Steve Drewett solo | Newtown Neurotics | The Indestructible Beat | Gigs | Lyrics | Social Media
Next morning we're up early to depart for the border, dropping George off on the approach to hitch, and as the solitary figure fades into the distance everyone is silent for several minutes until Simon sighs resignedly, "well it's back to the land of poverty and unemployment. And scraping a living. And the rat race." In fact the more we think about it the more the West's only redeeming features seems to be limited to soft toilet paper and comfortable roads.
The Neurotics having finished the big tour, look forward to fleeing from the filthy Communists and getting back to the comfort of another spell of long term unemployment.
The departure from the DDR is easier than expected, my exit simply requiring a form to be filled in, and the FDJ stickers which we've got prominently on display on the windscreen are hastily pulled down before we get to the Western side of the border.
And that's it really - the rest of the day is spent on a straight drive through West Germany and Belgium and then the ferry back home to Dover.
Words cannot express strongly enough the impact that a visit to the DDR makes on you - to gain at least some experience of a society that is run under an entirely different structure alters your very perception of your own country.
The Neurotics are babbling with enthusiasm about the trip:
Steve: "One of the things I felt was that it was such a relief to be in a country where you couldn't buy the Sun. We were actually in the world that the Sun slag's off as filthy reds. On a personal level it's great to have the opportunity to differentiate between Communism and Capitalism in the sense that we're actually experienced the other side for a short period of time."
"There was quite a bit of culture shock really; you imagine the country to be a certain way because of the media in the West and then when you arrive there, it's so unlike what you imagined. We were surprised for instance by the standard of living - there isn't this hopelessness about jobs and things 'cos everyone's fully employed and that does make a very profound psychological impression over the people who live there. It's just as colourful and vibrant and interesting as most places in the West.
The big towns and cities in East Germany are just like anywhere else. It's not all peasants and little old villages; their feet are firmly in the 20th Century and the people are as bright and happy as anywhere else, which goes against the idea of everyone having raincoats on and feeling depressed. So I think we were shocked as much by what was similar to our own culture as by what was different.
" There's a lot of contradictions in East Germany but then again there is in the West. You can't go over there and expect to see everything in black and white.
But we want to let people know that it is a little different from what they think it is....I thought to myself, is this what it's all about? Is this what nuclear arms are set up to protect us from - the idea of Communism invading Europe - because my choice is that if it ever came to being invaded, if there was a choice between living like the East Germans do or having a large proportion of the world completely un-liveable for the next thousand years, I'd rather scrap nuclear weapons and be conquered.
England's become so bad now that East Germany is a shining example alongside it as far as looking after people is concerned. Although the people cannot travel they're being looked after in their health and their well being and their work, and it makes me feel so angry that those things are discarded quite cold-bloodedly and deliberately in the West. It's things like that, that you feel should be imposed on Western civilisation instead of Capitalism screwing people for the biggest bucks."
Colin: "It hits you like a fucking bomb, how evil and sick the society we live in is. The Communist countries are always using the word decadence to describe our lifestyle and it bloody well is. The West is so money orientated and the lucky few can spend it on what ever they like and to hell with the rest of the people. You're conditioned to greed all the time. It sickens me."
Steve: "The way that things are run in the DDR is an inspiration for the West and that is why we're committed to seeing a true socialist society in Britain. We wanna see the good things from both East and West being brought together and integrated; England with a strong National Health system and full employment and freedom to move where you want would be brilliant. If East and West can get it half right each, then I think it's a good idea to push to get it more than half way."
Attila is equally exuberant about the country:
Attila: "I found the people very friendly and very open. The Western media lie that people over there are scared to talk to strangers or foreigners and that they get followed by the police and get locked up if they say anything against the state is just total rubbish. We met people from all backgrounds both totally supporting the system and totally opposed to it and those who were opposed to it could talk freely. The buck has to stop somewhere - obviously with the Wall. As long as they have these borders and they don't let people travel freely then there's no way that I can ever give total support. But having said all of that, within the country and in what they're trying to do, I think they're really succeeding genuinely in achieving a better life for everybody.
The whole thing was a marvellous, inspiring experience. I'd love to see the borders open and see people like George being able to come to the West to counter at first hand all the rubbish that is talked about the DDR in the West."
"Whatever you do, don't mention the war - that's a load of old bollocks for a start. While in West Germany, Nazi newspapers like Deutscher Anzeiger and Deutsche National Zeitung enjoy sales of 100,000 each per week, in the DDR Fascism has been effectively eradicated and they're understandably proud of the fact.
Steve: "Soaking in the atmosphere of East Germany, the idea that we were in a Communist country almost entirely swamped the realisation that this too was a land that was completely run by Nazis a few years ago. I found myself forgetting that this was the place where the holocaust of the Second World War occurred. There are concentration camps preserved there and they've made these places into education things where you get taught the true horror of the holocaust far stronger than you'll get in the West. They have completely run every Nazi out of the country."
Colin: "They are proud they lost the war."
Steve: "They are really proud that they are anti-fascist and there's far more ex-Nazis working in power in West Germany. That's a fucking big mistake for a country to make and the East Germans didn't want that sort of thing to happen again in their country and they're doing more to prevent it than the West is....
But the great thing was the sense of humour over there. Every now and then George would crack jokes like "oh, that is ideologically incorrect comrade, I am now going to send you to sit in the fridge for three hours to get you ready for being sent off to Siberia." No one was really uptight about jokes.
Simon and Colin posed like Cossacks doing Russian dancing in the middle of the Alexanderplatz and the East Germans were sitting around killing themselves laughing. They didn't think, "Oh God, these Westerners are taking the piss out of our friends the Russians," they were having a bloody good laugh. I found the East German humour to be far more easy and relaxed than the West German." "One of lasting impressions of East Germany was seeing Colin and Simon dancing in the street in East Berlin to Whams' Freedom."
Simon: "Oh, em, was we?... I wasn't dancing."
Colin: "You were twisting your hips at me vigorously.
Simon: "Shit. I was drunk."
"I appeal to our government and I say to them:
Double or triple the guard beside his grave
So that he will not rise again
And with him - the past".
Stalin's Heirs (Yeutushenko)
I make no pretensions that this tour report is in any way a comprehensive portrait of life in the DDR, nor that it is representative of all the Eastern bloc countries. Judging the world largely from the sanctity of hotel rooms and rushing from gig to gig, none of us could claim to know what it is like to actually live and work on the country. But it is an accurate of our experiences and it does certainly represent a far, far different picture than the one that the Western media would have us believe.
The people are well fed, clothed, housed and employed and go about their daily lives generally fairly happily. Most of them are proud of their country and Head of State Eric Honecker enjoys popular support amongst the people.
Of-course there are faults with the system; the travel restrictions ARE an inhibition on freedom, but there is far more that is right and honourable with the DDR, however cackhandedly they may be blundering towards their aims. When thinking about the layout for this report, I was tempted to draw pictures of barbed wire round the edges of the pages. The reality however is quite different. One point that George was at pains to point out: "You can think whatever you like about armaments and the balance of deterrents and all that shit, but one thing is for sure - in the DDR nobody can draw profit from any piece of weaponry.
I really want to stress this - every single pfennig in East Germany that is spent on armaments we use to provide in funds to help the people."
This is the flip side of the coin.
In East Germany you wont see great personal wealth but you won't see vagrancy, poverty or unemployment either. What is needed is some meeting point between the constructive aspects of East and West,and if this tour was at least part of a chip against the barriers preventing that meeting then that makes it a worthwhile gesture. We must all keep chipping away until those barriers fall...
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