Developments in the GDR Under Ulbricht 1950-71

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Political Control by the SED

  • Under Ulbricht's leadership the SED began to transform the GDR radically.
  • The SED had the role of guiding people through the transitional phase from from capitalism to socialism.
  • Elections were not genuine expressions of democratic choice; voters were simply presented with a list of government-nominated candidates.
  • The number of seats in the Volkskammer was predetermined and it was considered democratic to maintain the SED's leading role because it provided guidance to the electorate.
  • The SED saw itself as having a clear and essential role in transmitting socialist beliefs to the masses.
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State control of Agriculture and Industry

  • The GDR pursued policies of state ownership of agriculture and industry, which wre modelled on the policies pursued by Stalin in the USSR in the 1930's.
  • In July 1952, at the second party conference, the SED announced that it would be taking more industry and agriculture into state ownership - it stressed that economic priorities woud be with heavy industry.
  • By the late 1950's all energy productiom and major industries were in the hands of the state and many farms had been collectivised.
  • At the end of the GDR's 5 year economic plan in 1955 it had doubled its industrial production.
  • Collectivistaion was followed in order to increase the size of farms and to exploit both machinery and agricultural labour to the full - In spite of human costs it was ultimately successful and productivity increased. Upto 15,000 farmers left for the FRG in the 1950's rather than being forced into collectivisation
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Lack of Support for the GDR

  • Overall morale in the general population was low.
  • There was a desperate shortage of housing, and resentment from small businesses.
  • The SED continued to increase its control and influence over most areas of people's lives and there was a general culture of repression.
  • Some Christian organisations were declared illegal.
  • The USSR urged the SED to try to reduce tension by easing travel between the two Germany's, and to allow some private industries state loans.
  • The USSR believed that this wuld reduce some of the discontent, as well a leave the way more open for the possible reunification of East and West Germany.
  • On 16 June 1953 East German builders working on the new prestigious and propaganda showpiece Stalinallee in east-central Berlin downed their tools in protest at the demand increase in work norms which was not being met with a rise in the standard of living.
  • This began a strike which soon spread across the enture of the GDR.
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The Ministry for State Security (Stasi)

  • In 1950, the GDR parliament passed a law to set upa Ministry for State Security - 'The sword and shield of the party'.
  • Its main function was too use surveillance to prevent disturbances by exposing pockets of oppositiion.
  • It also had power to find and arrest opponents to the GDR government.
  • After the uprising in June 1953, the stasi began to recruit IMs - These were civillians rather than full-time Stasi employees, who were often recuited on a short-term basis and were expected to report back on specific individuals to a Stasi officer.
  • The number of Stasi employees reached 50,000 bybthe late 1960's with approximately 100,000 IMs.
  • This grew under Honecker to nearly 100,000 Stasi employees and approximatey 300,000 IMs by the mid-1980s
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