German Propaganda Archive Calvin College


Background: This is a chapter on methods of agitation from a book published in 1988 for agitators and propagandists in East Germany’s military. This material is in classic GDR Marxist-Leninist prose, and is rather challenging to translate. It is taken from the 500-page handbook for political work in the army. One should keep in mind the Marxist distinction between propaganda and agitation when reading this. Propaganda was the in depth treatment of issues, agitation the bringing of the material to the masses. The full chapter outline of the book is as follows:

  • Chapter 1: Political Work in the National People’s Army
  • Chapter 2: The Main Tasks of Political Work in the Communist Education of the Socialist Military Personality and in forming a Strong, Battle-ready Military Collective
  • Chapter 3: Leading Political Work in a Military Unit
  • Chapter 4: Duties and Methods of the SED Local Organization in a military unit
  • Chapter 5: Duties and Methods of Mass Organizations in Military Units
  • Chapter 6: Propaganda in Military Units
  • Chapter 7: Agitation in Military Units
  • Chapter 8: Cultural Work in Military Units
  • Chapter 9: Military Traditions, Military Educational Work with the Public, and Work with Family Members
  • Chapter 10: Political Work and Socialist Competition
  • Chapter 11: Political Work in Preparing and Carrying out Combat Training, Military Duty, and Combat
  • Chapter 12: The Material-Technical and Financial Elements in Political Work and Sports in Military Units

The source: Handbuch für politische Arbeit in Truppenteilen und Einheiten der Nationalen Volksarmee. Inhaltliche und methodische Hinweise für Kommandeure, Politarbeiter und Funktionäre der Partei- und Massenorganisationen (Berlin: Militärverlag der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 1988), pp. 336.

Chapter 7: Agitation in Military Units

7.1. Agitation — A primary method of political-ideological work in military units

Along with propaganda and cultural work, agitation has the task of strengthening the leading role of the SED [the GDR Communist party] and its connection to the masses, of building the socialist convictions of members of the military, especially their understanding of the role of the soldier in socialism, of maintaining a high level of battle-readiness and fighting ability, of preparing them politically, morally and psychologically for battle (See also Chapters 1 and 2).

The specific tasks of agitation include:

  • To daily explain under the conditions of military life the policies of the SED, current political events, and the political and military tasks of members of the military and its civilian employees. This includes particularly building their confidence in the party’s policies and deepening their understanding of the relationship between socialism and peace, and of the peace strategies of socialism;
  • Building the correct ideological positions necessary to fulfill the class duties of the members of the unit, to firm up their class thinking, feeling, and actions, as well as their will to fight and win. It also involves building up their political reliability and their military skills, as well as motivating them for the best possible accomplishments in political and military training as well as in doing their duty in combat. It also should encourage them to carry our their orders precisely, to act with discipline, and work toward greater accomplishments in socialist competition. In addition, it should popularize exemplary results and valuable experiences;
  • It should always make people aware of the tremendous accomplishments of the Soviet Union, its communist party and its military forces in fighting for peace, and strengthen the will of the members of the unit to stand firmly with the Soviet army and the other fraternal armies, doing all they can to maintain and strengthen peace;
  • It should reveal the hostile policies and aggressive forces of imperialism, especially its policies of confrontation and military buildup, and actively oppose attempts at ideological diversion by the class enemy.

The effectiveness of agitation will be increased if agitation:

  • includes a rich content of the world view which is applied to the situation;
  • considers all areas of military activity, from military training to spare time activities, from an ideological standpoint, and if its forms and methods work together harmoniously;
  • corresponds to the attitudes, opinions and questions of the members of the unit, as well as to their educational and cultural level. If further should be appropriate to their experiences, and not be beneath their intellectual level;
  • reacts quickly to current events, and expresses things in a realistic, persuasive and understandable way that speaks both to the mind and heart of the army’s members and its civilian employees;
  • works consistently with the general political-ideological work and with propaganda and cultural programs, and if it is a firm part of the activities of the commanders, their aides for political work, and the parties and mass organizations.

The tested forms of agitation in military units include:

  • individual political conversations,
  • agitation campaigns,
  • daily political information,
  • weekly political information,
  • information on the current political situation,
  • political meetings,
  • written agitation
  • visual agitation

The sources for oral agitation include the press, radio and television of the GDR, the central informational and argumentation material, as well as films and tapes. The most effective methods are political conversations and individual contact. They allow for daily contact “on the scene” that can take into account the immediate situation in informing members of the military and civilian employees, enables each individual to be informed, persuaded and mobilized. The primary field of operation is the military or work place collective.

7.2. The forces of agitation in military units

Under the policies governing agitation, agitation is carried out primarily by members and candidates of the SED, by functionaries of the FDJ [Free German Youth], the trade union and the ASV “Vorwärts.” That means:

  • Each person with authority, whether group leader, trainer, political officer or commander has the duty to conduct consistent agitation. The most important method is political conversation and individual contact.
  • Each member and candidate of the SED is an agitator. Each communist is obligated to “constantly strength contact with the masses, to explain the policies and decisions of the party, to convince others of the correctness of the party’s policies, to win the support of the masses, and to learn from the masses.” [Quotation from the SED party statute] Communists are obligated to seek and conduct conversations with the masses wherever they may be.
  • Functionaries of the FDJ groups, the trade union and the ASV “Vorwärts” give particular attention to daily political discussions that explain the policies of the SED and political principles. They also must raise the fighting strength and battle readiness of army members and civilian employees, preparing them to take initiative.

