Socialism from Below: Kommunalpolitik in the East German Dictatorship between Discourse and Practice

Socialism from Below: Kommunalpolitik in the East German Dictatorship between Discourse and Practice Abstract This article examines the official and scholarly debate on Kommunalpolitik in the GDR, and analyses how the concept took root at the local level, and how the SED finally responded. While most historians tend to reduce the political system of the East German dictatorship to the highly centralized state model that was ruled only by the Politburo of the SED, this essay points out that governance within the GDR was coupled with decentralized elements. In the 1960s, the SED began to rethink the modus of governance by stressing the local sphere as a resource of economic planning and by replacing the Stalinist definition of what a city should be. However, the state party avoided a reform that might endanger the monopoly of the Politburo. Nevertheless, by leaving this opening within the discourse, the SED provided a framework in which local authorities and academics could articulate their perceptions and challenge the power of the Politburo. Even Honecker referred to the popular debate that was soon dominated by local politicians and academics, but he was unable to cope with this unloved discourse since local authorities were becoming more self-confident. These results open up new perspectives on political practices within the GDR, especially with regard to the alleged stability of the Honecker era and continuities after 1989. Was there Kommunalpolitik (municipal politics) in the German Democratic Republic (GDR)? At first glance, this question sounds somewhat curious. Considering that Kommunalpolitik is closely linked to the rise of liberalism and autonomous local elites in Western Europe,1 it is hardly imaginable that such a concept could exist under a dictatorship in which one Communist party sought to rule every part of society. Thus in research literature, local administrations mostly appear to have been passive managers of shortage and administrators of the permanent crises that led to the decline in 1989.2 Former East German local elites, by contrast, draw a more positive picture of their work. In an outstanding documentation of individual experiences collected in 1990/91, a former local politician stated that Kommunalpolitik was a field that inspired her to take every imaginable initiative. At the local level, she said, politics was driven not so much by party membership or social belonging as by creativity and the opportunity to assert oneself. She was sure that her work had actually contributed to the improvement of people’s lives.3 In reunified Germany, memories like these were often dismissed by the majority of politicians and historians, who accused the contemporaries of ‘whitewashing’ the repressive regime. It is somewhat ironic that it was the British historian Mary Fulbrook who pointed out that these memories are not just an expression of Ostalgie (nostalgia for the East). This does not mean that they are not also nostalgic: such rosy pictures are certainly part of individual discourses of exculpation. Yet, they also tell us something about the construction of ‘normality’ under socialism.4 Although the concept of ‘normality’ tends to hide the complexity of everyday life,5 Fulbrook’s concern to take the memories of East Germans seriously is important, as archival documents merely reflect the ritualized communication of ‘democratic centralism’. However, local politicians in the GDR lived, one could say, in a hybrid world. They were part of the dictatorial regime the East German Communist Party (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschland, SED) had implemented, by 1952 at the latest, when the five federal states (Länder) had been replaced by fourteen regional territories (Bezirke) and the local administrations had become part of the ‘democratic centralism’ that was designed to ensure an efficient administration and a maximum of Durchherrschung of every section of society down to the smallest cells.6 However, local politicians were also part of the local societies they lived in and were responsible for. This aspect has been widely ignored by German historians, or is overshadowed by the popular perception of the GDR as a ‘failed state’. It is not surprising that Kommunalpolitik as a hybrid sphere of power was examined by scholars for the first and last time in a research project in 2009. Based on interviews and local files, these studies have shown that everyday work in the city was structured by informal coalitions between local politicians, enterprises and regional authorities.7 Nevertheless, the authors ignored the fact that these structures developed not only in an informal sphere, but also within an official discursive framework. Indeed, the term Kommunalpolitik became popular again in East German political theory and official discourses in the 1960s, a decade after the SED had erased its bourgeois administrative-legal tradition. The period that followed the construction of the Berlin Wall on 13 August 1961 was marked by new normality. Since the SED leadership had promised to show that socialism was the best way to solve the problems of the people and to live in a peaceful society, more attention was given to the domestic environment at the local level. The general attempt to rationalize economic and agricultural structures opened up ways to initiate processes of decentralization.8 In the cities ‘Join in!’ initiatives were founded to enable people to participate in the exercise of rule, especially in construction projects.9 In parallel, architects and urban planners also started experimental inner-city building projects. Offices for urban planning were established in the local administrations of large cities, which were made responsible for defining the future tasks for urban planning within the scope of General Building Plans (Generalbebauungspläne).10 Even lobby groups such as the Workers’ Co-operatives (Arbeiterwohnungsbaugenossenschaften), the Cultural Association (Kulturbund) or the Society for Historic Preservation (Gesellschaft für Denkmalpflege) became influential actors in shaping the home environment.11 In this context, intense discussions arose over the role and function of local authorities. What is remarkable about this debate is that it created a fundamental challenge to the structures of power within the GDR. Considering this background, an analysis of this official discourse on Kommunalpolitik can help us better understand the self-perception of local authorities and cast fresh light on the social and cultural history of the GDR, especially with regard to the alleged stability of the regime in the 1970s/80s. Using published and unpublished documents from the Bundesarchiv Berlin-Lichterfelde, the Stadtarchiv Leipzig, the Sächsisches Staatsarchiv and the Bundesbeauftragter für die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemeligen DDR (Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former German Democratic Republic), this article analyses the evolution of an official discourse on Kommunalpolitik, which became a popular argument in rethinking the highly centralized administrative structures of the GDR. Furthermore, it examines the corresponding shift in the role of local authorities. Against this backdrop, Kommunalpolitik becomes an interesting field for investigating the political practice and latitudes within the dictatorship, and so takes us far beyond simplistic interpretations such as the ‘failed state’. I: Conceptualizing Kommunalpolitik and the Boundaries of Reform In 1961, the collapse of the GDR seemed imminent. The mass exodus of (mostly skilled) workers had reached a dramatic peak; the upheaval of 17 June 1953 was still alive in collective memory; and the supply situation could not have been worse. On 13 August 1961 the Politburo of the SED saw its last chance to stop this development in building a wall through Berlin. The shock this event caused, however, was soon replaced by a new normality. The people were walled-in, but the SED had learned that—even now—socialism could not be constructed only on the basis of repression, ideology and extensive ‘productivism’. Economic development became the object of a large reform programme, which Walter Ulbricht, First Secretary of the SED and president of the State Council (Staatsrat), sought to realize in the 1960s. Influenced by ideas of the Soviet economist Evsei Liberman, who had pleaded for the introduction of profit-oriented incentives and bonuses into the central planned economy, the main point of Ulbricht’s New Economic System was to establish ‘economic levers’ (ökonomische Hebel) within enterprises.12 The New Economic System was introduced at a time when a much broader transnational discourse circulated which was unequivocally in favour of planning and the scientization of politics. In the GDR, the ideas of Liberman and Western cybernetic theories affected and were amalgamated with Marxist-Leninism. The ‘socialist constitution’ of 1968 expressed this new vision, defining enterprises and cities (or communes) as the main ‘societal sub-systems’, as the essence of socialism. Both were treated as, one could say, cogs in a single mechanism. The central task of enterprises was to increase labour productivity, while the task of the cities was to improve the people’s working and living conditions so that they could regenerate their labour power.13 This was coupled with a shift in the official definition of cities. While in previous Stalinist years the SED leadership had perceived them only as economic sites built by industry for industry, now they were seen as places of living and even enjoyment, even if consumption was still justified by its role within the cycle of economic production.14 This new valorization of the cities was not an end in itself. By defining local conditions as a resource of increasing labour productivity, Ulbricht aimed both to avoid autonomous developments and to secure a solid basis for the efficient allocation of economic investment.15 But the latitude of local politicians was broadened, since the new rhetoric accepted that socialism should be fostered more from below, through local co-operation and network-building. ‘Ordinary people’ too were called to actively contribute to developing their home environment by joining participatory organizations such as the ‘More beautiful our cities and communities’ movement (Schöner unsere Städte und Gemeinden—Mach mit!). These initiatives aimed at helping keep the cities, homes and public spaces clean and green, and thereby helping develop a kind of socialist identity. Ulbricht hoped that if both local authorities and ‘ordinary people’ felt more responsible for their home environment and worked together to improve it, the values of socialism would be strengthened. As Jan Palmowski and Corey Ross have shown, there was quite a lot of popular willingness to use these offers to gain more influence over local development.16 In parallel, the planning system was expanded by the concept of ‘territorial planning’, a result of a decree of the Staatsrat from 2 July 1965. Economic and regional planning were to go hand in hand, with the regional planning commission (Bezirksplankommission) in co-operation with local planning offices, which also co-ordinated public services and supply, taking on new responsibilities here.17 In larger cities, urban planning as a whole was placed in the hands of specialized local offices.18 Local administrations were furthermore allowed to acquire limited financial resources in fields such as housing, consumer supply and additional services by raising certain taxes and fees.19 These funds were officially administrated by the local parliaments for use for local development projects. The ‘socialist constitution’ of 1968 went even further and called for closer co-operation between cities, communities and enterprises, for example on the basis of municipal associations (Gemeindeverbände). This would lead, as head of the Department of State and Law of the Central Committee of the SED Klaus Sorgenicht proclaimed, to a deeper allegiance between the leadership of the state and the people.20 Against this backdrop, Kommunalpolitik in the GDR was anything but a reinvention of an older tradition. Guided by economic and political expectations, the concept in fact encapsulated one aspect of the larger debate over decentralization, which aimed to secure the regime’s stability. What made this concept important was not so much the theory behind it as the authority with which it was invested. Not ideology, but practicability came into focus, especially because Ulbricht and the SED in general had left a central question open: How should cities, communities and enterprises work together? As a result, an intense discussion on Kommunalpolitik arose among local politicians and academics and became a catalyst for expressing the need to make changes in the administrative structure of the GDR. Meanwhile, Ulbricht continued to play the role of the motivator when he visited local functionaries to encourage them to join ‘socialist co-operation’. On this basis, in December 1967 Sorgenicht convened local politicians to evaluate the results. The way in which this meeting was conducted reflects the relatively open atmosphere of the debate. Sorgenicht did not start with the mandatory ideological speech. Rather, the discussion was dominated by the reflections of local politicians who were looking for solutions to local problems triggered by the SED’s unrealistic expectations of economic growth. These local politicians understood ‘socialist co-operation’ as an offer to participate actively in doing socialism, which to them meant articulating local interests. In the eyes of Frank Grimm, mayor of Altenburg, local administrations had to decide on their own which co-operation they would join, ‘because they know the interests of the people and they are able to discuss it with the people’.21 In the process, Grimm sought to strengthen the powers of the localities at the expense of the regional planners.22 During this meeting the discourse on Kommunalpolitik was certainly decoupled from its original theoretical framework, not least because even central authorities like Sorgenicht had supported this shift. In this situation, local authorities now used the established vocabulary to stress the interests of the people as the source of socialism since Ulbricht had also called on the people to actively participate in local development. Within a short period the discourse initiated by the SED showed that it had the potential to become a fundamental discussion about the structures of the regime. This became obvious during a conference organized by the Academy of Political Science and Law (Akademie für Staats- und Rechtswissenschaften) and held in Potsdam-Babelsberg in September 1968, where nearly 180 local representatives and political scientists discussed the ‘societal role of the city’ and the consequences for local politics. Although the participants did not ignore the political importance of economic growth, they asked for equal weight to be given to urban development. In their introductory material, the organizers of the conference had pointed out the role of cities: ‘Their stability serves the stability of the entire societal system.’ The responsibility of local authorities was thus to bring together the interests of the people and ‘societal needs’.23 On this basis, it was possible to articulate a moderate critique of the negative effects of the New Economic System. For instance, Ellenor Oehler, member of the academy, distinguished between a ‘common economic interest’ and a ‘specific economic interest’, with the latter rooted in the cities as they were the ‘communities of citizens’. Taking the example of natural resources, she explained that there would be a common interest to save and increase natural resources, but this would also make it necessary to ‘remove disadvantages following central structural decisions when they promoted air pollution’. If such conflicts were to arise, local authorities ought to be given the ability to intervene to resolve them.24 A more general critique was articulated by Karl Bönninger, professor of law at the University of Leipzig. He questioned whether cybernetics really was a useful method to improve ‘territorial planning’. Instead of mathematical models, ‘which we do not have adequate ideas about’, he recommended that local administrations be given legal instruments to manage local co-operation.25 His proposal is remarkable because Bönninger had once belonged to the academic group which had supported a moderate adaptation of the former administrative law and had, therefore, been muzzled by Ulbricht during the Babelsberg Conference in 1958.26 A decade on, Bönninger was able to articulate his old position in a new discursive framework and enjoy his tacit rehabilitation. The Babelsberg Conference of 1968 was overshadowed by the ‘Prague Spring’. Only one month later, Erich Honecker, Ulbricht’s ‘second man’ and emerging opponent, enforced the propaganda against apparently autonomous developments within the GDR. Proponents of cybernetic theory were now accused of having ignored the central role of the people.27 Ulbricht’s reaction was ambivalent. On the one hand, he continued to support his vision of a socialist state with decentralized elements, while, on the other, he had reservations about the arguments discussed in Babelsberg. For instance, during an appearance before Leipzig SED functionaries in November 1970, he clarified that in the current situation the ‘scientific-technical revolution’ was to be given priority over questions of local supply.28 As late as April 1970 the Staatsrat had published a decree in which the administrative responsibility of the cities was reduced to making prognoses about local developments.29 In retrospect, the perception of the Prague Spring by the SED leadership marks the turning point of the discussions. As a result, Ulbricht’s basis of power disappeared not just within the Politburo, but also at the local level. Honecker, who succeeded Ulbricht in May 1971, would benefit from Ulbricht’s indecisiveness. In the first years of his leadership Honecker adopted the concept of Kommunalpolitik and gave it a new meaning as part of his concept of the ‘unity of economic and social policy’, which paid new attention to social welfare. At the Eighth Party Congress he turned the focus to working and living conditions and even promised to provide a law on the rights and obligations of local administrations which the constitution of 1968 had promised.30 Yet Honecker had underestimated the mobilizing effects of the discourse on decentralization within the administration. The new general secretary of the SED was now measured by the way he served the expectations of local authorities to broaden their scope of action. Their perspective even found supporters within the central apparatus. This became obvious just a few months after the Eighth Party Congress, when Honecker had issued a first signal of his political course through a decree on food supply at the local level. This decision was harshly criticized internally by Stephan Supranowitz, state secretary for political and economic law, who bemoaned the fact that the role of local administrations had not been reflected adequately. In his view it was not enough to demand ‘socialist co-operation’ between the administrative levels. Rather, local authorities should be put in a position not just to conclude contracts with enterprises and other cities or communes, but also to sanction contracting parties in cases of infringement.31 In this situation, Honecker followed a twin-track strategy of integration and revision. On the one hand, he called the Council of Ministers of the GDR (Ministerrat) to establish a commission, headed by Supranowitz, to draft the promised law. On the other hand, he instructed the Department of State and Law of the Central Committee of the SED and Sorgenicht to control the work of the commission. Sorgenicht had to ensure the ‘necessary degree of generality and specificity’ of the expected law.32 Since Sorgenicht (and Honecker, too) avoided giving further instructions to the commission, Supranowitz was free to reactivate the arguments discussed in Babelsberg four years earlier. With regard to the involvement of the cities themselves, Supranowitz brought together central authorities, political scientists and numerous representatives of the southern districts which had hardly benefitted from the previous urban policy.33 Following the aim of avoiding the ‘mistakes of 1965’, the group soon discussed the question of how to make ‘territorial planning’ work in practice.34 The discussions resulted in two general claims. Local authorities should be provided with legal instruments to control contracts with enterprises and other institutions and should be given real opportunities to share their resources efficiently.35 The commission even prepared sketches showing that regional and local administrations should pay closer attention to the administrative tasks in their territories. Positions like that of the secretary of the local organ, whose sole function was to control the work of the whole body politically, were to be abolished.36 After five months, the commission finished its work and provided a draft text which, in the next three months, was evaluated by the Department of State and Law of the Central Committee of the SED. Yet, the results were harshly criticized by Honecker when the text was presented to the Politburo. Honecker, who had not paid any attention to the commission’s work until the meeting of the Politburo, now intervened and ordered the deletion of everything which could, in his perspective, promote apparently autonomous developments. This applied especially to the status of the local parliaments, which were to be given an active right to vote on decisions of the state.37 Nevertheless, compromises were made with regard to municipal associations which remained in the final version of the text. The goal of long-term urban development was also added. However, Kommunalpolitik was explicitly limited to the principles of ‘democratic centralism’, ‘national interests’ and ‘laws and orders’ of the state. The Law on Local Parliaments and their Institutions (Gesetz über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihre Organe) published on 12 July 1973 was at least a product of disagreements within the central apparatus itself, rather than a coherent decision of the SED leadership.38 Within the Politburo Honecker had demonstrated that his concept of the ‘unity of economic and social policy’ was not coupled with the need to broaden the scope of action for local authorities. Although he had suggested the opposite publically and continued to support the participation of the people in local activities, when it came to house construction, he ignored the hopes of the local authorities even when they were endorsed by central ministries.39 Honecker did not realize that this meant a threat to the legitimation of his policy. In the last eighteen years of the GDR, the SED leadership praised the advantages of the new law in terms of the discourse which Honecker aimed to liquidate. In the first official statement, given by the vice-chairman of the Ministerrat, Alfred Neumann, in front of the parliament (Volkskammer), Neumann pointed out that the law of 1973 provided ‘even better foundations for a co-ordinated and harmonious development of industries and territories.’40 The term Kommunalpolitik even entered the most popular political dictionary of the GDR, the Kleines politisches Wörterbuch, in 1978. There it was defined as an ‘essential part of the entire policy of the Marxist-Leninist party and the socialist state’ covering the ‘development of cities and communes as well as the whole housing structure within socialism’.41 The state model described here was based on centralized planning that took care of spatial peculiarities and differences. In reality, Honecker’s attempt to solve local problems from above created new social differences, which became the most important challenge to local authorities in the 1970s/80s. II: Taking Root: Kommunalpolitik in Leipzig in the 1970s To explore how local authorities were able to make use of the opportunities provided by Kommunalpolitik, I want to examine the example of housing policy in the GDR’s second largest city. Leipzig, alongside Berlin, was a city which the East German authorities treated as a flagship of everything the GDR wanted to be—a modern industrial country, internationally oriented, able to deliver prosperity, supporting high culture and the sciences. Several large enterprises constructing heavy machinery and conveyor systems exported their products to Western countries and the trade fair in Leipzig demonstrated the ‘world standard’ which the GDR promised to reach.42 More than 40 per cent of the people living in the regional district (Bezirk) Leipzig were domiciled in the city, which resulted in the highest population density of the GDR.43 Leipzig was chosen to become the ideal of modern East Germany. The 800th anniversary of the city, in 1965, became one of the biggest political demonstrations of this ideal.44 Local authorities would remember the provision of equal living conditions as their greatest challenge. During an urban-planning conference in 1969, Horst Siegel, former chief architect of Halle-Neustadt and, from 1967, chief architect of Leipzig, dramatically pointed out that there was a deficit of ‘nearly a Halle-Neustadt within Leipzig’—50,000 to 60,000 flats.45 According to Siegel, half of these flats ought to be built in the area around the city centre and in the north-east of Leipzig, where the most important enterprises were located; the plan combined new housing and reconstruction measures for old buildings, based on local structures.46 Yet, in the last years of Ulbricht’s term of office, the General Building Plan had remained on paper, while urban development policy still concentrated on prestigious city-centre projects, to which the first secretary of the SED-Bezirksleitung, Paul Fröhlich, gave ensured priority. In 1967, for example, he had instructed local officials to stop all housing projects and to concentrate all resources on providing support for the construction of the new university complex.47 In Leipzig, the shift in the SED’s political course began not in 1971 with the fall of Ulbricht, but in September 1970 with the death of Fröhlich. Even in October 1970 the regional administration (Rat des Bezirkes) released internally a study which prefigured the change in housing policy. The ‘process of reproduction’ of buildings, the author wrote, ‘has been interrupted by the priority of economic reconstruction in the GDR’. In his opinion it was now time to turn away from the utopia of ‘socialist Leipzig’ and to reflect on the value of old buildings which ‘will satisfy our demand in the same way as the new housing complexes’. The author continued, ‘The old buildings made of brickwork are even more suitable for measures of modernization than can be said about our new houses made of prefabricated elements.’48 Soon after the Eighth Party Congress expectations increased again. The new first secretary of the SED-Bezirksleitung, Horst Schumann, had installed a scientific working group, which claimed that the building repair sector should no longer be an ‘appendage of the building sector’.49 All in all, urban planning, no matter how ideologically moulded it remained, was now shaped more strongly by the perspective of urban planners who looked at both the availability of resources and the construction of a healthy and clean environment which could hardly be found in the inner-city quarters. It is well-known that Honecker’s housing policy created new social differences, even while promising to overcome them. In the new housing complexes which emerged on the periphery of the cities priority was given to functionaries and highly skilled workers in economically important enterprises.50 The development of the ‘two-tier society’ also materialized in other parts of everyday life, especially consumption and leisure activities.51 But another problem was emerging which also undermined the great goal of equal housing. Honecker’s housing programme ignored spatial structures and was not coupled with a concept of how to distribute resources adequately. Longing for quick solutions to stabilize the power of the SED, Honecker instructed the regional administrations to concentrate all resources on the construction of large housing complexes located on the edge of the cities—which was less expensive than the reconstruction of inner-city neighbourhoods.52 In Leipzig, the second-largest housing complex in East Germany, ‘Grünau’, comprising nearly 30,000 flats, was to be built on the western periphery. The hastiness with which priority was given to Grünau was coupled with a lack of co-ordination. Grasping at quick solutions, the Rat des Bezirkes continually called on the Rat der Stadt to balance the deficits, by asking for its building-repair resources. In 1975, for instance, the city had to supply the Bezirk with services valued at nearly 50 million Marks.53 Areas with old buildings were left to decay. On 30 August 1977, the Politburo adopted a housing programme just for Leipzig which shows how little attention the plans centrally created in Berlin paid to the spatial dimension. Without analysing the material situation, the planners just revised upwards the number of flats to be constructed and modernized.54 Even Honecker intervened emotionally when he read that the planners had initially stated that ‘almost 100 per cent of all the flats must be provided with toilet and bathroom facilities’. For Honecker, the word ‘almost’ seemed to challenge the legitimacy of his strategy to improve the lives of the people, no matter how this goal was achieved. The word ‘almost’ had to be deleted.55 The modernization of old buildings was thereby marginalized. In 1977, local officials estimated that approximately 20 per cent of all local flats could no longer be saved from decay,56 while, at the same time, nearly 24,000 citizens and/or families were officially affected by untenable living conditions.57 It is the ‘working class’, the head of the housing department of the Bezirk Leipzig Manfred Zimmermann bemoaned, that ‘lives poorly’.58 Although local authorities were unable to influence the practices of distribution in general, they looked for ways to modernize old, decaying buildings. A central role in this process was played by approaches discussed under the term ‘territoriale Rationalisierung’ (territorial rationalization). This discussion emerged from the failure of the kinds of voluntarism which Ulricht had championed. Established as a method to initiate permanent local development programmes that could cover contracts with Kombinatsdirektoren (enterprise managers) or spatial restructuring measures, territoriale Rationalisierung became an alternative to the participatory organizations mobilizing ‘ordinary people’.59 Although people’s initiatives were increasingly expected to take part in construction projects, local authorities bemoaned that they lacked expert knowledge.60 In parallel it became harder for local authorities to mobilize people to join them. Thus, for example, in Leipzig local authorities started an initiative to repair roofs in inner-city quarters in 1984. The intention of the ‘Roofs tight!’ (Dächer dicht!) initiative was that local enterprises in the building-repair sector, brigades of volunteers provided by enterprises and the Freie Deutsche Jugend (FDJ, Free German Youth) should work together to repair broken roofs. The initiative failed. One problem was that the planned economy followed its own inner logic, so that building enterprises selected only those roofs that were still intact and carried out only minor repairs because they were measured on the raw numbers of roofs repaired, not on the scale of the renovation.61 Another problem was that brigades of the FDJ did not obtain any help from the enterprises they worked for. When they tried to find helpers, only unskilled workers, who were directly affected by poor living conditions, were willing to join them.62 A great number of people found other, informal ways to improve their living conditions for themselves. Construction sites, which could be found everywhere in the city, were plundered, often with the permission of the person in charge.63 Empty flats were searched for unused resources like windows or bathroom facilities.64 Against this background of failure, territoriale Rationalisierung was advanced as a way to allocate resources in a planned manner, relying not on voluntary grassroots co-operation but on written agreements between Kombinatsdirektoren and local authorities. Therefore, local politicians worked in particular on ensuring resources held by smaller state-owned construction-related enterprises could be pooled. In one case, they established a floor-covering plant consisting of former small plants scattered across the city. The new larger plant was able to work with the Kombinat in reconstruction and building repair administrated by the city council.65 Another strategy to balance local deficits was realized in a project named Rationalisierungsmittelbau, which was based on a system of exchange of tools between large (export-)enterprises and the local Kombinat for reconstruction and building repair. Until 1979, local politicians concluded contracts with sixty centrally administrated enterprises that supplied the local Kombinat with swivel arms, construction hoists, welding devices, loading facilities and small silos.66 Nevertheless, the co-operation between large enterprises and local plants was characterized by a structural asymmetry. Since the SED and academics had avoided discussion of the institutionalization of these forms of collaboration, local politicians remained dependent on the helpfulness of the Kombinatsdirektoren. Paradoxically, higher authorities overestimated how much latitude local officials enjoyed and ignored the fact that enterprises were themselves dependent on the plans they had to fulfil. In the end, the SED’s promise to support a harmonious economic and territorial development was undermined by the practice of such agreements. While people sought to solve their problems individually since these informal practices were increasingly tolerated, local authorities became more dependent on the resources which Kombinatsdirektoren had to offer. And