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The New International, March–April 1952

B. Ess

Stalinism in East Germany

Observations on the Bureaucratic Society


From The New International, Vol. XVIII No. 1, January–February 1952, pp. 9–19.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Whoever has Germany has Europe. – Lenin

At Potsdam, in 1945, the victorious nations divided Germany into zones of influence; this was the expression of a new balance between the powers. Today – a dialectical rounding of the circle – it is acknowledged on every hand that there cannot be any European balance without German unity.

Meanwhile six years have elapsed. Each of the victorious armies brought along with it the political and social system of its country. Now, to the left of the Elbe flourishes a classical bourgeois democracy, while to the right the few hundred thousand capitalists and Junkers, who once gave the country its physiognomy, have been eliminated. In their place, a new ruling stratum has arisen with characteristics of its own, making immense efforts to impress them upon the whole of society.

In these conditions, what has become of the workers, the peasants, the bourgeoisie of the Eastern zone?

What is this new stratum? It does not seem possible to us to put the problem of German unity concretely without giving an answer to these questions, without giving due weight to the accomplished facts of the past six years.

The state of Eastern Germany was born thanks to the balancing-game between the powers; the entire political and social evolution of this half of the country has unfolded under the same auspices. Unable to come to an agreement with the native capitalism, the Russians imported their own system; the Westerners did all they could to prevent them; under the pressure of the struggle, the Russians took measures which they probably would not have taken if their hands had been free.

The Four Stages of Russian Policy in Germany

When the Russians entered Berlin in April 1945, there was no economic life left in the city, razed as it was by the bombings. The inhabitants had already been living in cellars for a week. Water, gas and electricity were no longer working. In most of the districts the baking of bread had been suspended. As a rule, the dead were no longer buried.

In the midst of this atmosphere arrived the soldiers of the Zhukov army, most of them natives of the backward regions of the USSR. Blinded by an understandable desire for vengeance they had been given a free hand by most official quarters. A period of terror followed which lasted a fortnight. Six years afterward the idea of a Russian soldier is still linked in the minds of the Berliners to two expressions: “Uri! Uri!” and “Frau komm!” (“The watch! The watch!” and “Come, woman!”)

The same image holds, except for minor variations, for all the other large cities of Eastern Germany.

At the same time the military authorities undertook the dismantling of the factories. There was a logic in the conduct of the Red Army and, just about the same way that the soldiers thought of watches, the reaction of the leaders was to pick up the machines and bring them to Russia. However, there was more than an instinctive reaction involved: according to former Secretary of State Byrnes, the Russians had been demanding, since the Yalta conference, the transfer of 80 per cent of German industry on account of reparations.

The first year of the Russian occupation constituted what we shall call the stage of dismantling. It was carried out in the first few months in a veritably frenzied manner. Valuable machines lay in the rain in uncovered cars; there were cases where precision instruments which had to be kept at constant temperature were left for three or four months on station platforms.

The misfortune of the social reforms of Eastern Germany was that they were carried out in this atmosphere. What good was the nationalization of the factories when the best machines had been carried off? It could even be asked, oftentimes, what good was the land given to the “new peasants” (Neubauern) when the equipment had been taken away, when industry could not supply replacements, when there were neither houses nor stables, nor even the means of building them, when there was no assurance that the land given you by an alien and hated army would not bring you trouble later on ...

To be sure, the dismantlings corresponded to an imperious necessity for devastated Russia, and yet, looking backward, it seems certain that they could have proceeded differently: 75 per cent of the “objects” dismantled were lost. Above all the workers of Eastern Germany, no matter how “Prussianized” they were, were not hostile, out of principle, either to the reforms or to the USSR. Among the Berlin workers, during the months of March and April 1945, there was a sort of well-meant wait-and-see attitude: “The Russians are workers,” they would say, “they won’t do any harm to us.” Six months later there was not even a trace left of this state of mind.