Agitators are appointed to carry out agitation in the military or work place collective. These are generally members and candidates of the SED as well as active members of the FDJ and the trade union who display firm class standpoint, exemplary fulfillment of their duties, commitment to the party, knowledge and ability, have a good reputation in the collective, are good comrades, and enjoy working with people.

Agitators are chosen by the company StKPA [the aide to the unit’s head of political work] (in companies without a political officer, by the company commander). They generally serve for six months of training or for the duration of their reserve service. They should form an agitator collective for army members.

Agitators should be chosen carefully. Experience shows that the proper selection of agitators provides the foundation for effective agitation in a military unit. The commander and his aide for political activity along with the leadership of the party,. FDJ and trade union should be sure that:

  • each military collective (group, crew, unit or company) has an agitation collective or an agitator;
  • that the authority of agitators is constantly strengthened;
  • that agitators receive the necessary support and guidance, and that their work is appreciated.

The success of agitators in daily political life depends on their political motivation, on their preparation, and on continual work. The following matters are particularly important:

  • Agitators must be conscious of the political significance of their work. They must realize that they have the important and honorable task of explaining the policies of the SED to the members of their collective. They must explain the necessity of a high level of military preparedness and help build the socialist military personality and the military collective.
  • The agitators must receive regular training of a political-ideological, educational and psychological nature. They must receive current and persuasive information and arguments for their daily work. Experience proves that agitators find the greatest interest when their information and arguments are current, persuasive and understandable, and when they provide answers to questions the listeners have. Agitators will be more effective when they are trained in these areas:
    • How do I relate to others?
    • How do I start a political conversation?
    • How do I establish a trusting atmosphere?
    • How do I respond to suggestions, advice and criticism?
    • How do I present arguments persuasively?
  • To present the party’s positions to the masses and to react quickly to current events, agitators must independently use the decisions of the SED, information and arguments from the press, radio and television of the GDR in their oral agitation. Besides the central information and arguments provided by the Central Committee of the SED, the “Argumentation” and RADAR of the Political Central office of the NVA, [the periodical for military agitators] the weekly newspaper Volksarmee and the Arguments and Advice of the political administration of the armed forces are important (see also section 7.4).
  • New agitators must be given adequate support and guidance during their first months of service. Fulfilling the tasks given them by the military collectives requires that agitators not only carry out political discussions, but also be models. Their words and deeds must be consistent. From the beginning, agitators must receive individual help from their superiors and functionaries. This strengthens their authority and gives them the confidence they need for their work.
  • Agitators must receive regular and planned assignments, and must report on their accomplishments. Their effectiveness should be periodically evaluated. The best results are to be passed on to other agitators.

Agitators should receive a briefing once a week from the StKPA of the company (or from the company commander). If necessary briefings can be held more frequently. In the interests of quality and effectiveness, these should be thoroughly prepared. Experience shows that if agitators are dealt with individually, if they are given clear and feasible tasks, if they are given persuasive arguments, if they are properly trained and assigned, they will be prepared for independent daily agitation.

The briefing provides concrete political-ideological and educational advice to agitators. In general, it should include:

  • reports by the agitators of how they met their assignments, and an exchange of experiences;
  • the provision of current arguments and information as well as methodological advice;
  • acquainting the agitators with the unit’s main duties and with its attitudes and opinions;
  • assigning agitation tasks.

The briefing should give agitators clear information on the how and why. Attendance at the weekly briefing should be as high as possible.

The StKPA of the battalion as will as the leader of the political division of the StKPA of the unit along with the relevant officers have the duty to provide systematic assistance in maintaining the high level of the briefing,

Biannual agitation meetings are held that have as their primary goals:

  • exchanging experiences in leading and conducting agitation;
  • providing arguments on political and military issues;
  • outlining the primary goals of agitation in the coming six months;
  • preparing agitators to conduct effective agitation.

The following should participate:

  • commanders and political officers,
  • agitators,
  • functionaries of the party and mass organizations,
  • members of the wall newspaper [essentially bulletin boards] and the ELA broadcasting collectives.

Experience has shows that effective agitation meetings should include:

  • an opening by the commander or the head of the political division/StKPA of the unit;
  • a speech on a relevant topic (an hour at the most) by the commander, the leader of the political division/StKPA or an officer from a higher unit;
  • honoring the best agitators as well as exemplary comrades;
  • discussion and exchange of experiences in separate groups led by officers of the political division/AGpA;
  • a summary of the discussions and assignments to participants by the leader of the political division/StKPA.

Three to four hours generally are necessary. Experience shows that meetings lasting less than three hours generally are not successful. The leader of the political division/StKPA has the responsibility for organizing, leading and evaluating the meeting. He also informs the commanders, functionaries and agitators who could not attend of the main issues discussed and of their assignments.

7.3. Oral agitation in military units

7.3.1. Personal political discussion

Political discussion is the best and most effective method of agitation. Nothing is better able to reach the heart and mind of a soldier, or to persuade him of the correctness and strength of the policies of the SED, or to encourage him to fulfill his assigned tasks, than a relaxed exchange of ideas.

