The GDR under Honecker (1971-1989) Part I

By | October 26, 2021

On May 3, 1971 (official announcement) E. Honecker was elected First Secretary (since 1976 General Secretary) of the Central Committee of the SED and chairman of the National Defense Council after an intrigue of the Politburo, which he was instrumental in driving, as Ulbricht’s successor. After Ulbricht’s death (August 1st, 1973) Stoph took over the office of State Council Chairman, Horst Sindermann (* 1915, † 1990; SED) that of Prime Minister. With the election of Honecker as Chairman of the State Council and Stoph Renewed appointment as Prime Minister on October 29th, 1976, the heads of state and government were reorganized again. Under the maxim of “shaping the developed socialist society”, which had already been proclaimed at the end of the 1960s, economic reform was broken off and social policy was given greater weight. Honeckers However, the concept of the »unity of economic and social policy« could not be reconciled with an innovative momentum in business and science. In February 1972, the party and state leadership decided on further nationalizations, including those of companies that were already working with limited state participation. On 1.1.1976 the civil code of 19.6.1975, on 1.1.1978 the new labor code of 16.6.1977, on 25.3.1982 a military service law (sanctioned the military instruction introduced in 1978) came into force. Learn more about Germany and Europe, please click

With the treaty policy of the Federal Republic of Germany towards the USSR, the GDR, Poland and Czechoslovakia, initiated by Chancellor W. Brandt (SPD) in 1970, a new phase also began in intra-German relations.

After the conclusion of the “Four Power Agreement on Berlin” (1971; Berlin Agreement), the transit agreement (supplemented by agreements between the Senate of West Berlin and the GDR) and the transport agreement on September 22, 1972 were signed. On December 21, 1972, both German governments signed the basic treaty in which they mutually recognized each other – in the event of opposing views in the legal and political assessment of the German question (for example, the Federal Republic of Germany did not recognize a special citizenship of the GDR in addition to the uniform German citizenship [ German; nationality ]). This development found international expression with the accession of the two German states to the UN (September 18, 1973).

In the course of the German-German agreements since the early 1970s, most countries in the world recognized the GDR diplomatically. The GDR’s foreign policy towards the communist world, led since 1975 by Foreign Minister Oskar Fischer (* 1923), continued the practice of friendship treaties. At international conferences (e.g. at the CSCE and its follow-up conferences or in the negotiations on the MBFR) she supported the views and diplomatic initiatives of the USSR in matters of disarmament and détente. In relation to the Third World, the GDR initially sought v. a. to promote their recognition under international law, then to promote the expansion of the “world socialist system” at the expense of the “capitalist camp”; In doing so, it provided the communist states of Africa (e.g. Ethiopia, Angola, Mozambique), Asia (e.g. People’s Republic of Yemen) and Central America (Cuba, Nicaragua) as well as liberation movements (e.g. PLO, SWAPO, ANC) with military-technical or economic and personal help.

The To shield the GDR from influences from the Federal Republic of Germany through a policy of “demarcation” from the Federal Republic of Germany. This ultimately led to the abandonment of the term “German nation” in the constitutional amendment of September 27, 1974, in which the irrevocable link between the GDR and the USSR was established (in force from October 7, 1974). As early as 1973 the “Kulturbund der DDR” opposed the idea of ​​the continued existence of a unified German cultural nation. inner-German border (“Grenzordnung” of September 1, 1972). The party and state leadership met demands for more freedom or criticism of “actually existing socialism” with restrictive measures. a. Law tightening. Since the SED, after a phase of temporary cultural liberalization (1971-73), took an increasingly harder course in domestic politics from around 1974 onwards against critics, which in the course of the 1970s led to numerous house arrests (e.g. R. Havemann ), convictions (e.g. R. Bahro ) as well as expatriations and deportations to the Federal Republic of Germany (e.g. W. Biermann, 13./16. 11. 1976; Protest letters from numerous writers) led, more and more artists, writers, actors and others left. Intellectuals of the GDR. At the same time, however, an initially strongly marginalized citizens’ movement began to form more and more clearly, which increasingly revealed the social deficits; an independent peace movement also developed (early center, inter alia, Jena). The introduction of a “social peace service” called for by Protestant Christians as an alternative to military service (1979 initiative by Pastor Christoph Wonneberger, among others [* 1944] in Dresden) rejected the party and state leadership strictly. With a peace demonstration in Dresden on February 13, 1982, despite strict countermeasures by the State Security Service (Stasi) i.a. State organs over 7,000 people took part, for the first time a non-state mass rally revealed the potential for protest that had arisen among the population. A relatively free, self-determined “underground culture” (“scene”) established itself in various large and small towns in the GDR, often based in demolished areas. It signaled – shaped by the urge for freedom, often in loose solidarity communities, almost self-sufficient circles of life and partly also through conscious anti-sociality – the massive exit from the standardized and dogmatized life. In addition to the churches, the »clubs«, as cultural venues, also became centers of (halfway) free discussion.

The GDR under Honecker 1