Publications Index | Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’s Internet Archive

Socialist Review Index (1993–1996) | Socialist Review 175 Contents

Socialist Review, May 1994

Margot Hill


The diplomatic dance


From Socialist Review, No. 175, May 1994.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


In Europe’s Name: Germany and the Divided Continent
Timothy Garton Ash
Jonathan Cape £25.00

The partition of Europe, symbolised by the Berlin Wall, remained the order of things for nearly 45 years after the Second World War. Within a few short months in 1989 and 1990 the wall came crashing down.

Timothy Garton Ash’s book follows the path trodden by West Germany’s politicians from the division of Europe in 1945 to German Unification.

Seven years of research and access to previously secret documents have gone into the making of this record and its explanation of ‘Ostpolitik’, the term used to describe West Germany’s political, economic and cultural relations with East Germany and Eastern Europe.

In the aftermath of war Germany was in ruins, occupied by the Allies and stripped of state powers.

The early hopes that a prosperous, free and united Western Europe, backed by US might, could force Moscow to concede German unity were soon dashed.

When the Berlin Wall went up, the US cavalry did not arrive. Kennedy didn’t even interrupt his sailing holiday. Willy Brandt, then mayor of West Berlin, had to deal with the horror of that event. People died as they leapt from windows to join family and friends on the other side of a divided street.

The Adenauer government, perceived that the key to the East was through the puppet masters in Moscow.

The idea was that change could be brought about from above by developing trust with the rulers of Eastern Europe through trade and cultural links while keeping trust with the West through both the economic role of the EC and membership of NATO.

To maintain the rhythms of this diplomatic dance, Garton Ash argues, became an end in itself. When the tune changed, in Prague in 1968 and in Poland in the early 1980s, West German policy makers found themselves seriously out of step.

They could not be seen to support Solidarity in the early 1980s and they were willing to deal with Jaruzelski. They put stability before liberty.

The irony is that it was change from below which broke the Berlin Wall. Moreover, the supply of credits and hard currency from West Germany in itself destabilised the economies of Eastern Europe and contributed to their collapse.

At 400 pages, with a further 250 pages of notes, this book provides a pretty comprehensive record of the words and actions of West Germany’s leaders that many of them may wish to recast in a more heroic mould.

Socialist Review Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 16 April 2017