When it was founded in 1949, the GDR owned only one steelworks with four technically completely outdated blast furnaces, while the FRG had more than one hundred modern blast furnaces. Before 1945, the East received about 7.5 million tons of hard coal and two million tons of iron and steel annually from the Ruhr region. All this was almost completely gone.

In addition, the GDR had to provide substantial services for restitution, especially to the Soviet Union and the people’s Republic of Poland. The economic situation of the GDR was massively aggravated by these war consequences. Nevertheless, the country first had to provide mainly one thing: a 16 - to 17-million population.

Cold Economic War

For this reason, the GDR was interested in a smooth trade with the Federal Republic of Germany. She even wanted to reunite in perspective. However, the imperialist Western powers were on the course of the Cold War. With a hard embargo policy, they increased economic pressure, and there were also targeted disruptions. One wanted to force the small country, which tried to go the socialist way, to its knees and reclaim for the market.

The Cold War began before the establishment of the GDR. West German group owners transferred as large a portion of their property as possible. However, goods produced in the Soviet occupation zone left the territory on smuggling routes. Companies attracted East German experts with high salaries, some of them also put pressure on them, many left the Soviet sector. The Ruhr News predicted shortly after the establishment of the GDR cynically that the country would not experience the year 1950.

Finally, with the establishment of NATO, the Western powers finally turned to the economic war, on the one hand over price policies and boycotts, and on the other hand over the so-called “Trust office for Inter-Zone trade” as a trade buffer.

The West refused a German trade protection law enshrined in German law by the GDR and demanded by the Federal Republic of Germany and operated instead with various implementing regulations and decrees. The Federal Association of German industry (BDI) was particularly aggressive against trade with the GDR. This and other Industrial set the tone.

Already in 1950, the US led so-called embargo lists in the FRG. Sabotage plans have been developed in” anti-economic services”. The already strongly regulated Inter-Zone trade was deliberately breaking up more and more. The steel embargo, for example, should not hinder the development of heavy industry in the GDR massively. According to its own statement, the Western powers wanted to bring down the standard of living in the East and thus promote counter-revolutionary overthrow movements.

Lack and priority of care

As a result, there was a shortage of raw materials of all kinds for almost every industry or already for the construction of such. In other words, the GDR was forced to declare as the ultimate goal the provision of the population. Enough energy had to be produced, food had to be grown and produced, and goods of daily use somehow produced. The Lusatian lignite and arable land became the most important raw materials in the GDR.

Although human errors also played a role with certainty, the Cold War of the West must nevertheless be regarded as the main reason for the disastrous ecological balance.

However, the GDR economy was at the same time forced to produce for durability. While long-lived goods are completely opposed to the capitalist economic model. Private owners of means of production must sell as much as possible and more and more goods, because they have a single goal: maximizing profits.

In the GDR there was no significant private ownership of means of production. The aspect of maximizing profits in private pockets fell away, the added value did not disappear in the pockets less rich, but landed at the state. This is the only reason why, despite all reparations, embargoes and the compulsion to procure foreign exchange for trade, the GDR government was able to establish within a few years a social system that still seeks its same.

Learn from mistakes

But would the GDR, despite the supply constraints, have been able to operate more environmental protection? The answer is probably Yes. For this reason, the mistakes of the GDR policy have to be as critical as the propaganda and demagogic linkage of the environmental disaster and the attempt at socialism. Only from the recognition of errors, a learning process can occur.

The GDR would definitely have had to invest more in the renaturation and recovery and recycling of waste water. She was largely unfounded by her dictatorial approach to environmental movements that had emerged in the 1970s. The state security not only guarded the groups and activists, but also massively disabled their work.

There were, of course, not a few of these environmental activists who were at the same time politically opposed. This did not justify the indiscriminate, repressive action against all those involved. Many critics of environmental policy were probably not even against the socialism attempt. This was also similar in 1989, when most “oppositional” people were merely in favour of a more democratic GDR. It is necessary to note one thing: leadership has increasingly avoided discourse with the population.

To criticise the Council for mutual economic assistance (COMECON), the so-called Eastern bloc in 1949 as a socialist counterpart to the Cold war under the leadership of the Soviet Union was founded. The COMECON did not meet its initial objectives in the 40 years. There have never been any democratic economic plans to push for the creation of a single Economic Area. Selfish objectives of the individual states remained dominant.

A Mini-Window Of Time

Even 30 years after the fall of the wall, we still see serious differences between East and West. Lower wages, lower pensions, and fewer prospects for wage-dependent instead of Kohl’s promised “blooming landscapes” are part of the capitalist Agenda. And the capitalist private sector is sacrificing our environment for its gigantic profit maximization machine.

Symbolically speaking, 30 years are just a stone’s throw away. 40 years of GDR are hardly any more. It should not be forgotten that the GDR was created from a bombed, economically almost completely destroyed country, which had to fight for many years to secure its population a basic supply at all. There was a lack of everything. Science and environmental awareness were not as developed as they are today-even in the West. The conditions, aggravated by the Cold War, were more than meager.

It is utopian to assume that under these conditions a perfect, ecological socialism could have been built. Especially since the few countries that had dared to attempt socialism had to decide between an economic relapse into the Middle Ages and an attachment to the capitalist market surrounding them. Stalin’s thesis that socialism is possible and possible in a single country in the midst of an imperialist profit economy has turned out to be demagogy. For this reason it is international vital for a progressive movement against the exploitation of man and nature by the class of capitalists.