Comrade Margot Honecker: 1927-2016

honeckerLifelong fighter for communism

Comrade Margot Honecker, who served as the Minister of People’s Education in the socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR) from 1963 to 1989, was a leading member of the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) and the wife of GDR leader Comrade Erich Honecker, died on 6 May 2016 at the age of 89 in the Chilean capital Santiago.

She had lived in exile in Chile, travelling there from Moscow, since 1992, after the final revisionist treachery of the Gorbachev clique had destroyed the socialist German state and facilitated its annexation by the imperialist Federal Republic.

Among the socialist states of Europe, the GDR had been particularly noted for its internationalism and anti-imperialism. From Vietnam to Korea, from South Africa to Mozambique and Angola, and from Cuba to Nicaragua, its record was outstanding, sincere and generous.

Following the US-inspired fascist coup in Chile, which violently overthrew the progressive government of Salvador Allende in September 1973 and ushered in a vicious reign of white terror, the GDR opened its doors to several thousand Chilean refugees. Among them was today’s Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, whose father, an air force brigadier, died as a result of months of torture carried out by the Pinochet regime. Another Chilean given sanctuary in the GDR, Leo Yanez Betancourt, married the Honeckers’ daughter Sonja, so it was scarcely surprising that a democratic Chile should, in turn, welcome Erich and Margot Honecker to live in safety with their daughter, son-in-law and grandson.

Comrade Honecker’s death was announced by the Communist Party of Chile, with which she maintained close ties. The party noted:

Hundreds of exiled Chilean communists remember and deeply appreciate the solidarity and friendship in which Margot Honecker took an active part – solidarity that reached the Chilean people in the difficult moments of the dictatorship that struck our country from September 1973.

“Since her youth, she gave her life to the cause of socialism and fought for the sovereignty and development of the German Democratic Republic…After the fall of socialism in Europe, she received political asylum in Chile, where she maintained friendly ties with our party and especially with those of our members who were able to rebuild their lives in the GDR, receiving the welcome and fraternity of the German people…solidarity that is not forgotten.”

Margot Honecker was born Margot Feist on 17 April 1927, the daughter of a shoemaker and a factory worker. Both her parents were members of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), as later was her brother, Manfred. Following the rise to power of the Nazis, her father was incarcerated first in Lichtenburg and then Buchenwald concentration camp and her childhood home was searched by the Gestapo on numerous occasions.

When the Soviet Red Army defeated fascism and reached Berlin in 1945, Margot joined the KPD, which merged into the SED to create a unified party of the working class in April 1946. She worked first as a shorthand typist for the regional trade union federation in Saxony-Anhault, but soon took up leading positions in the Free German Youth (FDJ) and in 1948 became the chair of the Ernst Thälmann Pioneer Organisation. In 1950, at the age of 22, she was elected as the youngest member of the fledgling GDR’s parliament.

As someone who had fought all her life for the cause of the working class, against imperialism and for socialism; who resisted the destruction of her socialist country and refused to renounce communism, joining the reformed KPD in 1990, Margot Honecker earned the lasting and undying hatred of the class enemy, something that was amply reflected in all the obituaries for her that appeared in the bourgeois media. These comments from her Wikipedia entry are typical:

Margot Honecker was widely known as the ‘Purple Witch’ for her tinted hair and hardline Stalinist views and was described as ‘the most hated person’ in East Germany next to Stasi chief Erich Mielke… She was responsible for the enactment of the ‘Uniform Socialist Education System’ in 1965 and mandatory military training in schools to prepare pupils for a future war with the west… [in 1990 she became] a member of the small fringe party Communist Party of Germany, which is considered extremist by the German authorities. Openly Stalinist, it condemned the de-Stalinisation in the Soviet Union as ‘revisionist’ and supported the North Korean regime.”

To this, one can but respond with these extremely wise words of Comrade Mao Zedong:

I hold that it is bad as far as we are concerned if a person, a political party, an army or a school is not attacked by the enemy, for in that case it would definitely mean that we have sunk to the level of the enemy. It is good if we are attacked by the enemy, since it proves that we have drawn a clear line of demarcation between the enemy and ourselves. It is still better if the enemy attacks us wildly and paints us as utterly black and without a single virtue; it demonstrates that we have not only drawn a clear line of demarcation between the enemy and ourselves but achieved a great deal in our work.”

And, just as Comrade Honecker continued to enjoy the hatred of the imperialist bourgeoisie, she continued to enjoy the fraternal esteem of those on the frontline of the anti-imperialist struggle.

In July 2008, marking the 29th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, she journeyed, to Nicaragua, where President Daniel Ortega presented her with a medal in recognition of the untiring and unstinting support she had extended to revolutionary Nicaragua’s successful struggle against illiteracy in the 1980s. The German media reported, with undisguised venom, that, in the ceremony, that was also attended by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo (who was subsequently toppled in a US-backed coup), as well as by Aleida March, the widow of Che Guevara, Margot was ” beaming and raising her fist in the air” and that she “clapped, sang, waved and looked healthy and fit“. The Der Spiegel report continued: ” When Margot Honecker received the award, she turned to the crowd, raised her clenched fist and called out: ‘Long live the revolution, long live Nicaragua!’

Rosario Murillo, Comrade Ortega’s wife, recalled Margot’s husband Erich, stating: ” He showed such solidarity and was so special and loving to the free people of Nicaragua.”

In October 2015, Margot Honecker gave an extensive interview to Greek journalist Antonis Polychronakis, which must count as one of her last major political statements.

In response to the question, “how did the events of 1989 come about? How did you and your spouse personally experience them?”, she replied:

If you mean by ‘the events of 1989’, those of the autumn of that year, and particularly the events in the GDR, which I describe as a counter-revolution, one would have to write books about it…That cannot be described adequately with a brief answer. Perhaps only this: There was an objective link between foreign and internal political factors…the so-called reformers [in the USSR] grabbed hold of the central foundations of politics and economics and steered a course toward economic disaster and the destabilisation of society. The end result was the surrender of all Soviet achievements. It was not only that these changes were applauded in the West. Also, in some socialist countries neighbouring the GDR, ‘reformers’ were active and were supported by the West.

The GDR was involved in this global conflict. In the end, it was part of the socialist community. And in the 1980s, the GDR was also faced with the need to develop or correct its economic policies. There were shortcomings in supply, deficits in social life, which led to dissatisfaction. We had not always done our homework properly – partly from our own inability; partly we were blocked.

“Obviously, we were unable to convince people and make them conscious of the actual social progress we had made compared with a capitalist society dependent on exploitation, oppression and war. So many in the GDR believed they could join together the glittering world of commodities under capitalism and the social security of socialism. But, as Erich Honecker said in various speeches, capitalism and socialism are as hard to unite as fire and water .”

Asked, “how do you explain the ‘uprising’ of the East Germans, as it is called in the West“, Comrade Honecker explained:

It was not an ‘uprising’. There were demonstrations, but the workers were working on their jobs, the children went to school, social life continued. Most people who went into the streets in the autumn of 1989 were expressing their dissatisfaction. They wanted to make changes and improvements. They wanted a better GDR. They were not demonstrating for its abolition…That there were also hostile forces among the opposition, which mainly gathered under the roof of the Church, cannot be denied. It is clear that the Federal Republic of Germany was able to manipulate those who were discontented and finally to steer the movement for a better GDR. From the cry of ‘We are the people!’ it became ‘We are one people!’ In this way they found the lever they had been looking for since the beginning of the existence of the GDR, that of their declared intention to ‘liberate’ the citizens in the East. Regarding this, we should remember: The Western powers had – working in conjunction with German capital and its pliant politicians – first split Germany and then baptised the German Federal Republic. That contradicted the sense of the provisions of international law making up the Potsdam Agreement of the four victorious powers in 1945, which required a unified democratic Germany.

“We, that is all the progressive forces of Germany, wanted the entire Germany to be a democratic, anti-fascist state. We never surrendered this goal, but were unable to reach it. The founding of the GDR was the result. Resurgent German imperialism fought by all means against it, and in 1989 it saw its opportunity to eliminate the GDR, the other Germany. For forty years it had failed to do this. It was only when the Soviet Union, which had allied with us, then dropped the GDR, that the Federal Republic was successful.”

