Background: The following speech was delivered by Erich Honecker in 1984. This is an abbreviated version of the speech carried by Prisma, #4/1984. It was rather like a GDR version of the Reader’s Digest, and was published in a variety of languages, English among them. I believe it was given on World Peace Day, though the magazine doesn’t make that clear and I’ve not taken the trouble to determine the exact date. A full version of the speech was carried by Einheit, the party’s theoretical journal.
A State of Peace and Socialism
by Erich Honecker
Thirty-five years have passed since 7 October 1949, the day when the German Democratic Republic was founded and a completely new chapter was opened in the history of our people. For the first time ever workers’ and farmers’ power was established on German soil, thus laying the groundwork for social relations to be shaped in such a way that people would be able to lead a life worthy of human beings. The foundation of the GDR also reflected the fundamental changes in the international arena, initiated by the victory of the Soviet Union and the other states of the anti-Hitler coalition over German fascism. Regardless of the yardstick applied in evaluating things, the ultimate judgement is passed by history. The GDR has over the past three and a half decades developed successfully as a state of peace and socialism, as an effective factor of stability and security on the European continent. Rising from a heap of rubble and setting out for the future, the country has followed a path rich in work and struggles. The achievements recorded have been for the people’s benefit and have made it possible to meet internationalist obligations.
A turning point in the history of the German people and Europe
Generations of upstanding Germans had dreamt of a new and peaceful Germany, free from exploitation and oppression and on friendly terms with all nations. This is what they fought and risked their lives for. In the GDR their legacy has become a reality, embodying what the country’s best sons and daughters had been striving for. Our state is irrevocably anchored in the world of socialism, the world of true freedom, democracy und [sic] human dignity. It is for all times fraternally allied with the Soviet Union and is part and parcel of the socialist community. It renders active anti-imperialist solidarity. It has always acted in line with the solemn pledge adopted at the hour of its foundation: Never again fascism! Never again must a war emanate from Germany soil!
Facts themselves testify to the statement that the founding of the German Democratic Republic represented a turning point in the history of our people and Europe ...
In 35 years, the working class of the GDR, led by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany and in alliance with the farmers, intellectuals and all other working people, has accomplished a construction feat of historic proportions. The comradely cooperation among the parties and mass organizations united within the National Front of the GDR has proved its worth in a convincing manner. It has been shown that socialist society has room for all people, no matter what their social background, ideological outlook and religious belief, and that on the basis of socialist democracy it gives them an opportunity to participate in social decisionmaking and in running affairs. Never before has on German soil the individual’s peaceful work and the display of a sense of responsibility for the benefit of all been paid as much respect as in the GDR.
This country is nowadays one of the most advanced industrial nations in the world, with a modern education system, striving science and culture. Its defence is always ensured at the required level. The GDR is an equal and active member of the United Nations Organization and its specialized agencies, maintaining diplomatic relations with 131 states the world over.
Right from the outset, the socialist Germany has devoted all its energies to the overriding task of safeguarding peace and making it last. Disarmament, dÈtente and peaceful coexistence between states with differing social systems have been and remain priority aims of its policies.
The GDR has always looked upon efforts directed as safeguarding peace and a constructive contribution to the endeavours undertaken by the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries as one of its most important obligations, which not only arises from the experience of two world wars but most especially from the fact that our country is situated at the dividing line between socialism and capitalism here in Europe, the dividing line between the Warsaw Treaty and NATO as the two most powerful military coalitions of our time ...
Economic activities with the people’s involvement and for their benefit
The economy is at the centre of society’s overall policies. Unless there is healthy economic growth it is impossible to provide reliable guarantees either for the ever better satisfaction of people’s material and cultural needs or the strengthening of the socialist state and its defence. The world as it presents itself in the 1980s does not leave the slightest doubt of the contemporary relevance of Lenin’s statement about the crucial role played by labour productivity in the struggle between the social systems. It is for this reason that maximum attention has always been paid to the development of the socialist planned economy and to rising economic performances.
This aspect has taken on added significance now that, with the shaping of advanced socialist society, the transition towards intensive patterns of extended production has come to determine more and more all economic processes. Economic deliberations are centred even more than in the past around improving the cost-benefit ratio. Higher efficiency is becoming a direct condition for economic growth which will have to be achieved increasingly through advances in science and technology and their application to the economy ...
Several decades of rapid and continuous economic growth may certainly serve as evidence of the creative application of the objective economic laws of socialism. In the year of its foundation, the GDR’s national income amounted to 24,100 million marks undoubtedly a remarkable achievement under the then prevailing conditions, which were still strongly affected by the consequences of the war. The national income produced in 1983 was nearly nine times higher, totalling 210,100 million marks. Per capita this was an annual 1,274 marks in 1949 as against 12,580 marks in 1983. With 0.4 per cent of the world population the GDR produced 1.3 per cent of the world’s national income. Compared to the population our national income is more than three times higher than the international average.