It is essential to bear these circumstances in mind if the unfoldings of political life in the Russian zone is to be understood. The regime installed by the Red Army? There is a void all around it. All its measures had to be carried out in the face of apathy, antagonism, general ill-will. Even when intentions were good, everything was perverted at the level of practical application. Police measures, control, recontrol and super-control became a daily affair.

In June 1946, the Soviet command declared that it was abandoning dismantlings. At the same time, it proclaimed as “Soviet corporations” (SAG) two hundred plants, including the largest, the most modern and the most profitable. We are now in the second stage of the occupation: the dismantlings stop (more or less); levies are made on current production. In the Soviet zone there remained some 40 per cent of pre-war production capacity; 25 per cent had been destroyed by bombs, 35 per cent had been dismantled.

About this period that we set – necessarily in a somewhat arbitrary way – between the middle of 1946 and the end of 1948, we will say only that it was marked by a great effort at reconstruction and by a permanent state of famine among the population. The Soviet zone was the only land in Europe where deaths exceeded births: 10.7 births (per thousand of the population) against 22.8 deaths in 1946; 13.3 births against 18.9 deaths in 1947; 12.7 births against 15.1 deaths in 1948. Allowing for the population difference, there were, between 1945 and 1949, 400,000 more deaths in the Rus sian zone than in Western Germany and 200,000 fewer births. (The figures are from Western sources. Demographic statistics are not published in the Eastern zone.)

The third stage of the Soviet occupation we set in 1949–1950: the two- year plan. The SAG continue to subsist. Levies are still made on current production, but everything has become less severe: reparations are reduced by 50 per cent; 74 SAG are turned back, and then 32 others. Reinvestment is begun again in industry and in agriculture. There is almost enough to eat, and in the last months of 1950 the 1936 level of industrial production is reached.

The present period is the fourth. Eastern Germany has formally been a sovereign state since the end of 1949; in reality, the occupation continues, but equality with the other “People’s Democracies” is now in effect. The USSR has realized that it is better not to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, that it is more profitable to let Germany produce. Impoverished as it is, the industrial production of the Soviet zone exceeds by some 50 per cent the value of the production of Poland or of Czechoslovakia, which are fairly close to each other.

The five-year plan which has gone into effect this year provides for the creation of a large steel-making combine on the Oder. The steel produced will be transformed into heavy machinery. The plan seeks to make Eastern Germany the supply center of this key product for the whole Soviet bloc.

Certain signs already indicate a fifth stage: one in which Eastern Germany would be the first among the “People’s Democracies.” Doesn’t this third of Germany already play the same role in the Balkans that Germany always had? Doesn’t it send machines and specialists from East Berlin to Bucharest and Sofiia? The terrible blunder of the first years of the occupation by the USSR was not to realize the accomplished fact constituted by several centuries of industrial civilization. The productivity of labor in Eastern Germany has not yet reached the pre-war level, but it is certain that it is already the highest there is in the whole of the Soviet world.

The Western Pressure

It is out of a realization of this fact that the USSR has, from one stage to another, transformed its Eastern German policy. Another factor, certainly much more important, has been its desire to influence the country as a whole.

Actually, it was impossible to continue the dismantlings or the huge levies upon production when Western Germany was staging a comeback or simply when there were no dismantlings on the other side of the Elbe. There is a striking correspondence between the stages of the Russian policy in the Eastern zone and the international events. Were not the first measures for the creation of the bizone taken in 1946? Was it not in March 1946 that the conflict began between the USSR and the Western powers over the level of German production? (The USSR then proposed three million tons of steel and England eleven!) Is not 1948 the year of the Marshall Plan, of the monetary reform in Germany, of the blockade and the counter-blockade? Is not 1950, finally, the year when the rearmament of Western Germany is put on the agenda?

