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East Germany Table of Contents

East Germany

Organization and Structure

The SED is hierarchically organized in the manner of the CPSU (see fig. 9). Party organizations are organized territorially into local, district (Bezirk), regional (Kreis), and national bodies. Like the CPSU, the SED operates on the Leninist principles of democratic centralism, party-mindedness, and criticism, all of which are binding on the membership of the party. In principle, democratic centralism requires full discussion of party programs by lower units and the adherence of lower party bodies to decisions taken by higher party bodies. Party-mindedness denotes the concepts of "party spirit" and "party consciousness," which demand the loyal commitment of every party member to the party program. Criticism and self-criticism require members to recognize their own shortcomings and to remain willing to discuss ways to overcome their faults in open party meetings.

The SED is a mass political organization. In 1986 the SED had approximately 2.3 million members and candidates (nonvoting members); in other words, one of every six citizens over the age of eighteen belonged to the party. Furthermore, the social composition of the party reflected the leadership's efforts to ensure that the proportional representation of various social groups roughly corresponded to the social structure of the society as a whole. In 1986 that breakdown was as follows: 58.1 percent of the members were workers; 4.8 percent were farmers and peasants; 22.4 percent were members of the intelligentsia; and 14.8 percent were other workers. Males constituted some 66 percent of the SED's membership (see The Political Elite , ch. 2).

The educational level of the SED has risen considerably since 1949. By the late 1970s, every third graduate of a university or technical college was a member of the party. Within the SED, slightly fewer than one-third of its members possessed a degree from a university or a technical college. Furthermore, every secretary of the district or county leadership had a degree from one of the higher educational institutions. In May 1984, the Politburo stated that 72.6 percent of the leading cadres had graduated from high school, and 52.4 percent had a diploma from a university or a technical college. Entrance to a university or a technical college, however, is made considerably easier by membership in the SED. Conversely, professional mobility within the party apparatus, as well as within the state apparatus, is still increasingly dependent on the ability of members to acquire advanced degrees.

Data as of July 1987