Law in Contemporary Society
Wader -- West German protest singer we heard singing the Internationale today

Biermann -- East German protest singer and exiled by Honecker

  • No, this confuses Hannes Wader with Wolf Biermann, which is hard to do if you have their voices in your head. It does conform to the impacted assumption that a virtuous Communist must have been a dissident in the East rather than a Party-member seeking to undermine the West.

Is the act of defiance (protest song, dangerous lawyer, etc.) a positive or a negative act? Does it matter that Wader was singing an East German/Socialist anthem, or would any act of defiance against West Germany have done as well (was Ulrike Meinhoff a dissident, an artist, or a terrorist?).

  • Surely this is an intemperate question, seeking to eliminate useful distinctions?

Was Wolf Biermann really protesting in favor of capitalism, or just against having his phone tapped and having 1 in ten people turned into a spy for the state? Was he making any kind of economic protest at all?

When the crowds in East Germany sang Gedenken Sint Frei to protest (and overthrow) their government, were they conscious of the song's history? Were they comparing Honecker to the Nazis?

  • If they were conscious of the history, they had something to offer you of which you didn't take advantage. The poem Die Gedanken Sind Frei dates to the twelfth century at least, where it appears in Minnesang; the song we know is from the time of Napoleon, and was sung in 1848 and against Bismarck. See my Berlin lecture of 2004.

It would be easy to say that the Internationale was being sung simply to bind the group together (or that the band played Waltzing Matilda in order to distract the crowd from the horror of war and serve them easy patriotism). But I am skeptical of what is easy to say.

I was unclear, I suppose. I did not mean to conflate but to compare Wader and Biermann. Does a West German anti-capitalist have more in common with an East German anti-socialist, or with the socialists in power in the East? I think there is something in the performance itself, rather than the content of the particular song, that matters.

I think that what both performers are doing is defying in an act, and that they are essentially arguing against the system in place rather than for any specific alternative (Wader was too smart to miss the failings of the East; Biermann was not promoting American capitalism).

-- AndrewCase - 04 Feb 2009



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r4 - 07 Jan 2010 - 22:50:33 - IanSullivan
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