Background: For most of its existence, the GDR’s motto was: “To learn from the Soviet Union is to learn victory.” Then came the reforms in the USSR, reforms that many GDR citizens wished to see come to their country as well. This was a most awkward situation. The GDR’s leaders could hardly denounce the USSR, but neither could they encourage their citizens follow its model. This 1988 article by Günter Herlt, a top official in GDR state television, attempts to deal with the situation by arguing that following the Soviets doesn’t necessary mean following everything they do. It is taken from the GDR monthly for agitators.
The source: Günter Herlt, “Durchsichtige ‘Ratschläge’,” WAS und WIE, 5/1988, pp. 7-9.
It is rather surprising when those broadcasting stations from the BRD [West Germany] that have for decades been prophesying the “collapse of socialism in the GDR” and did what they could to hurry it along, are now suddenly giving “advice on improving socialism.” The diversion centers of imperialism are conducting a transparent campaign using the words “glasnost” and “perestroika.” Both concepts transparency and restructuring are part of the strategy of the leadership of the CPSU [Communist Party of the Soviet Union] to speed up the socio-economic development of the Soviet Union. The CPSU says that is a matter of more socialism. Do capitalism’s paid writers want to help? That would be something new.
What is going on, and what are the facts? The CPSU based the XXVII Party Congress’ policy of change on “stagnation and pre-crisis developments.” At the beginning of the 1970’s, decisions were made to intensify the economy and renew Soviet society, but important results and checks were lacking, the documents say. The members of our party follow the battle for realizing the decisions of the XXVII Party Congress of the CPSU with great interest. These decisions aim to release the creativity and energy of the Soviet people, at using the advantanges and strengths of socialism. We wish them success with all our heart. We know what a strong Soviet Union means for the cause of socialism in the world and for peace.
Erich Honecker, speaking on 12 February 1988, said: “Our policy of reform, which we began in 1971, has born fruit and will continue to bear it. The course it lays out for a comprehensive intensification of our economy, at the core of which is scientific and technical progress, has proved itself correct. Each year we have a high growth rate in our national income. Many social-political measures have enabled millions of citizens to lead a better life.” Who wants to talk us into changing, and why?
Who lacks “transparency” in our nation, which is open to the world, which one can cross in five hours, and which has more foreign visitors and transit travelers [people traveling through East Germany to reach West Berlin] than it has adult citizens? Even an observer such as Günter Gaus, the representative of the BRD in the GDR for many years, said during a television discussion that the GDR’s public life, with its parties, churches, and associations, is more open than many other nations on this earth.
It is the same with regards to restructuring: For decades the GDR’s consistent restructuring was too much of a good thing for the leaders in the West. From the referendum on war criminals to establishing conglomerates. From democratic school reform to the unified socialist educational system. From cleaning up the rubble to the wonderful housing program laid out by the VIII Party Congress. For decades they threw charges that we were Moscow’s vassals. And now they suddenly complain that we do not mechanically follow it.
The one charge is as stupid and transparent as the other.
The CPSU and the SED agree with Lenin, who wrote in 1916: “All nations will reach socialism, that is inevitable, but none in exactly the same way. Each will find its own form of democracy, its own form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, its own pace of socialist transformation of the various aspects of social life.”
Each party in our world-wide movement has its own program, its own decisions, its own responsibility to its people. Each party must therefore develop its strategy and tactics for reaching the common goal by considering both general laws and its concrete national situation. The standard for judging the leadership’s abilities and the correctness of its decisions are the results, the concrete effects on the prosperity of the people, for the advance of peace, for the strengthening of socialism.
The SED and the people of the GDR have always valued the achievements of the Soviet Union, and we will never forget the enormous sacrifice that the peoples of the Soviet Union made to free our land from Fascism. The Soviet nation is the pioneer of human progress. Its historical accomplishments are undeniable from the storming of the Winter Palace to storming the cosmos, from overcoming hunger and illiteracy to industrialization and collectivization, from the elimination of exploitation to the decisions of the XXXVII Party Congress for peace and socialism. The economic cooperation and trade volume between the GDR and the USSR are unmatched by any other two countries on this earth. Together with the other states of the Warsaw Pact, we conduct a coordinated foreign policy which has its supreme goal maintaining peace and the survival of humanity.
Our party is following developments in all socialist states with great interest. We too see building socialism as a constant process of creative work to solve new challenges. As Erich Honecker said: “Of course we consider and evaluate the experiences of other socialist nations. But that does not mean we simply copy them. That would be harmful.”
Those people in the West who want to talk us into more copying do not want to help us, they do not want to strengthen socialism, but rather they want to weaken it. They do not want to deepen the fraternal alliance between the GDR and the Soviet Union, rather hollow it out. Nothing will come of it. Be it “advice” or “warnings,” there is nothing new from the broadcasters in the West.
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