762B.00/5–1754: Despatch

No. 773
The Acting Chief of the Eastern Affairs Division, Berlin Element, HICOG (McElhiney) to the Department of State1

No. 866


  • Berlin despatch 789 of April 21, 1954.2


  • Fourth Party Congress of the SED: Topic B—New Party Statutes and Ways to Improve the SED as a Mechanism of International Communism

Summary and Conclusions

The Fourth Party Congress of the East German Communist Party (SED), which met in East Berlin March 30–April 6, 1954, discussed and approved new party statutes designed to contribute to the further development of the party along the precharted course of the Soviet prototype and to make the party a better mechanism for communist tactics in Germany. In addition to the texts of the new and old statutes, the remarks of Karl Schirdewan provide a good basis for examining the intentions behind the revision of the statutes. The following points stand out:

The SED has made some progress since July 1950. It has become a party of the “new type”. The amalgamation of the Social Democrats (SPD) and Communists (KPD) has been declared completed. Its dominant position in East Germany is a fact. Its relative importance as an instrument of Soviet power has been increased.
Having achieved a hold on the East German state and its government, the SED must now consolidate its position in this state. For public consumption, this effort is called “strengthening the GDR state”. This problem complex will receive top priority, as already indicated by the Second Party Conference in July 1952, but it has become even more urgent in view of developments in West Germany (called militarism) and the wide divergence between the objectives of the party and the wishes of the populace as revealed by the June uprisings.
In consolidating its position in East Germany, the SED faces the same chronic problems it has faced in achieving its dominant role: perennial weakness in rural areas, identification with the USSR and its exploitation of East Germany, great difficulties in convincing the workers that the political objectives of the party are necessary or desirable and that they should participate in the [Page 1696] SED’s programs, and direct exposure of the SED activities from West Berlin and West Germany.
Internally, the party has been deeply shaken by the June uprisings and the HerrnstadtZaisser affair coming on top of the sudden shift to the New Course. Although Ulbricht and Schirdewan have succeeded in reorganizing the structure of the party and in putting in new persons loyal to them in the middle and top echelons of the party, the lower echelons and the rank and file are honeycombed with unconvinced or oppositional individuals. These persons are too numerous to be purged. The centralized leadership, stronger than heretofore, will use organizational, schooling and inducement methods to increase its basic support before it resorts to harsher methods and before it risks a purge. In the interim, gradual exclusion of “unreliables” (agents, proponents of social democracy, etc.) and “passive” members will continue. By the next party congress, which should come in 1958, the UlbrichtSchirdewan leadership hopes to complete a broad transformation in the SED in which old or dead wood will be eliminated and the carefully trained, indoctrinated individual who has come up through the ranks of the youth organization (FDJ) and the party Aktivs will become the most prominent element in the party.
In the current phase of its own development and in view of the situation in West Germany, where communist organizations are weak, the SED is not capable of exerting an important political influence in West Germany among social democratic or trade union groups as it claims. Rather, this must be presumed to be, at least for the present, a cover for SED strategy, which is directed at a permanent split in Germany and at preventing further growth of West German strength, particularly military strength.

  1. In addition to the summary and conclusions presented here, despatch 866 consisted of a seven-page description of the major elements of the SED statutes which emerged from the Fourth Party Congress and an enclosure presenting vital statistics on the SED.
  2. Document 771.