The CDU in the GDR also differs sociologically from its sister party in the Federal Republic, but in this case (and in the case of the FDP) the differences vis-à-vis the Western party have a much more explosive function: what’s at stake here are power relationships within the governing parties here and there.
On the one hand, the “different reality” is very material: the former CDU block party in the East is (still) relatively well off, the West-CDU, by contrast, is dirt poor, and the Christian Democrats over there are exhibiting corresponding self-confidence. Both, assets and a sense of self-worth, are likely to continue growing after the merger with the former block party DBD (Democratic Farmers’ Party), since farmers are a politically influential clientele in the northern part of the GDR. They especially have to be courted if the PDS’s* comfortable vote cushion in Mecklenburg is to be flattened out. The all-German CDU will get what it already had in earlier times: a clear agrarian component.
Furthermore, the (Protestant) “high C”** has far greater significance – also here. To be sure, several delegates to the [CDU] party congress in December warned against assuming the air of a “clerical party”; therefore they were not pleased with the election of State Church Councilor [Landeskirchenrat] Martin Kirchner as general secretary. At the congress there was also, and this was not untypical, extensive discussion about the reintroduction of church holidays.
By now, however, Lothar de Maizière has given the “C” an eminently political slant, one that comes close to that of Western politicians like Kurt Biedenkopf, Heiner Geißler, or Ulf Fink: the social responsibility of business, or environmental protection as a moral duty. From what one hears, this fact is not unwelcome to some politicians in the West-CDU; through the sister in the East it is possible to keep discussing topics that already seemed to have vanished into oblivion last summer. The merger – it is also a new edition of the programmatic power struggle.
Moreover, the merger will strengthen the Protestant element within the overall CDU. This will make accommodation with Catholicism – formerly constitutive for the concept “Union” – more difficult. Especially since (Rhenish-) Catholic liberalism is something very different from (Prussian-) Protestant liberalism. The Protestant working group of the CDU will be a power base once again.
The occupational breakdown of the delegates to the party congress resembled the middle-class portion of the business wing of the FDP during the Adenauer era. Like all other parties aside from the SED, before the revolution, the CDU had also been prohibited from recruiting active workers as members. The party immediately made up for that. An employees’ group has been formed within the CDU/DA Volkskammer faction. It includes 35 representatives. The word in the Karl Arnold House, the Bonn headquarters of the CDU social welfare committees, is that this is an encouraging start. In the meantime, employees’ associations modeled after the social welfare committees of the CDU have been established in all future GDR Länder, with the exception of Thuringia. But the number of organized members, at around 800, is very small. At the same time, industrial workers account for a higher percentage of the working population in the GDR than in the Federal Republic. The business wing of the West-CDU believes it has a large lead in forming grass-roots organizations in the GDR: many East Germans are interested in the Economic Council of the CDU; thus, it is easy to create the organizational forms.
In the united CDU, the economy will be the priority. That might even be in the interest of those employees who will have no problem adjusting to the market economy and for whom the quickest possible increase in income is more important than the expansion of social legislation. The CDU might end up feeling a certain tension between the needs of the GDR and the wishes in the Federal Republic.
* Party of Democratic Socialism: the successor party to the SED – eds.
** “C” stands for Christian – eds.