Remembering the 1953 East German uprising: Solidarity with all those fighting for democracy

A statement by the coordination team of MERA25 and DiEM25 in Germany on the anniversary of the popular uprising in the GDR

Today we commemorate the popular uprising of 17 June 1953 in the GDR (East Germany), a significant moment of resistance against political oppression and for freedom. We stand in solidarity with the people who had the courage to rise up against injustice and an authoritarian government.

The uprising of 17 June 1953 was an expression of the people’s deep desire for justice, democracy and social equality. In a wave of strikes, mass demonstrations and political protests, they raised their voices demanding, among other things, an improvement in labour standards, the release of political prisoners, the resignation of the SED government, free elections and the unity of Germany.

The hopes of the demonstrators were dashed when Soviet tanks rolled up to crush the uprising. Nevertheless, the events remained a trauma for the SED leadership. More than three decades later, in the face of growing citizen protests in 1989, Stasi (secret service) chief Erich Mielke asked: “Is it the case that tomorrow June 17 will break out?” But it was not a new June 17 that broke out, but the Peaceful Revolution. It led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989.

The commitment and determination of the East Germans of 17 June 1953 are still inspiring today. It is important to recognise the parallels between the events of that time and the current conflicts in which people around the world are trying to free themselves from authoritarian oppression. The longing for freedom and democracy is timeless, and we must not forget that the struggle for these values goes on and on.

Although times have changed, the fundamental principles of 17 June 1953 are still of great importance. We stand with the people who are standing up against injustice, oligarchs and authoritarian regimes, whether in Europe, Turkey, Russia or elsewhere. The struggle for freedom, equality and social justice is universal and knows no borders.

Let us honour the legacy of 17 June 1953 by working for democratic conditions and equality in all aspects of our lives everywhere. We want a country, a continent and a world where no one is oppressed or marginalised. Together we can build a more just and free society.

From the DiEM25 manifesto:

“The nightmare of all oligarchs is real democracy. There is only one way to break with this: a democratic revolution! We can defeat them, and we will not stop until our vision of a deep democracy spreads into the corporate system, our economy, our local councils, our parliaments and all our institutions.”

We believe that all social and economic conditions are made by people and can therefore be changed by people. That is what we stand for. We want to do this not only for you – but with you! Because change never comes from above. Will you join us? Become a MERA25 member here!


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