There is still another way in which the West exerts an influence on the life of the Eastern zone. The existence of a capitalist Germany, even still more perhaps the existence of a bourgeois Berlin, vulnerable in appearance, in the middle of the “People’s Democracy” which is being built up, reminds people that the political systems are relative, that their situation is the product of an equilibrium that cannot last indefinitely.

We will have occasion to come back to the question of the influence of West Berlin, an alien element in the midst of the Soviet zone. At this point let us remember only this: that after the monetary reform, in spite of unemployment, the people there lived better than anyone in the Soviet zone; that everyone wanted to sell or buy something in West Berlin; that there was relative freedom there for the press and even for books; and that, at least as much as East Berlin, West Berlin remained the capital and the window on the world of Eastern Germany.

It was the leader of the Potsdam Communist organization who best of all expressed the feeling of the leading circles of the Russian zone: “What’s to be done when any saboteur whatsoever can sit down on a train and be in the American sector in ten minutes?” And there was the Soviet officer who said during the blockade: “West Berlin is a dangerous blemish on the body of the Soviet zone; it’s a matter of squeezing it in order to dry it up.”

The social development of Eastern Germany in the course of the years has been complicated and hectic: 150 years of capitalism in its feudal-Prussian form, twelve years of Hitlerism, on which now is superimposed, without popular participation, a Communist regime – very combative, to be sure, and holding many trump-cards, but shaken, hectic, undermined by proximity of the bourgeois democracies, which in a thousand ways makes contact with the still-warm lava of the old world, underneath the Popular Democracy outside shell.

II. The German Bourgeoisie Under the Communist Regime

If one seeks to build socialism upon poverty, all the old crap comes back. – Marx

The resistance of the bourgeoisie has multiplied by its fall and its power rests upon the force of habit. – Lenin, 1920

At the end of six years of the Stalinist regime in Eastern Germany, private property still participates to the extent of some 20 per cent in industrial production, and what is even more important, some 50 per cent of the workers still work in private enterprises – a situation that is unique in the world of the People’s Democracies of Europe. Eastern Germany is not, to be sure, a People’s Democracy, but rather an “Anti-Fascist Democratic Regime.” Ask a Communist to explain to you what this sociological novelty is; he cannot. An “anti-fascist regime” really has no significance.

But listen attentively to the language of the Communists of Berlin and then to that of their comrades of Prague or of Budapest, for example, and you will understand. There the bourgeoisie is detrimental as such; here there are good bourgeois and bad ones those who were Nazis and those who were not. From this standpoint, the SED (the name of the Stalinist party in Germany) is three years behind its brother parties. As a matter of fact, back in 1948 – the year of the complete break with the West – Dimitroff defined the People’s Democracy as a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Up to that time it had been a category as vague as the “Anti-Fascist Regime.”

But for Eastern Germany the situation is different. They want to influence the capitalist West of the country and to act on a national basis. The expropriations which are undertaken are justified because the owners were “bad Germans,” because they led the country to ruin. After every wave of expropriations, the SED takes good care to say that it is not against private property in principle, on the contrary, it is its best defender if it is honestly acquired.

In sum, there was no clear ideological break, beyond the Elbe, between the old Germany and the new. They fought the bourgeoisie but not with weapons from the Marxian arsenal; they did it on the eminently bourgeois ground of patriotism. They did it, too, by confusing terms, without wishing to define the fronts, without mobilizing the masses, thanks to administrative measures.

To be sure, the regime can boast at the moment that, while remaining on national grounds, it reduced the powerful (and very reactionary!) bourgeoisie of this part of the country to a shadow, to a caricature of what it was. But it is precisely this lack of clear break with the past, this lack of revolution, that the regime is paying for, because the bourgeois spirit has not been broken with, either; and it is more alive than ever in the heart of the nation.