Manufacturing output in 1983 was 12.3 times that of 1949. Development was particularly rapid in some branches such as in the electrical engineering, electronics and instrument engineering sectors with an increase of 44 times, in the mechanical engineering and motor industry where production rose by more than 20 times and the chemical industry with a 14.5-fold increase. These figures stand for a long and difficult process in which an efficient economy with modern proportions and patterns rose from the rubble of World War II owing to the hard work of the GDR people.
People’s living conditions improved continuously in line with this development. It should be recalled that in 1949 the monthly per capita real income came to an average of 133 marks, whereas by 1983 it had risen to 878 marks. Retail turnover during that period rose from 731 to 6,245 marks per year and inhabitant. Let us take another highly revealing example. In the year of the GDR’s foundation 29,825 homes were newly built with 300 million marks being invested to this end. In 1983 a total of 197,200 dwellings were completed, investments having risen to a sum of 6,200 million marks. From the founding of the GDR until July 1984, 3,459,740 dwellings were built all told the bulk of these, that is 2,108,560, since 1971, when the 8th Congress of the SED was held. At the same time, the number of homes furnished with a bathroom or shower underwent a substantial increase. From all this one can gauge the dimensions of the housing programme as the centrepiece of our social policy, that will make it possible by 1990 to settle the housing problem as an issue of social relevance.
Well-known is the wide range of concomitant schemes to promote family life, especially among those with three or more children, and newly weds. Moreover, there are a number of schemes providing for increases in pensions, there is the advance of the education system, health care and other measures which all together make for economic security and the high standard of working and living conditions in this country. They became possible due to the productivity increase and the dynamic development of production recorded especially since the early 1970s, which were achieved through an approach representing a synthesis of economic and social policies, making this period an especially successful one in the history of the German Democratic Republic.
As projected at the 8th Congress of the SED, the central policy of translating economic achievements into social benefits led to an acceleration of economic progress and proved to be a catalyst in all spheres of human endeavor. The experience that good work pays has become a strong motivation for the working people to give of their best in their field of activity. The interest in the prospering of the socialist German state, in its good showing in international economic competition and the contribution the GDR makes to the strengthening of the socialist world is increasingly becoming a direct stimulation in daily work ...
Together with the Soviet Union and all fraternal countries
The fraternal cooperation with the Soviet Union and the other socialists countries, most especially in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, forms the indispensable foundation for the GDR’s successful development. The support rendered by the USSR in the construction of socialism started from the very first hour after our people had been liberated from fascism; with bread and tractors and above all with valuable advice in taking the first steps towards exercising political power. Over the years this cooperation took on an all-embracing character, its prospects being scheduled for decades, indeed beyond the turn of the millennium, in the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance signed on 7 October 1975, which we are continuously putting into practice. The great dynamism and immense scope of cooperation between the GDR and the USSR can be gathered alone from the increase recorded in the foreign trade turnover between the two countries, which rose from 300 million roubles in 1950 to 14,000 million roubles in 1984. The two countries are each other’s biggest trading partner.
There has been many a confirmation of our firm conviction that the internal development of socialism necessitates an objective growth of the possibilities and requirements of international cooperation between the fraternal countries. The results attained by each individual country will be all the better, the more comprehensive use is made of the chances offered by internationalist cooperation. For this reason the GDR pursues an active policy of intensified dovetailing between the economies of the GDR and the USSR and of deepening socialist economic integration.
Major projects such as the joint power grid, participation in the construction of a natural gas pipeline, the GDR’s modern power stations and the ESER data processing system are the outcome of this policy. Nowadays there is no task of major importance which the GDR does not tackle in fraternal cooperation with the USSR. Suffice it to mention the efforts made to ensure the raw materials and energy base or to master promising spheres of scientific and technological progress such as microelectronics. At the same time, the wide range of ties between the GDR’s combines and scientific institutions and their partners in the fraternal socialist countries is becoming even more ramified. Economic efficiency and also the personal experience of friendship and internationalism, that leaves its impression throughout a lifetime, are the result of this cooperation in training, research and production ...
It will be one of our vital concerns in the years to come, together with the Soviet Union and the other states of the socialist community, to achieve scientific and technological advances that embody top standards, to harness them for the people’s well-being, which will also help strengthen the economic positions of socialism in the world. The good results obtained encourage us in our intention to tackle projects of even greater dimension with optimism and consistency.
United and resolute action for peace
Averting the threat of a nuclear inferno and making peace secure and durable is considered by us as the overriding priority of the present time. We want present and future generations to live a happy life and do their daily work without the fear of the disaster another world war would bring along. During the 35 years of its existence the GDR has been making untiring efforts towards this end, and in many a situation fraught with international tension has been concerned to ensure that disputes are settled by way of negotiations and not by armed force. Now that Europe is entering a new, perhaps the most dangerous, period of post-war times, we are all the more determined to do everything to maintain peace. This was pointed out emphatically at the 7th Session of the SED Central Committee.
