Background: This is a partial translation of a small book given to new recruits in the East German army. It is undated, but from the 1970’s. It was intended as a gift for those beginning their military service (18 months was compulsory for males; there was considerable pressure on young people to volunteer to serve for a longer period).
The source: Vom Sinn des Soldatseins. Ein Ratgeber für den Soldaten (Berlin: Militärverlag der DDR).
The Meaning of Being a Solder
Dear Soldier! Dear Sailor!
You have already participated in our socialist society by working and learning. Now you are beginning a special duty for socialism. In meeting your constitutional duty as a soldier, you are fulfilling your obligation to defend the peace and security of socialism against any enemy.
To serve as a socialist in the National People’s Army and in the Border Troops of the GDR and to think and act always in the spirit of the working class means several things. You must accept the strict and hard laws of military life, master weapons and equipment, and work to excel in physical and intellectual fields in training, in securing order, or in other areas of service.
In these ways you will help, shoulder to shoulder with the Soviet army and with our fraternal brothers in arms, to defend what the people of our socialist community have built.
Never before in German history have weapons been carried for a nobler cause.
Never forget that we must defend the fruits of the decades-long struggle of the working class and its Marxist-Leninist party. We carry the responsibility of ensuring that the decisions of the VIII. Congress of the SED are fulfilled, that our working people can build a better and richer life in peace and security.
Never forget that the Soviet Union and the other socialist states of our alliance have gained all our successes, including detente in Europe, only through bitter class struggle against reactionary monopoly capital. That was possible only because the stronger battalions are on our side.
Imperialism and its goals are unchanged. The imperialist circles are still working to weaken our socialist government, to slow our progress, to confuse our thoughts and feelings. They use not only ideological diversion and economic means, but also are arming for war against socialism.
The task of the workers and their army is to recognize and defend against the aggressive plans of the imperialists, to defend resolutely against any aggressor, alongside the Soviet army and other fraternal armies.
Your duty, comrade, is to act out your commitment to the defense of socialism, to serve in a worthy manner our great cause, and thereby through our growing military strength to contribute to the peace program of the countries of the Warsaw Pact
Service in the National People’s Army, as in all armies of our powerful socialist defensive alliance, demands the whole man. Military training must be adapted to modern battle if it is to succeed. Comrade soldier and sailor, you must learn the nature and use of modern weapons and step by step improve your abilities. Your group or unit or team must become a socialist fighting collective, in which each is there for the other, in which every command is carried out exactly and with full energy, in which excellent accomplishment is displayed.
Only in this way can we guarantee the proper fighting ability and constant battle readiness. Only in this way will we be ready for any enemy at any point and at any time. Only in this way can we fulfill the task given us by our people and our socialist family. Only in this way does being a soldier have meaning.
I wish you much success and moving experiences in the collective of your comrades in serious and in lighter times. Above all, however, I wish that you will always be a good soldier in the National People’s Army of our German Democratic Republic, a soldier who in uniform or later as a civilian will always be ready to defend socialism.
Never will you be forced to fight for the interests of reactionary, profit-hungry, aggressive monopolists and Junkers, as the soldiers of the Imperial German Army, the Reichswehr, Hitler’s army, or the Bundeswehr were forced to do. You will never be forced like the soldiers of imperialist armies to suppress peace-loving and progressive forces of your own people or to subjugate other peoples.
Our socialist constitution has raised military service to the right and duty of every citizen, and guarantees that in the German Democratic Republic military service is a part of the democratic rule of the people, used to defend the achievements of the people.
Created and trained by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, the Marxist-Leninist vanguard of the working class and the leading force of our society, the National People’s Army is the army of our socialist nation of workers and farmers.
It is an army that defends the working class and all workers of the socialist state, that defends the well-being of all, that gives each citizen the opportunity to accomplish something significant.
It is an army of workers and farmers, who protect their own accomplishments, who defend the sowing and the harvest.
It is an army of the working people that guards the peaceful building of our socialist home.
It is honorable to serve in this army. There is no cause more just than to defend socialism, for socialism is doing everything for the benefit of the people, for the happiness of the people, for the interests of the working class and all workers.
That is the meaning of socialism.
What is the soldier’s fatherland? Many say that is the land in which I grew up, in which I became a man, the land in which I and my family live and work, it is the German Democratic Republic.
That is right. But is our republic our fatherland only for these reasons?
