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The Director of the Youth Institute Comments on the Progressive Alienation of the Young People in the GDR (November 21, 1988)

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In closing, it should be emphasized: We need a new attitude toward independent, toward creative (and this also implies non-conformist) thinking.

We cannot immunize society and politics so strongly against independent thinking. Here, I am pleading not for a lack of boundaries, but rather for an extension of the boundaries of tolerance.

Inhumane thinking that is dangerous to people and hostile to progress (for example, fascist) is not allowed and must be fought. I am, however, in favor of the creative discussion of various political theses, hypotheses that accord with the search for better and better pathways for socialist society – under the constantly changing conditions that determine the existence of our society.

We should regard our socialist society as still being “on the way,” as in constant development, as in a state of incompletion, and thus as in its necessary state of transformation and optimization. We should no longer relativize the status quo of our society. This is necessary for many reasons, one of which is the grave change in mentality felt among our population, particularly among our youth.

The population’s identification with our goals and values, with the policies of our party, can only be increased if we manage to establish significant new ways of communicating (information, openness, democratic cooperation) with people. Otherwise, in the next 1-3 years, the people will continue to distance themselves from us – and on a threatening scale at that. If – in our leadership, education, training, and definitely in our politics – we fail to recognize and consider that today’s GDR citizens (not only the young ones!) have a totally different mentality, a totally different consciousness than 10 or 20 years ago, then our speeches, appeals, political information in the media can in no way achieve the expected effect. The people don’t even take the slightest notice of these things; they immunize themselves against them more and more (have many counter-arguments and everyday observations handy), and increasingly respond from a position of confrontation, disappointment, opposition – or give up.

Source: Walter Friedrich, “Einige Reflexionen über geistig-kulturelle Prozesse in der DDR” [“Some Reflections on Mental and Cultural Processes in the GDR”], (November 21, 1988), SAPMO-BArch, SED, ZK, IV 2/2039/246; reprinted in Gerd Rüdiger Stephan, ed., Vorwärts immer, rückwärts nimmer. Interne Dokumente zum Zerfall der SED und der DDR [Always forward, Never back. Internal Documents on the Collapse of the SED and the GDR]. Berlin, 1994, pp. 39-53.

Translation: Allison Brown

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