Published online by Cambridge University Press: 13 June 2011
This article analyzes the dynamics of turnout and the political impact of five cycles of protest, consisting of forty-two mass demonstrations that occurred on Mondays in Leipzig over the period 1989–91. These demonstrations are interpreted as an informational cascade that publicly revealed some of the previously hidden information about the malign nature of the East German communist regime. Once this information became publicly available, the viability of the regime was undermined. The Monday demonstrations subsequently died a slow death as their informational role declined.
1 Baumann, Eleonore et al., eds., Der Fischer Weitalmanach: Sonderband DDR (The Fischer world almanac: Special volume GDR) (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1990), 150.Google Scholar German expressions are translated by the author.
2 Christoph Hein, cited in Schneider, Wolfgang, ed., Leipziger Demontagebuch: Demo Montag Tagebuch Demontage (Leipzig dismantlingdiary: Demo Monday diary dismantling) (Leipzig: Gustav Kiepenheuer, 1990), 8.Google ScholarWorld Politics 47 (October 1994), 42–101.
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10 Schelling, Thomas develops a similar model in Micromotives and Macrobehavior (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978), chap. 7.Google Scholar
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15 In the standard signaling game the message space is given by the real line or a finite set of numbers, and the sender's message to the receiver consists of a real number or an element of the set.
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18 Olson (fn. 11).
20 Such a synthesis is formally developed in section A of the mathematical appendix.
21 Susanne Lohmann analyzes competitive political pressures in “A Signaling Model of Competitive Political Pressures,” Economics and Politics (forthcoming).
22 Such a synthesis is sketched in section B of the mathematical appendix.
23 A more complex model would allow individuals to make inferences about the repressiveness of the regime based on their interaction with police and state security forces during demonstrations.
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28 The Leipzig data are documented in Friedrich, Walter, “Mentalitätswandlungen der Jugend in der DDR,” Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte (supplement to Das Parlament) B16–17/90 (1990).Google Scholar The polls of the Central Institute for Youth Research were typically conducted in written form and in groups to guarantee anonymity. The polls were not representative by the standards of Western public opinion research; but they usually involved large samples (>1,000) and random selection within large units such as large state enterprises, school districts, and the like.
29 These numbers are provided by Diedrich, Torsten, Der 17. Juni 1953 in der DDR (June 17,1953, in the GDR) (Berlin: Dietz, 1991), 293–96.Google Scholar The officially announced number of deaths was twenty-five. Archive materials that became available after German unification suggest that hundreds may have died; see Der Spiegel, “SED Akten über den 17. Juni 1953 entdeckt: ‘Der mit dem Bart muβ weg,’” June 14, 1993, pp. 65–69; and Mitter, Armin and Wolle, Stefan, Untergang auf Raten: Unbekannte Kapitel der DDR-Geschichte (Decline in installments: Unknown chapters of the history of the GDR) (Munich: C. Bertelsmann, 1993), chap. 1.Google Scholar
30 Kinzer, Stephen, “Ex-East German Leader Convicted of Vote Fraud but Not Punished,” New York Times, May 18, 1993, p. A4.Google Scholar
32 Empirical support for the argument that the Gorbachev-induced change in the political opportunity structure lowered the costs of protesting in the GDR is provided by Johnson, Carsten, “Massenmobilisierung in der DDR im Jahre 1989: Der Wandel der politischen Opportunitätsstruktur und die Dynamik des Massenprotestes” (M.A. thesis, Free University of Berlin, 1992).Google Scholar
33 For general background, I rely on a special edition of Baumann et al. (fn. 1) and the day-by-day account of the events of fall 1989 in Links, Christoph and Bahrmann, Hannes, Wir sind das Folk: Die DDR im Aufbruch: Eine Chronik (We are the people: The breaking up of the GDR: A chronicle) (Berlin: Aufbau; Wuppertal, Germany: Peter Hammer, 1990).Google Scholar The Leipzig Monday demonstrations are documented and described in Forum Leipzig, Verlag, ed., Von Leipzig nach Deutschland (From Leipzig to Germany) (Leipzig: Forum, 1991)Google Scholar; Leipzig, Neues Forum, ed., Jetzt oder nie: Demokratie Leipziger Herbst ′89 (Now or never: Democracy fall in Leipzig ′89) (Munich: C. Bertelsmann, 1990)Google Scholar; Schneider (fn. 2); Tetzner, Reiner, Leipziger Ring: Aufzeichnungen eines Montagsdemonstranten (Leipzig Ring: Records of a Monday demonstrator) (Frankfurt am Main: Luchterhand, 1990)Google Scholar; Wielepp, Christoph, “Montags abends in Leipzig,” in Blanke, Thomas and Erd, Rainer, eds., DDR: Ein Staat vergeht (GDR: A state vanishes) (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1990)Google Scholar; and Breitenborn, Uwe and Rink, Dieter, “Die Leipziger Montagsdemonstrationen: Wandlungen einer basisdemokratischen Institution,” Blätter für Deutsche und Internationale Politik (May 1991).Google Scholar I also utilize newspaper articles published in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Frankfurter Rundschau, Leipziger Volkszeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and The Week in Germany, as well as newspaper articles documented in taz [tageszeitung], ed., DDR Journal zur Oktoberrevolution: August bis Dezember 1989 (GDR journal on the October revolution: August to December 1989), 2d ed. (Berlin: S.d., 1990); and taz, ed., DDR Journal Nr. 2: Die Wende der Wende: Januar bis März 1990 (GDR journal no. 2: The turning point of the political change: January to March 1990) (Berlin: S.d. 1990). Public opinion poll data are documented in Föster, Peter and Roski, Günter, DDR zwischen Wende und Wahl: Meinungsforscher analysieren den Umbruch (GDR between political change and elections: Public opinion researchers analyze the radical change) (Berlin: Links Druck, 1990)Google Scholar; Gerth, Michael and Grahl, Robert, “Zur quantitativen Auswertung der Demo-Befragung vom 8.10.1990” (Manuscript, Leipzig, 1990)Google Scholar; Breitenborn, Uwe, “Auswertung Demo-Umfrage in Leipzig (März 1991)” (Manuscript, Leipzig, 1991)Google Scholar; and Der Spiegel, ed., Das Profil der Deutschen: Was sie vereint, was sie trennt (The profile of the Germans: What unites them, what separates them), special issue of Der Spiegel, no. 1 (1991). East German election results are provided in Thomas R. Cusack and Wolf-Dieter Eberwein,, “The Endless Election: 1990 in the GDR,” International Relations Research Group Working Paper no. P91–302 (Berlin: Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung, 1991). A more detailed analysis of the Leipzig demonstrations and further references are provided in Lohmann (fn. 26).
