N.B. In general, we are careful not to compare the UK #spycops saga with a totalitarian state systematically spying on its citizens. Max however has studied Stasi files and spoke to people spied upon.
Taking a look at the experiences of political activists in East Germany (GDR) who had to deal with Stasi informants and infiltration before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, this post is based on interviews with people who were politically active in East German times, and reflects their experiences. Those familiar with how police spies have been used for example in Britain may recognise the tactics used by both secret police and GDR activists.
The invasive spying and disorientation tactics used by the East German secret police (Stasi) meant there were significantly fewer possibilities for civil disobedience and direct action than political grassroots activists have today in countries places such as Western Europe and North America. Nevertheless political activists in East Germany managed to start a grassroots revolution in 1989.
East German opposition and activism
Because non-state organisations were prohibited in the GDR, networking and co-ordination between activists was informal: independent groups and networks stayed in contact through newsletters and the exchange of campaign materials, and there was a mix of local and regionally co-ordinated covert and open actions.
Activists in the GDR also campaigned on issues that will feel familiar to many campaigners today: anti-nuclear and peace issues, challenging economic paradigms of growth and consumption at any cost; resistance to an undemocratic state and its activities; propagating and practising sustainable choices versus exploitation of environment and animals. There was a strong emphasis on DIY culture with egalitarian, equitable principles – politically most activists in the GDR in the 1980s self-defined as socialist or anarchist. Continue reading