What are some examples of modern socialism

GDR 1990

Rainer Land

To person

Dr. sc. oec., born 1952; 2nd chairman of the board of the Thünen Institute for Regional Development, Dudel 1, 17207 Bollewick.
Email: [email protected]

In addition to the political question of how the party rule of the SED could be ended, the actors of "modern socialism" were concerned with the conceptual foundations of a social renewal.


In February 1990 we presented our "Umbaupapier", which had just been published by "Rotbuch", in West Berlin. In the discussion, some of the left-wing intellectuals from West Berlin who were present said that our reform proposals basically boiled down to what one has in the West: capitalism and party rule, everything that one has been fighting against for decades. Socialism would look different, and it was fatal that the people in the GDR would not use the overthrow of Stalinism to finally build a real socialist alternative to the West.

The concept of "modern socialism" was the product of a group of 15 to 20 people who emerged during the perestroika years. But there was a much larger environment at the Humboldt University, with connections to the Academy of Sciences and the universities in Jena, Leipzig and Dresden, a communication context that went back to the 1970s and in which several hundred people, mostly members the SED, participated more or less intensively. These included, for example, the interdisciplinary research group "Philosophical Problems of Political Economy" (Hans Wagner, Peter Ruben, Camilla Warnke, Herbert Steininger) or the group of editors of the textbook "Political Economy of Capitalism" headed by Dieter Klein.

In these circles it was clear that the society and state of the GDR, and especially that of the Soviet Union and the other Comecon countries, would not continue to exist without a fundamental renewal. The spectrum of ideas for change was broad, contradicting and even among intellectuals who were members of the SED or were close to it, from cosmetic improvements, a re-edition of the New Economic System of the 1960s and more opportunist concepts to left-wing fundamentalist and conservative-bourgeois ones Imaginations. This diversity appears even greater if one includes the civil rights and civil rights movement groups that also emerged in the 1980s, some of whom advocated socialist ideals, others civil rights, the ideas of the environmental movement or (less often) the return to the market economy and free enterprise moved into the center.

In addition to the political question of how the rule of the Honecker Politburo could be ended, the main question for us young social scientists was the question of what scientific and conceptual basis such a renewal could build on. The dogmatized Marxism-Leninism was out of the question. With perestroika, the signs were symbolically set to "new thinking", even if the SED leadership did not want to know anything about it. The "Modern Socialism" project was one of several groups within the so-called SED reformers. This concept tried to reconstruct the basic idea of ​​socialism on the basis of a theory of modernity. According to the claim, it was about much more than just replacing the rule of a state party with a pluralist party democracy and the directive planned economy with an indicative one with more leeway for the companies. It was an attempt to theoretically redefine the economic, social and political foundations of a democratically constituted socialist society.

Now, however, we were accused of the fact that our "modern socialism" was just capitalism as it already had in the West: In the "restructuring paper" we had presented reform concepts that aimed at a capitalist transformation of the economy, a parliamentary democracy and a bourgeois constitutional state ran out? Obviously. [2] Our West Berlin professor colleagues probably had the right feeling: Conceptually we differed very much from the socialist left in West Germany, which equated either "socialist" with "anti-capitalist" or - social democratic - including the dominance of the state over the markets and capitalist companies, that is, a state-bound capitalism, understood. However, the judgment that we would want to take over the existing system of the Federal Republic was wrong. There were very important differences for us.