Personal conversation enables communists, superior officers, functionaries and agitators to talk with army members about their achievements in political and military training, their behavior, character and experiences, and interests and preferences. Their questions and uncertainties can also be discussed. Almost anything can be discussed in personal conversation with army members and civilian employees. Topics include the relationship of the individual to his state, the nature of the soldier in socialism, the daily life of a soldier, the great questions of our day, or even his purely personal problems.


 1. Remember that you serve a great cause: planting the seeds of communism in the hearts of our people. Give your full time and effort to the task.

2. Remember that if you want to teach others, you must always be learning yourself. Events are occurring at lightning speed. Follow and understand them.

3. You can learn to speak well and teach others only through hard work and experience.

4. Do not speak without preparation. Gather material from newspapers, books or pamphlets.

5. Speak only when you have thought the subject through. don’t merely repeat things from newspapers and pamphlets. Speak only about things you understand, and of which you are persuaded.

6. Pay attention to your audience. If people stop listening, you must change your plan and include a good example or an interesting piece of information.

7. don’t interrupt questioners. Let them talk, listen carefully, think about the question, and give a good answer. If you do not know the answer, say you will answer it the next day. Do not use empty phrases.

Advice for agitators from the Red Army, 1920

Political conversations are appropriate everywhere in military settings. They should be conducted daily by superior officers, by all communists, appointed agitators, and FDJ, trade union and ASV functionaries. They should be conducted individually or in small groups.

Successful political conversation that reaches army members and civilian employees, persuades them, affects their thoughts and feelings, rouses their enthusiasm and mobilizes them to action require the following elements:

  • Political conversations do not occur by chance. Everyone responsible for holding them must constantly and from his own initiative seek such discussions. He must conduct them with confidence, and not be distracted. The will, the need and the ability for political conversation are important requirements for effective dialogue.
  • The effectiveness of political discussion depends on an open, trusting atmosphere, and on a party-oriented and factual content. It is important to respect one’s partner, and maintain a party-oriented position. Good relationships encourage a trusting exchange of thoughts.
  • The effectiveness of political discussion depends on how concretely the discussion leader can determine the political maturity and intellectual level of the army members. He must understand their occupational and social experiences as well as their thinking, behavior, and feelings. These vary from person to person.
  • The success of political discussion also depends on the level of preparation of the discussion leader. In preparing for discussions, the following questions should be kept in mind
    • What are the purposes, goal and content of the conversation?
    • What opinions, questions or uncertainties could the partner raise, and what are the persuasive answers to them?
    • What results in political and educational training, which behaviors, interests and experiences of the partner, should be considered?
    • How should the conversation begin, and how can an open atmosphere be established?
    • When and under what conditions should the next conversation be held?
  • The goal is to encourage an open exchange of opinion, and to encourage discussion. The discussion leader should not be the only one who talks. He must know how to listen, even if opinions are expressed that he does not like. He should respond tactfully to the opinions, proposals, criticisms or uncertainties of his partner. He should not reject the partner’s opinions without giving a reason. The leaders should also admit it if he cannot immediately answer a question. One’s own thinking, persuasive arguments and clear language are important in political discussion. Empty phrases or lecturing move neither the heart nor the mind.
  • The leader should evaluate the discussion. This includes asking:
    • Was the goal reached?
    • Which proposals, suggestions or criticisms must be dealt with or passed on?
    • Which questions could not be answered persuasively, and how can they be dealt with in the next conversation?
  • Each situation is unique. It depends on the thoughts and feelings, the mood, the tasks, and the duties and behavior of a concrete member of the army, civilian employee, or collective. Each political discussion therefore requires individual thought. Phrases and formalism reduce its effectiveness.

Agitation actions by party organizations and officers occurs particularly at key political and military high points. These actions fall into a particular time frame and must be keyed to particular groups. They depend on:

  • explaining SED decisions on important political events and military tasks;
  • answering questions, proposals and suggestions by army members;
  • meeting competition goals;
  • determining the qualifications for political and military leadership.

Agitation actions in military units are planned as they are needed. Such actions should be carried out with those who have just joined the army, as well as with those who are about to leave active duty.

The planning and organization of these agitation actions, recruiting the participants, and evaluating the results is the responsibility of the political division/AGpA in conjunction with the leadership of the local party organization or the central party leadership.

Experience shows that superior officers can conduct these actions in conjunction with inspections and controls. Such actions can have lasting emotional and mobilizing effects, and give the superior, communists and appointed agitators valuable support for their individual and collective political discussions.

Preparing such agitation action requires a precise analysis of the attitudes and opinions of the audience on the part of the leader of the political division/StKPA or the StKPA of the unit, in order to allow for a precise evaluation of the ideological situation and to determine the questions and problems that concern the majority of the army members in the unit.

These agitation actions in units are to be prepared politically and organizationally, and must be thorough evaluated afterwards. In that evaluation, each proposal and suggestion must be carefully analyzed, and each criticism by army members considered.

7.3.2. Daily and weekly political briefings

Each day, about 15 minutes should be available for providing political news to soldiers and noncommissioned officers, generally in their unit or group. No daily political briefing is given on days when there will be political training, on Saturdays and Sundays, on holidays, and on the day for the weekly political briefing.

