Are Referendums Democratic?

One person against everyone else in a big meeting

This post was written just afer the EU referendum in the UK in 2016, but I haven’t updated it because I believe the central points still stand.

 

In the wake of the Brexit vote many voices in the media proclaimed that direct democracy leads to a tyranny of the majority, even mob rule.

In this post I’ll be considering whether this is the case, and suggesting some conditions I feel are needed to have a fair referendum.
Continue reading “Are Referendums Democratic?”

For Our Country

The original print out of the Für Unser Land statement

(This article was originally written for and posted on the website of the interdisciplinary academic network Cultures of the Cold War.)

In the counter-factual novel Stealing The Future the rift with reality is pinpointed as beginning on the 4th November 1989, but the subsequent publication of the  For Our Country Statement played a significant role in building East Germans’ confidence in their ability to remain independent of West Germany. Continue reading “For Our Country”

Political Structures in Stealing the Future

Citizens enter the main Stasi HQ in Berlin

Where to start?

When writing a political novel the author needs to be very clear about the political structures that form the framework of the story, not to mention how they work on a day-to-day basis (indeed it is the tension between the theory and the practice of these institutions that provide the gaps that allow such stories to be developed).

The reader of Stealing the Future will have picked up on the fact that there are parliaments at several levels (Volkskammer at the federal level, and the Landeskammern at the Land, or regional level). But in Martin’s everyday life, most of the actual decisions are taken by the Ministry of the Interior (at which he works) or by the various assemblies – from the Central Round Table right down to the plenary meeting of the residents in his tenement block. Continue reading “Political Structures in Stealing the Future”

Could the GDR have survived? Part III – the Geopolitics of Stealing the Future

Gorbachev and Honecker in conference

 

 

As I said in Part II, in Stealing the Future I’ve tried to remain as true to historical fact as possible – practically this means trying to keep the history of countries other than Germany pretty much true to real life. Outside the GDR the biggest surprise is the continued existence of the USSR. I decided to let Mikhail Gorbachev keep the Soviet ship of state afloat, despite all its leaks and mutinies. Continue reading “Could the GDR have survived? Part III – the Geopolitics of Stealing the Future”

Spelling – how to spell West Berlin, Westberlin, West-Berlin…

An East German Map, showing West Berlin as an empty space.

West Berlin, Westberlin, West-Berlin, Berlin (West), B(W), BW?!?

It wasn’t until I’d finished my first draft of Stealing The Future that I started worrying about how to spell Westberlin (or West Berlin, West-Berlin or even Berlin (West)!). I’d blithely tapped away at my keyboard, using the Eastgerman (East German) vernacular, only realising that this may seem odd to a non-German audience, or even a Westgerman (West German) audience.

In English it’s really not very hard: West Berlin, West Germany, East Berlin, East Germany. But in German the way you spell West Berlin tells the reader something about you, and your politics. Yep, you guessed right, it’s about the Cold War, of course. Continue reading “Spelling – how to spell West Berlin, Westberlin, West-Berlin…”

Für unser Land

Demonstration for an open country and free people 1989

Unser Land steckt in einer tiefen Krise. Wie wir bisher gelebt haben, können und wollen wir nicht mehr leben. Die Führung einer Partei hatte sich die Herrschaft über das Volk und seine Vertretungen angemaßt, vom Stalinismus geprägte Strukturen hatten alle Lebensbereiche durchdrungen. Gewaltfrei, durch Massendemonstrationen hat das Volk den Prozess der revolutionären Erneuerung erzwungen, der sich in atemberaubender Geschwindigkeit vollzieht. Uns bleibt nur wenig Zeit, auf die verschiedenen Möglichkeiten Einfluss zu nehmen, die sich als Auswege aus der Krise anbieten. Continue reading “Für unser Land”

Verfassung der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik – Entwurf 1990

Header from the government gazette of the GDR

(See also the post Constitution of 1990.)

Verfassung der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik

Berlin, April 1990

Inhalt

Präambel

I. Kapitel
Art. 1-40 Menschen- und Bürgerrechte
Art. 1-25 Würde, Gleichheit, Freiheit, Solidarität .
Art. 26-33 Arbeit, Wirtschaft, Umwelt
Art. 34 Rechte der Sorben
Art. 35-39 Gesellschaftliche Gruppen und Verbände
Art. 40 Geltung Continue reading “Verfassung der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik – Entwurf 1990”