35 The largest single demonstration took place in East Berlin on November 4; however, in the fall of 1989, turnout in Leipzig was highest, both in the aggregate over time and in terms of percentage of local population mobilized.
36 Opp and his coauthors suggest that the Leipzig setting is a perfect example of a focal point in a coordination problem; see Opp, Karl Dieter, “DDR ′89: Zu den Ursachen einer Spontanen Revolution,” Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 43, no. 2 (1991)Google Scholar; idem, “Spontaneous Revolutions: The Case of East Germany in 1989,” in Kurz, Heinz D., ed., United Germany and the New Europe (Cheltenham, England: Edward Elgar, 1993)Google Scholar; Opp, Karl Dieter and Gern, Christiane, “Dissident Groups, Personal Networks, and Spontaneous Cooperation: The East-German Revolution of 1989,” American Sociological Review 58 (October 1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Opp, Karl Dieter, Voβ, Peter, and Gern, Christiane, Die volkseigene Revolution (The revolution owned by the people) (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1993).Google Scholar
42 See Lohmann (fn. 26).
43 Leipziger Volkszeitung, September 26,1989, p. 10.
45 This conclusion is supported by public opinion polls conducted in September and October 1990, according to which 42% of East Germans lacked the confidence to make a fresh start by moving to West Germany; see Der Spiegel (fn. 33), 15. Similarly, a sample of GDR citizens who emigrated between August and November 1989 was questioned in December 1989 and January 1990, revealing some of the risks involved in moving to the West; 35% of the emigrants seeking a job had failed to find employment at the time of the poll; in 22% of the cases the emigrants' jobs were unrelated to their GDR qualifications; and 19% of the sample was considering returning to the GDR sometime in the future; see Köhler, Anne, “1st die Übersiedlerwelle noch zu stoppen?” Deutschland-Archiv 23 (March 1990), 428–29.Google Scholar
46 An informational cascade argument suggests that these poll results could have provided an additional source of information for the general public and thereby affected the path of the East German revolution. However, I believe that such informational effects are negligible: the mass public was by and large unaware of these poll results.
47 The percentage numbers add up to more than 100% because the respondents were allowed to express support for more than one party.
48 German Information Center, ed., “Monday Demonstrations to Continue ‘Under New Management’,” Week in Germany, April 12, 1991, p. 2.Google Scholar
50 The claim that the expected cost of participation attained a maximum in this demonstration is based on the subjective assessments of participants revealed in diaries and documentation covering the Leipzig demonstrations.
52 DeNardo (fn. 6).
53 Tarrow, Sidney, ”‘Aiming at a Moving Target’: Social Science and the Recent Rebellions in Eastern Europe,” Political Science and Politics 24 (March 1991), 17.Google Scholar
54 See also section B of the mathematical appendix.
55 Interestingly, a negative relationship between organization and the strength of protest also shows up in the Italian and West German protest data analyzed by Tarrow, Sidney, Democracy and Disorder: Protest and Politics in Italy, 1965–1975 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989)Google Scholar; and Koopmans, Ruud, “The Dynamics of Protest Waves: West Germany, 1965–1989,” American Sociological Review 58 (October 1993).CrossRefGoogle Scholar In their data the peak in the total number of protests coincides with the peak in the number of unorganized protests.
56 Corey, Scott, “Crisis in the Study of Revolution” (Paper presented at the meetings of the American Political Science Association, September 1992), 8.Google Scholar
57 For simplicity, I assume that the individuals do not discount the future. The results of the analysis would not be affected qualitatively if this assumption were relaxed to allow for some discounting.
58 The loss function could be modified to include a term that reflects the losses generated by the incumbency of the status quo regime in periods 1,…, T. However, the addition of this term would not change the individuals' political action decisions, since their actions or abstentions cannot affect these losses.
59 Lohmann (fn. 21) develops a variant of the model in which proponents of the status quo may choose to take counteracting political action, albeit in a static setting.
This specification of the individuals' political action strategies restricts them to using pure strategies. The pure strategy cutpoint equilibrium characterized here does not exist for a subset of the parameter space. In this case, a mixed strategy equilibrium may arise. Lohmann (fn. 21) sketches the mixed strategy solution, albeit for a static setting.
60 A more complex model would explicitly analyze the individuals' regime support strategies; compare Lohmann (fn. 16, 1994).
62 The intuition underlying the results can be conveyed by the analysis of this special case. The more general case of 0 <T<∞ is analyzed in Lohmann (fn. 7), albeit in an otherwise simpler setting.
63 I restrict attention to the case in which The alternative case in which is easily derived along the lines developed here.
64 As before, I restrict attention to the case in which The alternative case in which is easily derived along the lines developed here.