The “Utilization of the Bourgeoisie”

The expropriations were carried out in waves: the banks right after the occupation, industry in December 1945; fourteen months later, in February 1947, an entirely new series of industrial enterprises. Than, one after the other, the Saxon-Anhalt mines, the movies of the whole zone, wholesale trade, a number of textile enterprises in Saxony, etc. It was easy to find a reason for the expropriation; most of the big German industrialists and merchants had supported the Nazi regime or made war profits.

The remaining private enterprises have been grouped together under the aegis of Regional Bureaus for Industry and Commerce, directed on a parity basis by the administration and by the enterprisers. It was the intention, on the one hand, to control, and, on the other, to integrate the private sector into the plan. The means was to be the distribution of commodities according to the requirements of industrialists or merchants.

This idea of “neutralizing” a hostile social class, of utilizing it by means of propaganda and organization, was not new in the Stalinist ideology; the “Popular Fronts” of the 1930s as well as the colonial tactics of the 1920s were connected with it. To be sure, the methods utilized were more important now. They sufficed to shatter the political strength of capitalism, but as for making it serve the regime, as for “utilizing” it, they were as much a failure as ever.

Capitalism’s Revenge

The country was living in dire need. An editor attached to a ministry would get from three to four hundred marks per month while the smallest industrialist, before the monetary reform, would juggle hundreds of thousands. Cadres devoted to the regime were rare. The distribution bureaus, aimed at controlling the private enterprisers, very quickly became transformed into their tools: they allocated more raw materials to them than they needed, they closed their eyes while industrialists and merchants directed the flow of production to the black market or while they sold to West Berlin.

Naturally, severe sanctions were often taken. The distribution bureaus were replaced by contract bureaus (Vertragskontore) between private and nationalized enterprises. But the results were not much better. Last year, the Saxony government organized at Dresden an exposition of “gifts” offered by private enterprisers to functionaries to buy their good will. The modest package of cigarettes could be seen there alongside the bundle of banknotes. Involuntarily one asked himself: What were the “gifts” accepted which did not figure in the exposition?

In reality, the spirit of personal and group “wangling” [debrouillage] is general in the Soviet zone, and at the beginning of the occupation necessity caused it to penetrate up to the summits of the administration. Thus, Saxony-Anhalt was for some time exploited by its Soviet zone neighbors, which had coal, textile raw materials and chemical products delivered to them without supplying anything in exchange. Could that have been because Saxony-Anhalt was the only land in Eastern Germany with a Liberal- Democratic president of the Council? But between governments ruled by the SED the procedure was the same: in the spring of 1947 Thuringia sent Saxony spinning yarn; the latter, instead of returning it in the form of cloth, turned the finished product over to the Russians as reparations and thus saved itself the levy on its own properties.

Neither was it rare for a private enterprise to be torn apart among, for example, the association for peasants’ mutual aid (V.d.g.B.), the cooperatives, and a municipality, on the theory that it would favorably round out the respective domains.

Like the private enterprises the nationalized enterprises also dealt with the black market and with “matters of compensation” which were strictly forbidden: at the beginning they were forced to do it simply in order to live, in order thereby to fulfill or surpass the plan. Often these operations were undertaken to satisfy a tragic necessity: “Those who are in the administration ought to imagine what it means to fill a blast furnace by the light of a flashlight” – this is what one could read at the end of 1947 in the Communist journal of Thuringia under the signature of a “Workers’ Correspondent.” And the letter ends with an urgent appeal to provide electric bulbs.

The lot of a manager of a nationalized enterprise was not the most enviable one in the first years of the occupation: he had to make shift to feed and clothe his workers, for otherwise they could not produce; he had to obtain raw materials and equipment, official deliveries often being defective or late. He could do so only through the black or gray market and often indeed in West Berlin; and for that matter, he also had to sell his products on the black market. But if he was discovered, these operations cost him his job and often enough meant jail; if he did not accomplish these things, it was almost impossible for him to fulfill the plan, and the consequences for him could be the same. Naturally, these “compensation operations” were accompanied by a great deal of corruption in the administrative and economic cadres.