The unit leader will determine the content, time and place for daily political briefing. He is responsible for its quality and effectiveness. Besides the unit leader, the briefing can be given by group leaders, agitators, party and FDJ functionaries, as well as suitable soldiers.

The purpose of the daily political briefing is to inform participants of the news from the daily press, the radio and television of the GDR, to mention important articles and programs, to present arguments and assignments for training, to strengthen military discipline, to deal with problems in the collective, and answer questions.

Daily political briefings must be current. Rapid information arouses interest and encourages the participants to read the newspaper themselves or follow events on radio or television, and to discuss them in their collective. Delayed information loses its effectiveness.

The weekly political briefing is provided to soldiers and noncommissioned officers. It generally requires 45 minutes, usually within the company or unit. It should be a regular part of the schedule. In weeks of political training, the weekly political briefing is canceled. Those carrying it out include:

  • political officers,
  • officers from the battalion staff,
  • officers from unit headquarters,
  • unit leaders,
  • company leaders.

The weekly political briefing offers more time than the daily briefing, Participants can be informed on decisions by the SED, current political events, or military problems. They can be given facts, arguments and viewpoints. These briefings can prepare participants for upcoming political and military high points. Articles from the daily newspapers and the army newspaper Volksarmee along with radio and television programs from the GDR can also be discussed. The weekly political briefing also has the task of handling the content of the central information and agitation material, and of dealing with questions by the participants.

The success of the weekly political briefing depends on the leader:

  • providing current information and arguments;
  • expressing his class standpoint;
  • providing not only statistics, facts and tasks, but also explaining the connections, causes, and backgrounds to the problems being discussed;
  • on not doing all the talking, but encouraging others to express their opinions and promoting political discussion;
  • on using tapes, slides, maps, graphics, charts and other visual material to help communicate the information.

Determining the themes of the weekly political briefing, providing advice on its content and methods, and evaluating the results is normally the responsibility of the battalion StKPA. If a superior unit determines the content, the responsibility falls on the leader of the political division/StKPA of the unit.

The situation briefing lasts 15 minutes, and prepares army members to do their duty. The situation briefing includes:

  • the political and military significance of the duty to be carried out,
  • motivation to class conscious action and high battle-readiness,
  • mobilizing army members to do their duty.

The situation briefing is the responsibility of the company or battalion StKPA.

7.3.3. Political meetings

Political meetings should be held on important political and military occasions, important social events, and significant anniversaries. These include pep meetings, roll calls, brief meetings to make resolutions, take positions or assume tasks, speeches, forums with leading officials, discussions with commanders, political offers and specialists, party functionaries or labor veterans.

The purpose of political meetings is to help persuasively show the significance of the high point, event or memorial, to encourage class conscious thinking, feeling and actionre important ways of building the class consciousness of members of the unit, and of providing them with varied and differentiated information on questions of the domestic, foreign and military policies of the SED, of military service, etc. They can discuss matters freely and clarify matters. Alongside the content and form of political meetings, a high priority is to be put on their emotional and mobilizing effect.

7.3.4 The mass media

Oral agitation should consistently use the mass media of the GDR, in particular the press, radio, television, films and tapes. The following principles should be followed:

  • The mass media, in particular the press, radio and television, are the most important tools of the SED in political leadership. They are ways to spread socialist ideology, provide political-ideological orientation, meet intellectual and cultural needs, and develop mass initiative. They enable direct contact between the party and the workers.
  • As sources of rapid information, the press, radio and television are indispensable tools in political-ideological work, as well as for daily political discussions by communists within the unit. The mass media acquaint army members and civilian employees with the policies, decisions and documents of the SED, inform them of national and international events, and provide persuasive arguments and artistic experiences. They encourage class conscious training and education, develop socialist convictions, thinking and behavior, and firm up members of the unit politically, morally and psychologically. But the mass media do not substitute for personal political conversation. They help in oral agitation by providing material and structure, leading to conversation about what has been read, heard, seen or experienced.
  • Information from the mass media does more than increase the persuasiveness and force of oral agitation. It also allows people to see the significance of the unit’s duties within a larger social framework, to draw conclusions, and to be encouraged to take action. Oral agitation uses the mass media correctly when its information increases disciplined action, fighting spirit and battle-readiness.
  • Soldiers should see the Aktuelle Kamera [The GDR evening news program], or see or hear other programs, and read the daily newspapers or the army press as regularly as possible. The agitator himself should receive and read RADAR. Soldiers must receive the newspaper promptly, both in the barracks and in the field. Television and radio sets must also function and get good reception.
  • A close relationship between oral agitation and the mass media is also important for dealing with imperialist ideology, which the enemy’s mass media beams daily into the GDR. Working with propaganda and cultural work, agitation has the task of persuasively revealing the ideology of imperialism and conducting an offensive battle against its attempts at ideological diversion.

The commander and the leader of the political division/StKPA should ensure:

  • that army members have regular opportunity to read the newspaper and receive GDR radio or television, and that they are encouraged to read independently;
  • that group listening is arranged for important radio and television programs;
  • that important radio or television programs and films are evaluated;
  • that army recorders, electrical equipment and radio and film facilities are used effectively.

The mass media will be used effectively in oral agitation if agitators who carry out the daily and weekly political briefings are familiar with important information in the press, and if they are informed of important political programs on the GDR’s radio and television.

