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East Germany

Constitution of 1968

At the Seventh Party Congress of the SED in April 1967, Ulbricht called for a new constitution and declared that the existing constitution no longer accorded "with the relations of socialist society and the present level of historical development." A new constitution was needed to conform with the Marxist-Leninist belief in the progression of history and the role of the working class led by the SED. The new constitution was also to reflect the role of the state as the party's main instrument in achieving the goal of a socialist and eventually communist society. A commission in the People's Chamber was tasked in December 1967 to draft a new constitution. Two months later, the commission produced a document, which, after "public debate," was submitted to a plebiscite on April 6, 1968. Approved by a 94.5 percent margin, the new Constitution went into effect three days later. The new Constitution integrated all the constitutional changes that had taken place since 1949 into a new "socialist" framework, but it reduced certain rights provided in the earlier version. The new document unequivocally declared that "the leadership of the state is to be exercised through the working class and its Marxist-Leninist party," the SED. The 1949 constitution had declared Germany to be a "democratic republic," whereas the new one described East Germany as a "socialist state of the German nation." Under the old constitution, power was derived from "the people," while Article 2 of the new Constitution stated that power emanated from the "working people," who were implementing socialism under the leadership of the Marxist-Leninist party.

Significant changes introduced into the 1968 document included Article 6, which committed the state to adhere to the "principles of socialist internationalism" and to devote special attention to its "fraternal ties" with the Soviet Union; Article 9, which based the national economy on the "socialist ownership of the means of production"; Article 20, which under pressure from the churches granted freedom of conscience and belief; Article 21, which maintained that the "basic rights" of citizenship were inseparably linked with "corresponding obligations"; and Article 47, which declared that the principle of "democratic centralism" is the authoritative maxim for the construction of the socialist state.

Data as of July 1987