Thus the individualistic spirit of capitalism largely militated against the official collectivist spirit in the very heart of the nationalized sector. The bourgeoisie had, of course, suffered a serious defeat, and politically it meant almost nothing any more. But, in its own way, it was taking its revenge. The situation in the Eastern zone once more confirmed the idea that poverty lends itself to planning very badly and that it naturally gives birth to individualism.

Since 1949–50, the situation has certainly been less tragic. The workers nearly manage to satisfy their hunger; there are no more “cold wars”, between provincial governments; “business egoism,” as it is called, has also become less dramatic, but nevertheless it exists; it is the frenetic race to surpass the plan which is now the cause.

They hide reserves if the enterprise possesses any, they falsify the accounts for this purpose, they falsify the profits, they do not turn them over at the request of their administrative superiors but reinvest them in the plant in accordance with their own plan. They hide surplus machines rather than lend them to a plant in the same branch of industry which needs them: glory and material advantages are assured to the plant which comes out first in the competitive race.

These individualistic faults are so important that they are called the main danger to the plan. Some months ago, the East Berlin Council of Ministers solemnly gave the Ministry of the Interior the task of taking legal action against all investments outside of the plan in the nationalized enterprises.

Recently Morgen, the journal of the Liberal Democratic Party of the Soviet zone, which represents whatever still remains of private capitalism, wrote, with the somber satisfaction of the conquered who see their own principles being adopted by the conqueror, that the latter is taking a leaf out of the book of the capitalist system of distribution by giving rewards to shock workers, to plant managers who distinguish themselves, by assigning to their personal account a part of the economies in materials which they make in the course of production, etc.

In spite of all, one should not get a false conception of the situation in the Soviet zone. Capitalism suffered a serious defeat there: politically it counts for very little, and economically scarcely more. In its place a collectivist-type economy continually expands and in spite of everything becomes a little more stabilized each year. But because of the poverty, be cause capitalism was not combated as such, because some of its methods were adopted, the capitalist mores and spirit live on among the masses, and penetrate into and undermine the nationalized sector. There is still in the Soviet zone, we must not forget, a wide stratum of small businessmen and artisans and a whole peasant class of individual procedures.

Finally, the people are aware that the last word has not been said; they do not believe in the stability of their situation; within their immediate range of vision is capitalist Western Germany and West Berlin, with many faults certainly, but also many advantages, and above all the advantage of being richer and also closer to what the mass of average Germans have always known. This is still the greatest appeal of the bourgeois spirit.

III. The German Workers Under the Communist Regime

The cadres decide everything. – Stalin

The working class is certainly the key social category in Eastern Germany. In the last analysis, the regime will succeed or fail depending upon the attitude of the workers.

It is not a question of a passing sympathy or antagonism to the government as in the Western democracies but of something deeper; Does the worker consider the nationalized factory to be his own, does the laborer have “a new attitude toward his labor,” as the regime (sometimes) asserts? Or does he rather simply try to sell his labor power as dearly as possible? A decisive question, if there is any, for a collectivist-type regime.

Now, the fact is that up to the present the majority of the workers have had the second attitude, as everywhere else. There is, however, an essential difference from the situation in the capitalist West: there, the working class constitutes the opposition par excellence, it is the other possibility; here, everyone knows that the other alternative is capitalism.

From this flows an extremely complex situation: on the one hand, the working class maintains its own identity: as elsewhere, down deep it maintains its hope in the “coming of the workers’ rule”; on the other hand it is, in its majority, ready to ally itself with the capitalists against the regime, and does so in fact whenever it is profitable to do so. Finally, from various motives, a gradually increasing minority of workers who support the regime tend to move toward the summits of society, whereas at the opposite pole (a serious argument against the regime) another section of workers is in the process of sinking lower, of making up a veritable category of sub-proletarians.