She denied that the demise of the GDR had been due to a “peaceful revolution”:

A revolution, as I understand it, is a profound social upheaval aimed at the radical transformation of social relations and the liberation of the masses from exploitation and oppression. In this respect, overcoming the reactionary imperialist relations in Russia in 1917, or the creation of an anti-fascist democratic order in 1945 in the Soviet occupation zone in Germany, were revolutions. Capital was deprived of its power to continue to rule over the people. If a reversal is carried out of the social and production relations that had been overcome earlier, and that’s what happened, that cannot be considered a revolution. It is, on the contrary, a counter-revolution.

Let me remind you that the socialist GDR was a guarantee of peace in Europe. It never sent its sons and daughters to war. The Federal Republic of Germany, however, participates in bloody wars that the US and Nato instigate throughout the world. The French socialist Jean Jaurès underlined this connection: ‘Capitalism carries war within itself like the clouds carry rain.’ And not only that. Capitalism also carries the seeds of fascism in itself. We had eradicated the economic roots of war and fascism in the GDR. The west of the country remained capitalist. In 1990, the GDR was absorbed into this society, which has caused so much harm in German history. The past was brought back. No one can name that ‘revolution’.”

Margot Honecker was asked, “what was good in the GDR, and what should the socialist government have done better in order to save the ‘first socialist state on German soil'”, replying:

In this state, each person had a place. All children could attend school free of charge, they received vocational training or studied, and were guaranteed a job after training. Work was more than just a means to earn money. Men and women received equal pay for equal work and performance. Equality for women was not just on paper. Care for children and the elderly was the law. Medical care was free, cultural and leisure activities affordable. Social security was a matter of course. We knew no beggars or homelessness. There was a sense of solidarity. People felt responsible not only for themselves, but worked in various democratic bodies on the basis of common interests.

The GDR was not a paradise. There were defects that complicated daily life, shortcomings in supply, and deficiencies in everyday political life. There were decisions made at various levels in which the people concerned were not always included. However, compared with the conditions now prevailing in most capitalist countries, it was close to heaven… We would have done much better had we talked openly with the people about the serious issues, about the worsening situation. You need to include them in solving problems. But whether we could have saved the GDR under the circumstances prevailing at that time – that’s doubtful .”

She defended the existence of the Ministry of State Security, known as the Stasi, as having been necessary:

The first workers’ and peasants’ state on German soil was a thorn in the capitalists’ side. They fought it by every means. From the outset, the GDR was under attack. Sabotage, infiltration by agents who did not shy away from acts of terrorism, was the order of the day. All the intelligence services in the world were sitting in West Berlin… Slowly citizens are recognising that monitoring and spying by secret services today is far more intense and total than anything the small GDR could afford or want. As long as the GDR had to resist the attacks of hostile forces, state security was a necessity .”

Comrade Honecker was asked, “do you remain loyal to Marxism-Leninism and still call yourself a communist, and, if so, why?” Her reply serves as a fitting epithet to a life spent in the service of the working class:

I not only consider myself one – I am a communist. Loyalty is probably not the appropriate term. Marxism-Leninism is an ideology, a method of investigation to understand the world, the laws according to which it moves, so you can orient yourself in the world. Some believe in a divine will, others in a pre-determined fate. We communists are materialists. We follow a scientific outlook, which assumes that the society and everything that arises in it are the work of human beings. Exploitation and oppression are neither divinely ordained, nor are these evils acceptable. We have to fight for a humane, fair, peaceful world, and today that is more urgent than ever. We must refuse to allow that people perish from war, hunger and disease, and that natural resources and the livelihood of the people be depleted or destroyed by ruthless capitalist exploitation, solely for profit. If humanity is to have a future, the power of the banks and corporations must be broken. They will not give up their power voluntarily.

Red salute to Comrade Margot Honecker!

Long live the glorious legacy of the German Democratic Republic!

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