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Was German Reunification a Mistake?

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:53 am
by Neu Leonstein
Simple enough question that I thought might be fun to discuss. To get this going, I'm going to go with a bit of a controversial language... but the underlying questions are real ones.

Germany was reunified in 1990, following the first gradual and then very quick collapse of the communist GDR's state authority. The two Germany's, and four victors of WW2 (France, UK, Russia and the US) agreed in the '2+4 Treaty' what the future of a unified Germany in Europe would look like (e.g. settling any outstanding border issues and so on).

And so West Germany found itself with a bit more than 16 million new arrivals. Poorer, used to and expecting generous welfare, with little to no appreciation for democratic values but a huge sense of entitlement. Which, if modern day critics of Angela Merkel are to be believed, is a recipe for disaster.

Since then, West Germany has spent literal trillions on supporting infrastructure and business investment in the east, and who knows how much more in welfare payments. Geopolitically, many might argue that the unified Germany is too big for Europe - meaning that the EU doesn't work as well for having one country in it that holds a disproportionate share of the economic activity and population.

So... was reunification a mistake? Or should it just have been done more slowly, and without an insistence that an East German Mark was worth the same as a West German one?

The latter is my own position. Pegging the currencies effectively pulled the rug out from under the East German economy, and was a big factor in the depression that followed and still hasn't been fully overcome. Going more slowly would also have given East Germans time to decide what sort of country they really wanted. The way it was handled, they rushed into reunification in the belief that they'd get freedom and wealth - but as their subsequent electoral choices tend to demonstrate, they've never been as open to a liberal society as those in the west are. In many ways, their preferences seem more similar to those in eastern European countries than they are to those in West Germany. It's probably too late to split things up again (at least until the EU unifies enough to allow these sorts of splits to be done easily and without causing particular disruption), but if there was a chance for a do-over, I would have given things a few years before reunification would be seriously considered.

But what say you?

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:03 am
by Great Mojave
This does not bode well for the Korean peninsula. Similar conditions are present, but more extreme. I fear something identical could happen if they ever do put aside their differences.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:06 am
by Nakena
I agree on the economic part.

However, East Germans keep being looked down upon by their West German brethen. It was more like an annexation rather than an unificaton, with some similarities to the reconstruction.

I find it very questionable that they are now being blamed for their voting preferences. Much like west europeans like to attack other east europeans over the matter. For many years people have been worked to bring the divided continent together again, it is very arrogant by how their opinions, views and legitimate concerns are being dismissed as evil and backwards.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:14 am
by Neu Leonstein
Nakena wrote:I find it very questionable that they are now being blamed for their voting preferences. Much like west europeans like to attack other east europeans over the matter. For many years people have been worked to bring the divided continent together again, it is very arrogant by how their opinions, views and legitimate concerns are being dismissed as evil and backwards.

Blaming someone for their voting preferences is an extremely ok thing to do though. I mean, who else is responsible for one's voting other than oneself? So the judging part is fine - question is just whether you (or they) agree with my judgement. Which is largely a question of whether or not you share my politics.

So that's the general point. In this specific circumstance, when I look at PDS, NPD or AfD votes in the east, the comparison that comes to mind is the classic Eurabia meme that part of the internet loves to trot out: a whole bunch of people who aren't terribly into liberal and open societies voting for various forms of Sharia law. Like, if you didn't want to be part of this society, why move there in the first place?

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:18 am
by East Angria
Neu Leonstein wrote:And so West Germany found itself with a bit more than 16 million new arrivals. Poorer, used to and expecting generous welfare, with little to no appreciation for democratic values but a huge sense of entitlement. Which, if modern day critics of Angela Merkel are to be believed, is a recipe for disaster.

Since then, West Germany has spent literal trillions on supporting infrastructure and business investment in the east, and who knows how much more in welfare payments. Geopolitically, many might argue that the unified Germany is too big for Europe - meaning that the EU doesn't work as well for having one country in it that holds a disproportionate share of the economic activity and population.

So... was reunification a mistake?

How exactly did the East Germans have a "huge sense of entitlement"? They lived under an authoritarian government-industrial complex with little regard for economic efficiency or political and civil freedoms. Especially the rural population of the Ex-GDR was never integrated into the liberal democracy and the social market economy of the Federal Republic. All important decisions were made without hearing them. History basically skipped over most of rural East Germany. It is no wonder these people are getting so frustrated that they keep voting for neonazi parties and CDU.

It is important to keep in mind that even before the fall of the Berlin Wall, West Germany poured tons of money into the East. Compared to the other countries in the Eastern Bloc, the GDR was doing extremely well. One of the main reasons was the financial support they received from the west. Still, it would be absurd to expect the two halves of the country to integrate with each other seamlessly after reunification. Whole states were depleted of their population simply because there were no opportunities to work anymore in the East.

