862.5043/2–147: Telegram

The Acting Political Adviser for Germany (Muccio) to the Secretary of State


279. After three hour debate Berlin Kommandatura Jan 31 was unable to reach agreement on Free German Trade Union League (FDGB) electoral procedure and left question in abeyance without [Page 849] extending life of present leadership beyond Feb 3 deadline. Remytel 251, Jan 29.16 America, Britain and France originally held out for three points raised by Britain in Jan 28 Deputies meeting. Soviet General Kotikov refused to accept any of them and once again denied Kommandatura right to interfere in what he called internal trade union affairs. Britain, supported by America and France, then offered to leave new directing committee at 45 members, to let FDGB city convention confirm legality of election of 18 union members on directing committee and to let present FDGB leadership choose a uniform key figure for ratio between members and delegates to borough FDGB and city union conventions. This was stated to be our absolute minimum position. When Kotikov became convinced that America, Britain and France would not yield further, he read a long and angry previously prepared statement denouncing western allies, particularly America, for holding up elections and trying to destroy FDGB. Statement charged US with following AF of L policy, with publicly criticizing trade unions of Soviet Union and Soviet zone, with seeking to impose outside ideas of organization on German unions. Kotikov concluded by saying Soviets would know how to meet this challenge and that present FDGB directing committee would continue in office for Soviet Berlin sector.

Vehemence of Soviet attack and absolute unwillingness to live up to their Jan 17 agreement are evidence of importance Soviets attach to maintaining SED domination over powerful FDGB (491,000 members as of Dec 31, 1946).

The trade unions are perhaps the last means short of blockade the SMA has of maintaining its power over the entire city of Berlin in spite of Oct 20 municipal elections.17 FDGB has co-decision on production and distribution plans in most Berlin economic enterprises. Through SED-dominated Dept of Labor it controls hiring, firing, social insurance, et cetera, and can paralyze any recalcitrant employer by taking skilled workers away from him. Through a contract signed with Soviet appointed magistrat it has right of co-decision on all hiring and firing of city employees. Its Appeals Commission, set up to implement this contract, contains six SED members and no others. Lord Mayor Ostrowski has just dismissed this commission but FDGB refuses to accept dismissal. Meanwhile SED officials who cannot be [Page 850] removed continue to dominate city administration. If present leadership of FDGB were replaced with non-SED leaders, which would almost certainly happen under democratic electoral procedure, the elected city govt, could then purge administration and control the city. Present disagreement among allies means FDGB probably will be dissolved in American, British and French sectors 0001 hours Feb. 4, unless sector commanders decide contrary. Dissolution would give western allies chance to build up new trade unions on democratic basis, but new unions would have no money and few other resources and would surely be fought by present FDGB leadership and entire Soviet controlled press and radio. Though some American and British officials are reluctant to be “union busters” and fear showdown fight, OMGUS manpower division feels that any other course would sacrifice basic democratic principles and considers it important that American labor movement give strong support to aid US Military Govt action in this matter.

Sent Dept as 279; repeated Moscow as 49; London for Murphy as 61; Paris as 39.

Department please relay to Moscow as Berlin’s 49.

  1. Not printed; it reported on the status of negotiations for a revised electoral procedure for the FDGB and on the meeting of Allied Deputy Commandants for Berlin on January 28. The British, supported by the French and American Commandants, opposed three electoral procedure changes proposed by the Communist FDGB leadership aimed at nullifying the election of 18 FDGB directing-committee members by individual trade unions (862.5043/1–2947).
  2. For a report on the results of the Berlin municipal elections of October 20, 1946, see telegram 2430, October 23, 1946, Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. v, p. 734.