7.4. Working with written information and arguments

Directives for the content of agitation are provided by the information and argumentation material of the Central Committee of the SED, particularly Informationen, WAS und WIE, [the publication for agitators] as well as the Argumentation published by the political headquarters of the army. They should be used particularly by commanders, political officers, party, FDJ and union functionaries. The leader of the political division/StKPA of the unit is responsible for organizing the use of the central agitation material, and seeing to its rapid and efficient distribution. The instructor or officer in charge of agitation has a particular responsibility here.

Using the central agitation material effectively requires that it be reviewed, and sorted according to the user and audience, as well as determining which information is suited for the daily political briefing, the weekly political briefing, agitation advice, GWW, political education, or in speeches addresses, or other political events. This includes:

  • understanding the agitation material to find the ideological foundation, orientation, and arguments;
  • seeing the specific relationship of the material to the conditions of the unit, and supplementing it through good examples, attitudes, opinions and questions from the areas he is responsible for;
  • supplementing the central information and arguments with the latest news from the daily press, radio and television of the GDR.

Working through the material oneself and putting into one’s own effective and persuasive words during political conversation hinders a simple parroting of the content of the central agitation material.

Remember that the material is often usable for a long time, and that with appropriate updating it can be used later with new recruits or with army members who are about to be released from active services. Experienced political officers and party and FDJ offices know that they should save the central information and agitation material for use on later occasions.

The leader of a unit’s political division/StKPA is authorized to distribute flyers, leaflets, notices and other written agitation material in his area. In the field, written material is used only in exceptional situations and to a limited extent. Under particular circumstances, for example during maneuvers, leaflets, flyers and notices may be used to supplement oral agitation. The costs and benefits should be weighed carefully to use material and funds carefully.

At times flyers and other agitation material from other political offices can be distributed, for example from the political division of a group. To avoid duplication of effort, agreement with superior offices is necessary.

In producing written agitation material, the following should be considered:

  • The content must be understandable, brief, compelling and easily comprehended. It must reach the understanding and the feelings, promote optimism, strengthen battle-readiness and the desire for victory, and be appropriate for the situation and tasks at hand.
  • The task to be done and what that means for the practical action and personal behavior of the army members of a certain group (e.g., drivers, technicians, reservists) should be clear.
  • Previous results and exemplary achievements should be provided to encourage new initiatives.
  • The principles of alertness and secrecy should always be followed.

The effectiveness of written agitation material will be increased if it is used in the oral agitation of superiors, communists, or appointed agitators.

7.5. Visual material in military units

Visual agitation in the unit provides ways to support the ideological education of troops, and encourages them to independent action in maintaining high morale battle-readiness. Visual agitation uses words and pictures to explain the foundations of SED social and military policy, current political events, and the political, military and military-economic tasks that must be done. It encourages socialist thinking, feeling and action on the part of the unit’s members, promotes the proper political view of the nature of the soldier under socialism, and builds support for fulfilling the class mission.

Visual agitation fulfills these tasks through:

  • motivational political slogans;
  • popularizing military duties, competitions, accomplishments, high achievements, political affirmations and good conduct;
  • presenting the military tradition, as well as the brotherhood with the Soviet army and navy and with the other fraternal armies;
  • making visible the success and details of the SED’s policies, and international class conflict;
  • revealing the policies of the most aggressive circles of imperialism and NATO;
  • preparing for coming political and military high points, and the responsibilities they bring;
  • discussing the nature and problems in developing a military collective, and providing information about the activity of the party, the FDJ and the trade union, as well as army athletic activities.

Visual agitation should follow the following principles:

  • It must have sound ideas with political force, be relevant to the troops, and be aesthetically pleasing. It must be current, reacting immediately to problems and events in political and military education, and preparing people for forthcoming tasks.
  • Its content must be varied, concrete and clear, understandable and quickly comprehended. It must speak to the viewer. Text, pictures and color must draw attention.
  • It must inform, persuade and mobilize all members of the unit, but must also be directed to particular groups (e.g., tank crews, drivers, new recruits, reservists).

These principles should be followed both in indoor and outdoor visual agitation.

Indoor agitation is appropriate everywhere that army members spend their duty and off-duty hours. The following principles should be followed:

  • the content should be directly related to the viewer’s tasks, duties, thinking and behavior;
  • it should encourage army members and civilian employees to speak themselves, to express their own ideas, their own political thinking on the nature of being a soldier in socialism, and encourage intellectual activity;
  • it should be appropriate for the level of each collective, persuasively showing the nature of socialist relationships and attitudes toward doing one’s military duty. It should encourage political conversation within the collective.

Indoor agitation works best when it is attractive and exciting, when it is current and concrete, and when it provides the viewer with new and interesting information. The high demands made on indoor agitation require that a large number of members of the unit participate in various ways in making it.

Indoor agitation and cultural material should work together harmoniously in hallways, clubs, and barracks.

The wall newspaper has a central role in indoor agitation. Normally, it changes every month.

The wall newspaper is the StKPA’s direct means of carrying out his political-ideological educational work. It is the mouthpiece of each collective, a way to exchange opinions and ideas. It encourages political discussion, promotes independent action, and furthers the growth of the collective. It popularizes the positions of the party and the FDJ on matters regarding the daily fulfillment of daily political and military duties, including tasks, requirements, results and experiences. It points out successes, but also problems that are yet unsolved. It praises exemplary conduct, points out the work of the best soldiers, and in a comradely way criticizes inappropriate behavior. It informs members of the unit in a current, interesting and exciting way about events, facts and goings on, makes visible connections, and helps develop a class conscious position.

