Both, East and West Germany, called themselves “democratic,” but how did each state define democracy and how democratic were they in reality? Although other parties existed in the GDR, the SED (Sozialistische Einheitspartei) ruled as one party dictatorship. The FRG had a multi-party system in which a party needed at least 5% of the vote to enter parliament. At present, seven parties are represented in the German Bundestag. A political landscape comprised of many parties allows for a diverse articulation of voices, but at which point do they become a hindrance to decision taking? Is democracy only a question of parties? How much democracy do we need?
East German citizens joined the party out of idealism or opportunism or a bit of both, as the story of Herr Lauterbach illustrates. Video footage from Open Memory Box, an archive that showcases 415 hours of home movies shot by East German citizens. In this video, Herr Lauterbach looks back at his daily life in the GDR and narrates the story of his family through footage that he shot throughout the years. In German with English subtitles.
In its common political sense, democracy and single-party hegemony are hardly compatible, but democracy also, for example in Tocqueville’s classic definition, refers to uniformity of lifestyles, of which there was plenty in the GDR.