Kombinatsdirektoren evaluated the co-operation with local authorities on the criterion of usefulness for the Kombinat. As a result, the two-tier society of the 1960s was strengthened, since employees of smaller enterprises inevitably benefitted less from these agreements. However limited it remained, the latitude of local officials broadened. Kommunalpolitik became a discrete sphere of power where ad hoc arrangements were fostered, and the attention which politicians and academics paid to these forms of ‘socialist co-operation’ helped to create awareness of specific local problems within the party and state apparatus. Even inside the Department of State and Law of the Central Committee of the SED local officials could now find advocates who criticized Kombinatsdirektoren for showing less willingness to agree contracts or for determining the initiatives which were to be supported.67 The department thus faced the dilemma that Kommunalpolitik was said to have been part of central planning, but in reality it was not. Instead, local officials and ‘ordinary people’ developed their own networks or organized themselves to improve living conditions. They made their own connections to solve the problems they felt were their responsibility—each of them in their own way. Local network building was both the result of Honecker’s decision to revise the discourse on Kommunalpolitik of the 1960s and a practice stimulated by the same discourse. In this sense, Kommunalpolitik, in the end, contributed to a precarious normality, but it also created new conflicts over access to resources. III: Growing Mistrust: Debates on Kommunalpolitik in the 1980s In 1978, Sorgenicht called Honecker to draw attention to the problems of Kommunalpolitik identified within the Department of State and Law of the Central Committee of the SED. In a memorandum he pleaded for the role of local administrations in the context of territoriale Rationalisierung to be designated, though without giving specific recommendations.68 Since he knew that Honecker was less willing to broaden the latitude of local functionaries, Sorgenicht tried to obtain only the general secretary’s agreement for rethinking the law of 1973. But Honecker did not understand the call. ‘What is meant to come from this?’, Honecker laconically asked in reply.69 Two years later the general secretary announced a revision of the law, but not in the way Sorgenicht had mentioned.70 Honecker’s political horizon was formed by the ‘main economic task’, stressing the central question of how to get access to the technical innovations of Western markets which he aimed to enter. The solution was found in the continuation of an economic and scientific concentration process which had its roots in the 1960s and accelerated again in 1979.71 From this point of view, Honecker focused only on the question of how local officials could contribute to economic, not territorial, development.72 In Honecker’s opinion, local authorities should concentrate on the mobilization of unused resources and people to solve problems of urban development in common, but should not negotiate contracts with Kombinatsdirektoren. This view is illustrated by an order on ‘measures to better ensure the conservation and administration of the housing stock’ from 1977. The order called only on local officials to open up ‘Join in! centres’ to organize an express-service for repairs, to develop mobile repair shops and to mobilize brigades.73 When Günter Böhme, member of the Department of State and Law of the Central Committee of the SED, asked Fritz Scharfenstein, head of the Department for Instructions of the Ministerrat, what should be done to ensure the fulfilment of this order, Scharfenstein reacted with impatience. He answered that Willi Stoph, head of the Ministerrat and close confidante of Honecker, had ordered that nothing be done: ‘A continuous control which allows an overview of the problems of conservation and administration of the housing stock is not intended and he [Stoph] won’t be able to ensure it on his own’.74 This order demonstrates how limited was the willingness of central authorities to support local activities. While central officials reduced their own efforts to control everything, they nonetheless distrusted and overestimated the latitude of local authorities, whom they suspected of undermining economic development. In this situation, the 1973 law had to be revised within three years. However, there was obviously nobody working on it, no one providing the impulse or proposing a concept. The debate which occurred prior to 1984 concentrated only on how to revise the detailed structure of the 1973 law to prevent apparently autonomous developments in general.75 This approach was reflected in the institutional arrangements that framed the discussions in Berlin. Unlike in 1972, in 1984 the SED established a commission of the Ministerrat, which was headed by its president, Willi Stoph and controlled by Egon Krenz, both said to be among the few functionaries Honecker allowed to be close to him. The commission itself was dominated by twenty-six representatives of the ministries, alongside only five local and regional functionaries.76 The latter were not allowed to present their own perspective and their short speeches were limited to specific topics such as ‘the contribution of local administrations to economic development’, ‘questions of Kommunalpolitik and the leadership of immaterial sectors’ and the ‘increase of the effectiveness of local parliaments’.77 The example of Rolf Opitz, head of the Rat des Bezirkes Leipzig, shows that the content of the speeches was subjected to the strictest control and censorship. Opitz, for instance, was given a narrow but fuzzy definition of the controversial term territoriale Rationalisierung, now described by watered-down phrases like ‘important economic method of leading and planning’ and ‘long-term scientific co-operation’.78 Last but not least, within three years the commission was allowed to convene only four times. Discussions of substance were avoided and only the central functionaries risked any debate: Gerhard Schürer, head of the Central Planning Commission, and Werner Krolikowski, member of the Economic Commission of the Politburo of the SED, for instance, argued about the positions of the Bezirke and Bezirksstädte within central planning.79 In the end, the commission’s recommendations were limited to curbing the latitude of local officials. The main focus was laid on municipal associations that were now to be closely connected to economic development, without providing an opportunity for institutionalization. Contracts with enterprises were to be purely voluntary (as they already were in practice), and resources that were needed for economic development were not to be used for territorial development projects.80 The final text was drafted solely by the Department of State and Law of the Central Committee of the SED, which was again controlled by Egon Krenz.81 Internally, there was no doubt that the SED leadership had broken with the ideological connection between the ‘unity of economic and social policy’ and the harmonious development of economy and territory. When for the last time Opitz claimed that this principle should be anchored in the preamble to the law, Stoph simply answered that he would do nothing that went beyond the directions of the SED.82 In the end, Honecker did not need to read the final text in order to grant his approval. He took note only of a short paper that listed the ‘main novelties’ and regulations of 1973 that had been abolished.83 Yet, the topics discussed internally fundamentally differed from the propaganda surrounding the Gesetz über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen in der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik (Law on local parliaments in the German Democratic Republic) issued on 4 July 1985.84 The term ‘lebensnahe Kommunalpolitik’ (vital municipal politics) was now popularized across the GDR in newspapers and speeches. This term had even been mentioned during internal discussions, but had played only a marginal role. In the official discourse determined by the SED, Kommunalpolitik was no longer associated with ‘socialist collaboration’ between different actors and the interests of the people, but was explicitly concerned with local officials and their behaviour towards citizens.85 From 1985 the Staatsverlag published a series entitled Kommunalpolitik aktuell, which gave advice on how local authorities should treat citizens. The authors explained the most important laws and showed how social measures should be implemented. The difference between the internal discussions and the official propaganda illustrates the dilemma about legitimacy facing the SED. The aim of the propaganda offensive in the 1980s was to offer an alternative understanding of Kommunalpolitik, not as a collective term for collaborative projects at the local level, but in association with social communication. In fact, local networks intensified and the process of decentralization went on, since the SED continued to verbally support participatory activities at the local level. But this policy could also become a threat. Local officials, too, had welcomed the SED’s claim to actively participate in urban development, but they also expected active (not only verbal) support of ‘socialist co-operation’ by central officials and this support decreased during the Honecker era. The everyday work of local officials was characterized by hybridity. They felt more responsible for their area of activity, but their own role was not at all clear. A document which illustrates this situation can be found in the Stasi archive. An informer who observed a lecture on how to behave during what proved to be the last municipal election, in 1989, bemoaned the schematism of the speeches. The lecture of the First Secretary of the SED-Stadtbezirksleitung Nordost ‘could also have been held in Karl-Marx-Stadt’, he criticized. ‘He gave only general statements, local problems were excluded.’ The negative highlight was when the mayor of the district said, ‘Who (here in Leipzig) speaks about uncleanliness, and spreads the lies of the ZDF [one of the two main West German television channels]’. Only after the audience had expressed its indignation did the mayor admit that there were ‘local problems’ caused by planning deficits and the lack of resources. However, the unofficial informer summarized that ‘arguing over people’s heads during the municipal election’ was a common practice.86 The example shows that people now wanted local officials to address local problems directly. In many ways, people had become more self-confident in challenging the state during the 1980s.87 Now they vigorously called on local authorities to actively support their needs since they had already done a lot on their own to solve local problems. Nevertheless, local officials had also done much to find a balance between the ossifying structures of the Honecker administration and the emergence of uncontrollable dynamics initiated by ‘ordinary people’. They tried to develop forms of flexibility within state planning. But in so doing, local officials also developed expectations of higher authorities which remained unfulfilled. The prognosis of the Stasi informer came true. Months before the fall of the Wall, propaganda events on the eve of the last municipal election in Leipzig had to be cancelled owing to the anger of citizens who longed for building repairs and other material services.88 IV: Conclusion This article started with the question of whether there was Kommunalpolitik in the GDR. The answer must be yes and no: yes, as the term became part of a much broader discussion of the administrative structures from the 1960s on, and no, as East German Kommunalpolitik can hardly be compared to the Western concept with the same name, although it contained elements of it. Rather, it was part of a much broader debate on decentralization in the GDR which included economists, urban planners, lobby groups and ‘ordinary people’. The term Kommunalpolitik evolved at a time when the SED leadership was seeking new ways to legitimize socialism after the construction of the Wall. By reactivating a term deeply rooted in German political culture, Ulbricht sent a signal to temper ‘productivism’ and to address people’s needs. Subsequently, the narrative of a harmonious balance between economic and territorial development became the centrepiece of the SED’s strategy of legitimization. Nevertheless, the SED did not offer a concise definition of Kommunalpolitik and its position within ‘democratic centralism’ since this would potentially endanger the Politburo’s monopoly on power. But whereas Ulbricht made larger attempts to support a kind of socialism from below through ‘socialist co-operation’ led by local authorities, his successor Honecker halted this support. Unlike Ulbricht, Honecker increasingly saw Kommunalpolitik as a threat to ‘productivism’. Nevertheless, under his leadership the SED continued to call on people to join local activities to improve their home environment, but local authorities were increasingly faced with mistrust. They were neither only crisis managers, nor simply mediators between the rulers and the ruled. As can be seen from the example of territoriale Rationalisierung, they continued to develop their own local networks and attempted to improve living conditions by organizing a system of mutual help built on the principles of state planning and flexibility. From the 1960s on, their latitude broadened, but their loyalty and faithfulness towards higher authorities was not unconditional. Their growing self-confidence became a challenge to the SED leadership. If the time span between the 1960s and 1989 was marked by an increasing normality, Kommunalpolitik can be interpreted as an approach that fostered this development, for the discourse around it was coupled with an offer to ‘ordinary people’ and local officials to participate in socialism more creatively. But its normality remained a contradictory normality since social grievances in the cities were not met. In practice, local network building resulted in new conflicts that remained unresolved until the end of the GDR. Footnotes 1 Stefan Couperus, Dirk Jan Wolffram and Christianne Schmidt (eds), Control of the City: Local Elites and the Dynamics of Urban Politics, 1800–1960 (Leuven, 2007); Detlef Lehnert (ed.), Kommunaler Liberalismus in Europa: Großstadtprofile um 1900 (Cologne, Weimar and Vienna, 2014). 2 Numerous legal, sociological and historical studies date the end of Kommunalpolitik in the GDR to 1952 (or even earlier) and avoid venturing beyond this caesura. See, for example, Sighard Neckel, ‘Das lokale Staatsorgan: kommunale Herrschaft im Staatssozialismus der DDR’, Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 4 (1992), pp. 252–68; Christoph Hauschild, Die örtliche Verwaltung im Staats- und Verwaltungssystem der DDR: auf dem Wege in den gesamtdeutschen Bundesstaat; eine vergleichende Untersuchung (Baden-Baden, 1991); Henning Mielke, Die Auflösung der Länder in der SBZ/DDR: von der deutschen Selbstverwaltung zum sozialistisch-zentralistischen Einheitsstaat nach sowjetischem Modell 1945–1952 (Stuttgart, 1995); Günter Püttner and Albrecht Rösler, Gemeinden und Gemeindereform in der ehemaligen DDR: zur staatsrechtlichen Stellung und Aufgabenstruktur der DDR-Gemeinden seit Beginn der siebziger Jahre; zugleich ein Beitrag zu den territorialen Veränderungen der Gemeinde- und Kreisgrenzen in der DDR (Baden-Baden, 1997); Thomas Großbölting, SED-Diktatur und Gesellschaft: Bürgertum, Bürgerlichkeit und Entbürgerlichung in Magdeburg und Halle (Halle/Saale, 2001); Thomas Widera, Dresden 1945–1948: Politik und Gesellschaft unter sowjetischer Besatzungsherrschaft (Göttingen, 2004); Veit Scheller, Die regionale Staatsmacht: der Rat des Bezirkes Chemnitz/Karl-Marx-Stadt 1952–1990; eine Verwaltungsstudie (Halle/Saale, 2006). 3 Lutz Niethammer, Alexander von Plato and Dorothee Wierling, Die volkseigene Erfahrung: eine Archäologie des Lebens in der Industrieprovinz der DDR (Berlin, 1991), p. 517. 4 Mary Fulbrook, The People’s State: East German Society from Hitler to Honecker (New Haven and London, 2005), p. 4. 5 See the balancing critiques in Jan Palmowski, Inventing a Socialist Nation: Heimat and the Politics of Everyday Life in the GDR, 1945–1990 (Cambridge, 2009), pp. 311–13; Thomas Lindenberger, ‘Die DDR nachdem das Tor zum Westen geschlossen war’, in Dokumentationszentrum Alltagskultur der DDR (ed.), Alltag: DDR; Geschichten, Fotos, Objekte (Berlin, 2012), pp. 19–27. 6 The term Durchherrschung was created by Alf Lüdtke to define the SED’s claim to rule society as a whole. See Jürgen Kocka, ‘Eine durchherrschte Gesellschaft’, in Hartmut Kaelble, Jürgen Kocka and Hartmut Zwahr (eds), Sozialgeschichte der DDR (Stuttgart, 1994), pp. 547–53. 7 Christoph Bernhardt and Heinz Reif (eds), Sozialistische Städte zwischen Herrschaft und Selbstbehauptung: Kommunalpolitik, Stadtplanung und Alltag in der DDR (Stuttgart, 2009); Carsten Benke, Ludwigsfelde—Stadt der Automobilbauer: Stadtentwicklung, Kommunalpolitik und städtisches Leben in einer kleinen Industriestadt der DDR (Berlin, 2010); Philipp Springer, Verbaute Träume: Herrschaft, Stadtentwicklung und Lebensrealität in der sozialistischen Industriestadt Schwedt (Berlin, 2006). 