To make the wall newspaper lively and to give at an up-to-date form is the demanding task of the company StKPA, the party and FDJ leadership, and the wall newspaper editors. The following principles should be remembered:

  • The proper content of a wall newspaper is important. The themes, the information and arguments must be chosen that are current and will move the collective forward in its political attitudes, and its readiness to work and fulfill its military duties. It must help to develop ideological positions and attitudes and initiatives that will help it meet its tasks.
  • Although the majority of the content of a wall newspaper may remain posted for a month, in the interests of keeping it current it is good to change some articles, pictures, headlines or other material. The wall newspaper should react to important political events, major accomplishments, or new assignments and initiatives. A wall newspaper that is not updated during the month loses its educational, informational and mobilizing effect, and therefore its readers as well.
  • The attractiveness and friendliness of a wall newspaper depends heavily on its overall appearance. A well laid out wall newspaper wins attention through its text, pictures and color, winning attention and readership. Its attractiveness can be increased through headlines, subtitles, underlining, well-balanced text and pictures, photographs, drawings, emblems, cartoons, etc. Centrally provided material for company wall newspapers should be used.
  • Since wall newspapers are read while standing up, articles should be short, to the point, and easy to read. Simple and clear sentences and various print sizes make reading easier. Bombastic phrases, long words and cliches should be avoided. Carelessly done wall newspapers consisting only of articles, pictures and clippings from newspapers have little effect.

For a well laid out wall newspaper to be effective, the following conditions are necessary:

  • good light
  • eye level
  • clean surroundings
  • able to be seen by several comrades simultaneously.

The field wall newspaper is an effective method of political work under field conditions. It provides army members with the news, and encourages them to do their duty in military training, on regular duty, in battle, bon maneuvers and in combat. The use and content of the field wall newspaper should always be directly relevant to the concrete tasks in the situation. Soldiers in the field have a greater need for information, which puts particular responsibility on the field wall newspaper.

Among the task of the field wall newspaper are:

  • quickly and carefully informing the army members of important political events as well as of their duties, keeping in mind the importance of secrecy;
  • publishing the ideas, duties and initiatives of army members and collectives;
  • popularizing common successes and experiences with the members of fraternal forces;
  • immediately reporting the experiences and accomplishments, the exemplary military behavior and actions of the best, as well as spreading their experiences and knowledge;
  • publishing leaflets and flyers as well as positions and decisions of the party and FDJ;
  • informing army members of typical weaknesses, deficiencies and errors, as well as suggestions for dealing with them;
  • making them aware of the aggressive readiness of the enemy, as well as his equipment and armaments;
  • passing on the latest news from GDR radio.

A good field wall newspaper avoids general material, and says concretely what this or that collective or this or that army member needs to do to fulfill his duty.

It is particularly important that field wall newspapers be up-to-date. This requires fast communication between the unit’s commander, his aide for political work, the party and FDJ functionaries, and the wall newspaper editors. The field wall newspaper should be found everywhere where the masses of army members are.

It is a good idea to gather material for the field wall newspaper while the maneuver is being prepared. Many wall newspaper editors have special folders in which they gather important material that they can draw upon for this purpose.

In many units, there is special visual agitation for socialist competition. It supplements the material in the wall newspaper, pointing out tasks, obligations, initiatives and results, thus expanding and deepening their impact. Being up-to-date, concrete and fresh increases its effectiveness and attractiveness. Avoid confusing statistics and tables, formal announcements of “competition places,” etc.

Experience shows that bulletin boards on socialist competition work best when their words and pictures focus on solving the problems that will influence the course of the competition, and encourage new activities in the military collective. Ways of doing this include:

  • publicizing the important goals of the company and the immediate tasks, as well as additional or more precise challenges to individuals or collectives;
  • comparing goals with the current situation in meeting the competition obligations, and finding reserves for further initiatives;
  • focusing on youth initiatives or new competition goals that are of significance for the whole collective, or the innovators and MMM movement, or the contents of the mass evaluation of the FDJ;
  • publicizing the work of the best individuals and units;
  • informing soldiers of the requirements for winning medals.

The company StKPA (or the company commander) is responsible along with the party and FDJ leadership for appointing editors for the wall newspaper, giving them their assignments, and providing regular guidance and material. A wall newspaper editorship generally has 5 to 7 army members, each of whom has a specific task (e.g., editor, layout). This is an important part of the company, one with high demands. Members of the wall newspaper editorial team should:

  • be able to rapidly understand the evaluate from the proper class standpoint political events, achievements of interest, and ways of thought and behavior, as well as seeing those things worthy of criticism;
  • show a party standpoint in their actions and positions;
  • deal factually, concisely, but also with wit and satire with the collective’s problems;
  • put out a wall newspaper with good content and ideas.

The company StKPA must ensure that the wall newspaper works closely with the party and FDJ leadership, the sports leadership, the club council, and the photography club. It must also maintain close contact with superiors, communists, FDJ activists, specialists and the best in socialist competition, including their material in the wall newspaper.

