International solidarity was a political tenet of the state leadership in the German Democratic Republic (DDR). At the same time, international solidarity was a mass phenomenon, deeply embedded in the everyday life of many DDR citizens. Rejecting the imperialist practices of competition, dependency, racism and oppression, the DDR charted a course that promoted friendship among nations, mutual respect, and proletarian internationalism.
The DDR not only declared its political solidarity with the states and peoples who were fighting for their independence and social progress across Asia, Latin America and Africa, it also extended various forms of material support to these struggles. This included sending specialists to the countries of the Global South as well as training skilled workers and university cadres from these regions in the DDR’s workplaces and universities. It also included numerous fundraising campaigns sustained by the population at large as well as public manifestations in support of political prisoners such as Luis Corvalán, Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis.
With the series “Friendship!”, IF DDR offers insights into the history and stories of the DDR’s lived solidarity with anti-imperialist and anti-colonial movements worldwide.
We analyse the ways in which both the state and its people provided support for liberation movements, while also evaluating the extent to which this solidarity contributed to the self-empowerment of those struggling against colonialism and imperialist rule. We examine the numerous friendship brigades and solidarity campaigns carried out by the workers, youth, students, and scientists of the DDR. A central component of this series are interviews with the participants and activists who built and maintained relationships with worker movements and anti-colonial campaigns throughout the world. By embedding accounts from contemporary witnesses inside and outside the DDR in their historical context, we seek to preserve important historical insights and make them accessible to an international audience.
In analysing both the victories and successes as well as the setbacks and contradictions in the DDR’s international solidarity, we seek to uncover from the historically specific situation what can still be of interest or instructive for the struggle against neo-colonialism and imperialism today. By passing on the first-hand experience of DDR solidarity, we aim to strengthen the internationalist thrust in today’s progressive movements.