Workers and Management Bureaucracy

With the retreat, the relations between workers and Communist managers in Eastern Germany appear to be really under an evil sign. When the Russians came in April–May 1945, there were many old Communists and Socialists who greeted them with flags waving. In Berlin, in the workers’ sections, one could often see the red flag side by side with the white flag of surrender.

As soon as the early days of terror had passed, the workers gathered at their factories which had been abandoned by the owners, and spontaneously, without being paid, set about to put them back into shape. In spite of everything, among the working class lived the hope that a new life was possible. Often the skill and tenacity of the German worker performed wonders. But the dismantlings had been too sweeping and too senseless. Often a factory which had been restored with great pain by the workers was dismantled by the Red Army.

From the winter of 1945–6 on, there was a complete reversal in the workers’ attitude: all turned toward the methods of individual “wangling.” Up to 50 per cent of the population of the cities lived by the black market. In the factories the workers now stole everything, including the doors and windows, in order to use them as firewood.

The Communist regime installed by the Red Army not only approved the dismantlings but (Stalinist logic) displayed enthusiasm for them. Buchwitz, leading Communist in Saxony, declared: “I am happy about every machine and every carload of goods which goes out to the USSR, since that strengthens the fatherland of socialism.” Since then, the attitude of the workers toward the regime has changed little, basically. Certainly they operate less on the black market, but the large majority have turned away from public affairs to occupy themselves, as usual, exclusively with their own.

However, since 1945 the Communist leaders have made unceasing efforts to reinterest the workers in public life, to link the regime with the masses, to convince the workers that there was something new in the relations of production. A study ought to be written on this question, for the episodes are rich in lessons on the sociology of the popular democracies.

The first big attempt was the Betriebsräte (works councils): they were elected by the workers; they were to manage the factory on the same level as management; in the view of the regime, they were to link the workers with the policies of the party. The workers did not oppose the regime directly or on general questions. But in daily practise, they were able to transform the Betriebsräte into their own instruments and into a regular tool for the sabotage of planning. The councils occupied themselves almost exclusively in obtaining food supplies for the workers, and, to this end, engaged in barter and black-market operations with the products of the enterprise. Therefore, on the initiative of the Party, they dissolved works councils in November 1948, after arranging for the adoption of thousands of workers’ resolutions demanding this step.

Their role was handed to the trade- union committees of the plants, which the party controlled much better. But under the pressure of the workers, the latter most often took the same road as the Betriebsräte. Or, when they united with the plant management to raise the norms, to make the workers work more, the latter made a void around them. Still, after having proclaimed that the workers’ right to management was more than ever in effect, through the plant trade-union committees, the central organ of the Party (Neuer Weg), in March 1950, warned them in the following words: “Let them understand that the responsibility for the realization of the plan and of production is in the hands of management.” They thus returned to the tested principles of individual management of the factory.

Henceforth, the orientation changed, To make the workers produce, they oriented themselves more and more toward the system of bonuses and sought to create a Stakhanovist movement. To tie the workers to the regime, collective contracts were discussed and put into operation in the plants – first, between the factory management and the union representing the workers; since last June-July, between the factory as a whole, management included, and the given branch of nationalized industry.

To be sure, thanks to bonuses and the Stakhanovists, the regime was able to register an appreciable increase in the productivity of labor. But the collective contracts were not taken seriously by the workers. Or rather, especially for the latter, they were taken seriously only from the standpoint of each individual’s commitment. But as for creating new relations in the factory and a new attitude by the worker to his labor, everything remained as before.

However, production had increased in the Eastern zone. Soviet reparations decreased, the two-year plan was successfully accomplished, poverty was no longer so tragic. Hand in hand with this, a process of crystallization set in among the working masses: on the one hand, a minority of adult workers (the Stakhanovists) and a very important section of the youth oriented toward the regime; on the other hand, the majority of factory workers adopted a clearer and clearer attitude of opposition.