Experience shows that the wall newspaper should have a monthly plan that outlines the most important activities and deadlines.

Experience also shows that many wall newspaper editorial teams have difficulties finding fresh political themes each month for the wall newspaper, and reflecting the variety of company life. Therefore, the company StKPA and the party and FDJ leaders must help the wall newspaper staff deal with the following questions:

  • What current political theme should the wall newspaper cover, and what information and arguments will be most persuasive?
  • Which problems are most discussed in the collective?
  • Which military tasks, behaviors and initiatives in socialist competition should be covered?
  • What are examples of outstanding military behavior, which results and experiences of the best soldiers should be popularized, and which behaviors by army members should be criticized?
  • What news about the activities of the party and the FDJ, or of clubs and sport or political education, is important for members of the unit?

Outdoor agitation includes all items that are within or outside of the military facility. To have the greatest impact, these should be put at entrances, central points, DHS guard positions, airfields, maneuvering grounds and firing ranges, as well as training facilities.

The following matters should be taken into account in outdoor agitation:

  • Outdoor agitation is particularly effective when several items work together at a central point. Such a visual agitation ensemble highlights important political statements, and should be put together so that it has a unified impact. The text and content should be both original and interesting.
  • Particular attention should be paid to visual agitation at barracks entrances, staff buildings, the tribune on the review grounds, the most frequented roads, training areas, dining halls and clubs. The content must agree with the environment. The content of visual agitation at a staff building will differ from that in a park, for example. Effective placement of the material requires it be along the busiest streets and gathering places, that the elements should work together well both from a distance and close up, that they are easily visible, and that they be placed appropriately to reach varied groups.
  • People generally take only passing notice of the content of outdoor agitation. The briefer and clearer it is, the likelier it is that it can be understood at a glance. A harmonious appearance, proper form and size, ease of comprehension, simple and persuasive language, and a good mixture of words and pictures are particularly important.
  • Outdoor agitation is subject to the elements. It is therefore important to use appropriate materials and maintain it regularly. Generally, outdoor agitation is planned for the six month training period. Of course, the visual agitation material should be updated when necessary, especially when preparing for social or military high points.
  • “Permanent banners” have limited effectiveness, since they do not attract attention from army members or civilian employees. A banner earns attention not only through its content, but also if its format and color stand out from the others. If they all have the same color, they blend into the landscape. Outdoor agitation that is not changed regularly loses its effectiveness.
  • Forms of outdoor agitation aimed at the public must fit into the general scheme for visual agitation of the street or district. In this case, the content should focus on the unity of the people and the army, on the unity and strength of the socialist defensive alliance, on the class mission and on military brotherhood with the Soviet army and the other fraternal armies.

Outdoor agitation should have the approval of the corresponding party and government offices near the base.

Each unit should work to produce its own outdoor agitation. Talented army members and civilian employees should be won over for the task. Many units use techniques that can quickly be learned by less experienced people, for example tracing or projection.

Experience shows that it is good to form a collective of members of the unit who can conduct outdoor agitation for an extended period of time, These volunteers need material and methodological help. Opportunities to give them further training should be used. This collective should have the proper working conditions.

Visual agitation in the unit is supervised by the leader of the political division/StKPA. He is responsible for seeing to it that it fits within the larger political-ideological work and that its quality meets the expectations of political and military life.

Directing visual agitation requires many things. The content must be consistent with the political and military goals and social high points. Text and pictures must be developed for central agitation. The personnel, material, financial resources and organization must be provided. The wall newspaper staffs and those who handle outdoor agitation must be guided. The effectiveness of visual agitation must be evaluated. The centrally supplied material must be passed on efficiently to the users. Its use must be evaluated. The instructor or officer in charge of agitation has these particular responsibilities.

Experience has shown that visual agitation should be planned over the six-month training period. This requires a six-month plan which should take into account the following matters:

  • What content is suggested for indoor and outdoor agitation in view of party decisions, military policies, and the military tasks of the coming six months of training?
  • Which societal events, high points in the unit, or deadlines in socialist competition should be dealt with in visual agitation?
  • Which groups must be particularly addressed, and what must they be encouraged to do?
  • What particular problems or challenges should the company wall newspaper address?
  • At what point should individual visual agitation elements be changed, and when should a complete change occur?
  • What should be passed on to DEWAG [the GDR agency that printed posters, etc.], and who will take care of making the necessary proposals?
  • When, how and by whom will the wall newspaper staff and those responsible for outdoor agitation be trained?
  • What material and financial resources are necessary for visual agitation?

Experience shows that a six-month plan is valuable in conducting visual agitation when the individual measures and activities, the necessary staff and means, and the deadlines are as clear as possible.

7.6. Leading agitation in the military unit

7.6.1 Responsibilities and duties of the commander in directing agitation in a military unit

Experience always shows the following: Agitation is effective when it is part of the whole process of political work, when it is part of the complex leadership of political work, and when it constantly receives the proper attention.

The commander of the unit has the responsibility to lead agitation. He must:

  • provide guidelines for agitation depending on the political and military situation, and periodically evaluate the quality and effectiveness of agitation and draw the proper conclusions;
  • set an example of political conversation with his subordinates as well as in the military collectives and work collectives, and participate actively in agitation;
  • support the work of the agitators and reward outstanding work in agitation both psychologically and materially;
  • ensure that the time, organization and material requirements are available for effective agitation.