Germany didn't simple reunite. The FRG simply annexed the GDR. There was no founding of a new state, no new constitution, no attempt to combine the best aspects of both systems. This, of course, would have been impossible within the context of the Cold War ending etc. etc. But still, a lot of opportunities were ignored. The same power structures are still in place. Germany as a whole didn't become any more free, equal, and prosperous through reunification.

Neu Leonstein wrote:Blaming someone for their voting preferences is an extremely ok thing to do though. I mean, who else is responsible for one's voting other than oneself? So the judging part is fine - question is just whether you (or they) agree with my judgement. Which is largely a question of whether or not you share my politics.

I agree. There are systemic reasons forcing all those people to vote for fascists, though, not just individual ones.
Neu Leonstein wrote:So that's the general point. In this specific circumstance, when I look at PDS, NPD or AfD votes in the east, the comparison that comes to mind is the classic Eurabia meme that part of the internet loves to trot out: a whole bunch of people who aren't terribly into liberal and open societies voting for various forms of Sharia law. Like, if you didn't want to be part of this society, why move there in the first place?

A significant portion of the GDR's population didn't want reunification, and as stated above, they weren't asked. Some people still say that everything used to be better under the GDR. Some want the Berlin Wall back. They didn't have a choice once the majority voted Yes on reunification.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:28 am
by Neu Leonstein
East Angria wrote:How exactly did the East Germans have a "huge sense of entitlement"?

The most immediate thing that comes to mind is the expectation that their wealth, denominated in East German marks, should be exchanged into West German marks at a 1:1 rate. Which was nuts by any reasonable standard of value. Now granted, the expectation was due in no small part to the West German government doing nothing to help those in the east gain some perspective. Instead they caved in order to ensure that the CDU could win government in the east and bring about reunification.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:43 am
by -Ocelot-
You speak of West Germany as if it's the only real Germany and was forced to absorb some foreign poor land. Why should Germany split in half arbitrarily post USSR collapse? And why shouldn't the German state help poorer Germans? It's not like West Germany forcefully absorbed Swaziland or something.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:50 am
by The Blaatschapen
I live in West Berlin and work in East Berlin. When I still had my bicycle, I passed Checkpoint Charlie everyday from/to work and yelled at tourists.

German reunification was not a mistake.

Though mistakes in the process were made. Like the 1:1 conversion.

But imagine, without reunification, we'd never have the BER airport.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:51 am
by Neu Leonstein
-Ocelot- wrote:You speak of West Germany as if it's the only real Germany and was forced to absorb some foreign poor land. Why should Germany split in half arbitrarily post USSR collapse? And why shouldn't the German state help poorer Germans? It's not like West Germany forcefully absorbed Swaziland or something.

I suppose one could ask a question about what Germany constitutes the real thing. I mean, there are at least two candidates, if you're talking political entities and philosophies. One is the 1848 Frankfurt parliament, and all that stood for... which, to be fair, is where the Federal Republic took a lot of its inspiration. The other was the authoritarian, agrarian Prussia. The latter ended up taking political control once the Frankfurt parliament was violently ended, with known results. One way to read the break-up of the German Empire in 1945 would be as the freeing of liberal Germany from autocratic rule.

https://www.newstatesman.com/world/euro ... ns-germany
[...]

Why did Adenauer dislike the eastern Germans, think Berlin was expendable and consider the River Elbe to be the natural frontier? Simple: he knew that the Elbe was Germany’s Mason-Dixon line. Beyond it lay the flat, grim Prussian heartlands, which until 1945 stretched into present-day Russia. This vast region was known to Germans as “Ostelbien” – East Elbia. Adenauer viewed the “unification” of Germany in 1871 as East Elbia’s annexation of the west. That’s why in 1919, as mayor of Cologne, and again in 1923, he tried to get Britain and France to back a breakaway western German state. Having failed, he is said to have muttered, “Here we go, Asia again,” and closed the blinds every time his train crossed east over the Elbe.

Prussia was a different country. The victorious Allies agreed. On 25 February 1947, they declared: “The Prussian state, which from early days has been a bearer of militarism and reaction in Germany… together with its central government and all its agencies are abolished.” The name Prussia was eradicated. The Prussian hegemony of 1871-1945, an anomaly in the two millennia of German history, was over.

[...]

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:55 am
by The Blaatschapen
Neu Leonstein wrote:
-Ocelot- wrote:You speak of West Germany as if it's the only real Germany and was forced to absorb some foreign poor land. Why should Germany split in half arbitrarily post USSR collapse? And why shouldn't the German state help poorer Germans? It's not like West Germany forcefully absorbed Swaziland or something.

I suppose one could ask a question about what Germany constitutes the real thing. I mean, there are at least two candidates, if you're talking political entities and philosophies. One is the 1848 Frankfurt parliament, and all that stood for... which, to be fair, is where the Federal Republic took a lot of its inspiration. The other was the authoritarian, agrarian Prussia. The latter ended up taking political control once the Frankfurt parliament was violently ended, with known results. One way to read the break-up of the German Empire in 1945 would be as the freeing of liberal Germany from autocratic rule.

https://www.newstatesman.com/world/euro ... ns-germany
[...]

Why did Adenauer dislike the eastern Germans, think Berlin was expendable and consider the River Elbe to be the natural frontier? Simple: he knew that the Elbe was Germany’s Mason-Dixon line. Beyond it lay the flat, grim Prussian heartlands, which until 1945 stretched into present-day Russia. This vast region was known to Germans as “Ostelbien” – East Elbia. Adenauer viewed the “unification” of Germany in 1871 as East Elbia’s annexation of the west. That’s why in 1919, as mayor of Cologne, and again in 1923, he tried to get Britain and France to back a breakaway western German state. Having failed, he is said to have muttered, “Here we go, Asia again,” and closed the blinds every time his train crossed east over the Elbe.

Prussia was a different country. The victorious Allies agreed. On 25 February 1947, they declared: “The Prussian state, which from early days has been a bearer of militarism and reaction in Germany… together with its central government and all its agencies are abolished.” The name Prussia was eradicated. The Prussian hegemony of 1871-1945, an anomaly in the two millennia of German history, was over.

[...]


In its Ostsiedlung the German settlers, that later formed the Prussian heartland, abSorbed quite some Slavs :blush:

And, if the Elbe is supposed to be a border. Keep in mind the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_ann ... Schut_Plan . An enemy from the West :p

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:57 am
by Neu Leonstein
The Blaatschapen wrote:And, if the Elbe is supposed to be a border. Keep in mind the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_ann ... Schut_Plan . An enemy from the West :p

Imagine the 1974 football team tho.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:58 am
by The Blaatschapen
Neu Leonstein wrote:
The Blaatschapen wrote:And, if the Elbe is supposed to be a border. Keep in mind the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_ann ... Schut_Plan . An enemy from the West :p

Imagine the 1974 football team tho.


Or any team thereafter. :blush:

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:02 am
by Duhon
No. I would rather much have Germans not living in fear and poverty, thanks.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:05 am
by Zrhajan
The Blaatschapen wrote:I live in West Berlin and work in East Berlin. When I still had my bicycle, I passed Checkpoint Charlie everyday from/to work and yelled at tourists.

German reunification was not a mistake.

Though mistakes in the process were made. Like the 1:1 conversion.

But imagine, without reunification, we'd never have the BER airport.

To be fair, we'll never actually get BER, just an endless construction site.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:13 am
by Walkerfort
I think I rather have a messy unified germany that is free rather than a robotic east germany under the soviet's thumb

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:38 am
by Katganistan
Allowing Russia to grab East Germany in the first place was the mistake. You can't blame people who were born under the communist regime there and lived their entire lives that way to magically become prosperous and loving of democracy. It'll be generations before the damage is healed.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:40 am
by Nakena
Neu Leonstein wrote:So that's the general point. In this specific circumstance, when I look at PDS, NPD or AfD votes in the east, the comparison that comes to mind is the classic Eurabia meme that part of the internet loves to trot out: a whole bunch of people who aren't terribly into liberal and open societies voting for various forms of Sharia law. Like, if you didn't want to be part of this society, why move there in the first place?


So you want to get rid of east germany because they aren't liberal enough for your tastes? Maybe you may want to go into another country then that suits more your tastes. Oh wait, arent you in the UK already?

Well they gone brexiting so, mhm, maybe that leaves Sweden or Canada under glorious Trudeau.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:58 am
by The New California Republic
The Treuhand being allowed to close much of East German industry following reunification was a big mistake that is still having economic repercussions today.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 5:11 am
by Blue Embassy
Neu Leonstein wrote:And so West Germany found itself with a bit more than 16 million new arrivals. Poorer, used to and expecting generous welfare, with little to no appreciation for democratic values but a huge sense of entitlement.


I'm not sure what you mean by "expecting generous welfare" - is it because West Germany had it and they were expecting it since they were joining? Or they were supposedly used to generous welfare because they were living in a "socialist state"?

I will wait with my answer until then, I just want to make sure we're talking about the same thing.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 5:31 am
by Bombadil
Neu Leonstein wrote:Simple enough question that I thought might be fun to discuss. To get this going, I'm going to go with a bit of a controversial language... but the underlying questions are real ones.


Oof.. 'fun' might not be the word..

So I'll go out on a limb with a bit of hyperbole perhaps to frame somewhat..

I think this is the central question and issue of the world today. I think the victory of Germanicus is possibly overplayed but also central to discussions of the world we want to live in. What have the Romans ever done for us?

