The Worker

Thoughts on 75 Years of the Federal Republic of Germany

Originally published by the International Federation of Resistance Fighters (Association of Anti-Fascists) –

On May 23, 1949, the Grundgesetz (constitution) of the Federal Republic of Germany came into power. Following the defeat of the Nazi regime and the period of occupation, a new German state was created. However, it was only a western state. Neither the territories of the Soviet occupation zone nor the Saarland, which remained part of the French occupied territory, were part of it. This was intentional, as the representatives of the KPD, Max Reimann and Heinz Renner, made clear when the Grundgesetz (GG) was passed in the Parliamentary Council on May 8, 1949. They voted against the adoption of the constitution by the reason that this law would seal the division of Germany.

While the Adenauer government and the Western Allies spoke loudly of “German unity” in declarations, they had taken many steps in the preceding years towards the establishment of a Western state. Joint consultations between the elected state governments from all the occupation zones were made impossible, and the currency reform in the western zones in the summer of 1948 meant the economic division of the country. This step, which was forced by the USA and Great Britain in order to be able to integrate a future western state into the Marshall Plan, made it clear how the Cold War was to be fought on the backs of the German population.

NATO was founded in April 1949. Even though the western state did not yet have an army, it was clear that the FRG was to act as the spearhead in the East-West confrontation. A proposal by the USSR for a unified Germany with neutral status was rejected. Although the GG did not provide for an army or even compulsory military service and many state constitutions contained clear peace regulations (“A war of aggression is forbidden” etc.), the remilitarization of the FRG was pushed through in the mid-1950s with the establishment of the Bundeswehr (by former Wehrmacht generals) against broad social resistance.

Organizations that campaigned for German unity and neutrality and against remilitarization, such as the Federation of Persecutes of the Nazi Regime, were spied on and persecuted.

In addition, core areas of the constitution have been restricted in recent decades despite political protests and social opposition. These include emergency laws, state surveillance and the expansion of police powers, the de facto abolition of the right to asylum and much more.

When the German Democratic Republic (GDR) emerged after the founding of the FRG in the fall of 1949, this preoccupied the FRG’s foreign policy for almost two decades. Supported by the NATO states, the FRG claimed “sole representation” for all Germans. Only in the course of the policy of d├ętente and the “Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe” was the existence of two German states with equal rights recognized in the UN. FIR and its member associations had campaigned for this as civil society organizations. The growing strength and stability of the states of the “Council for Mutual Economic Assistance” (CMEA), whose military security was guaranteed by the Soviet Union and the “Warsaw Treaty”, was also a decisive factor.

The end of the CMEA and the Warsaw Treaty presented the GDR with a decision that prompted the government of the time – based on political movements among the population; today it would be called the “color revolution” – to form a joint state with the FRG. The international framework conditions for this were clarified as part of the two-plus-four negotiations, even if some politicians today no longer want to be reminded of the agreements made at the time.

With regard to the GG, a problem arose that still has emotional and political repercussions today – more than thirty years after the decision. The GG of 1949 was – as it says in the preamble – a “provisional arrangement” until such time as the German people freely decide on a new constitution together. This could be understood as an offer to the inhabitants of the former Soviet Occupied Zone to have an equal say in a future constitution in the event of reunification. Various drafts and proposals were drawn up in the GDR in 1990. However, all of this was swept aside by the political elites of the FRG and it was decided that the eastern territories would “join” the FRG (in accordance with Article 23 GG). The social experiences and wishes of the people from the “new federal states” were thus ignored, and all areas of social life – and not just property relations – were subjected to the rules of the FRG. This experience of not being heard in political decisions is one of the reasons why extreme right-wing parties in the eastern federal states can win votes with their targeted propaganda.

75 years of the Federal Republic of Germany are therefore no “jubilee celebrations”, but should be an occasion to reflect on such undesirable social developments. However, one can expect that only anti-fascists and democrats who have been fighting for decades to preserve the democratic rights and freedoms written down in the constitution will do so.

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