8 André Steiner, Die DDR-Wirtschaftsreform der sechziger Jahre: Konflikt zwischen Effizienz- und Machtkalkül (Berlin, 1999); Corey Ross, Constructing Socialism at the Grass-Roots: The Transformation of East Germany, 1945–65 (Houndmills, 2000), pp. 188–93. 9 Palmowski, Inventing a Socialist Nation, pp. 149–85. 10 Brian Ladd, ‘Socialist Planning and the Rediscovery of the Old City in the German Democratic Republic’, Journal of Urban History, 27, (2001), pp. 584–603, here p. 588; Horst Siegel, ‘Generalbebauungsplanung—Ziele, Aussagen und Ergebnisse’, in Joachim Tesch and Kurt Ackermann (eds), Bauen in Leipzig 1945–1990: Akteure und Zeitzeugen auf persönlichen Spuren der Leipziger Baugeschichte (Leipzig, 2003), pp. 115–78, here p. 127. On the growing influence of lobby groups in the context of decentralization in the 1960s see also Esther von Richthofen, Bringing Culture to the Masses: Control, Compromise and Participation in the GDR (New York, 2009), pp. 158–65; Frank Betker, ‘Einsicht in die Notwendigkeit’: kommunale Stadtplanung in der DDR und nach der Wende (1945–1994) (Stuttgart, 2005), pp. 153–216. 11 Jay Rowell, Le totalitarisme au concret: les politiques de logement en RDA (Paris, 2006), pp. 189–92; Ladd, ‘Socialist Planning’, p. 590; Thomas Topfstedt, Stadtdenkmale im Osten (Leipzig, 1994), p. 23. 12 Steiner, Die DDR-Wirtschaftsreform der sechziger Jahre, pp. 52–3; Peter C. Caldwell, Dictatorship, State Planning and Social Theory in the German Democratic Republic (Cambridge, 2003), p. 146. 13 Klaus Sorgenicht et al. (eds), Verfassung der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik: Dokumente, Kommentar, vol. 2 (Berlin, 1969), pp. 179–206. 14 Grundsätze des Städtebaus, in Ministerialblatt der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik (1950), pp. 153–4; Hans Zienert, Die Stadt im sozialistischen Staat: zur Funktion der Stadtverordnetenversammlung und ihrer Organe im System der staatlichen Leitung (Berlin, 1968). 15 Walter Ulbricht, ‘Aufgaben und Arbeitsweise der örtlichen Volksvertretungen unter den Bedingungen des neuen ökonomischen Systems der Planung und Leitung der Volkswirtschaft. Aus dem Schlußwort auf der 19. Sitzung des Staatsrates’, in Walter Ulbricht (ed.), Zum ökonomischen System des Sozialismus in der DDR, 2 vols, vol. 1 (Berlin, 1968), pp. 623–7. 16 Palmowski, Inventing a Socialist Nation, pp. 149–57; Ross, Constructing Socialism at the Grass-Roots, pp. 189–90. 17 Erlaß des Staatsrates der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik über Aufgaben und Arbeitsweise der örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihrer Organe unter den Bedingungen des neuen ökonomischen Systems der Planung und Leitung der Volkswirtschaft vom 2. Juli 1965, in Gesetzblatt der DDR, part 1 (1965), pp. 159–203; Oliver Werner, ‘Die “Demokratisierung des Verwaltungsapparates” der DDR als Beispiel administrativer Mobilisierung (1949 bis 1961)’, in Oliver Werner (ed.), Mobilisierung im Nationalsozialismus: Institutionen und Regionen in der Kriegswirtschaft und der Verwaltung des ‘Dritten Reiches’ 1936 bis 1945 (Paderborn, 2013), pp. 303–23, here p. 322. 18 Betker, ‘Einsicht in die Notwendigkeit’, pp. 133–4. 19 Beschluß des Staatsrates der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik über die Weiterentwicklung der Haushalts- und Finanzwirtschaft der Städte und Gemeinden vom 15. September 1967, in Gesetzblatt der DDR (1967), part 1, pp. 111–18. 20 Sorgenicht et al., Verfassung der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, vol. 2, p. 183. 21 Stenographische Niederschrift der Arbeitsberatung der Abteilung Staats- und Rechtsfragen über die Arbeit der Räte der Städte und Gemeinden im Hause des Zentralkomitees am 18. Dezember 1967, Bundesarchiv Berlin-Lichterfelde (SAPMO-BArch), DY 30/IV A 2/13/123, p. 43. 22 Ibid., p. 46. 23 ‘Funktion, Rechtsstellung und Arbeitsweise der Organe der Staatsmacht in kreisangehörigen Städten im entwickelten gesellschaftlichen System des Sozialismus (Thesen)’, in Deutsche Akademie der Staats und Rechtswissenschaften Walter Ulbricht (ed.), Gesellschaftliche Funktion der Stadt und Aufgaben der Stadtverordneten, vol. 1 (Berlin, 1969), pp. 59–60. 24 Ellenor Oehler, ‘Zur Verantwortung der Stadtverordnetenversammlung für die Sicherung rationellster Nutzung von Naturreichtümern’, in Deutsche Akademie der Staats und Rechtswissenschaften Walter Ulbricht, Gesellschaftliche Funktion, vol. 1, pp. 272–3. 25 Karl Bönninger, ‘Probleme der Erarbeitung von Leitungsmodellen in Großstädten’, in Deutsche Akademie der Staats und Rechtswissenschaften Walter Ulbricht, Gesellschaftliche Funktion, vol. 2, p. 349. 26 Michael Stolleis, Sozialistische Gesetzlichkeit: Staats- und Verwaltungsrechtswissenschaft in der DDR (Munich, 2009), p. 57. 27 Neues Deutschland (27 Oct. 1968), pp. 3–6. 28 Rede des Genossen Walter Ulbricht, Erster Sekretär des ZK der SED, auf der Sitzung der Bezirksleitung in Leipzig, 21 Nov. 1970, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/2118, pp. 230–62. 29 Beschluß des Staatsrates der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, Die weitere Gestaltung des Systems der Planung und Leitung der wirtschaftlichen und gesellschaftlichen Entwicklung, der Versorgung und Betreuung der Bevölkerung in den Bezirken, Kreisen, Städten und Gemeinden—zur Entwicklung sozialistischer Kommunalpolitik, 16. April 1970, in Gesetzblatt der DDR (1970), part 1, pp. 39–62. 30 Erich Honecker, Bericht des Zentralkomitees an den VIII. Parteitag der SED (Berlin, 1971), p. 66. 31 Ministerrat der DDR, Staatssekretär für Staats- und Wirtschaftsrecht, Supranowitz, an den 1. Stellvertreter des Vorsitzenden des Ministerrates, Horst Sindermann, 10 Nov. 1971, BArch, DC 20/19762, pp. 8–12. 32 Vermerk für Genossen Ebert, Zu Problemen der Gesetzgebung für die örtlichen Staatsorgane, 16 July 1971, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22312. 33 Mitglieder der am 22.12.1971 berufenen Arbeitsgruppe des Ministerrates zur Ausarbeitung des Gesetzes über die Aufgaben und Befugnisse der örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihrer Organe, n.d., BArch, DC 20/19755, pp. 127–8. 34 Arbeitsplan der Arbeitsgruppe des Ministerrates für die Vorbereitung des Gesetzes zur Regelung der Aufgaben und Befugnisse der örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihrer Organe, Entwurf, 7 Jan. 1972, BArch, DC 20/19755, pp. 137–45. 35 Ministerrat der DDR, Staatssekretär für Staats- und Wirtschaftsrecht, Supranowitz, an den 1. Stellvertreter des Vorsitzenden des Ministerrates, Sindermann, 10 Apr. 1972, BArch, DC 20/17221, pp. 1–7. 36 Vorschläge der Arbeitsgruppe des Ministerrates zur Vereinfachung der Leitungsstruktur der Räte der Bezirke usw., 13 May 1972, BArch, DC 20/17221, pp. 56–63, 212–13. 37 Gesetzesentwurf, n.d., SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/J IV 2/2A/1627, pp. 49–61. 38 Gesetz über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihre Organe in der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik vom 12. Juli 1973, in Gesetzblatt der DDR (1973), part 1, pp. 313–35. 39 Palmowski, Inventing a Socialist Nation, p. 160. 40 Rede Alfred Neumanns zur Begründung des Gesetzentwurfes über die Ordnungen über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihre Organe auf der 7. Tagung der Volkskammer am 14. Dezember 1972, BArch, DC 20/9555, p. 10. 41 ‘Kommunalpolitik (sozialistische)’, in Waltraut Böhme (ed.), Kleines politisches Wörterbuch (Berlin, 1978), p. 446. 42 Katherine Pence, ‘“A World in Miniature”: The Leipzig Trade Fairs in the 1950s and East German Consumer Citizenship’, in David F. Crew (ed.), Consuming Germany in the Cold War (Oxford, 2003), pp. 21–50; Karsten Rudolph and Jana Wüstenhagen (eds), Große Politik, kleine Begegnungen: die Leipziger Messe im Ost-West-Konflikt (Berlin, 2006). 43 Hubert Schnabel, Seiten und Zeiten des Auf- und Umbruchs einer Stadt: ein Zeitzeuge lüftet seine Notizbücher; Leipzig 1945–1989 (Leipzig, 2005), p. 37. 44 Elfie Rembold, ‘Staatsinteresse, Messegeist und Stadtkultur: das Beispiel Leipzig’, in Adelheid von Saldern (ed.), Inszenierte Einigkeit: Herrschaftsrepräsentation in DDR-Städten (Stuttgart, 2003), pp. 275–353. 45 Horst Siegel, ‘Zu städtebaulichen Strukturmodellen als Kernstück der Einheit von Generalbebauungsplan, Generalverkehrsplan und Plan zur Entwicklung des Bauwesens am Beispiel der Stadt Leipzig’, in Hubert Scholz (ed.), Generalbebauungsplanung der Städte der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik: ein Beitrag zur prognostisch begründeten hocheffektiven Strukturpolitik; Fachtagung der Zentralen Fachgruppe Gebiets-, Stadt- und Dorfplanung des BDA, 20. und 21. Februar 1969 in Magdeburg (Berlin, 1970), p. 54. 46 Generalbebauungsplan der Stadt Leipzig, Stadtarchiv Leipzig (StadtAL), StVuR, 17105, p. 91. 47 Protokoll zur Beratung von Paul Fröhlich, 1. Sekretär der SED-Bezirksleitung, mit Mitgliedern des Rates der Stadt und der Kommission Bauwesen am 21.8.1967, StadtAL, StVuR (1), 518. 48 Rat des Bezirkes, Abteilung Hauptplanträger und Wohnungspolitik, Komplexstudie ‘Entwicklungstendenzen des sozialistischen Lebens in den Wohngebieten’, Oct. 1970, Sächsisches Staatsarchiv, Leipzig (SächsStAL), 21123, IV/B/2/6/427. 49 SED-Bezirksleitung, Wissenschaftliche Arbeitsgruppe beim 1. Sekretär an Horst Schumann, Probleme der Instandsetzung und Instandhaltung von Wohngebäuden in der Stadt Leipzig, 15 July 1971, SächsStAL, 21123, IV/B/2/6/395. 50 Christoph Lorke, ‘Soziale Utopien—Prekäre Viertel—Problematische Menschen? Perzeptionen urbaner Segregation im geteilten Deutschland’, in Thomas Großbölting and Rüdiger Schmidt (eds), Gedachte Stadt—Gebaute Stadt: Urbanität in der deutsch-deutschen Systemkonkurrenz 1945–1990 (Cologne, 2015), pp. 267–99; Alice Kahl, Erlebnis Plattenbau: eine Langzeitstudie (Opladen, 2003). 51 Patrick Major, Behind the Berlin Wall: East Germany and the Frontiers of Power (Oxford, 2010), pp. 188–217. 52 Joachim Palutzki, ‘Zur Baupolitik in der Ära Honecker: das Wohnungsbauprogramm’, in Holger Barth (ed.), Planen für das Kollektiv: Handlungs- und Gestaltungsspielräume von Architekten und Stadtplanern in der DDR (Erkner, 1997), pp. 69–84. 53 Rat des Bezirkes, Dep. Allgemeine Verwaltung an den Vorsitzenden Rolf Opitz, 11 Feb. 1975, SächsStAL, 20237, 24628. 54 Beschluss zur weiteren Durchführung des Wohnungsbauprogramms in der Stadt Leipzig im Fünfjahrplanzeitraum 1976 bis 1980 und bis 1990, 30 Aug. 1977, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/J IV 2/2A/2099, pp. 14–20. 55 ZK der SED, Abt. Bauwesen, Gerhard Trölitzsch, to the Büro des Politbüros, 30 Aug. 1977, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/J IV 2/2A/2099, p. 19. 56 SED-Bezirksleitung, Information über Erfahrungen und Probleme der weiteren Qualifizierung der Arbeitsweise der örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihrer Organe, 11 May 1977, SächsStAL, 21123, IV/D/2/12/523, p. 4. 57 Rat der Stadt, Bericht über Ergebnisse und weitere Aufgaben der Wohnraumlenkung und der Gebäudewirtschaft für die Sitzung des Rates des Bezirkes am 10 Juni 1977, 31 May 1977, StadtAL, StVuR, 21446, pp. 64–78. 58 Rat des Bezirkes, Abteilungsleiter Wohnungspolitik Zimmermann, Einige Probleme zur Wohnungspolitik, 15 June 1976, SächsStAL, 20237, 24784. 59 Hauschild, Die örtliche Verwaltung, pp. 94–5. 60 Palmowski, Inventing a Socialist Nation, p. 16. 61 Rat der Stadt Leipzig, Chefarchitekt, Analyse des Erfüllungsstandes des Programms DÄCHER DICHT bis 1987 in der Stadt Leipzig, 31 July 1986, SächsStAL, 20301, 506. 62 MfS, BV Leipzig, KD Leipzig-Stadt, Zuarbeit für die Lageeinschätzung des örtlichen und stadtgeleiteten Bauwesens, zu Fragen des “Dächer-dicht-Programmes”, aus der Sicht der Baubetriebe des örtlich geleiteten Bauwesens, 2 Feb. 1987, Bundesbeauftragter für die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemaligen DDR (BStU), MfS, BV Lpz., KD Leipzig-Stadt 01533, p. 61. 63 Abschrift aus dem Bericht über Straftaten in der Volkswirtschaft gemäß Informationsordnung 081/73, SächsStAL, 21123, IV/C/2/4/310. 64 ABI Stadtkomitee, Information zur 2. Etappe der Kontrolle über die Gewinnung und Wiederverwendung gebrauchter Baumaterialien bei der Erhaltung von Wohnraum sowie beim Abriß von Bauwerken, 24 May 1984, StadtAL, StVuR, 1422, p. 6. 65 Sekretariat der SED-Stadtleitung/Rat der Stadt Leipzig/Sekretariat des Stadtvorstandes des FDGB Leipzig/Stadtausschuss der Nationalen Front Leipzig, Konzeption der territorialen Rationalisierung der Stadt Leipzig 1976–1980, Sept. 1975, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22429. 66 ZK der SED, Abt. Staats- und Rechtsfragen, Bericht über das Studium von Erfahrungen der Stadtleitung der SED Leipzig und ihres Sekretariats bei der Führung der staatlichen Arbeit und Entwicklung der politischen Massenarbeit in den staatlichen Wohngebieten, 5 Oct. 1979, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22303. 67 Problembericht über die Beratung am 24.10.1978 zu §§4 und 20 des Gesetzes über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihre Organe, n.d., SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22390. 68 Vorsitzender des Ministerrates/Sekretär des Staatsrates/ZK der SED, Abt. Staats- und Rechtsfragen, Entwurf der Vorlage für das Sekretariat des ZK der SED, Erfahrungen und Ergebnisse bei der Durchführung des Gesetzes über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihrer Organe vom 12.7.1973, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22391. 69 Ibid. 70 Protokoll der Verhandlungen des X. Parteitages der Sozialistischen Einheitspartei Deutschlands, vol. 1 (Berlin, 1981), p. 122. 71 André Steiner, ‘Abschied von der Industrie? Wirtschaftlicher Strukturwandel in West- und Ostdeutschland seit den 1960er Jahren’, in Werner Plumpe and André Steiner (eds), Der Mythos von der postindustriellen Welt: wirtschaftlicher Strukturwandel in Deutschland 1960–1990 (Göttingen, 2016), pp. 15–54, here p. 39. 72 Erich Honecker, Aus dem Bericht des Politbüros an die 9. Tagung des ZK der SED, 22./23. November 1984 (Berlin, 1984), p. 51. 73 Beschluss des Ministerrates vom 21.7.1977, Maßnahmen zur besseren Gewährleistung der Erhaltung und Verwaltung des Wohnungsbestandes, StadtAL, StVuR, 19448, pp. 226–37. 74 Aktennotiz über die Aussprache mit Genossen Fritz Scharfenstein, Leiter der Instrukteurabteilung beim Vorsitzenden des Ministerrates, 12 Sept. 1977, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22385. 75 ZK der SED, Abt. Staats- und Rechtsfragen, Klaus Heuer, to Klaus Sorgenicht, 25 Aug. 1981, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22392. 76 Grundsätze und Maßnahmen zur Neufassung des Gesetzes über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihre Organe, 20 June 1984, BArch, DC 20/I/3/2054, pp. 12–14. 77 ZK der SED, Abt. Staats- und Rechtsfragen, Vermerk über ein Gespräch zwischen den Genossen Sorgenicht, Dr. Kleinert, Prof. Petzold und Prof. Heuer am 31.7.1984, 1 Aug. 1984, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22392. 78 Erste Sitzung der Kommission zur Neuordnung des Gesetzes über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihrer Organe vom 12.9.1984, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22393. 79 ZK der SED, Abt. Staats- und Rechtsfragen, Günter Böhme an Egon Krenz, Information über die Sitzung der Kommission zur Neufassung des Gesetzes über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen am 19.12.1984, 20 Dec. 1984, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22393. 80 ZK der SED, Abt. Staats- und Rechtsfragen, to Werner Krolikowski, Standpunkt zu den Hauptrichtungen des Gesetzes über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen, 11 Feb. 1985, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22394. 81 Entwurf des Gesetzes über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihre Organe, mit handschriftlichen Anmerkungen Egon Krenz, 4 Apr. 1985, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22395. 82 Zusammengefaßte Diskussion zu den Kapiteln I bis II des Gesetzentwurfes, n.d., BArch, DC 20/4837, p. 118. 83 Klaus Sorgenicht to Egon Krenz, 25 Apr. 1985, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22396. 84 Gesetz über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen in der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik vom 4. Juli 1985, in Gesetzblatt der DDR (1985), part 1, pp. 213–35. 85 See for instance ‘Kommunale Fragen mit den Bürgern lösen’, in Neues Deutschland (17 Feb. 1986), p. 2. 86 BV Leipzig, Abt. XX/3, IMS “Horst Franke”,WPO-Versammlung im Leipziger SB Nord, 26 Apr. 1989, BStU, MfS, BV Lpz. AKG 00969/02, p. 12. 87 Major, Behind the Berlin Wall, pp. 208–23. 88 BV Leipzig, Abt. XX/3, WPO-Veranstaltung im Leipziger Stadtbezirk Nordost, 26 Apr. 1989, BStU, MfS, BV Lpz. AKG 00969/02, p. 12. © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the German History Society. All rights reserved. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png German History Oxford University Press

Socialism from Below: Kommunalpolitik in the East German Dictatorship between Discourse and Practice

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Oxford University Press
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© The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the German History Society. All rights reserved.
