What are some inevitable things in society

Germany in the 70s / 80s

Everyday life in the GDR is strongly determined by the special conditions of the rule and economic system in real socialism. Outdated production machines, material bottlenecks, the resulting loss of production and the export of higher quality goods to the West worsen the supply situation. The politicization of the public and spying lead to an increased retreat into the private sphere.

On July 19, 1988, numerous young people in East Germany attended Bruce Springsteen's only concert in East Berlin. (& copy picture-alliance / AP)


In the GDR of the Honecker era, too, the life and work of people were determined by basic determinants such as gender, age, state of health, and intellectual and practical abilities. Depending on these individually often very different conditions, everyday life was also shaped by the political and economic system of the "real existing socialism" of those years, in which people were integrated.

Ideological claim

In this context, the political structure of rule in the GDR has been described as the "modern dictatorship" (Jürgen Kocka). Accordingly, rule was characterized on the one hand by the continuing claim of the SED to have sole decision-making authority on the basis of a comprehensive, only "correct" worldview in all political, economic and social issues. On the other hand, by means of modern media as well as educational institutions and mass organizations, including appropriate monitoring, the party has constantly tried to convince society of the correctness of this ideology and its "necessary" leadership - and, if necessary, to force it to accept it. It is therefore not without good reason that the GDR has also been referred to as an "educational dictatorship". This comprehensive objective also required the (re) education of each individual, since a new society was to emerge on the basis of socialism. Beyond the traditional educational and training institutions such as kindergartens, schools, training workshops or universities, people were therefore exposed to this political-ideological claim, which in part had an impact on their private lives.

The social conditions in the GDR were therefore much more closely linked to the political system than in the Federal Republic of Germany. The reactions to this were different. After the wall was built in 1961, the vast majority of the population had to get involved with the regime and come to terms with it. In daily life, therefore, there were always situations in which one was forced to repeat political-ideological (empty) formulas, since otherwise no social advancement, no achievement of reasonably satisfactory professional positions was possible. This often inevitable duplicity was constantly based on the distinction between propagated, political-ideological fiction on the one hand and the reality experienced on a daily basis on the other.

In addition to this behavior by a large majority, there was also the active participation of a minority of staunch partisans, as well as the refusal and resistance of individuals or individual groups, with the latter mostly being exposed to a wide variety of repression and paying for this with personal and individual disadvantages had.

Importance of establishments

Another influencing factor for the people in the GDR emerged from the specific structures, organizational forms and, last but not least, the requirements of a socialist industrial society. It has therefore been described in research as a special form of the "working society" (Martin Kohli). On the one hand, the work, as the main occupation of the GDR citizens, was carried out under the conditions of a central plan administration economy; Again and again the employees were confronted with organizational problems, missing material and machine wear. On the other hand, the factories in which the overwhelming majority worked also had the "function of supply, education and socializing, as a resource for many other areas of life and as the center of political life, through the purely technical and economic production of goods." "(Evemarie Badstübner, p. 668). Since there was no company co-determination, the brigades sometimes became networks of close, social relationships that went beyond the usual level of industrial working relationships, sometimes became venues for work and personal conflicts within the "collective", and sometimes became distribution stations for company social benefits in which, among other things, decided on the when, where and how of the annual vacation.

Compared to the Federal Republic of Germany, this significantly greater and socially and socially broader significance of the companies in the GDR had considerable effects on working groups and individuals. It was reinforced by a "work-centered ideology" on the part of the party and the state, in which human work was given special esteem, which was permanently emphasized in the propaganda. Based on the claim that the SED saw itself as the vanguard of the working class and thus ultimately of all working people, the party also sought to legitimize its leadership position for the entire GDR society.

There was also a third factor: the aspired socialist society was based on an egalitarian model resulting from the Marxist-Leninist ideology. According to this, the party endeavored in the long term to eliminate existing social differences and inequalities in the GDR through concrete socio-political measures with a view to creating a genuinely socialist society, for example through a gradual adjustment of wages and salaries or the allocation of living space. Although it was not possible to implement this egalitarian model, tendencies towards "social de-differentiation" (Sigrid Meuschel) were discernible in GDR society; At least there has been a certain leveling out between members of the "intelligentsia" from academic professions and the working class.

Control and supervision

Despite the SED's continually striving to "rule through" society in the GDR and its control and monitoring through a massively developed, widely ramified spying system, it never succeeded in completely controlling the people. With all the attempted political and ideological influence - also and not least because of that! - This met with a large majority of GDR citizens with a pronounced, often not even particularly reflected will to evade the political and ideological claims of the party, which are present everywhere. The "obstinacy" (Alf Lüdtke) of the people, and thus of society, embodied as it were an abutment against which the intentions of the SED and its mass organizations ultimately broke.

Against this broad background, life in the GDR, the everyday life of the people, can be seen: work and leisure, care and vacation, home and clothing, food and drink, sexuality, individual and collective social behavior as elements of daily life formed a whole of their own and yet at the same time could be very different individually. Overall, however, "completely normal life" was subject to the special conditions of the rule and economic system in real socialism, much more so than in the Federal Republic, for example.

Without claiming to be comprehensive, the following examples attempt to reproduce characteristic events of everyday life in the GDR.