Writing in Red

Writing in Red

The East German Writers Union and the Role of Literary Intellectuals

Thomas W. Goldstein


Camden House



This book explores how the East German Writers Union became a site for the contestation of writers' roles in GDR society with consequences well beyond the literary community.

In the German Democratic Republic words and ideas mattered, both for legitimizing and criticizing the regime. No wonder, then, that the ruling SED party created a Writers Union to mold what writers publicly wrote and said. Its chief task was ideological: creating a socialist and antifascist culture. But it was also supposed to advance its members' professional interests and enable them to act as public intellectuals with a say in the direction of socialism. Many writers demanded that it pursue this second function as well, which brought it into conflict with the SED. This book explores how the union became a site for the contestation of writers' roles in GDR society with consequences well beyond the literary community. Union leaders, pressured by the SED or the secret police, usually acquiesced in enforcing regime demands, but by the 1980s many authors had adapted to the rules of the game, exploiting their union membership to insulate themselves from reprisal for their carefully worded critiques and in so doing beginning to break down limitations on public speech. The book explores how and why in the 1970s the Writers Union helped normalize relations between writers and state, yet over the course of the 1980s inadvertently aided the expansion of permissible speech, ultimately helping destabilize the East German system.

Thomas W. Goldstein is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Central Missouri.

An e-book version of this title is available (9781787441651), to libraries through a number of trusted suppliers. See here for a full list of our partners.


November 2017
366 pages
9x6 in
German History in Context
ISBN: 9781571139207
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC HIS014000, LIT004170, POL005000
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Table of Contents

German Writers Associations through 1970
Socioeconomic Functions
The Era of No Taboos? 1971-75
A Disciplining Instrument, 1976-79
Defending Peace, Defining Participation, 1979-83
Years of Resignation, 1983-85
Glasnost in the GDR? 1985-89
Coming Full Circle, 1989-90

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