Treat Socialism With Contempt

Treat Socialism With Contempt

Pre 1989, from the outside Berlin looked run-down, maltreated in many places in the West and in the East - a city barely alive, in spite of a few modern construction projects. What seemed to the casual eye like a stasis, where an old world lay in a dilapidated state, was the perfect biotope, the niche where alternative lifestyles could prosper. An urban place that interests no one is a place where a good life can be lead. After the fall of the Wall, it did not take long for the bohemian society acting as the urban avant-garde to explore the empty centre behind the wall in order to fill it up with new life.

The façades of the old buildings in East Berlin had remained grey. Since the forties they had never been painted. At night, the street lamps cast a weak yellow light over the run-down quarters of East Berlin. No Wolf Jobst Siedler had sung a melancholic song about them; no squatter had defended them in wild street battles. But even here romanticists and dissidents from all walks of life took over, little by little, entire streets of houses; in the eastern borough of Prenzlauer Berg, the old buildings, originally built at the end of the nineteenth century for the host of workers in the metropolis that had been booming since 1871, were still standing. They rotted away slowly, and entire quarters nearly fell victim to socialist city planning. If the authorities had had their way, an estate of prefabricated houses would have been built.

Instead, a bohemian society took root, even though it was keenly watched by the secret police. Punk bands played at fashion shows and recorded their music on cassettes. Lyricists recited poetry at private showings in their living rooms and published it in small editions. The actual circumstances of real, existing socialism were, as much as it was possible, treated with contempt here.