[Marxism] Socialism and Democracy

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 12 16:44:14 MDT 2019

On 4/12/19 6:35 PM, george.snedeker via Marxism wrote:
> I am looking for someone to review the following book for the Journal, Socialism and Democracy:
> Socialist Defecter
> By Victor Grossman
> Here is the Blurb on the book from Monthly Review Press:
> The circumstances that impelled Victor Grossman, a U.S. Army draftee stationed in Europe, to flee a military prison sentence were the icy pressures of the McCarthy Era. Grossman-a.k.a. Steve Wechsler, a committed leftist since his years at Harvard and, briefly, as a factory worker-left his barracks in Bavaria one August day in 1952, and, in a panic, swam across the Danube River from the Austrian U.S. Zone to the Soviet Zone. Fate-i.e., the Soviets-landed him in East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic. There he remained, observer and participant, husband and father, as he watched the rise and successes, the travails, and the eventual demise of the GDR socialist experiment. A Socialist Defector is the story, told in rare, personal detail, of an activist and writer who grew up in the U.S. free-market economy; spent thirty-eight years in the GDR's nationally owned, centrally administered economy; and continues to survive, given whatever the market can bear, in today's uni
>   ted Germany.

The book is great. I have a review lined up for next Friday but I 
encourage you to volunteer to write a review for S&D just to get a free 
copy. Victor Grossman is real raconteur who combines a wry sense of 
humor with some fascinating insights into East Germany that get past the 
stereotypes found in movies about the Stasi, etc. This comment on my 
excerpt from the book by Marxmail comrade John Edmundson should give you 
an idea that there was more to East German realities then the typical 
tearing down the wall in order to get bananas and porn narrative:

My wife was coincidentally in Berlin on a Journalistes en Europ 
scholarship when the wall came down. She spent a lot of time between the 
two Berlins. Despite the Stasi and the seeming austere nature of the 
East, it was two other things really stuck in her mind from that time. 
One was that people were not defined by their work. They did other 
things with their time – belonged to groups based on their interests 
etc. No obsession with what you ‘do’ and what you earn. The other was 
that they didn’t seem to want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. 
Somewhat naively perhaps, they wanted the ‘socialist’ model but with the 
freedom that the West seemed to offer, particularly travel. They really 
appreciated the security the state provided around the essentials of 
life, especially things like cheap childcare. And whenever my wife went 
back to the West it seemed crass – garish neon and billboards, evidence 
of drug addiction and a pressure that seemed overwhelming. She doesn’t 
nostalgise about East Germany, she’s no Stalinist, but she knows there 
were elements there of what could have been.

Romania in contrast felt like Hell on Earth . . .


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