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East Germany Table of Contents

East Germany

Tenth Party Congress

The Tenth Party Congress, which took place in April 1981, focused on improving the economy, stabilizing the socialist system, achieving success in foreign policy, and strengthening relations with West Germany. Presenting the SED as the leading power in all areas of East German society, General Secretary (the title changed from first secretary in 1976) Honecker emphasized the importance of educating loyal cadres in order to secure the party's position. He announced that more than one-third of all party members and candidates and nearly two-third of the party secretaries had completed a course of study at a university, technical college, or trade school and that four-fifths of the party secretaries had received training in a party school for more than a year. Stating that a relaxation of "democratic centralism" was unacceptable, Honecker emphasized rigid centralism within the party. Outlining the SED's general course, the congress confirmed the unity of East Germany's economic and social policy on the domestic front and its absolute commitment to the Soviet Union in foreign policy. In keeping with the latter pronouncement, the SED approved the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. The East German stance differed from that taken by the Yugoslav, Romanian, and Italian communists, who criticized the Soviet action.

The SED's Central Committee, which during the 1960s had been an advisory body, was reduced to the function of an acclamation body during the Tenth Party Congress. The Politburo and the Secretariat remained for the most part unchanged. In addition to policy issues, the congress focused on the new Five-Year Plan (1981-85), calling for higher productivity, more efficient use of material resources, and better quality products. Although the previous five-year plan had not been fulfilled, the congress again set very high goals. Because it barely went beyond the repetition of previous aims and the continuation of domestic and foreign policies, the Tenth Party Congress has been termed the party congress of continuity.

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The reader may enjoy Carola Stern's Ulbricht: A Political Biography and Heinz Lippmann's Honecker and the New Politics of Europe. Jonathan Steel's Inside East Germany: The State That Came in from the Cold provides a journalist's account. Hartmut Zimmermann's essay "The GDR in the 1970s," in Problems of Communism, March-April 1978, serves as an excellent introduction to the contemporary situation.

For background, Geoffrey Barraclough's The Origins of Modern Germany is a classic study of the late-medieval German past. Germany: 1866-1945, by Gordon A. Craig, represents a recent synthesis of the history of the German nation-state. Fritz Fischer's controversial Germany's Aims in the First World War warrants brief perusal: the author collects a wealth of documentation revealing the political and social context of World War I. The German Dictatorship: The Origins, Structure, and Effects of National Socialism by Karl Dietrich Bracher offers an excellent analysis of Hitler's road to power and the Third Reich. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of July 1987