Galbraith, JK.



Nitze, Paul H

Tucker, R.


Interview with Wolfgang Leonhard


Q: How important a role in the tightening up, the ideological tightening up, did someone like Ulbricht play, or are we talking a little prematurely about him being the power behind the throne in East Germany at the time?

A: Ulbricht was an import conveyor. I don't believe in the idea which is very popular in the West of putting everything down to personalities. Stalinist systems are a structure. With very rare exceptions, it's very unimportant if the man A or man B is in the Politburo. It really doesn't play any role. It's the type of functionaries, of officials who is decisive and not the person. And the type is very interesting. The type of Stalinist officials are people who are average. Not stupid. The nazis could do with stupid people, because it was very easy to babble around. But Communists needed average people, medium people, because they had to read a lot of materials, contrary to the nazi system. They had to read a lot, and be able to reduce that and apply that to the local conditions. To foreign policy or to copper industry or to traffic. I mean, to apply that. For that you needed average, not too intelligent. Too intelligent people begin to question the Party line. They begin to question the reasoning. You needed the medium people who are intelligent enough to understand long resolutions, but not so critical in order to question them. And then loyalty, absolute loyalty, self censorship. You didn't need to censor things. They censor themselves. They don't read books which a loyal Party official should not read. So it is a certain type of people who are typical for this regime. You don't need to have mass appeal, because the mass meetings don't play a great role. Ulbricht didn't have it, Honecker didn't have it. Mass appeal is not important. Charisma is not important. Organisational details, Ulbrich was first class in that respect, he memorised hundreds and hundreds of names. He knew how the man looked and his favourite thinking was for the health department in Potsdam we need a doctor, we take Irvin from Jena, put him there, and then - but there we need a hard man, we took this man from Brandenburg and put him there, Heinz goes there. And everything in his head. He could build up bureaucratic power structures in one or two hours. This is the type of people under Stalin and Ulbricht was this Stalinist type.

Q: It's a kind of political genius, isn't it?

A: It's what?

Q: A kind of political genius.

A: Yes, yes.

Q: To select people who are capable of -

A: Yeah.

Q: - responding like - as an index card.

A: Yes. Yes.

Q: We take you to Tito. What did you know about Tito beforehand, and why Tito?

A: Well, I knew quite a lot about Tito before because I was working in the Central Committee, I read all the speeches of Tito. I was in the school of the Communist International with (Zharko) with the son of Tito in the Soviet Union in 1942-43. I was 1947 the first from East Germany to visit Yugoslavia, in summer 1947. There I got all the material of the Party, and after returning already in 1947 I had the idea this Party would break away from Stalin. This - it was the only Party who made a revolution by themself. Not liberated by Soviet troops. And in the period of liberation they had new forms of power, and the most incredible thing, nobody had his nachok, nobody had a sign of the Communist Party. There were no officers of the Communist Party. The Communist Party was a nucleus and the mass organisation, the People's Front, was what showed itself to the public. So it was a different attitude. And from 1945 on, I knew of course Yugoslav officers of the military mission in East Berlin. And they were famous because, about the Yugoslavs, they were present, they ask intelligent questions, they knew what was going on. They behaved differently like the Russians.They had the same political aim at that time on the whol, like the Russians, but they behaved differently. So, at that time, '46-47, in East Berlin you said the Yugoslavs, they behaved like the British and make a policy like the Russians. So this was the, opinion of Yugoslavs, they were more Westernised, more cultured. And so very sympathetic and so one could hope that these kind of Communists would create a better system than the Stalinist Soviet-type Communists.

(end of roll)

ROLL 10067


Q: You've arrived in Belgrade, what went wrong, since you obviously wanted to pursue your holy grail, in a sense, with Tito? Where did it go wrong?

A: Well, first of all for 10-15 years he went beautifully correct, which is not a small thing. It was fabulous. Decentralisation, withering away of the state planning committees, more and more private enterprise, cooperatives instead of state-owned factories. But suddenly already in March 1950, no more socialist realism, any writer and poet could write how he and she wants. Modern styles in painting, free discussions in the cultural field. The books now from all viewpoints, in philosophy, sociology, so it was a tremendous positive development, until I think, 1970. The sudden tragic change. Tito and the remaining Communists felt that if that goes on there will be no Party any more. The development towards a multi-party system, you can't change it any more. You can't stop it any more. And in the last minutes these reform people came up who wanted that, and it was Tito who at that moment changed and said, 'this goes too far.' The term, 'it goes too far,' is a typical term of reform Communists. Even reformed Communism want changes, but it's not allowed to go too far, not allowed to go too far. And this was the case also with many others. Not too far. And Tito was afraid it goes too far, mobilised the old forces, the Party and the army in 1970 and stopped the reform process. Something similar as if in August '91 the coup d'etat people in Moscow would have won. This was the same kind of change. And when the reform process is stopped, people are at a loss. Their hope is gone. And if their hope is gone and deep disappointment sets in, people are looking for roots, and there's only one root, nationalism. If there's - everything else doesn't work, your nation. Suddenly it came up, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, so Nagora, Montenegro, Serbia, this, which you never heard before. And so the sudden breakthrough of nationalism is the result of the hopelessness of people who in socio-economic reform change and was the result that Tito, after having did so many positive things for Yugoslavia, suddenly lost his nerves and broke down his own reform process.

Q: But you had long left. Why did you leave in 1950?

A: I didn't leave for political reasons. 1949 and 50 I was feeling very happy in Yugoslavia, and was there for the German propaganda. I was also in the radio, Radio Belgrade for Germany, and I felt very happy. But I said, well, this is impossible. I mean, here I am, a German speaking and German writing public lecturer, publicist, a journalist, a analyst, and I can't sit around in Belgrade. So I went to Germany, but to West Germany. And in West Germany I looked around and I decided my life I will devote to one question only, the Soviet Union. It was very funny, I went to a very prestigious bookshop and said did these Westerners write anything about Stalin and the Soviet Union, about Stalinism? And the bookshop woman, very educated. laughed and said, well quite a lot, maybe a lot of rubbish, but maybe something clever, you read it. And so I decided I'd take six weeks and read what the West has written about Stalinism in the Soviet Union. Well, it was not six weeks but 45 years. And now I have 5,000 books on the Soviet Union from all languages and this was my profession. My only aim was from 1950 onwards to study what happened and will happen in the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc.