August 4, 2016

1949. The Kremlin's Realpolitik Directs East Germany

The Socialist Unity Party Convenes in Berlin
"The first Congress of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) is held in Berlin under the chairmanship of Walter Ulbricht," April 22, 1946 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Frankfurt

January 24, 1949

German Communists want to hold hands with the Western Powers.

That has been my impression after a week of traveling in the Ruhr area of Germany and talking with political leaders and occupation authorities working in that vital industrial complex. There are some 19,000 Communist Party members in the Ruhr and hundreds of their sympathizers which could form a serious core of obstruction if it wanted to be one.

But the past week has seen the hearings of three of the Ruhr's leading Communists. Two were fined by a British military government court for holding a political meeting without permission. The hearing was so polite and the Communists so apologetic that it might have been only a misunderstanding between friends. The trial of Max Reimann, spiritual leader of the Ruhr Marxists, comes up next Wednesday. He announced last week—almost gleefully—that he expected to be fined, that all fines would be paid by the workers, and that he was most impressed by the fairness of the British court.

True, the Communists got many times more in propaganda than the eight hundred marks or so far assessed by the British in fines. But the great good humor of the situation is a far cry from the usual vilification that the comrades normally heap upon the Western capitalist fascist beasts, as they call them.

Another example of the new party line in Germany is the fact that the Communists have almost ignored the trial of seven Ruhr workmen who are charged with refusing to follow a British military order to dismantle the Bochum steel plant. Ordinarily, this would be raw meat for the Party. But outside of a few mentions in their press, the Communists are carefully looking the other way—for the present, at least.

All of this adds up to the shift in the Kremlin policy as evidenced in recent declarations of friendship out of Moscow, and by speeches of Communist leaders in Italy and France.

Whether this policy follows for the German Communists will be known in Berlin the day after tomorrow. The Socialist Unity Party of the Soviet zone holds its annual convention then, and if the German Communists have been ordered to follow along, it will become official.

This is Bill Downs in Frankfurt. Now back to CBS in New York.
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Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

January 25, 1949

At least eight people were killed and seventeen injured when an RAF Dakota plane crashed last night in the worst accident of the seven-month-old airlift. The plane was carrying twenty-five Germans out of Berlin in a relief project to move needy children, the sick, and the aged out of the blockade winter. Among the eight dead are a woman, two children, and one British crew member.

The plane crashed just two miles inside the Russian zone near the northern German city of L├╝beck. British investigators have not yet been allowed by Soviet authorities to go to the site of the crash. The injured have been taken to a German hospital.

Some six hundred delegates in to the Communist-dominated Socialist Unity Party opened their convention this morning in the Soviet sector of the city—a meeting that is expected to shed light on Russian plans for the future of East Germany and blockaded Berlin.

The meeting opened with the usual fanfare and greetings to foreign Communists who are guests of the meeting. The representative of the Soviet military government, Colonel Tiulpanov, struck the keynote, charging that "Western monopoly capital follows a policy which will lead to the final liquidation of the German state. The Soviet Union," the Russian spokesman declared, "will never recognize these measures." He added that "the German people can look with confidence into the future because the Soviet people will always support them."

Western political experts are predicting that this convention will result in the establishment of a separate East German government and formal incorporation of this state into the Russian political and economic orbit.

It is considered a certainty that East Germany will be included in the new Soviet-sponsored Eastern Economic Council announced last night. Thus Europe looks like it will be ending up with two Germanys with only a line separating a Marshall Plan economy in the West and a Stalin Plan economy in the East.

At a secret Communist high-command meeting in Berlin yesterday, the party leaders appointed themselves a seven-man politburo—smaller but similar to that in the Kremlin.

The new Communist party conciliatory line that appeared last week in Italy and France has not been stressed in the SED convention thus far. We'll have to wait and see.

Incidentally, today's meeting is closed to foreign correspondents—the German reporters who are members of the Socialist Unity Party are allowed in.

The convention will end on Friday.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.
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Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

January 27, 1949

The Communist Party line for Germany is slowly being revealed in the full-dress convention of the Socialist Unity Party in East Berlin, but the expected pronouncement on foreign policy—the German Communist relationship with the West—still has not emerged.

The same old charges of "war instigators" and the rest are being repeated by the German party leaders. However, there is a large amount of mystery and confusion over the withdrawal of the speech of Colonel Sergei Tiulpanov, who keynoted the convention as a representative of the Soviet Union. Tiulpanov, who is the Russian political commissar for Berlin, made a vitriolic attack against America and other Western nations on Tuesday, but after the speech was widely reported on German radio stations, it suddenly was killed. No mention of the speech has been made in the Russian licensed newspapers.

The most significant utterances of the German Communists concern what they call the establishment of a political party of a new type. This followed the setting up of a German politburo for the direction of an East German government. But the so-called "new type" of political maneuver is considered here as a broad hint that the traditional Communist party line is going to shift.

Connected with the suppression of Tiulpanov's anti-American speech, American authorities expect that before the SED convention ends tomorrow there will be signs of what dialecticians call "realistic diplomacy." That, in order to reach their revolutionary goals, the Communist Party may be ready to make a deal with the West. But while this is in prospect, it is already being explained that such arrangements are temporary.

The past twenty-four hours of the convention has been taken up with economic conditions of the Soviet zone of Germany. There were calls for increase in the production of coal, transport, steel, and chemicals.

Walter Ulbricht, Deputy Chairman of the Communist Party, added one footnote in speaking of the excellent job being done by the intellectuals of the party. "Some workers point out," he said, "That some of the intellectuals and technicians were Nazis . . . we have not made it clear enough that these people are judged for their performances and attitude, not for their former party affiliations."

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.
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Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

January 29, 1949

The German Communists have ended their four day Berlin convention with the publication of a manifesto. This is a document that is supposed to guide the thinking and actions of the faithful until the Kremlin hands down new directives.

There is nothing much new in it. The usual charges are expanded somewhat—the Anglo-American imperialists, it says, are committing new acts of brutal violence against the German people, such as the international control of the Ruhr, the industrial security measures, and the splitting of Germany. All of these things, according to the Communists, will deliver Germany for decades into the hands of American monopolists and military dictatorship.

The Communist manifesto for Germany demands the formation of a unified German state, agricultural reform, a peace treaty, and the withdrawal of all occupation troops.

Wilhelm Pieck, head of the German Communists and member of the new politburo set up here, called for "strict collective and operational guidance" of the masses through intensified use of "people's police" and people's court.

In other words, one of the major achievements of the convention is to set up a more efficient police state in the Soviet zone.

American authorities here say that this spring may see another attempt by the Soviet government to bring about settlement of the German problem as a whole. They base this judgment on the fact that a strongly anti-Western speech by a Russian official was killed; that the renewed Communist call for a unified Germany reflects Soviet policy and some highly secret conferences now reported underway in Karlsbad, Czechoslovakia, where Andre Vyshinsky is conferring with Eastern European political leaders.

But it also is believed that if there is no East-West settlement of the German stalemate, the Communists are timing their movements to set up a separate East German government in June or July to match a West German republic now being formed under the sponsorship of the Western Powers.

In other words, the Berlin Communist convention, despite all its bombast, was instructed to adopt a "wait and see" line.

It leaves the next five months to determine whether the East and West can settle their differences over Germany.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.