CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

This paper is mainly concerned with the analysis of processes and mechanisms underlying the strong mobilization that took place in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) and lead to the 1989 Revolution, some specific characteristics of which are reminded. Immigration (exit) to the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) initiated unexpectedly a powerful voicing of East German grievances, at the height of which were the regular and influential demonstrations in Leipzig. From the crucial 9th October demonstration toppling Honecker's rule to the fall of the Berlin Wall demonstrators made wide use of slogans and banners to assert the prominence of civil society over the old regime's ideological principles, popular sovereignty and major democratic rights. Then, around mid November, demonstrations gradually took a new turn with noticeable inner splitting ; protestors now expressed national feelings, a sense of a common destiny with the “other” Germany and firmly opted for a reunified Germany. It is to be noticed that this new commitment to reunification had first been aired by Leipzig's protestors before it was taken up by Federal Germany's political elites, mainly by Chancellor Kohl. Many East Germans probably held this outcome as the only plausible one, when it became obvious that the new East German opposition, which for the major part kept to the pattern of Zivilisationskritik and of moral protestantism, was actually unable to assume the political power it had never striven for. Therefore the Leipzig demonstrations had much influence on the two major steps of a revolution which was first civil and later national : only during the last two months their importance lessened and the electoral battle played the leading part.

François Chazel
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