Background: Heinz Geggel was head of the East German Communist Party’s Agitation Department from 1973-1989. Among other things, he oversaw the East German mass media and the widespread system of agitators in factories and neighborhoods. He was not particularly liked. Behind his back, he was sometimes called Dr. Geggels, a comparison to Joseph Goebbels. This speech was given as the conclusion to a 1976 conference of East German agitators in the Frankfurt (Oder) district. It is really a quite dreadful speech and one feels sorry for the unfortunate people who had to listen to it, but it is a good example of East German views on the subject.The source: Agitatoren Initiatoren. Agitationskonferenz der Bezirksleitung Frankfurt (Oder) der SED am 6. Dezember 1976 (Frankfurt [Oder]: Abteilung Agitation/Propaganda der SED, 1977).
by Heinz Geggel
With the conclusion of our meeting today, we can rightly say that we have done good work.
The speech by comrade Christa Zellner and the interesting discussion speeches have given us many valuable experiences and ideas. They have shown how seriously and with what fighting spirit thousands of comrades in the district party organizations are realizing the decisions of our IX. Party Congress in political work with the masses, and at the same time have shown the directions our work must take — both in methodology and content — and how the work must develop and improve. All in all, it is been a very useful and stimulating exchange of experiences.
To conclude, I would like to address several questions relating to our political work with the masses and our conflict with the imperialist foe.
Our party has always given high priority to political work with the masses. We follow the simple Marxist truth that our ideas gain material force only when they are understood by the masses. This approach to the work is without doubt the secret of our success and of the firm and trusting relationship between our party and the working people of the German Democratic Republic. Our party has but one goal. As comrade Erich Honecker said during the IX. Party Congress, the good of the people and the policies of our party are realized in the deeds of working people.
The fundamental duty of our political work with the masses lies in this dialectical process.
The growth and strengthening of the persuasive power of our ideological work since the VIII. Party Congress depends more than anything else on our impressive successes in realizing the central task, the unity of economic and social policy, in the full international recognition that we have won for our socialist fatherland, and in our struggle for peace. Our agitation is effective and persuasive because the party answers the questions of life, and because the experience of the masses agrees with what the party, guided by the foundations of Marxist-Leninist theory, seeks to realize through its policies.
Comrade Honecker summarized these developments at the Second Conference of the Central Committee in these words:
“Life itself has confirmed that our consistent relationship with the masses, our meeting of their interests and needs, has been honored by the masses in many ways.”
It is true that the overwhelming majority of the citizens of our land see in our party the force that expresses their fundamental interests, and enables them to master their own fate.
The brief period since the IX. Party Congress, and particularly the successful recent election, gave proof once more that our policies encourage the initiative of the workers and wins ever more citizens to conscious, active participation in meeting societal needs. That is how we understand our socialist democracy, in which in complete contrast to bourgeois democracy people have the freedom fully to develop their abilities. No restrictions on education prevent them from exercising the right to self-determination though their own participation in social development.
The IX. Party Congress gave us tasks in political work with the masses that above all have to do with increasing its worldview content and mass effectiveness.
How are we to understand that?
Our political work with the masses, our agitation, gain depth of worldview — we have talked about that in interesting ways — when we present the values and advantages of our socialist society in persuasive ways and show the roots from which the great intellectual and cultural roots of our society come. We do this against the background of the failings and crimes of capitalism, a society in deep crisis whose rottenness and lack of a future become steadily clearer.
We have to put the question in this way: Where does one find freedom, democracy, and human rights?
Where millions of people lack the basic right to a job?
Where education is a privilege and where millions of young people are denied training for a job?
Where every real democrat can lose his job for political reasons?
Where working people constantly have to worry about tomorrow, about rising prices and rents, and where they have to worry about getting sick or what will happen to them when they are old?
The constant talk of freedom, democracy and human rights in for example the imperialist Federal Republic [of Germany] are only attempts to conceal the brutality and inhumanity of this exploitive society.
We take many of our fundamental social accomplishments as a matter of course. Some do not even think they have to talk about them. However, the right to a job, the right to education, the right to a vacation, assured medical care and a secure old age, equality of women, the ability to work together to build society, all these are the results of a long hard struggle by the working class, of great and heroic work in building our socialist society.
Human rights freedom and democracy are realized in our socialist state. They are rooted in socialist ownership and power relationships, in the rule of the working class and working peoples, in the social ownership of the means of production.
These fundamental social truths must be closely to our daily lives and people’s experiences. They must always be a part of our persuasive work.
This is how we should see the task set for us by the IX. Party Congress, the task of strengthening each person’s noble pride in his fatherland and his love for the socialist German Democratic Republic. Our socialist fatherland embodies all the revolutionary traditions of the German workers’ movement, and is the heir of all progressive people in the history of the German people. We have no intention of giving up even a part of these progressive traditions to the imperialist German state. Caring for these traditions, for this inheritance, and presenting them in many ways to people, and particularly the youth, is an important ideological task. Socialist patriotism is a decisive force in social development.
I just had the good fortune of being part of a study trip to the Soviet Union. We had very interesting experiences with the ways in which our Soviet comrades realize this unity between socialist patriotism and proletarian internationalism, and particularly the ways in which they develop a spirit of socialist patriotism in the youth.
National, international, and socialist patriotism and proletarian internationalism are inextricably bound to each other in our policies. Everything that we do in our country for our citizens, for socialist progress in the GDR, we do at the same time to further strengthen the international socialist community led by the Soviet Union, and for the strengthening of the world-wide revolutionary movement.
This is above all what is meant, dear comrades, when our party’s documents speak of the relationships between ideology, politics, and economics as an essential part of the working style of the IX. Party Congress. We must better master this style in all areas of agitation, including the mass media. This means that in our political work with the masses, in the press, the factory newspapers, or in personal conversation we must always write and talk about the unity of method and goals of the main task, the unity of economic and social policy, not as sometimes still happens, either about higher economic demands and achievements or about socialist goals and achievements. Comrade Wiegert gave us a good example of this when he spoke about the relations between the initiatives in the flavoring factory in Schwedt and the further realization of our socio-political program. It is not enough to write, for example, about good results in socialist competition. We must show workers the need for higher productivity and show them the methods used to deal with problems and outdated ideas. We will thus encourage the socialist behavior and attitudes that socialist producers and owners must have.
Agitation, of course, cannot replace concrete leadership of the economy and state. Its task is to affect people’s consciousness, thereby encouraging creative initiatives and steadily growing work to solve our social tasks. The party leadership occasionally tells us to improve economic education and propaganda. It is above all a matter of dealing with ideological questions that assist or stand in the way of mastering our economic challenges. Take for example the most important matter, the mastering of science and technology. In political work with the masses, we cannot primarily deal with scientific and technical details. We must instead be interested in developing an ever closer cooperation between scientists, technicians and workers. We must provide the motivation to encourage workers, scientists, technicians, and researchers to work even harder in the concrete struggle for higher productivity, which is the precondition for steady improvement in people’s living conditions. Using the means of agitation, in the mass media, in oral, written, and visual agitation, we must encourage as much as possible the exchange of experiences about the achievements of innovators and competition initiatives, thereby contributing to revealing the available resources.
The leadership of our party has often said recently that oral agitation, personal political conversation, is irreplaceable and is absolutely necessary for political work with the masses.
That is why we place such great importance on the work of agitators, on their good leadership, on providing them with arguments and information. In the give and take of conversation more than anyplace else, political opinions are firmed up. And, by the way, the agitator is always able to judge personally the results and effectiveness of his arguments.
I direct your attention to two problems:
We achieved a broad reach during the campaign for the 17 October election and in political work with the masses. We carried out conversations with people of all classes and groups. And representatives of all classes and groups had opportunity to speak. We need to maintain this broad participation.
Comrade Honecker said during the IX. Party Congress that ideological work must have broader impact on the people as a whole by speaking in differentiated ways to the various classes and groups, taking account of their social experiences. That is particularly true, I think, for those people who are not always at the center of our attention, for professions that have a lot of contact with citizens and that, consciously or unconsciously, exert great influence on the social climate.
I am thinking, for example, of workers in commerce and service, and those in the health care system or the transportation industry.
And finally, in speaking of the breadth of our political work with the masses, we must consider how we can speak with those who do not yet have a stable relationship to socialism and who can be influenced by our opponent.
The second matter I want to speak about has to do with information. At the Second Conference of the Central Committee, comrade Honecker cited comrade Schwertz, an innovator from the pump factory in Halle, who said: “If people are to work well, they must know why their work is important.”
In many party documents, the importance of constant and comprehensive information for the workers is stressed as an essential precondition in political work with the masses, for actively involving them in solving the problems we face. We can say that we have made good progress without thereby having reason to be satisfied with what we have so far achieved.
Experience shows that people in our country have an extraordinarily great need for information about domestic and international issues. That is entirely natural. The progress in building a developed socialist society and the realization of the main task bring with them a significant increase in people’s intellectual needs. Thanks to our socialist educational policies, people have a high level of general and specialized knowledge. And we of course do not ignore the fact that our citizens have more than a few opportunities to get information from the opponent’s camp.
We think that our mass media have made progress in reporting events at home and abroad. Naturally we must continue to work hard in this area.
The decision of the Politbüro on the results of the election noted that information about the GDR must be at the center of reporting, and must improve in quality.
The duty to provide good and constant information applies also to the factories and territories. In discussions during the election campaign, many citizens wanted government organs to report more broadly, regularly and faster about happenings in the area, and to react more quickly to criticism, proposals and suggestions. We should work to be sure that government and economic organs meet their responsibility in this area.
Allow me to speak about several current issues in our ideological struggle with the imperialist enemy. We can begin by noting that thanks to the strength and increasing international influence of the Soviet Union and the entire socialist community, our world is moving toward peace and social progress. Together, we are realizing the peaceful socialist policies outlined in the XXIV. and XXV. Party Congresses of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, in the documents of our VIII. and IX. Party Congresses, and in the party congresses of our fraternal socialist countries. Through a hard and complicated struggle, we are realizing the Leninist policy of peaceful coexistence and are hindering the imperialists, who see war as the way to escape their contradictions.