The US Administration, which is pursuing a policy of confrontation and arms-building and a ìcrusadeî against the socialist countries, is making unconcealed war preparations. With the consent of some of its NATO allies first-strike nuclear weapons have been deployed in a number of West European countries, including the FRG. This happened against the will of the majority in these countries and contrary of their interests, resulting in a considerable aggravation of the international situation ...
On the one hand, the ruling circles in the USA declare that they want peace, while on the other hand their actions indicate quite different designs. Apart from the deployment of Pershing 2 and cruise missiles they are about to include even outer space in their nuclear arms drive. US advocates of a first-strike policy not only spread theories of a nuclear war which they claim can be limited, conducted and won, even though in actual fact it would destroy everything and there would be neither winners nor losers, but they even dream about “star wars.” The adventurous nature of all these plans is only exceeded by their inhumanity.
This planet must not be turned into a nuclear fireball. In the first place, it is necessary to preserve the approximate military-strategic balance, which the most hawkish circles in NATO, most especially in the USA, are seeking to upset: Thanks to this very balance, one of the greatest historic achievements of socialism, Europe is now experiencing its 40th year of peace since World War II. In the interests of humanity it is of vital importance to defend and maintain this balance by all means. Therefore, with NATO having started the deployment of missiles, our side has taken the requisite countermeasures which include the deployment agreed between the USSR and the GDR of enhanced-range tactical weapons on the territory of the GDR.
The GDR has for 35 years been living up to its responsibility of being a cornerstone of peace in Europe and is continuing to do so, working actively for the implementation of the proposals submitted in the Prague Declaration of the Warsaw Treaty states and in the Moscow Declaration by leading representatives of the socialist countries. They offer a programme of practicable steps to end the arms race, particularly in the nuclear field, and return to dÈtente, to conduct a constructive political dialogue and create conditions that will pave the way for fruitful negotiations on arms limitation and disarmament proceeding from the principle of equality and equal security. It is these important aims that determine the GDR’s attitude towards the Stockholm Conference, in which it is participating with the intention of achieving the best possible results.
The deployment of Pershing 2 and cruise missiles by the USA and NATO must be stopped and the systems already installed be removed. This would make it possible to annul the countermeasures taken on our part. There are not a few politicians in Western Europe sharing the view that additional weapons do not create additional security. They have come to realize that the transformation of various states into nuclear launching pads of the USA represents an extremely dangerous threat to peace, with all the implications this brings.
In a situation like this, the proposals concerning the establishment of nuclear-free zones in Europe and also the Swedish initiative which is aimed at creating a corridor free from battlefield nuclear weapons at the dividing line between the Warsaw Treaty and NATO are taking on added importance. The GDR continues to give its support to this initiative and remains prepared to make its entire territory available for this purpose. It is our aim to clear Europe from nuclear weapons entirely.
Great store is to be set by the proposals submitted by the Soviet Union to prevent the militarization of outer space. Suffice it to say that the USA has so far rejected these proposals and indicated that it will adhere to its designs of including outer space in the arms race.
There is a wide response among the world public to the proposal submitted by our alliance in Prague to conclude a treaty on the renunication of military force and the maintenance of peaceful relations between the Warsaw Pact and NATO. Realistically minded politicians who heed the commands of common sense and the peace-loving public at large rightfully regard it as a substantial contribution that will help prevent a nuclear inferno and improve the international situation.
The duty to do everything for the cause of peace is today greater than ever. This is the underlying idea guiding us in conducting relations between the GDR and the FRG. The deployment of American Pershing 2 missiles there has given rise to the danger that another war will emanate from German soil. By consenting to the deployment of these missiles the FRG government has taken a grave responsibility on its shoulders. The safeguarding of peace is all the more the one issue central to mutual relations. This is in line with the Treaty on the Bases of Relations between the GDR and the FRG according to which both sides, independent as they are in running their internal and external affairs, are duty bound to contribute towards this end.
The situation in the world today is complex and dangerous, though not unalterable. Everything depends on the united and resolute actions of those who sincerely want peace. The Soviet Union and the other countries of the socialist community have time and again proved their roles as the strongest and most influential bulwark in this struggle. People in this country are well aware of the fact that the best way to serve the safeguarding of peace is to further strengthen the GDR in every possible way, thus contributing to the consolidation of socialism’s international positions. This attitude has typified the run-up period towards the GDR’s 35th anniversary and will be the guiding motive of future efforts. The peoples of the world can always count on the first socialist workers’ and farmers’ state on German soil in the struggle for secure peace, for the strengthening of socialism, for progress and a happy life.
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even new animosity.