What is important is that the worker can say of the land in which he was born: It is my country, in which I can lead a free and happy life. It is important that in such a country the worker together with other workers exercise power, not the bourgeoisie that lives by exploiting the workers. The question of fatherland always was and is a class question. The worker’s fatherland cannot be a country where the last exploiting class on the planet lives, where the monopolists control the factories and slaughterhouses, the land, the army, the police, the courts, the press, radio, and television. The fatherland of the workers, farmers, and productive people is where he is free of exploitation and slavery, where the working people rule, united under the leadership of the working class and its revolutionary party. It is where the government serves the good of the people and the happiness of mankind. Only such a fatherland is worthy to be defended.
Our German Democratic Republic is such a fatherland. Here the working people have seized power through a successful revolution. Here working people in the city and countryside have shoved aside the slothful and cleared away their influence. Here the people own what they have created. Here, led by the working class and its Marxist-Leninist party, we are the lords of the nation.
In our German Democratic Republic, the socialist nation has become living reality. It was born of bitter class struggle against the forces of the historical past that still rule the Federal Republic. What can bind us to those from whom we are separated by irreconcilable class differences?
What do those phrases from the imperialist FRG [Federal Republic of Germany] mean: “the fatherland of all Germans,” German homeland,” “all-German interests,” “the unity of all Germans”? They are nothing more than the attempt of the class enemy, under the cover of nationalistic phrases, to realize his imperialist goal of hindering our progress toward socialism and lasting peace. History shows that the class enemy always uses such phrases to conceal his purposes. The party of the working class has taught us to see through them.
Our fatherland is the German Democratic Republic. We love this fatherland with our whole heart. We serve our socialist fatherland sacrificially, loyally, and obediently; we hate its enemies.
Every soldier of our socialist army must know the enemy. He must know who the enemy is who threatens our nation and the socialist community. We must know against whom he aims his weapon.
The enemy of socialism is imperialism. It is the dark powers of the past who twice in this century have plunged the world into war. They have brought more death and destruction to the world than all previous exploiters combined. This enemy is aggressive, treacherous, and dangerous. Its nature has not changed, since imperialism cannot exist without the exploitation of man by man, without brutal force and military expansion. Since 1945 the USA, imperialism’s center, has incited or provoked dozens of wars.
Whether in Indochina or the Near East, in Chile or Cyprus, imperialism is always ready to brutally carry out its criminal goals.
Always remember that the same enemy stands on the other side of the border between the GDR and the FRG, the dividing line between socialism and imperialism. The soldiers there are in the pay of the exploiters, of the armaments concerns, the banks and the generals. The main forces of the aggressive NATO bloc are concentrated on the territory of the FRG. Soldiers of the Bundeswehr, incited and trained for war against socialism, stand alongside U.S. soldiers with Vietnam experience.
In conjunction with U.S. imperialism, the aggressive and reactionary forces of monopoly capital and the right-wing leaders of the Social Democrats in the FRG will never accept the existence and attractiveness of the German Democratic Republic. The military policy of the FRG is one of aggression against socialism. Regardless of who happens to be running the government in Bonn, the NATO alliance with the USA is holy. Rather than encouraging detente in Europe, they do everything possible to advance NATO’s military buildup. They have increased the aggressive readiness of the Bundeswehr, and are now putting their efforts into psychological warfare. Through anti-communist incitement, lies, and slanders they seek to cause confusion in the minds of our people and to prepare the ground for military aggression. They all want to destroy socialism.
They cannot do it.
The balance of power has shifted irreversibly in our favor. The consistent policies of the Soviet Union and the entire socialist community in favor of a long-lasting peace exert every greater influence on international political events. The USA, the FRG and other imperialist nations are forced to take account of this situation.
Has the enemy therefore become less dangerous, less aggressive, less treacherous?
Let us never forget:
As long as Imperialism exists, it will never hesitate to use weapons when it sees even the least chance to realize its aggressive policies.
In such a case the soldiers of the Bundeswehr, trained and educated by the state monopoly system, will be forced to blindly obey the orders of their generals in the same way as USA soldiers in Indochina. Bundeswehr soldiers would behave in the same brutal and terrible way. They would murder women, children, and the aged just as imperialist soldiers do elsewhere in the world today.
Just as before, children in the FRG are educated to see the monopoly state as their state. They are trained to defend the imperialist system.
The exploitive system is taught in the schools as “God ordained.” Films and books present murderers as idols and war criminals as heroes. Newspapers, radio, and television present ever more ingenious lies about socialism. This is how the NATO soldiers that imperialism needs are trained.
Our enemies therefore are not only the monopolists and bankers who want war to increase their profits. They are not only the NATO generals who plan armed attacks on socialism and command NATO maneuvers. They are also the NATO soldiers, trained and drilled for aggressive war, whether in the uniform of the Bundeswehr or the U.S. Army.
Whoever takes up arms against socialism is our enemy.
We will give them no opportunity!
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