Country Listing

East Germany Table of Contents

East Germany

Chapter 4. Government and Politics

THE GERMAN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC (East Germany) is organized along the lines of the other East European communist systems that were created at the end of World War II in imitation of the Soviet model. The East German "socialist state" therefore embodies the principles of Marxism-Leninism as applied to specific national conditions. In theory, the principle of democratic centralism serves as the basis for "the realization of the sovereignty of the working people" and as the guiding principle for the construction of the socialist state. As in other Marxist-Leninist systems, the ruling communist party, in this case the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands--SED), determines the goals, policies, and actions of the government.

The formal structure of government, as established by the Constitution of 1968 and the amendments of 1974, remained essentially unchanged in 1987. Constitutionally, the highest organ of state power is the People's Chamber, a unicameral legislature that theoretically controls the executive organs of government. In practice, however, political power is monopolized by the SED. Within the party, power is concentrated in the hands of the Politburo and the Secretariat, the party's two highest organs. As in the Soviet system, the general secretary is first among equals in these two bodies. Erich Honecker has held the top party post since 1971 (replacing Walter Ulbricht as first secretary; the title changed in 1976 to general secretary) and in 1976 also assumed the top state post, chairman of the Council of State, which he continued to hold in 1987. Having received a strong political endorsement from Soviet Mikhail S. Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Honecker was re-elected head of the SED at its Eleventh Party Congress in April 1986.

In the view of the party leadership, the government exists as the instrument through which the party administers the country and implements communist policies and programs. Although four other political parties have been allowed to exist under the "Alliance Policy" (BŁndnispolitik), they have been tightly controlled by and subservient to the ruling communists. The existence of other parties and mass organizations has given the appearance of a pluralist system, but as of mid-1987 there had been no institutionalized political opposition.

Data as of July 1987