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Writing in red. The East German writers union and the role of literary intellectuals / thomas W. Goldstein.

By: Goldstein, Thomas W.
Material type: TextTextSeries: JSTOR eBooks.German history in context: Publisher: Woodbridge : Boydell & Brewer Ltd. 2017Description: 1 online resource (318 pages).Content type: text Media type: computer Carrier type: online resourceISBN: 9781787441651; 1787441652.Subject(s): German literature -- Germany (East) -- History and criticism | Authors, German -- Germany (East)Additional physical formats: Print version:: Writing in red. The East German writers union and the role of literary intellectuals.DDC classification: 940.5 Online resources: Click here to view this ebook. Summary: In the German Democratic Republic words and ideas mattered, both for legitimizing and criticizing the regime. No wonder, then, that the ruling SED party created a Writers Union to mold what writers publicly wrote and said. Its chief task was ideological: creating a socialist and antifascist culture. But it was also supposed to advance its members' professional interests and enable them to act as public intellectuals with a say in the direction of socialism. Many writers demanded that it pursue this second function as well, which brought it into conflict with the SED. This book explores how the union became a site for the contestation of writers' roles in GDR society with consequences well beyond the literary community. Union leaders, pressured by the SED or the secret police, usually acquiesced in enforcing regime demands, but by the 1980s many authors had adapted to the rules of the game, exploiting their union membership to insulate themselves from reprisal for their carefully worded critiques and in so doing beginning to break down limitations on public speech. The book explores how and why in the 1970s the Writers Union helped normalize relations between writers and state, yet over the course of the 1980s inadvertently aided the expansion of permissible speech, ultimately helping destabilize the East German system.
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In the German Democratic Republic words and ideas mattered, both for legitimizing and criticizing the regime. No wonder, then, that the ruling SED party created a Writers Union to mold what writers publicly wrote and said. Its chief task was ideological: creating a socialist and antifascist culture. But it was also supposed to advance its members' professional interests and enable them to act as public intellectuals with a say in the direction of socialism. Many writers demanded that it pursue this second function as well, which brought it into conflict with the SED. This book explores how the union became a site for the contestation of writers' roles in GDR society with consequences well beyond the literary community. Union leaders, pressured by the SED or the secret police, usually acquiesced in enforcing regime demands, but by the 1980s many authors had adapted to the rules of the game, exploiting their union membership to insulate themselves from reprisal for their carefully worded critiques and in so doing beginning to break down limitations on public speech. The book explores how and why in the 1970s the Writers Union helped normalize relations between writers and state, yet over the course of the 1980s inadvertently aided the expansion of permissible speech, ultimately helping destabilize the East German system.

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CHOICE Review

Goldstein (history, Univ. of Central Missouri) covers the history of the East German Writers Union (DSV) from its inception in 1950, shortly after the establishment of the East German state, to its dissolution at the end of 1990. He properly sees the impossibility of success of an institution dedicated to the contradictory goals of serving the interests of its members and the ideology of the state. Though the vast majority of DSV writers were committed socialists, they did not always see socialism best served by the policies of the ruling socialist party (SED). DSV members wanted both freedom of expression and the benefits of belonging to a state-supported institution. These contradictions played out most disastrously in 1976: when singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann was performing in West Germany, his East German citizenship was revoked. Several DSV members were subsequently expelled for lack of solidarity with the SED. In the 1980s, other issues exacerbated the divisions between the DSV and the SED, namely, conflicting approaches to the peace movement, environmentalism, the integration of young writers, and the Gorbachev reforms. Goldstein comes to the important and reasonable conclusion that it was not socialism that caused the collapse of East Germany, but governmental intolerance of voices suggesting how better to achieve a socialist state. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. --Robert C. Conard, emeritus, University of Dayton

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