The Uprising of June 17

The Uprising of June 17

The June uprising in East Germany was not merely an incident in the resistance that has become part of daily life in the satellite areas; for this time the whole character of the resistance was suddenly, dramatically lifted to a new stage. The elementary, merely “convulsive” level of opposition to totalitarianism was left behind; the uprising reintegrated the consciousness of the workers, reaffirmed their role as a class, and in doing so, posed with unprecedented sharpness the problem of the future of Stalinist totalitarianism. Never again can Stalinism be what it was prior to the uprising: the memory of June 1953 has become in Europe a symbol, a hope, a portent.

I.

Given both the ruthlessness and subtlety of Stalinist control, how could such a thing happen? The uprising had obviously not been “staged”; its leaders attested to its spontaneity; the improvised nature of all organized activity on June 16 in Berlin and on June 17 everywhere in Eastern Germany is indubitable. The Stalinists have spoken of “fascist provocateurs,” of the “Ostbureau” of the West German Social Democratic Party (SPD) but only as at most “provoking” the strikes, not as organizing them. The Western press frequently alluded to an “underground” in Eastern Germany but this hypothesis proved totally inadequate for explaining the events: if the illegal groups in Eastern Germany may be called an “underground,” how were they related to the uprising? Were there “underground cells” in all the 150 localities where strikes and demonstrations took place, cells which had instructions from some central body to bring the workers into motion at a pre-determined hour and to see to it that the uprising would not, by provocative actions, become a bloodbath and that, at the same time, maximum participation would be assured? Is it likely that such an organization would have remained in complete obscurity? There is no evidence for the claim that the June events in East Berlin were planned or directed by a political organization.


Lima