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Legacies of Socialist Solidarity

East Germany in Mozambique

Tanja R. Müller

Hardback
eBook
More than twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, this book looks afresh at some of the lasting legacies of that period in history. It does so by focusing on individual life trajectories of a group of people whose adolescence was shaped by the politics of socialism and the transitions within it. Through their life histories, Legacies of Socialist Solidarity offers an alternative reading of Mozambique’s socialist past with important repercussions for the present.

At the center of the book are the life histories of a group of then youth who attended one of the largest educational exchange projects between two socialist countries, Mozambique and former East Germany, in the 1980s. Having been educated in East Germany to become part of a future socialist elite back home, the book’s protagonists returned to a Mozambique that had meanwhile embarked on the new path of capitalist development. Their qualifications and skills were of little relevance, and the new Mozambican government regarded them as a threat rather than an asset. The book analyzes the life courses of some of those who spent their adolescence in East Germany with a focus on personal aspirations, political orientation, collective memories, and shared horizons. It shows lasting legacies of socialist beliefs and practices. In placing those into the context of the broader political developments in Mozambique, the book explores an important dimension for the understanding of contemporary Mozambique.

In addition, it makes a significant contribution to the comprehension of socialist cosmopolitanism and resulting patterns of identity and belonging, and to the wider literature on post-socialist change, the decentering of Cold War histories, and the pervasiveness of the political in everyday lives.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 232Size: 6 x 9
978-0-7391-7942-0 • Hardback • August 2014 • $90.00 • (£60.00)
978-0-7391-7943-7 • eBook • August 2014 • $89.99 • (£60.00)
Tanja R. Müller is senior lecturer in international development at the Institute for Development Policy and Management, and founding member and director of research at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, both at the University of Manchester.
Chapter One: The Schule der Freundschaft within the context of GDR solidarity politics towards Africa and the Third World
Chapter Two: The ‘German Children’ of Mozambique—the Beginnings
Chapter Three: The years in the former GDR—personal(ized) memories and the remembrance community
Chapter Four: Professional trajectories, future aspirations and the legacies of the German upbringing
Chapter Five: Memories of paradise or dreams collapsed? Five stories about legacies
Conclusion: The
Schule der Freundschaft and its legacies
Müller’s insightful study, Legacies of Socialist Solidarity: East Germany in Mozambique, is the first to examine the reintegration of nearly a thousand Mozambican adolescents, students at the SdF between 1982 and 1988. . . .This is an important and timely study. A rising interest in the socialist
world of the twentieth century has led to examinations of Africa’s links with other (post)socialist regions. The book’s focus on the legacy of socialist values adds to this relatively unchartered territory. I highly recommend this book to those interested in development studies, transnational education programs, international contacts in the socialist world, reintegration, and the effects of transitions and changed political landscapes on individuals.

African Studies Review


When speaking about the grand utopian visions of the immediate independence period in Mozambique and Africa more generally, it is easy to focus on the passion or the folly, the hope or the naivety, the potential or the violence, the sadly frequent ability to utterly ignore reality in favour of a dream of the future. What makes Tanja Müller’s book, Legacies of Socialist Solidarity: East Germany in Mozambique especially interesting is its focus on the actual people chosen to be the exemplars of such projects; those who went from the vanguard of the future to the detritus of a failed social experiment in just a decade or so. . . .These arguments are largely convincing and based on a wide range of carefully collected interviews and life histories. . . .[The book] remains an important and compelling read, and one whose message should be remembered when we hear of future utopian schemes, be they the new man of socialist nationalism, or the entrepreneurs of the ‘Africa rising’ narrative so commonly heard today.
The Journal of Modern African Studies


[A] great story, and Müller tells it clearly and logically. . . .This book should be read by anyone who wonders about 'practical solidarity', and would make a valuable teaching aid for any teachers of history, politics, African studies, development or any other discipline- trying to help their students understand the world we so recently were moving towards.
Peace News


Based on extensive interviews with Mozambicans who studied in East Germany in the 1980s, Legacies of Socialist Solidarity provides a wealth of fascinating detail about socialist education, adolescent experiences of schooling in a strange country, and the complicated results when the students returned to a changed Mozambique facing war and privation. Attention to gender, international political maneuvering, racism in East Germany, the specific courses of study, and the work and family trajectories of the returnees provides an informative context for the personal histories.
Kathleen Sheldon


What emerges here is a story of hope, the triumph of human will in the face of a roller coaster life for a group of nine hundred Mozambican boys and girls who went to East Germany to learn to become socialist ‘new men,’ only to return to Mozambique to find that the socialist experiment which sent them had ended in failure. Back home they harness their ‘German’ identity to network and at times support each other. Their experiences of another culture have emboldened them to see that there are other ways of living, not least in terms of gender relations and values. Human agency asserts itself against structural constraints within the mind as well as within the deeply contrasting economic systems within which they have lived. Müller’s detailed study gives a welcome platform to the voices of Mozambicans themselves as they explain their experiences.

Müller begins her tale by demonstrating how East German cooperation with Mozambique represented a combination of economic self-interest and socialist solidarity. Over time the relationship became more like that with Mozambique’s neighbour, South Africa, whereby trade imbalances would be compensated by Mozambican labor export. Relations with East Germany wound down as it became clear that socialist development models would not solve the country’s problems. This left the students trained to be part of a socialist professional elite high and dry on their return, not least because their qualifications were not properly recognized, a source of ongoing grievances. Theory is applied sensitively to the case study, but the abiding memory is the power of the voices of the Mozambicans themselves, released by Tanja Müller’s careful, insightful, and painstaking research.
Barry Munslow, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine


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