One might point to the differing philosophies of Athens and Sparta and throw in Persia to the equation to address another fundamental issue, the divide between European and Eurasian, democratic and militaristic philosophy, but while important it's also more easily resolved as a question. One might argue that, in terms of cultural effects, China has longer cultural significance but the Chinese primarily view themselves as Chinese, regardless of North, South or provincial concerns.

Yet the issue of Germany combines all these. The propaganda derived from Germanicus through Prussian rule and export of that to America creates the split between a world of integration and disintegration. As much as America is subject to British Empire propaganda it is also subject to Prussian propaganda.

Integration or disintegration is the question, and its philosophy may be central to humanity anyway but I'm not sure there's a boundary equivalent to the Elbe that so closely defines the issue between a people of language and a people of philosophy.

It a floppy post but I'm okay with it in form of idea over exactness of detail.

To answer the question I equate the unification as a plaster being ripped off, the idea is you get over the pain quicker but it's up for debate over whether it's the best solution.

To the OP.. how much do you agree with the New Statesman article?

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 5:34 am
by Hammer Britannia
German Unification was a mistake in general tbh. Germany should have remained a fragmented mess like in the HRE.

As for the Reunification, I think it could have been given a couple of years to get the East used to Capitalism.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 5:34 am
by North German Realm
The partitioning of Germany was a mistake in and of itself first of all. Occupation zones were necessary (especially for denazification), but allowing two German States with claims to being the only German State is a bad idea. It happened simply because each side didn't expect the other to leave the "honeymoon phase" that early.
Reunification was a good thing in and of itself, but it could (and probably should) have gone better. For one thing, Brandenburg should have been rebuilt and allowed to prosper rather than leaving it in the dust, but it was never a mistake. Unless DDR was willing to give up its claim to being "Germany", it should have not been reunified, but been annexed by BRD, just as it happened in real life.

-Ocelot- wrote:You speak of West Germany as if it's the only real Germany and was forced to absorb some foreign poor land. Why should Germany split in half arbitrarily post USSR collapse? And why shouldn't the German state help poorer Germans? It's not like West Germany forcefully absorbed Swaziland or something.

In all honesty, the two countries were pretty much as far from each other as Austria and Swaziland at that point in time, both in culture (rural East German against industrial West German or South German) and in the state of living and development. But it should have been helped back on its feet after annexation. Maybe then we wouldn't see it become a hub for fucking AfD of all things.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 5:39 am
by Neu Leonstein
Nakena wrote:So you want to get rid of east germany because they aren't liberal enough for your tastes? Maybe you may want to go into another country then that suits more your tastes. Oh wait, arent you in the UK already?

Well they gone brexiting so, mhm, maybe that leaves Sweden or Canada under glorious Trudeau.

I'm not in any of the countries you mention. Nor, in truth, does it matter a great deal because as you well know, one addresses the message rather than the messenger. And the message is that east Germany by itself would be a less liberal country, and arguably west Germany a more liberal country, than the unified one. So if east Germans preferred to build a little Hungary, they'd have been better off doing that as an independent nation.

The New California Republic wrote:The Treuhand being allowed to close much of East German industry following reunification was a big mistake that is still having economic repercussions today.

All sorts of dodgy shit happened there, no doubt. But the fundamental issue was that at a 1:1 exchange rate east German companies were not competitive and many barely worth the scrap value of the machinery they had. Even that scrap was sold below value in many cases, but it's more of a social justice issue than a macroeconomic one.

Blue Embassy wrote:I'm not sure what you mean by "expecting generous welfare" - is it because West Germany had it and they were expecting it since they were joining? Or they were supposedly used to generous welfare because they were living in a "socialist state"?

I will wait with my answer until then, I just want to make sure we're talking about the same thing.

It's a bit of both. There wasn't really substantial economic risk in East Germany. Officially there was full employment, and the state was in charge of distributing what was being produced (for money, of course, but the problem with getting your Trabi was where in the queue you were, not if you could afford it). Living expenses were subsidised hugely. The risk was political, more so than economic.

For a lot of people in east Germany, it seems, they were happy to have the political risk removed, but the economic risk became (and still is) a massive sticking point for a lot of voters in the east. It's almost as though reunification in the east meant bringing western goods to them at western prices, and not much else. The condition for achieving that was the conversion of their salaries, benefits and pensions at a 1:1 rate, except it backfired.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 5:40 am
by Pasong Tirad
Yes, and quite frankly they weren't divided enough. They should have been divided into several hundred states nominally united under one head of state elected not by the general populace but by several specially-designated electors.

This all seems familiar somehow, but I can't quite place it.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2019 5:41 am
by District H
No, not at all. But, the 2 Koreas are in a worse situation than Germany