At the recent Bucharest meeting of the Political Committee of the Warsaw Pact, a fundamental analysis of the situation was made, along with new proposals for limiting armaments. It was a new step consistent with the peaceful program of the XXV. Party Congress and the documents of the Berlin conference of European communist and workers’ parties.
From the beginning, we have said that a successful policy of peaceful coexistence will lead to a sharpening of the ideological struggle. That has now happened, and we are not particularly surprised.
Daily experience shows that imperialism remains aggressive everywhere, since that is its nature and because the ruling forces, particularly the military-industrial complex, actively oppose the process of reducing tensions and the policies of peaceful coexistence.
The ruling forces of the Federal Republic of Germany are holding stubbornly to the hopeless position of Revanchism, to greater German fantasies, counterrevolutionary fantasies of eliminating our socialist GDR and incorporating it once more into an imperialist greater Germany.
The most recent evidence for that is the border provocations, the political cause of which is the refusal to recognize the border between the GDR and the Federal Republic. It is particularly clear in the scandalous acquittal of the double murderer Weinhold by a West German court. I provide a brief quotation that reveals the true nature of the acquittal. The Springer newspaper Die Welt wrote a few days ago: “Weinhold did shoot. There is a completely clear reason for that — the freedom of movement guaranteed by Article 11 of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany.”
That is the excuse for the West German court decision, anchored in the Basic Law, for killing and murder.
It is obvious, dear comrades, that we have to oppose these provocations with all means at our disposal. They contradict the Final Act of Helsinki and are in contradiction with the Basic Treaty that we have signed with the Federal Republic of Germany.
Our position on our relations with the Federal Republic are clear. We work for peaceful coexistence with this capitalist country, and want normal governmental relations. That however depends on realism on the part of the leading politicians in Bonn.
Currently, we have to deal with constant attempts by imperialist circles, particularly in the Federal Republic, to misuse détente, peaceful coexistence, and the Final Act of Helsinki for counterrevolutionary machinations against socialist states.
We can see an extraordinary sharpening of attacks on our GDR, along with increasing attempts at diversion and interference on the part of the Federal Republic of Germany. This incitement and slander over radio and television from the Federal Republic are on a scale of the Cold War. I remind you that in summer 1976 there was a series of major border violations and provocations, and a wild campaign against the GDR. Then came the suicide by burning of Pastor Brüsewitz [A Lutheran pastor who committed suicide to protest conditions in the GDR] and the attempt to turn believing citizens and religious leaders in our country against the socialist state. Those on the other side of the border wanted to organize a counterrevolutionary civil rights movement in the GDR. That was followed by open intervention in our election, including calls from West German and West Berlin radio to boycott the election.
And most recently, the Biermann case. [Biermann, a popular GDR singer, was exiled.]
Naturally, these were all attempts to weaken or shake our socialist GDR, to divert it from its Marxist-Leninist path, but they have no chance of success.
It is interesting that, due to our strength and the successes of our socialist state, counterrevolution can no longer attack our socialist state with open capitalist, imperialist methods. Reaction therefore conceals itself more and more with so-called social conceptions, with slogans like “democratic” and “free” socialism.
Recently the Lord Mayor of West Berlin, Mr. Schütz, let the cat out of the bag. He said: “One of the national tasks we face is injecting the fundamental values of democratic socialism into the GDR.” This Mr. Schütz really has enough to do in protecting the workers of West Berlin from the worst effects of the capitalist crisis. And incidentally, none of these defenders of “democratic socialism” has taken even a single step in the direction of socialism, but rather has always worked to firm up the exploitive capitalist order.
The anti-socialist propagandists in Bonn and West Berlin have suffered not a few reverses recently. During the IX Party Congress, Western broadcasters said that the GDR would have to tighten its belt and could not carry out its socio-political program, and that there would also be an economic crisis and price increases in the GDR. The bankruptcy of these anti-communists became clear as we published our socio-political goals for the period up to 1980, and our party leadership said clearly that we would hold to our policy of stable consumer prices.
The speculations of our enemy on the conference of communist and workers’ parties in Europe were equally false. First, they speculated that the conference would not be held at all, then they hoped that it would fail. But the conference was held and a common anti-imperialist document was agreed on.
The successes of our sports teams in Montreal [the Olympics] did not exactly bring joy to our opponents.
And finally, they expected a different election outcome on 17 October. People in Bonn and West Berlin were “shocked” that the results of the election were even better for the candidates of the National Front than they were five years ago.
We see, comrades, that all the prognoses of our enemy have proven false. That is the course of history today.
Those party workers who are active on the ideological front have a special assignment from the party and great responsibility to the party. We must drive the ideas of Marxism-Leninism ever deeper into the masses, and mobilize them to solve the challenges in every area of society, particularly in the economy.
The decisions of the IX. Party Congress are the best possible foundation for that. Realizing these decisions will give us big challenges also in the coming year 1977. We will solve them, thus advancing the cause for which the door was opened 60 years ago by the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution.
I wish you and all comrades in the Oder district continued successes in our common cause.
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