This requires:

  • discussing the goals and tasks of political-ideological work and the elements of agitation in the unit with the leader of the political division/StKPA;
  • providing agitation assignments to the leader of the political division/StKPA and subordinate commanders;
  • ensuring that his subordinates carry out the necessary agitation work;
  • ensuring that daily political conversation is a firm part of the daily routine of all his subordinates;
  • explaining the policies of the SED, current political events, military issues and upcoming high points in political and military training at meetings, membership meetings, and in the agitation meeting that plans agitation during the six months of training. He must be an example of persuasive and appropriate argumentation, and deal offensively with imperialist ideology.

7.6.2. The responsibilities and duties of the leader of the political division/aide to the commander for political work in the unit in leading and carrying out agitation

The leader of the political division/StKPA is responsible to the commander for directing agitation in the unit, and for coordination with other elements of political work. He should:

  • determine the goals and content of agitation, based on party decisions, directives from superior offices, the military task, and an analysis of the attitudes and opinions of the troops. He must react to events, provide for collectively developing arguments, and plan and organize activities;
  • provide to the unit commanders and their aides for political work agitation assignments, explain the goals, content and themes of agitation, provide persuasive arguments and necessary political information which will be appropriate for the specific location;
  • direct and support the party organization in developing a lively agitation work, and in particular enable communists to lead political conversations and agitation activities;
  • aid and encourage in their agitation duties the FDJ and leadership, especially the FDJ functionaries for agitation and the commission for agitation and propaganda of the BGL, as well as the functionaries of the army sport society “Vorwärts”;
  • evaluate continually the effectiveness of agitation, enabling the analysis of differing attitudes and opinions. He must be an example of leadership and popularize good experiences and new solutions;
  • ensure that conferences of party and FDJ secretaries, membership meetings of party groups, the GWW, political training, the party training year [the annual training course in which all SED members were expected to participate] all contribute to enabling superiors, functionaries, communists and agitators to carry out their daily agitation work.

In addition, he must:

  • see to the effective use of the material, technical and financial resources, paying heed to the military economic situation;
  • train and direct the teachers for agitation in the units;
  • ensure the high quality of the content and methods of agitators, wall newspapers, and broadcasting collectives;
  • ensure that visual agitation in the unit is effective, current, and meets the requirements of political and military life;
  • ensure that the press, radio and television material as well as the central agitation material is used in oral agitation;
  • guarantee that, generally at the beginning the six months of training, an agitation meeting is held in the unit.

The leader of the political division/StKPA and members of the political division/AGpA have a direct influence on meeting and evaluating the assigned tasks in agitation, and in raising its level and effectiveness.

Guiding, helping and evaluating are to be conducted regularly according to plan. At the start, there must be clarity about the goal, content, and resources, as well as the timing and methods.

This should be done in a way that encourages initiative and creativity as well as independent work.

A critical part of the guiding, helping and evaluating is the education of unit commanders and political officers to meet their assigned tasks in the organization, to conduct political conversations, political briefings and meetings, and direct the agitators serving under them.

Guidance, help and evaluation must occur regularly and in a timely manner, not only when problems surface. If necessary, they should act until the work is done at a quality level. Guidance, help and evaluation means more than simply hearing a report that the task has been completed. It means being informed over the concrete methods being used, over the problems, and the results. To help, one must know the situation well. Only then can one give useful advice or suggestions.

After seeing the results of the guidance, help and evaluation in the battalions and companies, decisions should be made about the future leading of agitation and its content. In meetings, during meetings of party and FDJ secretaries, and in consultations with party offices, these conclusions should be passed on, along with good examples and experiences.

7.6.3 The tasks of the local SED organizations and the mass organizations in guaranteeing effective agitation.

Prerequisites for effective organization include raising the fighting spirit of the party local organizations, increasing their connection to the masses, and firming up the ideological strength of each Communist.

The local organization trains communists to explain effectively the party’s policies to the masses, provides them with information and arguments for political conversation, regularly evaluates the agitation activities of its members and candidates and draws the necessary conclusions, organizes agitation actions in its area of responsibility, and encourages exemplary behavior by communists in carrying out their political and military duties. The local party organization is responsible to see that all communists daily conduct political conversations, discussions and exchanges of opinions and thoughts with the members of the unit.

The FDJ organization also is active in agitation. Its members are activists, agitators or wall newspaper staff members. They provide information and arguments in membership meetings and in meetings of the Circle of Young Socialists that encourage lively discussion.

Through specific activities such as personal political conversations with FDJ members, youth forums, club meetings, debates, social gatherings and meetings, the FDJ makes its own contribution to interesting and varied agitation.

The trade union organization of the civilian employees concentrates on agitation and political discussions within the work collectives, in arranging good visual agitation that explains political, military and military-economic duties, and in mobilizing the civilian employees for socialist competition. It uses the Schools of Socialist Labor to explain Marxist-Leninist knowledge, party decisions, and current political problems.

The army sport society and the ASV “Vorwärts” sport groups organize varied sport activities and make an active contribution to visual agitation.


[Page copyright © 1999 by Randall Bytwerk. No unauthorized reproduction. My e-mail address is available on the FAQ page.]

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