862.5043/10–745: Telegram

The United States Political Adviser for Germany (Murphy) to the Secretary of State

708. At Oct 4 meeting of Kommandatura a proposal was considered and strongly urged by the Russians to permit the Provisional Committee of the Free Trade unions of greater Berlin to hold a city-wide conference75 for purpose of electing by secret ballot a governing board, the delegates to the conference to be previously chosen by secret ballot elections in the shops. The elected governing board would then draw up and submit to the Allied Kommandatura the organization’s constitution and rules governing selection of Verwaltungsbezirk76 trade union committees.

As the Dept is aware, the Freier Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund77 came into being last June under Russian occupation and the Provisional Committee thereof was elected more or less by acclaim. The committee is comprised of four Communists, two Social Democrats and two Christian Democrats. It has shown a strong desire to expand its activities throughout Germany but was precluded from doing so in the American and British zones by reason of our so-called grass-roots policy. It did, however, operate for a time quite freely in the Russian zone outside Berlin but now ostensibly confines its activities to Greater Berlin.

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The committee has been strongly urging the Kommandatura to permit elections and regularize the existence of the confederation which has been formally recognized only by the Russians but permitted to function within the other three zones. The Social Democrat members have remarked privately that despite the fact that trade unions should be non-political in nature, they feel that elections held under apparently free conditions would be manipulated by the Communists to insure a dominant position for themselves.

Apparently aware of this possibility, the Kommandatura, under British urging but with American and French support, in letters dated Sept 17 and 28 laid down stringent conditions under which elections might be approved. These included advance submission for approval of the proposed constitution and by-laws as well as detailed plans of the election machinery. The Provisional Committee submitted much of the desired information which was considered at Thursday’s meeting of the Kommandatura. The Committee’s report explained why it was impractical to submit the text of the proposed constitution and by-laws in advance and gave assurances as to the democratic nature of the proposed elections which the British, strongly supported by the French, considered too vague and general. Deadlock ensued when the Russian representative contended that the committees had met the conditions prescribed by the Kommandatura and the British continued to press for advance submission of the constitution, et cetera. The American representative found himself in a rather central position, agreeing that it was not practical to submit an advanced draft constitution until personnel had been elected to prepare such a draft and holding out only for complete details of the election machinery to insure that the procedure would be fully democratic. The meeting adjourned with the British member proposing that a completely new set of conditions for the election be drafted and the Russian stoutly maintaining that all the original conditions had been satisfactorily met and the matter was referred back to the Kommandatura labor committee. The prevailing American opinion is that neither view is wholly acceptable but that further delay in our approval of elections would permit the Russians to contend that the Americans who are advocates of democratic procedures are actively opposing free elections.

  1. The question of trade union elections had been raised at the Kommandatura meeting September 20. In telegram 578, September 21, from Berlin, Mr. Murphy reported that the Russian representative on the Kommandatura had inquired of the British representative why British authorities had failed to sanction trade union elections scheduled to be held in the British sector on September 23. The British representative explained that the trade union officials had failed to offer the requisite proof that the elections would be held on a fair and democratic basis. (740.00119 Control (Germany)/9–2145) At the Coordinating Committee on October 6 the matter was again discussed. Mr. Murphy reported in telegram 710, October 7, from Berlin, that the British representative had then explained that the Oberbürgermeister had been unable to give assurances that the elections would be conducted in a democratic manner. “General Sokolovsky [the Russian representative] stated that Marshal Zhukov had provided for the election before the Allied arrival in Berlin, and that the matter was not within the competence of the Oberbürgermeister. The discussion was rather acrimonious, General Clay pointing out that the four part government in the Kommandatura could administer matters as it saw fit, and give suitable orders [to] the Bürgermeister. The matter was left to the Kommandatura.” (740.00119–Control (Germany) /10–745)
  2. A unit of the Berlin municipal administration, a district of local government.
  3. Free German Trade Union League.