gl. Vera Lengsfeld, a civil rights activist in the GDR and a member of the German Bundestag from 1990 to 2005, spoke critically in Bautzen, Saxony, about the current state of democracy in Germany.
At the invitation of the forum “Von Bürgern für Bürger” (Citizens for Citizens) she spoke to about 250 participants about the political situation in Germany and pointed out parallels between the GDR in the late eighties and the current situation in the united Germany. According to Lengsfeld, Saxony was already the centre of the peaceful revolution in 1989. On 9 October 1989, 20,000 people were on the street in Dresden to campaign for democracy. Many of those who experienced the situation at the time would now feel as if in a nightmare: “Is it really possible that the country has changed that much?” In contrast to the rapid development in the autmn of 1989, the necessary change in the future will be a marathon.
Do we still have a democracy in Germany? Vera Lengsfeld answered this question with a clear no. The essence of democracy is the separation of powers with a mutual control of the powers, and this is missing today. Parliament no longer exercises its control over the government. Today bills mostly come from the chancellery. In Lengsfeld’s view the parliamentarians have forgotten that they hold their parliamentary seat on behalf of the voters. Instead, they see themselves as “educators” of the people and want to impose on them how to behave and to think. There are veritable hunts against the population, in order not to hear what people think. Vera Lengsfeld calls the media coverage of the events in Chemnitz the biggest media scandal of the century. There were lies on a scale only known from wartime. All Chemnitz was stigmatised before the world, without any apology or correction.
Much today reminds her of the GDR: praise to the government, even in budget debates. Controversial debates in the Bundestag no longer exist. All parliamentary parties are “only busy running down the AfD”. The “fight against the right” has meanwhile “taken on traits of madness”.
Vera Lengsfeld sees the West German left as an essential factor in the development of the unfavourable political situation. The left always considered the GDR to be the better Germany and did not want reunification. The activist, who was first in the Bundestag for the Greens and joined the CDU in 1992, when it became clear that the Greens had largely been taken over by the West German K groups, also blamed the West German left for being a source of hatred against Saxony. The leftists think that actually all easterners should be on the couch,” until they understand terms like cosmopolitanism.
What is to be done? The constant mad rush against the easterners must not be irritating, says Vera Lengsfeld. Citizens should no longer rely on politics, but take action themselves. The self-initiated “Joint Declaration 2018”, which was presented as a petition, initially signed by 165,000 and then again by 65,000 citizens, in the German Bundestag on 8 October (the petitioners were given only five minutes!) is a real-life example. Nationwide referendums are provided in the German constitution, but since to date no corresponding law has been passed for their implementation, the means of nationwide political participation are currently still very limited in Germany.
In the lively but very factual discussion, Vera Lengsfeld received a lot of approval. A critical number of citizens must take action: by writing letters to the editor, calls, events, etc., so that something changes. In the West, it could take a little longer, until the people realise that something is going wrong. •
gl. Vera Lengsfeld is one of the best known civil rights activists of the GDR era. Born in Thuringia in 1952, she studied history and philosophy in Leipzig and Berlin. Since the seventies she has been active in opposition to the SED regime. In 1983 she was expelled from the SED (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschland – Socialist Unity Party Germany) and was banned from working and travelling. In 1988, she was arrested and sentenced, after one month of arrest, for “attempted riotous assembly”. After her deportation to the West, she stayed in England until she returned to the GDR on 9 November 1989, the day of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 1990 she was elected to the first and last freely elected People’s Chamber of the GDR. From 1990 to 2005 she was a member of the German Bundestag, first for Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Alliance 90/The Greens), then from 1996 for the CDU. In 2008 she was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. Vera Lengsfeld now works as a freelance author and runs the blog vera-lengsfeld.de.
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