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0266-3554
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1477-089X
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10.1093/gerhis/ghx120
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Abstract

Abstract This article examines the official and scholarly debate on Kommunalpolitik in the GDR, and analyses how the concept took root at the local level, and how the SED finally responded. While most historians tend to reduce the political system of the East German dictatorship to the highly centralized state model that was ruled only by the Politburo of the SED, this essay points out that governance within the GDR was coupled with decentralized elements. In the 1960s, the SED began to rethink the modus of governance by stressing the local sphere as a resource of economic planning and by replacing the Stalinist definition of what a city should be. However, the state party avoided a reform that might endanger the monopoly of the Politburo. Nevertheless, by leaving this opening within the discourse, the SED provided a framework in which local authorities and academics could articulate their perceptions and challenge the power of the Politburo. Even Honecker referred to the popular debate that was soon dominated by local politicians and academics, but he was unable to cope with this unloved discourse since local authorities were becoming more self-confident. These results open up new perspectives on political practices within the GDR, especially with regard to the alleged stability of the Honecker era and continuities after 1989. Was there Kommunalpolitik (municipal politics) in the German Democratic Republic (GDR)? At first glance, this question sounds somewhat curious. Considering that Kommunalpolitik is closely linked to the rise of liberalism and autonomous local elites in Western Europe,1 it is hardly imaginable that such a concept could exist under a dictatorship in which one Communist party sought to rule every part of society. Thus in research literature, local administrations mostly appear to have been passive managers of shortage and administrators of the permanent crises that led to the decline in 1989.2 Former East German local elites, by contrast, draw a more positive picture of their work. In an outstanding documentation of individual experiences collected in 1990/91, a former local politician stated that Kommunalpolitik was a field that inspired her to take every imaginable initiative. At the local level, she said, politics was driven not so much by party membership or social belonging as by creativity and the opportunity to assert oneself. She was sure that her work had actually contributed to the improvement of people’s lives.3 In reunified Germany, memories like these were often dismissed by the majority of politicians and historians, who accused the contemporaries of ‘whitewashing’ the repressive regime. It is somewhat ironic that it was the British historian Mary Fulbrook who pointed out that these memories are not just an expression of Ostalgie (nostalgia for the East). This does not mean that they are not also nostalgic: such rosy pictures are certainly part of individual discourses of exculpation. Yet, they also tell us something about the construction of ‘normality’ under socialism.4 Although the concept of ‘normality’ tends to hide the complexity of everyday life,5 Fulbrook’s concern to take the memories of East Germans seriously is important, as archival documents merely reflect the ritualized communication of ‘democratic centralism’. However, local politicians in the GDR lived, one could say, in a hybrid world. They were part of the dictatorial regime the East German Communist Party (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschland, SED) had implemented, by 1952 at the latest, when the five federal states (Länder) had been replaced by fourteen regional territories (Bezirke) and the local administrations had become part of the ‘democratic centralism’ that was designed to ensure an efficient administration and a maximum of Durchherrschung of every section of society down to the smallest cells.6 However, local politicians were also part of the local societies they lived in and were responsible for. This aspect has been widely ignored by German historians, or is overshadowed by the popular perception of the GDR as a ‘failed state’. It is not surprising that Kommunalpolitik as a hybrid sphere of power was examined by scholars for the first and last time in a research project in 2009. Based on interviews and local files, these studies have shown that everyday work in the city was structured by informal coalitions between local politicians, enterprises and regional authorities.7 Nevertheless, the authors ignored the fact that these structures developed not only in an informal sphere, but also within an official discursive framework. Indeed, the term Kommunalpolitik became popular again in East German political theory and official discourses in the 1960s, a decade after the SED had erased its bourgeois administrative-legal tradition. The period that followed the construction of the Berlin Wall on 13 August 1961 was marked by new normality. Since the SED leadership had promised to show that socialism was the best way to solve the problems of the people and to live in a peaceful society, more attention was given to the domestic environment at the local level. The general attempt to rationalize economic and agricultural structures opened up ways to initiate processes of decentralization.8 In the cities ‘Join in!’ initiatives were founded to enable people to participate in the exercise of rule, especially in construction projects.9 In parallel, architects and urban planners also started experimental inner-city building projects. Offices for urban planning were established in the local administrations of large cities, which were made responsible for defining the future tasks for urban planning within the scope of General Building Plans (Generalbebauungspläne).10 Even lobby groups such as the Workers’ Co-operatives (Arbeiterwohnungsbaugenossenschaften), the Cultural Association (Kulturbund) or the Society for Historic Preservation (Gesellschaft für Denkmalpflege) became influential actors in shaping the home environment.11 In this context, intense discussions arose over the role and function of local authorities. What is remarkable about this debate is that it created a fundamental challenge to the structures of power within the GDR. Considering this background, an analysis of this official discourse on Kommunalpolitik can help us better understand the self-perception of local authorities and cast fresh light on the social and cultural history of the GDR, especially with regard to the alleged stability of the regime in the 1970s/80s. Using published and unpublished documents from the Bundesarchiv Berlin-Lichterfelde, the Stadtarchiv Leipzig, the Sächsisches Staatsarchiv and the Bundesbeauftragter für die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemeligen DDR (Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former German Democratic Republic), this article analyses the evolution of an official discourse on Kommunalpolitik, which became a popular argument in rethinking the highly centralized administrative structures of the GDR. Furthermore, it examines the corresponding shift in the role of local authorities. Against this backdrop, Kommunalpolitik becomes an interesting field for investigating the political practice and latitudes within the dictatorship, and so takes us far beyond simplistic interpretations such as the ‘failed state’. I: Conceptualizing Kommunalpolitik and the Boundaries of Reform In 1961, the collapse of the GDR seemed imminent. The mass exodus of (mostly skilled) workers had reached a dramatic peak; the upheaval of 17 June 1953 was still alive in collective memory; and the supply situation could not have been worse. On 13 August 1961 the Politburo of the SED saw its last chance to stop this development in building a wall through Berlin. The shock this event caused, however, was soon replaced by a new normality. The people were walled-in, but the SED had learned that—even now—socialism could not be constructed only on the basis of repression, ideology and extensive ‘productivism’. Economic development became the object of a large reform programme, which Walter Ulbricht, First Secretary of the SED and president of the State Council (Staatsrat), sought to realize in the 1960s. Influenced by ideas of the Soviet economist Evsei Liberman, who had pleaded for the introduction of profit-oriented incentives and bonuses into the central planned economy, the main point of Ulbricht’s New Economic System was to establish ‘economic levers’ (ökonomische Hebel) within enterprises.12 The New Economic System was introduced at a time when a much broader transnational discourse circulated which was unequivocally in favour of planning and the scientization of politics. In the GDR, the ideas of Liberman and Western cybernetic theories affected and were amalgamated with Marxist-Leninism. The ‘socialist constitution’ of 1968 expressed this new vision, defining enterprises and cities (or communes) as the main ‘societal sub-systems’, as the essence of socialism. Both were treated as, one could say, cogs in a single mechanism. The central task of enterprises was to increase labour productivity, while the task of the cities was to improve the people’s working and living conditions so that they could regenerate their labour power.13 This was coupled with a shift in the official definition of cities. While in previous Stalinist years the SED leadership had perceived them only as economic sites built by industry for industry, now they were seen as places of living and even enjoyment, even if consumption was still justified by its role within the cycle of economic production.14 This new valorization of the cities was not an end in itself. By defining local conditions as a resource of increasing labour productivity, Ulbricht aimed both to avoid autonomous developments and to secure a solid basis for the efficient allocation of economic investment.15 But the latitude of local politicians was broadened, since the new rhetoric accepted that socialism should be fostered more from below, through local co-operation and network-building. ‘Ordinary people’ too were called to actively contribute to developing their home environment by joining participatory organizations such as the ‘More beautiful our cities and communities’ movement (Schöner unsere Städte und Gemeinden—Mach mit!). These initiatives aimed at helping keep the cities, homes and public spaces clean and green, and thereby helping develop a kind of socialist identity. Ulbricht hoped that if both local authorities and ‘ordinary people’ felt more responsible for their home environment and worked together to improve it, the values of socialism would be strengthened. As Jan Palmowski and Corey Ross have shown, there was quite a lot of popular willingness to use these offers to gain more influence over local development.16 In parallel, the planning system was expanded by the concept of ‘territorial planning’, a result of a decree of the Staatsrat from 2 July 1965. Economic and regional planning were to go hand in hand, with the regional planning commission (Bezirksplankommission) in co-operation with local planning offices, which also co-ordinated public services and supply, taking on new responsibilities here.17 In larger cities, urban planning as a whole was placed in the hands of specialized local offices.18 Local administrations were furthermore allowed to acquire limited financial resources in fields such as housing, consumer supply and additional services by raising certain taxes and fees.19 These funds were officially administrated by the local parliaments for use for local development projects. The ‘socialist constitution’ of 1968 went even further and called for closer co-operation between cities, communities and enterprises, for example on the basis of municipal associations (Gemeindeverbände). This would lead, as head of the Department of State and Law of the Central Committee of the SED Klaus Sorgenicht proclaimed, to a deeper allegiance between the leadership of the state and the people.20 Against this backdrop, Kommunalpolitik in the GDR was anything but a reinvention of an older tradition. Guided by economic and political expectations, the concept in fact encapsulated one aspect of the larger debate over decentralization, which aimed to secure the regime’s stability. What made this concept important was not so much the theory behind it as the authority with which it was invested. Not ideology, but practicability came into focus, especially because Ulbricht and the SED in general had left a central question open: How should cities, communities and enterprises work together? As a result, an intense discussion on Kommunalpolitik arose among local politicians and academics and became a catalyst for expressing the need to make changes in the administrative structure of the GDR. Meanwhile, Ulbricht continued to play the role of the motivator when he visited local functionaries to encourage them to join ‘socialist co-operation’. On this basis, in December 1967 Sorgenicht convened local politicians to evaluate the results. The way in which this meeting was conducted reflects the relatively open atmosphere of the debate. Sorgenicht did not start with the mandatory ideological speech. Rather, the discussion was dominated by the reflections of local politicians who were looking for solutions to local problems triggered by the SED’s unrealistic expectations of economic growth. These local politicians understood ‘socialist co-operation’ as an offer to participate actively in doing socialism, which to them meant articulating local interests. In the eyes of Frank Grimm, mayor of Altenburg, local administrations had to decide on their own which co-operation they would join, ‘because they know the interests of the people and they are able to discuss it with the people’.21 In the process, Grimm sought to strengthen the powers of the localities at the expense of the regional planners.22 During this meeting the discourse on Kommunalpolitik was certainly decoupled from its original theoretical framework, not least because even central authorities like Sorgenicht had supported this shift. In this situation, local authorities now used the established vocabulary to stress the interests of the people as the source of socialism since Ulbricht had also called on the people to actively participate in local development. Within a short period the discourse initiated by the SED showed that it had the potential to become a fundamental discussion about the structures of the regime. This became obvious during a conference organized by the Academy of Political Science and Law (Akademie für Staats- und Rechtswissenschaften) and held in Potsdam-Babelsberg in September 1968, where nearly 180 local representatives and political scientists discussed the ‘societal role of the city’ and the consequences for local politics. Although the participants did not ignore the political importance of economic growth, they asked for equal weight to be given to urban development. In their introductory material, the organizers of the conference had pointed out the role of cities: ‘Their stability serves the stability of the entire societal system.’ The responsibility of local authorities was thus to bring together the interests of the people and ‘societal needs’.23 On this basis, it was possible to articulate a moderate critique of the negative effects of the New Economic System. For instance, Ellenor Oehler, member of the academy, distinguished between a ‘common economic interest’ and a ‘specific economic interest’, with the latter rooted in the cities as they were the ‘communities of citizens’. Taking the example of natural resources, she explained that there would be a common interest to save and increase natural resources, but this would also make it necessary to ‘remove disadvantages following central structural decisions when they promoted air pollution’. If such conflicts were to arise, local authorities ought to be given the ability to intervene to resolve them.24 A more general critique was articulated by Karl Bönninger, professor of law at the University of Leipzig. He questioned whether cybernetics really was a useful method to improve ‘territorial planning’. Instead of mathematical models, ‘which we do not have adequate ideas about’, he recommended that local administrations be given legal instruments to manage local co-operation.25 His proposal is remarkable because Bönninger had once belonged to the academic group which had supported a moderate adaptation of the former administrative law and had, therefore, been muzzled by Ulbricht during the Babelsberg Conference in 1958.26 A decade on, Bönninger was able to articulate his old position in a new discursive framework and enjoy his tacit rehabilitation. The Babelsberg Conference of 1968 was overshadowed by the ‘Prague Spring’. Only one month later, Erich Honecker, Ulbricht’s ‘second man’ and emerging opponent, enforced the propaganda against apparently autonomous developments within the GDR. Proponents of cybernetic theory were now accused of having ignored the central role of the people.27 Ulbricht’s reaction was ambivalent. On the one hand, he continued to support his vision of a socialist state with decentralized elements, while, on the other, he had reservations about the arguments discussed in Babelsberg. For instance, during an appearance before Leipzig SED functionaries in November 1970, he clarified that in the current situation the ‘scientific-technical revolution’ was to be given priority over questions of local supply.28 As late as April 1970 the Staatsrat had published a decree in which the administrative responsibility of the cities was reduced to making prognoses about local developments.29 In retrospect, the perception of the Prague Spring by the SED leadership marks the turning point of the discussions. As a result, Ulbricht’s basis of power disappeared not just within the Politburo, but also at the local level. Honecker, who succeeded Ulbricht in May 1971, would benefit from Ulbricht’s indecisiveness. In the first years of his leadership Honecker adopted the concept of Kommunalpolitik and gave it a new meaning as part of his concept of the ‘unity of economic and social policy’, which paid new attention to social welfare. At the Eighth Party Congress he turned the focus to working and living conditions and even promised to provide a law on the rights and obligations of local administrations which the constitution of 1968 had promised.30 Yet Honecker had underestimated the mobilizing effects of the discourse on decentralization within the administration. The new general secretary of the SED was now measured by the way he served the expectations of local authorities to broaden their scope of action. Their perspective even found supporters within the central apparatus. This became obvious just a few months after the Eighth Party Congress, when Honecker had issued a first signal of his political course through a decree on food supply at the local level. This decision was harshly criticized internally by Stephan Supranowitz, state secretary for political and economic law, who bemoaned the fact that the role of local administrations had not been reflected adequately. In his view it was not enough to demand ‘socialist co-operation’ between the administrative levels. Rather, local authorities should be put in a position not just to conclude contracts with enterprises and other cities or communes, but also to sanction contracting parties in cases of infringement.31 In this situation, Honecker followed a twin-track strategy of integration and revision. On the one hand, he called the Council of Ministers of the GDR (Ministerrat) to establish a commission, headed by Supranowitz, to draft the promised law. On the other hand, he instructed the Department of State and Law of the Central Committee of the SED and Sorgenicht to control the work of the commission. Sorgenicht had to ensure the ‘necessary degree of generality and specificity’ of the expected law.32 Since Sorgenicht (and Honecker, too) avoided giving further instructions to the commission, Supranowitz was free to reactivate the arguments discussed in Babelsberg four years earlier. With regard to the involvement of the cities themselves, Supranowitz brought together central authorities, political scientists and numerous representatives of the southern districts which had hardly benefitted from the previous urban policy.33 Following the aim of avoiding the ‘mistakes of 1965’, the group soon discussed the question of how to make ‘territorial planning’ work in practice.34 The discussions resulted in two general claims. Local authorities should be provided with legal instruments to control contracts with enterprises and other institutions and should be given real opportunities to share their resources efficiently.35 The commission even prepared sketches showing that regional and local administrations should pay closer attention to the administrative tasks in their territories. Positions like that of the secretary of the local organ, whose sole function was to control the work of the whole body politically, were to be abolished.36 After five months, the commission finished its work and provided a draft text which, in the next three months, was evaluated by the Department of State and Law of the Central Committee of the SED. Yet, the results were harshly criticized by Honecker when the text was presented to the Politburo. Honecker, who had not paid any attention to the commission’s work until the meeting of the Politburo, now intervened and ordered the deletion of everything which could, in his perspective, promote apparently autonomous developments. This applied especially to the status of the local parliaments, which were to be given an active right to vote on decisions of the state.37 Nevertheless, compromises were made with regard to municipal associations which remained in the final version of the text. The goal of long-term urban development was also added. However, Kommunalpolitik was explicitly limited to the principles of ‘democratic centralism’, ‘national interests’ and ‘laws and orders’ of the state. The Law on Local Parliaments and their Institutions (Gesetz über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihre Organe) published on 12 July 1973 was at least a product of disagreements within the central apparatus itself, rather than a coherent decision of the SED leadership.38 Within the Politburo Honecker had demonstrated that his concept of the ‘unity of economic and social policy’ was not coupled with the need to broaden the scope of action for local authorities. Although he had suggested the opposite publically and continued to support the participation of the people in local activities, when it came to house construction, he ignored the hopes of the local authorities even when they were endorsed by central ministries.39 Honecker did not realize that this meant a threat to the legitimation of his policy. In the last eighteen years of the GDR, the SED leadership praised the advantages of the new law in terms of the discourse which Honecker aimed to liquidate. In the first official statement, given by the vice-chairman of the Ministerrat, Alfred Neumann, in front of the parliament (Volkskammer), Neumann pointed out that the law of 1973 provided ‘even better foundations for a co-ordinated and harmonious development of industries and territories.’40 The term Kommunalpolitik even entered the most popular political dictionary of the GDR, the Kleines politisches Wörterbuch, in 1978. There it was defined as an ‘essential part of the entire policy of the Marxist-Leninist party and the socialist state’ covering the ‘development of cities and communes as well as the whole housing structure within socialism’.41 The state model described here was based on centralized planning that took care of spatial peculiarities and differences. In reality, Honecker’s attempt to solve local problems from above created new social differences, which became the most important challenge to local authorities in the 1970s/80s. II: Taking Root: Kommunalpolitik in Leipzig in the 1970s To explore how local authorities were able to make use of the opportunities provided by Kommunalpolitik, I want to examine the example of housing policy in the GDR’s second largest city. Leipzig, alongside Berlin, was a city which the East German authorities treated as a flagship of everything the GDR wanted to be—a modern industrial country, internationally oriented, able to deliver prosperity, supporting high culture and the sciences. Several large enterprises constructing heavy machinery and conveyor systems exported their products to Western countries and the trade fair in Leipzig demonstrated the ‘world standard’ which the GDR promised to reach.42 More than 40 per cent of the people living in the regional district (Bezirk) Leipzig were domiciled in the city, which resulted in the highest population density of the GDR.43 Leipzig was chosen to become the ideal of modern East Germany. The 800th anniversary of the city, in 1965, became one of the biggest political demonstrations of this ideal.44 Local authorities would remember the provision of equal living conditions as their greatest challenge. During an urban-planning conference in 1969, Horst Siegel, former chief architect of Halle-Neustadt and, from 1967, chief architect of Leipzig, dramatically pointed out that there was a deficit of ‘nearly a Halle-Neustadt within Leipzig’—50,000 to 60,000 flats.45 According to Siegel, half of these flats ought to be built in the area around the city centre and in the north-east of Leipzig, where the most important enterprises were located; the plan combined new housing and reconstruction measures for old buildings, based on local structures.46 Yet, in the last years of Ulbricht’s term of office, the General Building Plan had remained on paper, while urban development policy still concentrated on prestigious city-centre projects, to which the first secretary of the SED-Bezirksleitung, Paul Fröhlich, gave ensured priority. In 1967, for example, he had instructed local officials to stop all housing projects and to concentrate all resources on providing support for the construction of the new university complex.47 In Leipzig, the shift in the SED’s political course began not in 1971 with the fall of Ulbricht, but in September 1970 with the death of Fröhlich. Even in October 1970 the regional administration (Rat des Bezirkes) released internally a study which prefigured the change in housing policy. The ‘process of reproduction’ of buildings, the author wrote, ‘has been interrupted by the priority of economic reconstruction in the GDR’. In his opinion it was now time to turn away from the utopia of ‘socialist Leipzig’ and to reflect on the value of old buildings which ‘will satisfy our demand in the same way as the new housing complexes’. The author continued, ‘The old buildings made of brickwork are even more suitable for measures of modernization than can be said about our new houses made of prefabricated elements.’48 Soon after the Eighth Party Congress expectations increased again. The new first secretary of the SED-Bezirksleitung, Horst Schumann, had installed a scientific working group, which claimed that the building repair sector should no longer be an ‘appendage of the building sector’.49 All in all, urban planning, no matter how ideologically moulded it remained, was now shaped more strongly by the perspective of urban planners who looked at both the availability of resources and the construction of a healthy and clean environment which could hardly be found in the inner-city quarters. It is well-known that Honecker’s housing policy created new social differences, even while promising to overcome them. In the new housing complexes which emerged on the periphery of the cities priority was given to functionaries and highly skilled workers in economically important enterprises.50 The development of the ‘two-tier society’ also materialized in other parts of everyday life, especially consumption and leisure activities.51 But another problem was emerging which also undermined the great goal of equal housing. Honecker’s housing programme ignored spatial structures and was not coupled with a concept of how to distribute resources adequately. Longing for quick solutions to stabilize the power of the SED, Honecker instructed the regional administrations to concentrate all resources on the construction of large housing complexes located on the edge of the cities—which was less expensive than the reconstruction of inner-city neighbourhoods.52 In Leipzig, the second-largest housing complex in East Germany, ‘Grünau’, comprising nearly 30,000 flats, was to be built on the western periphery. The hastiness with which priority was given to Grünau was coupled with a lack of co-ordination. Grasping at quick solutions, the Rat des Bezirkes continually called on the Rat der Stadt to balance the deficits, by asking for its building-repair resources. In 1975, for instance, the city had to supply the Bezirk with services valued at nearly 50 million Marks.53 Areas with old buildings were left to decay. On 30 August 1977, the Politburo adopted a housing programme just for Leipzig which shows how little attention the plans centrally created in Berlin paid to the spatial dimension. Without analysing the material situation, the planners just revised upwards the number of flats to be constructed and modernized.54 Even Honecker intervened emotionally when he read that the planners had initially stated that ‘almost 100 per cent of all the flats must be provided with toilet and bathroom facilities’. For Honecker, the word ‘almost’ seemed to challenge the legitimacy of his strategy to improve the lives of the people, no matter how this goal was achieved. The word ‘almost’ had to be deleted.55 The modernization of old buildings was thereby marginalized. In 1977, local officials estimated that approximately 20 per cent of all local flats could no longer be saved from decay,56 while, at the same time, nearly 24,000 citizens and/or families were officially affected by untenable living conditions.57 It is the ‘working class’, the head of the housing department of the Bezirk Leipzig Manfred Zimmermann bemoaned, that ‘lives poorly’.58 Although local authorities were unable to influence the practices of distribution in general, they looked for ways to modernize old, decaying buildings. A central role in this process was played by approaches discussed under the term ‘territoriale Rationalisierung’ (territorial rationalization). This discussion emerged from the failure of the kinds of voluntarism which Ulricht had championed. Established as a method to initiate permanent local development programmes that could cover contracts with Kombinatsdirektoren (enterprise managers) or spatial restructuring measures, territoriale Rationalisierung became an alternative to the participatory organizations mobilizing ‘ordinary people’.59 Although people’s initiatives were increasingly expected to take part in construction projects, local authorities bemoaned that they lacked expert knowledge.60 In parallel it became harder for local authorities to mobilize people to join them. Thus, for example, in Leipzig local authorities started an initiative to repair roofs in inner-city quarters in 1984. The intention of the ‘Roofs tight!’ (Dächer dicht!) initiative was that local enterprises in the building-repair sector, brigades of volunteers provided by enterprises and the Freie Deutsche Jugend (FDJ, Free German Youth) should work together to repair broken roofs. The initiative failed. One problem was that the planned economy followed its own inner logic, so that building enterprises selected only those roofs that were still intact and carried out only minor repairs because they were measured on the raw numbers of roofs repaired, not on the scale of the renovation.61 Another problem was that brigades of the FDJ did not obtain any help from the enterprises they worked for. When they tried to find helpers, only unskilled workers, who were directly affected by poor living conditions, were willing to join them.62 A great number of people found other, informal ways to improve their living conditions for themselves. Construction sites, which could be found everywhere in the city, were plundered, often with the permission of the person in charge.63 Empty flats were searched for unused resources like windows or bathroom facilities.64 Against this background of failure, territoriale Rationalisierung was advanced as a way to allocate resources in a planned manner, relying not on voluntary grassroots co-operation but on written agreements between Kombinatsdirektoren and local authorities. Therefore, local politicians worked in particular on ensuring resources held by smaller state-owned construction-related enterprises could be pooled. In one case, they established a floor-covering plant consisting of former small plants scattered across the city. The new larger plant was able to work with the Kombinat in reconstruction and building repair administrated by the city council.65 Another strategy to balance local deficits was realized in a project named Rationalisierungsmittelbau, which was based on a system of exchange of tools between large (export-)enterprises and the local Kombinat for reconstruction and building repair. Until 1979, local politicians concluded contracts with sixty centrally administrated enterprises that supplied the local Kombinat with swivel arms, construction hoists, welding devices, loading facilities and small silos.66 Nevertheless, the co-operation between large enterprises and local plants was characterized by a structural asymmetry. Since the SED and academics had avoided discussion of the institutionalization of these forms of collaboration, local politicians remained dependent on the helpfulness of the Kombinatsdirektoren. Paradoxically, higher authorities overestimated how much latitude local officials enjoyed and ignored the fact that enterprises were themselves dependent on the plans they had to fulfil. In the end, the SED’s promise to support a harmonious economic and territorial development was undermined by the practice of such agreements. While people sought to solve their problems individually