East Germany Table of Contents
The Politburo is the party's highest decision-making body. It addresses the fundamental political problems of the party, state, economy, and culture, and it is responsible for formulating domestic, foreign, military, and security policies. The Politburo normally meets once a week, and although its meetings are conducted in secret, other members of the Central Committee, the Secretariat, and members of the Presidium of the Council of Ministers are admitted to the proceedings. Meetings are chaired by General Secretary Honecker, and decisions are arrived at by a consensus vote, although certain individuals within the Politburo, particularly long-standing members, play a major or even dominant role in determining the positions and decisions of the executive body. The Politburo is required to inform the Central Committee about the various personnel and policy issues and problems discussed during its weekly sessions. At the regular plenums of the Central Committee, held at least once every six months, one or more members of the Politburo report on issues discussed in Politburo sessions. These reports are subsequently discussed by the Central Committee membership and are then published in an abbreviated form in the SED official daily, Neues Deutschland.
The Politburo is composed of the highest officials of the party, the state, the security organs, the largest mass organizations and, unlike the Politburo of the CPSU, all ten members of the Secretariat, which directs the party apparatus through the Central Committee departments. Between 1976 and early 1984, the only additions to the ranks of the Politburo were Günter Schabowski, then the chief editor of Neues Deutschland, who became a candidate member at the Tenth Party Congress in 1981; and Egon Krenz, who was appointed in 1983 and made a Central Committee secretary at the same time. Krenz, as the youngest member of the Politburo, replaced Paul Verner as the unofficial number two man in the party leadership. After his induction into the two top party organs, Krenz became increasingly visible at Honecker's side, fueling speculation that the SED chief had already designated him as the heir apparent. In May 1984, four high-ranking officials, three of whom were already candidates, were made full members of the Politburo: Werner Jarowinsky, deputy minister of trade and supply; Günther Kleiber, deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers and an expert on agriculture and an occasional emissary to the Middle East; Schabowski, editor-in-chief of Neues Deutschland; and Herbert Haber, the SED's expert on relations with West Germany. In contrast to Jarowinsky, who had served as a candidate for twenty-one years, Haber became a full member directly, bypassing candidate status. The promotion of Jarowinsky and Kleiber raised the level of economic expertise in the Politburo. Also named to the Secretariat was Konrad Naumann, a full member of the Politburo and then head of the SED's East Berlin party organization. It was announced that Verner, veteran member of both the Politburo and the Secretariat, was relinquishing his post because of illness. Three weeks later, Krenz and Günter Mittag were made deputy chairmen of the Council of State, East Germany's "collective presidency," chaired by Honecker.
These new appointments significantly strengthened Honecker's position as undisputed leader of the party and appeared intended to strengthen his commitment to détente with West Germany. However, at the Eleventh SED Central Committee Plenum on November 22-23, 1985, it was announced that Naumann and Haber had been dropped from the Politburo and the Secretariat "for reasons of health." Although Haber departed largely because of health problems, Naumann's removal was probably politically motivated. Known for his opposition to Honecker in several key areas of domestic and foreign policy, Naumann enjoyed backing from Moscow and possessed a long record as a hardliner in his approach to relations with West Germany and his opposition to the SED's policies on culture and religion. Naumann's political demise continued when three days later he was replaced by Schabowski as East Berlin's party chief. Naumann's removal eliminated Honecker's chief rival and further strengthened the East German leader's position. In November 1986, the Politburo consisted of twenty-two full and five candidate members. The Politburo also included the head (Erich Mückenberger) of the Central Party Control Commission, an appeals board for issues related to SED membership rights. The mass organizations have been represented in the
Politburo by the head of the labor unions and the head of the youth organization, both having considerable experience as party officials.
At the Eleventh Party Congress in April 1986, there were few surprises among those elected to join the ranks of the Politburo. The decisive changes had already been made at the party's Eleventh Central Committee plenum in November 1985, when Naumann and Haber were dropped from the Politburo and Secretariat. Although there were no further dismissals at the congress, four new full members were added: Heinz Kessler, minister of defense and a Honecker confidant, and three regional secretaries, Werner Eberlein, Siegfried Lorenz, and Hans-Joachim Böhme, all experienced technocrats. These moves, as well as CPSU general secretary Mikhail S. Gorbachev's strong political endorsement of Honecker at the congress, helped the East German party chief reinforce his strong position in the top party ranks. In 1987 the first secretaries of two district party organizations (Berlin and Cottbus) were members of the Politburo. As a result of the personnel changes, six districts were represented in the Politburo by their party heads; the three new district representatives were Schabowski and Politburo candidates Gerhard Müller (Erfurt), and Werner Walde (Cottbus). Rejuvenation of the ranks of the Politburo was clearly in progress. However, the only two women members, Ingeborg Lange and Margaret Müller, candidates for thirteen and twenty-three years, respectively, were not selected to full membership.
Data as of July 1987
East Germany Table of Contents