We will return to the question of the Stakhanovists and the youth in another article. With regard to the working-class opposition, let us make clear here that, since about the beginning of 1950, there has been a change in factory trade-union meetings: as in the past, the workers keep their mouths shut when friendship for the USSR, national front, etc., are under discussion, but they now intervene vigorously whenever it is a question of norms, bonuses or wages. For the first time, last Christmas, there was a real general movement of protest in the factories of the Eastern zone – the regime had made known its intention not to pay the traditional holiday bonuses: it had to retreat. The same movement was repeated on May Day. Last June the largest chemical plant in the Soviet zone saw a three-day strike over discussions on the norms and wages to be written into the collective contracts.

The Working Class and the Capitalist Opposition

Nearly half the workers of Eastern Germany still work in private enterprises; these are small and medium factories in light industry using much labor but little invested capital in machines or buildings.

Labor relations between capitalists and workers, right in the middle of the Soviet world, present a very interesting picture: it is a case of “superimposed” relations, where the old relations between social categories live on, deep down, with their contradictions; they are only covered up and modified by the new ones.

Talking to workers in the nationalized or private sector of Germany, you discover that, if in general they are hostile to the new regime, they like wise regard a return to the old state of affairs with very mixed sentiments. In this respect they differ essentially from the capitalists who still exist in their country.

However, in the private sector, there is often a real union sacrée against the regime between bosses and workers. Thus in autumn 1946 when a referendum to approve the nationalizations took place in Saxony, the Betriebsräte of the Daimler-Benz factories demanded that their enterprises be stricken from the nationalization lists and they prepared to hold a conference for this purpose. In numerous cases, when a meeting of the personnel of a factory was asked to vote for nationalization, the great majority abstained. Again, lastly, there were repeated cases in East Berlin where nationalizations were put through later: at the meeting of Kodak factory personnel, which has a tradition of trade-union struggle, only 7 out of several hundred workers and employees present raised their hands in favor of nationalization; the others kept still.

Although the regime gives advantages to nationalized enterprises, very often the workers prefer to work for a boss. In fact, what happens is that the latter gives his workers something “under the table” which doubles their legal wages. In turn, the boss “wangles”: he routes his products to the black market or he sells them secretly in West Berlin, and the trade-union committee which is supposed to watch him shuts its eyes and, if necessary, covers up for him. There were cases of clear agreements between trade-union committees and bosses to deceive the Communist authorities: the trade union declared, for example, that the enterprise needed a new canteen or nursery; the boss built it in exchange for help from the trade-union committee in “proving” that he was therefore not making profits and he thus avoided paying taxes.

In its resistance to the regime in Eastern Germany, the working class, then, could rarely resort to its own methods of struggle – the strike, collective forms of struggle. Much more usually, it resorted to individual or group “wangling,” and it is on these grounds that it comes into collision with the system in power. Necessity imposes these forms of struggle on the working class. Here it finds an ally, the bourgeoisie. Finally, the working class – “the negation of capitalism,” to use a term from the Marxist vocabulary – was itself a product of bourgeois society; and individualism – “elbowing” and “wangling” – was as close to it as the strike, for example. After having been on the verge of being integrated into the system for several months in 1945, the basic nucleus of the workers has become an alien element in it.

In fact, the working masses have fallen back to the attitude of watchful waiting. Deep down, it maintains its individuality, its hopes and its reservations for the future; in the present it tries to live. Like the bulk of the population, the working masses do not have the impression that the last word has been said, that its situation is definitive. For the present, however, the alliance with the bourgeoisie against the Communist regime in power superficially blurs its individuality, gives the impression that there is a national union against the regime. The regime, however, indefatigably tries to corrode the working class, to reattach it to itself, to convince it that its hopes are being realized; and in the case of the Stakhanovist movement and, above all, of the youth movement, it has had an appreciable success.

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