Friday, January 07, 2011

The Lila Manifesto

What was the ideal of communist East Germany?

Back in 1989 when the former Soviet bloc was breaking up, a group of 1000 women in East Berlin met together and formed an Autonomous Women's Association. This association issued a "Lila Manifesto" (lila being a German word for purple). The manifesto declared:

In the GDR the ideal of a socialist society of self-determining and self-creating women, men, and children was sacrificed to a social concept in which people were subordinated to economic premises...

So according to these women, most of whom would have spent their entire lives as members of a socialist state, the ideal of the communist GDR was ... the same as that of the liberal West, namely to establish a society of self-determining and self-creating autonomous individuals.

The East German women thought that this ideal hadn't been met under communism. The East German state had allowed the traditional family to continue as a means to improve birth rates and economic performance. That meant that instead of being "self-creating", men and women continued to follow distinct gender roles.

It seems to me, looking at things in a larger historical context, that the Swedes have taken the ideals of the East German state much further than the East Germans ever managed to do. Swedish left-liberalism has proven to be a more radical vehicle for modernist ideals. What the East German women demanded in their Lila Manifesto, the Swedish state is intent on delivering.

That's not to say that there is no difference in approach between communism and liberalism (Jim Kalb has a theory on such differences here), but both clearly share some fundamental attributes.


  1. Thanks for the information Mark.

    What is wrong with the Swedes!?!?!

  2. If "Liberalism" means Swedish socialism or FDR Left-Liberalism, then yes it's obviously close to communism. Whether classical 'right' Liberalism resembles communism is more debatable - I don't see much communism in Locke. It's when you get to modern Rawlsian Liberalism that you get the extreme emphasis on autonomy.

  3. Locke goes on about the importance of private property doesn't he?

  4. Simon,

    I think the emphasis on autonomy or self-sovereignty or "freedom as the unimpeded individual will" is there in Locke, although academic writers often prefer to trace it back to Kant.

    However, I agree that European style left-liberalism is much closer to communism than classical 'right' liberalism.

    For instance, because classical liberals looked to the free market to regulate social outcomes, they tended not to want too much state intervention. This then meant relying more on the family as an institution. Even today there are some hold-out right-liberal groups which maintain a pro-family position.

    As I understand it, classical liberals also often drew a line between public and private, so non-liberal values were thought to be legitimately applied to personal, family relationships.

    I do think it's uncanny how the Swedes are gradually implementing a family programme similar to that described by Alexandra Kollontai on behalf of the Bolsheviks back in the early days of the Russian Revolution.

    There are forms of modern-day liberalism that are undeniably radical and ought to be recognised as such.

  5. Communism and left liberalism are VERY close cousins.

    The reason the latter has outlived the former is because economic outcomes are fairly easy to measure, it was clear to everyone with a brain that a centrally planned economy with no private ownership was not delivering the economic prosperity it promised, no matter how often the lies were told.

    Left-Liberalism on the other hand is based primarily on feelings rather than evidence, which is why it is so hard to convince someone indoctrinated with this worldview of anything at all.