Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview

cles. The major task of all functionaries consisted of ideological work, that is, propaganda on behalf of the party. They were also expected to execute directives issued by the higher leaders.

When Ulbricht was ousted from the Politburo, he was smoothly eased out. He remained the honorary chairman of the Socialist Unity party and continued to head the National Defense Council until 1972. He also remained chairman of the Council of State until his death in 1973. Erich Honecker's (see Honecker, Erich) supporters included Hermann Axen, Werner Filfe, Kurt Hager, Heinz Hoffmann, Erich Mielke (see Mielke, Erich) and others in the Politburo (By the 1980s, the name had been changed to the Presidium). All these men were hard-line, dogmatic communists who had considerable experience in party, state, and military administration. Willy Stoph (see Stoph, Willy), the President of East Germany, also had his own faction within the Presidium, while a small number of people who did not belong to either faction were even more dogmatic than Honecker.


Bibliography

Grote Manfred, "The Socialist Unity Party of Germany," in Stephen Fischer-Galati, ed. The Communist Parties of Eastern Europe ( New York, 1979); Honecker Erich, From My Life ( Oxford, 1981); Lipman Heinz, Honecker and the New Politics of Europe ( London, 1973); Wallace Ian, The GDR under Honecker ( Dundee, 1981).

Constitutions of East Germany. The East German state had three constitutions during its relatively short history; one was enacted in 1949, another was instituted in 1968, and a third was declared in 1974. All three documents really served the purposes of propaganda since most of their provisions existed only on paper.

The 1949 constitution was partly copied from the constitution of the Weimar Republic of 1919. It contained provisions for a People's Chamber ( Volkskammer) whose deputies were elected from a single list statewide, and an assembly in which the five regions ( Lander) of East Germany were represented. These two houses constituted the East German parliament. The state president was elected by the joint meeting of the parliament and could be removed by a vote of two-thirds of the deputies. Laws originated in the People's Chamber. It also elected the government on the basis of recommendations of the largest party. The Chamber's 400 members were reelected every four years. In real life, the parliament had little influence on politics. It met only a few days each year, and it simply robber-stamped the decisions made by the party leaders. In 1952, the constitution was modified. The regions ( Lander) were abolished and were replaced by fourteen districts ( Bezirke). These had no legislative power even on paper. The government was now called the Council of Ministers. In 1954 and 1958, further modifications were made in the constitution. A presidency was established to head the Council of State. It carried on governmental functions between sessions of the chamber. The Council of Ministers now had the right to issue decrees with the force of law.

The 1968 constitution brought East German laws in line with Soviet law. The

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