since these informal practices were increasingly tolerated, local authorities became more dependent on the resources which Kombinatsdirektoren had to offer. And Kombinatsdirektoren evaluated the co-operation with local authorities on the criterion of usefulness for the Kombinat. As a result, the two-tier society of the 1960s was strengthened, since employees of smaller enterprises inevitably benefitted less from these agreements. However limited it remained, the latitude of local officials broadened. Kommunalpolitik became a discrete sphere of power where ad hoc arrangements were fostered, and the attention which politicians and academics paid to these forms of ‘socialist co-operation’ helped to create awareness of specific local problems within the party and state apparatus. Even inside the Department of State and Law of the Central Committee of the SED local officials could now find advocates who criticized Kombinatsdirektoren for showing less willingness to agree contracts or for determining the initiatives which were to be supported.67 The department thus faced the dilemma that Kommunalpolitik was said to have been part of central planning, but in reality it was not. Instead, local officials and ‘ordinary people’ developed their own networks or organized themselves to improve living conditions. They made their own connections to solve the problems they felt were their responsibility—each of them in their own way. Local network building was both the result of Honecker’s decision to revise the discourse on Kommunalpolitik of the 1960s and a practice stimulated by the same discourse. In this sense, Kommunalpolitik, in the end, contributed to a precarious normality, but it also created new conflicts over access to resources. III: Growing Mistrust: Debates on Kommunalpolitik in the 1980s In 1978, Sorgenicht called Honecker to draw attention to the problems of Kommunalpolitik identified within the Department of State and Law of the Central Committee of the SED. In a memorandum he pleaded for the role of local administrations in the context of territoriale Rationalisierung to be designated, though without giving specific recommendations.68 Since he knew that Honecker was less willing to broaden the latitude of local functionaries, Sorgenicht tried to obtain only the general secretary’s agreement for rethinking the law of 1973. But Honecker did not understand the call. ‘What is meant to come from this?’, Honecker laconically asked in reply.69 Two years later the general secretary announced a revision of the law, but not in the way Sorgenicht had mentioned.70 Honecker’s political horizon was formed by the ‘main economic task’, stressing the central question of how to get access to the technical innovations of Western markets which he aimed to enter. The solution was found in the continuation of an economic and scientific concentration process which had its roots in the 1960s and accelerated again in 1979.71 From this point of view, Honecker focused only on the question of how local officials could contribute to economic, not territorial, development.72 In Honecker’s opinion, local authorities should concentrate on the mobilization of unused resources and people to solve problems of urban development in common, but should not negotiate contracts with Kombinatsdirektoren. This view is illustrated by an order on ‘measures to better ensure the conservation and administration of the housing stock’ from 1977. The order called only on local officials to open up ‘Join in! centres’ to organize an express-service for repairs, to develop mobile repair shops and to mobilize brigades.73 When Günter Böhme, member of the Department of State and Law of the Central Committee of the SED, asked Fritz Scharfenstein, head of the Department for Instructions of the Ministerrat, what should be done to ensure the fulfilment of this order, Scharfenstein reacted with impatience. He answered that Willi Stoph, head of the Ministerrat and close confidante of Honecker, had ordered that nothing be done: ‘A continuous control which allows an overview of the problems of conservation and administration of the housing stock is not intended and he [Stoph] won’t be able to ensure it on his own’.74 This order demonstrates how limited was the willingness of central authorities to support local activities. While central officials reduced their own efforts to control everything, they nonetheless distrusted and overestimated the latitude of local authorities, whom they suspected of undermining economic development. In this situation, the 1973 law had to be revised within three years. However, there was obviously nobody working on it, no one providing the impulse or proposing a concept. The debate which occurred prior to 1984 concentrated only on how to revise the detailed structure of the 1973 law to prevent apparently autonomous developments in general.75 This approach was reflected in the institutional arrangements that framed the discussions in Berlin. Unlike in 1972, in 1984 the SED established a commission of the Ministerrat, which was headed by its president, Willi Stoph and controlled by Egon Krenz, both said to be among the few functionaries Honecker allowed to be close to him. The commission itself was dominated by twenty-six representatives of the ministries, alongside only five local and regional functionaries.76 The latter were not allowed to present their own perspective and their short speeches were limited to specific topics such as ‘the contribution of local administrations to economic development’, ‘questions of Kommunalpolitik and the leadership of immaterial sectors’ and the ‘increase of the effectiveness of local parliaments’.77 The example of Rolf Opitz, head of the Rat des Bezirkes Leipzig, shows that the content of the speeches was subjected to the strictest control and censorship. Opitz, for instance, was given a narrow but fuzzy definition of the controversial term territoriale Rationalisierung, now described by watered-down phrases like ‘important economic method of leading and planning’ and ‘long-term scientific co-operation’.78 Last but not least, within three years the commission was allowed to convene only four times. Discussions of substance were avoided and only the central functionaries risked any debate: Gerhard Schürer, head of the Central Planning Commission, and Werner Krolikowski, member of the Economic Commission of the Politburo of the SED, for instance, argued about the positions of the Bezirke and Bezirksstädte within central planning.79 In the end, the commission’s recommendations were limited to curbing the latitude of local officials. The main focus was laid on municipal associations that were now to be closely connected to economic development, without providing an opportunity for institutionalization. Contracts with enterprises were to be purely voluntary (as they already were in practice), and resources that were needed for economic development were not to be used for territorial development projects.80 The final text was drafted solely by the Department of State and Law of the Central Committee of the SED, which was again controlled by Egon Krenz.81 Internally, there was no doubt that the SED leadership had broken with the ideological connection between the ‘unity of economic and social policy’ and the harmonious development of economy and territory. When for the last time Opitz claimed that this principle should be anchored in the preamble to the law, Stoph simply answered that he would do nothing that went beyond the directions of the SED.82 In the end, Honecker did not need to read the final text in order to grant his approval. He took note only of a short paper that listed the ‘main novelties’ and regulations of 1973 that had been abolished.83 Yet, the topics discussed internally fundamentally differed from the propaganda surrounding the Gesetz über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen in der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik (Law on local parliaments in the German Democratic Republic) issued on 4 July 1985.84 The term ‘lebensnahe Kommunalpolitik’ (vital municipal politics) was now popularized across the GDR in newspapers and speeches. This term had even been mentioned during internal discussions, but had played only a marginal role. In the official discourse determined by the SED, Kommunalpolitik was no longer associated with ‘socialist collaboration’ between different actors and the interests of the people, but was explicitly concerned with local officials and their behaviour towards citizens.85 From 1985 the Staatsverlag published a series entitled Kommunalpolitik aktuell, which gave advice on how local authorities should treat citizens. The authors explained the most important laws and showed how social measures should be implemented. The difference between the internal discussions and the official propaganda illustrates the dilemma about legitimacy facing the SED. The aim of the propaganda offensive in the 1980s was to offer an alternative understanding of Kommunalpolitik, not as a collective term for collaborative projects at the local level, but in association with social communication. In fact, local networks intensified and the process of decentralization went on, since the SED continued to verbally support participatory activities at the local level. But this policy could also become a threat. Local officials, too, had welcomed the SED’s claim to actively participate in urban development, but they also expected active (not only verbal) support of ‘socialist co-operation’ by central officials and this support decreased during the Honecker era. The everyday work of local officials was characterized by hybridity. They felt more responsible for their area of activity, but their own role was not at all clear. A document which illustrates this situation can be found in the Stasi archive. An informer who observed a lecture on how to behave during what proved to be the last municipal election, in 1989, bemoaned the schematism of the speeches. The lecture of the First Secretary of the SED-Stadtbezirksleitung Nordost ‘could also have been held in Karl-Marx-Stadt’, he criticized. ‘He gave only general statements, local problems were excluded.’ The negative highlight was when the mayor of the district said, ‘Who (here in Leipzig) speaks about uncleanliness, and spreads the lies of the ZDF [one of the two main West German television channels]’. Only after the audience had expressed its indignation did the mayor admit that there were ‘local problems’ caused by planning deficits and the lack of resources. However, the unofficial informer summarized that ‘arguing over people’s heads during the municipal election’ was a common practice.86 The example shows that people now wanted local officials to address local problems directly. In many ways, people had become more self-confident in challenging the state during the 1980s.87 Now they vigorously called on local authorities to actively support their needs since they had already done a lot on their own to solve local problems. Nevertheless, local officials had also done much to find a balance between the ossifying structures of the Honecker administration and the emergence of uncontrollable dynamics initiated by ‘ordinary people’. They tried to develop forms of flexibility within state planning. But in so doing, local officials also developed expectations of higher authorities which remained unfulfilled. The prognosis of the Stasi informer came true. Months before the fall of the Wall, propaganda events on the eve of the last municipal election in Leipzig had to be cancelled owing to the anger of citizens who longed for building repairs and other material services.88 IV: Conclusion This article started with the question of whether there was Kommunalpolitik in the GDR. The answer must be yes and no: yes, as the term became part of a much broader discussion of the administrative structures from the 1960s on, and no, as East German Kommunalpolitik can hardly be compared to the Western concept with the same name, although it contained elements of it. Rather, it was part of a much broader debate on decentralization in the GDR which included economists, urban planners, lobby groups and ‘ordinary people’. The term Kommunalpolitik evolved at a time when the SED leadership was seeking new ways to legitimize socialism after the construction of the Wall. By reactivating a term deeply rooted in German political culture, Ulbricht sent a signal to temper ‘productivism’ and to address people’s needs. Subsequently, the narrative of a harmonious balance between economic and territorial development became the centrepiece of the SED’s strategy of legitimization. Nevertheless, the SED did not offer a concise definition of Kommunalpolitik and its position within ‘democratic centralism’ since this would potentially endanger the Politburo’s monopoly on power. But whereas Ulbricht made larger attempts to support a kind of socialism from below through ‘socialist co-operation’ led by local authorities, his successor Honecker halted this support. Unlike Ulbricht, Honecker increasingly saw Kommunalpolitik as a threat to ‘productivism’. Nevertheless, under his leadership the SED continued to call on people to join local activities to improve their home environment, but local authorities were increasingly faced with mistrust. They were neither only crisis managers, nor simply mediators between the rulers and the ruled. As can be seen from the example of territoriale Rationalisierung, they continued to develop their own local networks and attempted to improve living conditions by organizing a system of mutual help built on the principles of state planning and flexibility. From the 1960s on, their latitude broadened, but their loyalty and faithfulness towards higher authorities was not unconditional. Their growing self-confidence became a challenge to the SED leadership. If the time span between the 1960s and 1989 was marked by an increasing normality, Kommunalpolitik can be interpreted as an approach that fostered this development, for the discourse around it was coupled with an offer to ‘ordinary people’ and local officials to participate in socialism more creatively. But its normality remained a contradictory normality since social grievances in the cities were not met. In practice, local network building resulted in new conflicts that remained unresolved until the end of the GDR. Footnotes 1 Stefan Couperus, Dirk Jan Wolffram and Christianne Schmidt (eds), Control of the City: Local Elites and the Dynamics of Urban Politics, 1800–1960 (Leuven, 2007); Detlef Lehnert (ed.), Kommunaler Liberalismus in Europa: Großstadtprofile um 1900 (Cologne, Weimar and Vienna, 2014). 2 Numerous legal, sociological and historical studies date the end of Kommunalpolitik in the GDR to 1952 (or even earlier) and avoid venturing beyond this caesura. See, for example, Sighard Neckel, ‘Das lokale Staatsorgan: kommunale Herrschaft im Staatssozialismus der DDR’, Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 4 (1992), pp. 252–68; Christoph Hauschild, Die örtliche Verwaltung im Staats- und Verwaltungssystem der DDR: auf dem Wege in den gesamtdeutschen Bundesstaat; eine vergleichende Untersuchung (Baden-Baden, 1991); Henning Mielke, Die Auflösung der Länder in der SBZ/DDR: von der deutschen Selbstverwaltung zum sozialistisch-zentralistischen Einheitsstaat nach sowjetischem Modell 1945–1952 (Stuttgart, 1995); Günter Püttner and Albrecht Rösler, Gemeinden und Gemeindereform in der ehemaligen DDR: zur staatsrechtlichen Stellung und Aufgabenstruktur der DDR-Gemeinden seit Beginn der siebziger Jahre; zugleich ein Beitrag zu den territorialen Veränderungen der Gemeinde- und Kreisgrenzen in der DDR (Baden-Baden, 1997); Thomas Großbölting, SED-Diktatur und Gesellschaft: Bürgertum, Bürgerlichkeit und Entbürgerlichung in Magdeburg und Halle (Halle/Saale, 2001); Thomas Widera, Dresden 1945–1948: Politik und Gesellschaft unter sowjetischer Besatzungsherrschaft (Göttingen, 2004); Veit Scheller, Die regionale Staatsmacht: der Rat des Bezirkes Chemnitz/Karl-Marx-Stadt 1952–1990; eine Verwaltungsstudie (Halle/Saale, 2006). 3 Lutz Niethammer, Alexander von Plato and Dorothee Wierling, Die volkseigene Erfahrung: eine Archäologie des Lebens in der Industrieprovinz der DDR (Berlin, 1991), p. 517. 4 Mary Fulbrook, The People’s State: East German Society from Hitler to Honecker (New Haven and London, 2005), p. 4. 5 See the balancing critiques in Jan Palmowski, Inventing a Socialist Nation: Heimat and the Politics of Everyday Life in the GDR, 1945–1990 (Cambridge, 2009), pp. 311–13; Thomas Lindenberger, ‘Die DDR nachdem das Tor zum Westen geschlossen war’, in Dokumentationszentrum Alltagskultur der DDR (ed.), Alltag: DDR; Geschichten, Fotos, Objekte (Berlin, 2012), pp. 19–27. 6 The term Durchherrschung was created by Alf Lüdtke to define the SED’s claim to rule society as a whole. See Jürgen Kocka, ‘Eine durchherrschte Gesellschaft’, in Hartmut Kaelble, Jürgen Kocka and Hartmut Zwahr (eds), Sozialgeschichte der DDR (Stuttgart, 1994), pp. 547–53. 