Galbraith, JK.



Nitze, Paul H

Tucker, R.


Interview with Wolfgang Leonhard


Q: Let's talk about the move to lining up the Socialist - creating the Socialist Unity Party. What were you doing to help bring that about and what did you think about the way that was developing and the pressures that were put on to achieve it, can you tell me something about that?

A: Yes, I was in the agitation and propaganda department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in 1945, and suddenly at the end of October 1945 we were told: 'campaign for the unity of the Social Democrats and Communists.' It was a change overnight. Because before we were saying no, we wait and later on it might be, but we didn't want, we wanted to build up our own Party. And suddenly it came, and of course there I was already critical enough, knowing very well the reason. Social Democrats had become stronger than the Communists, had more members, more popularity and more authority. Therefore we will be a junior partner. An idea which is very unpleasant for Communists. And plus the Social Democrats became more self assured and at the beginning it was planned, the Communists planned everything, waiting that the Social Democrats agree, so it was planned to have a common celebration of the revolution of 1917 in Russia, 1918 in Germany on November the 9th. Suddenly the Social Democrats said no, we don't do a common - for what? We do our own. So then the strange situation came, the Communists had something on the 9th and the Social Democrats on the 11th. Two people of the Central Committee of the Communist Party were invited, and Herr Pieck, said, 'come Wolfgang, let's go.' And we went there, where we're treated politely but rather cold, and Otto Grotewohl made the most incredible pronouncements. Namely, stating, we are the decisive party of Germany, because we're the middle party. The bourgeois party, no Soviet authority takes them seriously. The Communists, no Western occupation will take them seriously. We are the one, the only party which will be taken seriously by the Western occupation and by the Soviet occupation. And we are the one leading to independence of Germany. Everybody know you can't become a Western party, you can't become Eastern party, we will secure, we are the party of the centre, we are the party of the power, we are the party of the future. And if the Communists want unite, maybe they can unite, but only if this - if it's all over Germany and if all Social Democrats agree to that. Well, that of course meant no. So after this pressure increased and increaseand, I had my bad feeling, about the increasing pressure and especially that the referendum which the Social Democrats made on the 31st of March 1946 was forbidden, it was only allowed in the Western sectors. The referendum showed that the Social Democrats were wanting. 19 per cent said yes, we want a unified party. More than 60 per cent said no, we want unity of action, a coordination with the Communists, but separate parties. And 20 per cent said we want neither coordination nor a unified party. We want absolute having nothing to do with the Communists. So the majority wanted unity of action, but the pressure went on and on and the last week of January Walter Ulbricht was again summoned to Moscow, again with Stalin, and Stalin said the unification of the two workers party, meaning the Social Democrats and the Communists, has to be terminated by the first of May 1946. That implies it was under pressure. It was not - there were some who wanted it, but the absolute majority didn't want it it was made under pressure. And it increased my critical thoughts. I was in principle very much in favour of a new united party, hoping that the militance of the Communists and the democratic tradition of the Social Democrats would lead to a new, a better party. But I was increasingly thoughtful about the methods used.

Q: How did those methods show themselves? What - were you aware of the methods? What sort of methods were being used by your party to secure the unity?

A: The main thing was of course by the Soviet military administration. Contrary to widespread opinion, very few people, Social Democrats, were at that time already arrested. That's isolated cases. But any district Social Democratic secretary or regional party secretary or village party secretary who said I am against unification was asked to the Commandant, and the Commandant organised a new election. He stayed one or two days in the Commandantura, returned and somebody else had taken else had taken his place. So they sacked people who were against and installed people who were in favour. That was the most widespread method done. The second one was already very critically -

Q: I'm going to stop you there. The first method you say is called, and I think you said an election is, then well how can you hold an election if the majority of the people are against that person? Are you saying it wasn't an election, it was a rigged arrangement was made to get somebody else in? I don't understand how.

A: In a village, in a small town, in a district, the local Social Democratic leader makes a statement that he's against the occupation. He's asked to the Commandantura, and if you're asked to the Commandantura you have to go there, and he doesn't return. And he stays a day or two or three. The Commandant confers with other Social Democrats and says let's make a new leader. And they made, under this psychological pressure, they made a new election and somebody else became the new leader. The other one returned from the Commandant and was now a simple party member. So arrests took place, but this was the exception. Just to take away all the people who are against the unification. The censorship of speeches, all Social Democrats who made critical remarks, then when the next day the newspaper were there, the critical masks - remarks were deleted. So censorship, the installment of new leaders, up to the whole lands, you suddenly had new leaders promoted by the Soviet military administration. And I myself got a little bit strange feeling. I was working in the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the Social Democrats had open voting, are you in favour of unification or not? And Social Democrats act not like Communists. They're kind of leisurely people. So I was astonished. They didn't even ask that I show my party card. And I only had a Communist party card of course, not a Social. They never asked. So I just went in, from one Social Democratic meeting to the other, I participated and then they asked are you in favour of unification, I said yes. But I was not the only one, there were hundreds or thousands of Communists going from one Social Democratic meeting to the other and participating in voting on that decisive action. So this made me bad feeling that such methods were used. But I still hoped on the long run it will lead to a positive development.

Q: Were you still working with the paper then? What were you doing at this time? What was your actual job at this time?

A: I was agitation and propaganda, meaning I wrote the booklets,16 pages, the pamphlets, in all Communist Party of the world you have teaching of political doctrine, and you have little pamphlets, usually 16 pages, and which you have to study. Well, I wrote these 16 pages each week. From October '45 to June 1947, one and a half years, I wrote the Party material. Education material.

Q: What did you do after that?

A: I was in summer '47 I got already more and more critical and, I had hoped somehow to withdraw, and happily enough at that time the high Party Academy Karl Marx was enlarged and they needed people for the history department. So since August 1947 I was a member of the history department of the high party Academy Karl Marx outside Berlin, quite happy because I was now not any more responsible for the current policy of the Socialist Unity Party. Shall we have a little break now?