The German Democratic Republic was long noted for its apparent stability, efficiency and political quiescence, in contrast to the more turbulent domestic histories of neighbouring Poland and Czechoslovakia. In established narratives of East German history, the sole evidence of mass popular unrest before the autumn of 1989 was the June Uprising of 1953. After this, with a few isolated exceptions, East Germans simply kept their heads down. ‘Dissent’ was for the most part an activity associated with a few intellectuals–Harich, Havemann, Bahro–until the growth of oppositional movements associated with unofficial peace initiatives and environmentalist groups in the 1980s1. To all outward appearances, this sketch was correct. What now requires reconsideration, however, are the underlying reasons for these appearances, and the evaluation – indeed, the very characterisation – of patterns of popular political dissent in the GDR.