7 Christoph Bernhardt and Heinz Reif (eds), Sozialistische Städte zwischen Herrschaft und Selbstbehauptung: Kommunalpolitik, Stadtplanung und Alltag in der DDR (Stuttgart, 2009); Carsten Benke, Ludwigsfelde—Stadt der Automobilbauer: Stadtentwicklung, Kommunalpolitik und städtisches Leben in einer kleinen Industriestadt der DDR (Berlin, 2010); Philipp Springer, Verbaute Träume: Herrschaft, Stadtentwicklung und Lebensrealität in der sozialistischen Industriestadt Schwedt (Berlin, 2006). 8 André Steiner, Die DDR-Wirtschaftsreform der sechziger Jahre: Konflikt zwischen Effizienz- und Machtkalkül (Berlin, 1999); Corey Ross, Constructing Socialism at the Grass-Roots: The Transformation of East Germany, 1945–65 (Houndmills, 2000), pp. 188–93. 9 Palmowski, Inventing a Socialist Nation, pp. 149–85. 10 Brian Ladd, ‘Socialist Planning and the Rediscovery of the Old City in the German Democratic Republic’, Journal of Urban History, 27, (2001), pp. 584–603, here p. 588; Horst Siegel, ‘Generalbebauungsplanung—Ziele, Aussagen und Ergebnisse’, in Joachim Tesch and Kurt Ackermann (eds), Bauen in Leipzig 1945–1990: Akteure und Zeitzeugen auf persönlichen Spuren der Leipziger Baugeschichte (Leipzig, 2003), pp. 115–78, here p. 127. On the growing influence of lobby groups in the context of decentralization in the 1960s see also Esther von Richthofen, Bringing Culture to the Masses: Control, Compromise and Participation in the GDR (New York, 2009), pp. 158–65; Frank Betker, ‘Einsicht in die Notwendigkeit’: kommunale Stadtplanung in der DDR und nach der Wende (1945–1994) (Stuttgart, 2005), pp. 153–216. 11 Jay Rowell, Le totalitarisme au concret: les politiques de logement en RDA (Paris, 2006), pp. 189–92; Ladd, ‘Socialist Planning’, p. 590; Thomas Topfstedt, Stadtdenkmale im Osten (Leipzig, 1994), p. 23. 12 Steiner, Die DDR-Wirtschaftsreform der sechziger Jahre, pp. 52–3; Peter C. Caldwell, Dictatorship, State Planning and Social Theory in the German Democratic Republic (Cambridge, 2003), p. 146. 13 Klaus Sorgenicht et al. (eds), Verfassung der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik: Dokumente, Kommentar, vol. 2 (Berlin, 1969), pp. 179–206. 14 Grundsätze des Städtebaus, in Ministerialblatt der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik (1950), pp. 153–4; Hans Zienert, Die Stadt im sozialistischen Staat: zur Funktion der Stadtverordnetenversammlung und ihrer Organe im System der staatlichen Leitung (Berlin, 1968). 15 Walter Ulbricht, ‘Aufgaben und Arbeitsweise der örtlichen Volksvertretungen unter den Bedingungen des neuen ökonomischen Systems der Planung und Leitung der Volkswirtschaft. Aus dem Schlußwort auf der 19. Sitzung des Staatsrates’, in Walter Ulbricht (ed.), Zum ökonomischen System des Sozialismus in der DDR, 2 vols, vol. 1 (Berlin, 1968), pp. 623–7. 16 Palmowski, Inventing a Socialist Nation, pp. 149–57; Ross, Constructing Socialism at the Grass-Roots, pp. 189–90. 17 Erlaß des Staatsrates der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik über Aufgaben und Arbeitsweise der örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihrer Organe unter den Bedingungen des neuen ökonomischen Systems der Planung und Leitung der Volkswirtschaft vom 2. Juli 1965, in Gesetzblatt der DDR, part 1 (1965), pp. 159–203; Oliver Werner, ‘Die “Demokratisierung des Verwaltungsapparates” der DDR als Beispiel administrativer Mobilisierung (1949 bis 1961)’, in Oliver Werner (ed.), Mobilisierung im Nationalsozialismus: Institutionen und Regionen in der Kriegswirtschaft und der Verwaltung des ‘Dritten Reiches’ 1936 bis 1945 (Paderborn, 2013), pp. 303–23, here p. 322. 18 Betker, ‘Einsicht in die Notwendigkeit’, pp. 133–4. 19 Beschluß des Staatsrates der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik über die Weiterentwicklung der Haushalts- und Finanzwirtschaft der Städte und Gemeinden vom 15. September 1967, in Gesetzblatt der DDR (1967), part 1, pp. 111–18. 20 Sorgenicht et al., Verfassung der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, vol. 2, p. 183. 21 Stenographische Niederschrift der Arbeitsberatung der Abteilung Staats- und Rechtsfragen über die Arbeit der Räte der Städte und Gemeinden im Hause des Zentralkomitees am 18. Dezember 1967, Bundesarchiv Berlin-Lichterfelde (SAPMO-BArch), DY 30/IV A 2/13/123, p. 43. 22 Ibid., p. 46. 23 ‘Funktion, Rechtsstellung und Arbeitsweise der Organe der Staatsmacht in kreisangehörigen Städten im entwickelten gesellschaftlichen System des Sozialismus (Thesen)’, in Deutsche Akademie der Staats und Rechtswissenschaften Walter Ulbricht (ed.), Gesellschaftliche Funktion der Stadt und Aufgaben der Stadtverordneten, vol. 1 (Berlin, 1969), pp. 59–60. 24 Ellenor Oehler, ‘Zur Verantwortung der Stadtverordnetenversammlung für die Sicherung rationellster Nutzung von Naturreichtümern’, in Deutsche Akademie der Staats und Rechtswissenschaften Walter Ulbricht, Gesellschaftliche Funktion, vol. 1, pp. 272–3. 25 Karl Bönninger, ‘Probleme der Erarbeitung von Leitungsmodellen in Großstädten’, in Deutsche Akademie der Staats und Rechtswissenschaften Walter Ulbricht, Gesellschaftliche Funktion, vol. 2, p. 349. 26 Michael Stolleis, Sozialistische Gesetzlichkeit: Staats- und Verwaltungsrechtswissenschaft in der DDR (Munich, 2009), p. 57. 27 Neues Deutschland (27 Oct. 1968), pp. 3–6. 28 Rede des Genossen Walter Ulbricht, Erster Sekretär des ZK der SED, auf der Sitzung der Bezirksleitung in Leipzig, 21 Nov. 1970, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/2118, pp. 230–62. 29 Beschluß des Staatsrates der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, Die weitere Gestaltung des Systems der Planung und Leitung der wirtschaftlichen und gesellschaftlichen Entwicklung, der Versorgung und Betreuung der Bevölkerung in den Bezirken, Kreisen, Städten und Gemeinden—zur Entwicklung sozialistischer Kommunalpolitik, 16. April 1970, in Gesetzblatt der DDR (1970), part 1, pp. 39–62. 30 Erich Honecker, Bericht des Zentralkomitees an den VIII. Parteitag der SED (Berlin, 1971), p. 66. 31 Ministerrat der DDR, Staatssekretär für Staats- und Wirtschaftsrecht, Supranowitz, an den 1. Stellvertreter des Vorsitzenden des Ministerrates, Horst Sindermann, 10 Nov. 1971, BArch, DC 20/19762, pp. 8–12. 32 Vermerk für Genossen Ebert, Zu Problemen der Gesetzgebung für die örtlichen Staatsorgane, 16 July 1971, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22312. 33 Mitglieder der am 22.12.1971 berufenen Arbeitsgruppe des Ministerrates zur Ausarbeitung des Gesetzes über die Aufgaben und Befugnisse der örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihrer Organe, n.d., BArch, DC 20/19755, pp. 127–8. 34 Arbeitsplan der Arbeitsgruppe des Ministerrates für die Vorbereitung des Gesetzes zur Regelung der Aufgaben und Befugnisse der örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihrer Organe, Entwurf, 7 Jan. 1972, BArch, DC 20/19755, pp. 137–45. 35 Ministerrat der DDR, Staatssekretär für Staats- und Wirtschaftsrecht, Supranowitz, an den 1. Stellvertreter des Vorsitzenden des Ministerrates, Sindermann, 10 Apr. 1972, BArch, DC 20/17221, pp. 1–7. 36 Vorschläge der Arbeitsgruppe des Ministerrates zur Vereinfachung der Leitungsstruktur der Räte der Bezirke usw., 13 May 1972, BArch, DC 20/17221, pp. 56–63, 212–13. 37 Gesetzesentwurf, n.d., SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/J IV 2/2A/1627, pp. 49–61. 38 Gesetz über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihre Organe in der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik vom 12. Juli 1973, in Gesetzblatt der DDR (1973), part 1, pp. 313–35. 39 Palmowski, Inventing a Socialist Nation, p. 160. 40 Rede Alfred Neumanns zur Begründung des Gesetzentwurfes über die Ordnungen über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihre Organe auf der 7. Tagung der Volkskammer am 14. Dezember 1972, BArch, DC 20/9555, p. 10. 41 ‘Kommunalpolitik (sozialistische)’, in Waltraut Böhme (ed.), Kleines politisches Wörterbuch (Berlin, 1978), p. 446. 42 Katherine Pence, ‘“A World in Miniature”: The Leipzig Trade Fairs in the 1950s and East German Consumer Citizenship’, in David F. Crew (ed.), Consuming Germany in the Cold War (Oxford, 2003), pp. 21–50; Karsten Rudolph and Jana Wüstenhagen (eds), Große Politik, kleine Begegnungen: die Leipziger Messe im Ost-West-Konflikt (Berlin, 2006). 43 Hubert Schnabel, Seiten und Zeiten des Auf- und Umbruchs einer Stadt: ein Zeitzeuge lüftet seine Notizbücher; Leipzig 1945–1989 (Leipzig, 2005), p. 37. 44 Elfie Rembold, ‘Staatsinteresse, Messegeist und Stadtkultur: das Beispiel Leipzig’, in Adelheid von Saldern (ed.), Inszenierte Einigkeit: Herrschaftsrepräsentation in DDR-Städten (Stuttgart, 2003), pp. 275–353. 45 Horst Siegel, ‘Zu städtebaulichen Strukturmodellen als Kernstück der Einheit von Generalbebauungsplan, Generalverkehrsplan und Plan zur Entwicklung des Bauwesens am Beispiel der Stadt Leipzig’, in Hubert Scholz (ed.), Generalbebauungsplanung der Städte der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik: ein Beitrag zur prognostisch begründeten hocheffektiven Strukturpolitik; Fachtagung der Zentralen Fachgruppe Gebiets-, Stadt- und Dorfplanung des BDA, 20. und 21. Februar 1969 in Magdeburg (Berlin, 1970), p. 54. 46 Generalbebauungsplan der Stadt Leipzig, Stadtarchiv Leipzig (StadtAL), StVuR, 17105, p. 91. 47 Protokoll zur Beratung von Paul Fröhlich, 1. Sekretär der SED-Bezirksleitung, mit Mitgliedern des Rates der Stadt und der Kommission Bauwesen am 21.8.1967, StadtAL, StVuR (1), 518. 48 Rat des Bezirkes, Abteilung Hauptplanträger und Wohnungspolitik, Komplexstudie ‘Entwicklungstendenzen des sozialistischen Lebens in den Wohngebieten’, Oct. 1970, Sächsisches Staatsarchiv, Leipzig (SächsStAL), 21123, IV/B/2/6/427. 49 SED-Bezirksleitung, Wissenschaftliche Arbeitsgruppe beim 1. Sekretär an Horst Schumann, Probleme der Instandsetzung und Instandhaltung von Wohngebäuden in der Stadt Leipzig, 15 July 1971, SächsStAL, 21123, IV/B/2/6/395. 50 Christoph Lorke, ‘Soziale Utopien—Prekäre Viertel—Problematische Menschen? Perzeptionen urbaner Segregation im geteilten Deutschland’, in Thomas Großbölting and Rüdiger Schmidt (eds), Gedachte Stadt—Gebaute Stadt: Urbanität in der deutsch-deutschen Systemkonkurrenz 1945–1990 (Cologne, 2015), pp. 267–99; Alice Kahl, Erlebnis Plattenbau: eine Langzeitstudie (Opladen, 2003). 51 Patrick Major, Behind the Berlin Wall: East Germany and the Frontiers of Power (Oxford, 2010), pp. 188–217. 52 Joachim Palutzki, ‘Zur Baupolitik in der Ära Honecker: das Wohnungsbauprogramm’, in Holger Barth (ed.), Planen für das Kollektiv: Handlungs- und Gestaltungsspielräume von Architekten und Stadtplanern in der DDR (Erkner, 1997), pp. 69–84. 53 Rat des Bezirkes, Dep. Allgemeine Verwaltung an den Vorsitzenden Rolf Opitz, 11 Feb. 1975, SächsStAL, 20237, 24628. 54 Beschluss zur weiteren Durchführung des Wohnungsbauprogramms in der Stadt Leipzig im Fünfjahrplanzeitraum 1976 bis 1980 und bis 1990, 30 Aug. 1977, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/J IV 2/2A/2099, pp. 14–20. 55 ZK der SED, Abt. Bauwesen, Gerhard Trölitzsch, to the Büro des Politbüros, 30 Aug. 1977, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/J IV 2/2A/2099, p. 19. 56 SED-Bezirksleitung, Information über Erfahrungen und Probleme der weiteren Qualifizierung der Arbeitsweise der örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihrer Organe, 11 May 1977, SächsStAL, 21123, IV/D/2/12/523, p. 4. 57 Rat der Stadt, Bericht über Ergebnisse und weitere Aufgaben der Wohnraumlenkung und der Gebäudewirtschaft für die Sitzung des Rates des Bezirkes am 10 Juni 1977, 31 May 1977, StadtAL, StVuR, 21446, pp. 64–78. 58 Rat des Bezirkes, Abteilungsleiter Wohnungspolitik Zimmermann, Einige Probleme zur Wohnungspolitik, 15 June 1976, SächsStAL, 20237, 24784. 59 Hauschild, Die örtliche Verwaltung, pp. 94–5. 60 Palmowski, Inventing a Socialist Nation, p. 16. 61 Rat der Stadt Leipzig, Chefarchitekt, Analyse des Erfüllungsstandes des Programms DÄCHER DICHT bis 1987 in der Stadt Leipzig, 31 July 1986, SächsStAL, 20301, 506. 62 MfS, BV Leipzig, KD Leipzig-Stadt, Zuarbeit für die Lageeinschätzung des örtlichen und stadtgeleiteten Bauwesens, zu Fragen des “Dächer-dicht-Programmes”, aus der Sicht der Baubetriebe des örtlich geleiteten Bauwesens, 2 Feb. 1987, Bundesbeauftragter für die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemaligen DDR (BStU), MfS, BV Lpz., KD Leipzig-Stadt 01533, p. 61. 63 Abschrift aus dem Bericht über Straftaten in der Volkswirtschaft gemäß Informationsordnung 081/73, SächsStAL, 21123, IV/C/2/4/310. 64 ABI Stadtkomitee, Information zur 2. Etappe der Kontrolle über die Gewinnung und Wiederverwendung gebrauchter Baumaterialien bei der Erhaltung von Wohnraum sowie beim Abriß von Bauwerken, 24 May 1984, StadtAL, StVuR, 1422, p. 6. 65 Sekretariat der SED-Stadtleitung/Rat der Stadt Leipzig/Sekretariat des Stadtvorstandes des FDGB Leipzig/Stadtausschuss der Nationalen Front Leipzig, Konzeption der territorialen Rationalisierung der Stadt Leipzig 1976–1980, Sept. 1975, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22429. 66 ZK der SED, Abt. Staats- und Rechtsfragen, Bericht über das Studium von Erfahrungen der Stadtleitung der SED Leipzig und ihres Sekretariats bei der Führung der staatlichen Arbeit und Entwicklung der politischen Massenarbeit in den staatlichen Wohngebieten, 5 Oct. 1979, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22303. 67 Problembericht über die Beratung am 24.10.1978 zu §§4 und 20 des Gesetzes über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihre Organe, n.d., SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22390. 68 Vorsitzender des Ministerrates/Sekretär des Staatsrates/ZK der SED, Abt. Staats- und Rechtsfragen, Entwurf der Vorlage für das Sekretariat des ZK der SED, Erfahrungen und Ergebnisse bei der Durchführung des Gesetzes über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihrer Organe vom 12.7.1973, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22391. 69 Ibid. 70 Protokoll der Verhandlungen des X. Parteitages der Sozialistischen Einheitspartei Deutschlands, vol. 1 (Berlin, 1981), p. 122. 71 André Steiner, ‘Abschied von der Industrie? Wirtschaftlicher Strukturwandel in West- und Ostdeutschland seit den 1960er Jahren’, in Werner Plumpe and André Steiner (eds), Der Mythos von der postindustriellen Welt: wirtschaftlicher Strukturwandel in Deutschland 1960–1990 (Göttingen, 2016), pp. 15–54, here p. 39. 72 Erich Honecker, Aus dem Bericht des Politbüros an die 9. Tagung des ZK der SED, 22./23. November 1984 (Berlin, 1984), p. 51. 73 Beschluss des Ministerrates vom 21.7.1977, Maßnahmen zur besseren Gewährleistung der Erhaltung und Verwaltung des Wohnungsbestandes, StadtAL, StVuR, 19448, pp. 226–37. 74 Aktennotiz über die Aussprache mit Genossen Fritz Scharfenstein, Leiter der Instrukteurabteilung beim Vorsitzenden des Ministerrates, 12 Sept. 1977, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22385. 75 ZK der SED, Abt. Staats- und Rechtsfragen, Klaus Heuer, to Klaus Sorgenicht, 25 Aug. 1981, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22392. 76 Grundsätze und Maßnahmen zur Neufassung des Gesetzes über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihre Organe, 20 June 1984, BArch, DC 20/I/3/2054, pp. 12–14. 77 ZK der SED, Abt. Staats- und Rechtsfragen, Vermerk über ein Gespräch zwischen den Genossen Sorgenicht, Dr. Kleinert, Prof. Petzold und Prof. Heuer am 31.7.1984, 1 Aug. 1984, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22392. 78 Erste Sitzung der Kommission zur Neuordnung des Gesetzes über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihrer Organe vom 12.9.1984, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22393. 79 ZK der SED, Abt. Staats- und Rechtsfragen, Günter Böhme an Egon Krenz, Information über die Sitzung der Kommission zur Neufassung des Gesetzes über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen am 19.12.1984, 20 Dec. 1984, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22393. 80 ZK der SED, Abt. Staats- und Rechtsfragen, to Werner Krolikowski, Standpunkt zu den Hauptrichtungen des Gesetzes über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen, 11 Feb. 1985, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22394. 81 Entwurf des Gesetzes über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen und ihre Organe, mit handschriftlichen Anmerkungen Egon Krenz, 4 Apr. 1985, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22395. 82 Zusammengefaßte Diskussion zu den Kapiteln I bis II des Gesetzentwurfes, n.d., BArch, DC 20/4837, p. 118. 83 Klaus Sorgenicht to Egon Krenz, 25 Apr. 1985, SAPMO-BArch, DY 30/22396. 84 Gesetz über die örtlichen Volksvertretungen in der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik vom 4. Juli 1985, in Gesetzblatt der DDR (1985), part 1, pp. 213–35. 85 See for instance ‘Kommunale Fragen mit den Bürgern lösen’, in Neues Deutschland (17 Feb. 1986), p. 2. 86 BV Leipzig, Abt. XX/3, IMS “Horst Franke”,WPO-Versammlung im Leipziger SB Nord, 26 Apr. 1989, BStU, MfS, BV Lpz. AKG 00969/02, p. 12. 87 Major, Behind the Berlin Wall, pp. 208–23. 88 BV Leipzig, Abt. XX/3, WPO-Veranstaltung im Leipziger Stadtbezirk Nordost, 26 Apr. 1989, BStU, MfS, BV Lpz. AKG 00969/02, p. 12. © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the German History Society. All rights reserved.

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German HistoryOxford University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2018

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