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Walter Ulbricht: The Second Five-Year Plan and the Building Up of Socialism in the German Democratic Republic (1956)

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The development of Socialist culture means that greater ideological-artistic demands will be placed on the work of our writers and artists.

Our art, our artists receive strong creative impulses from our life and from the bold perspectives of our second Socialist Five-Year Plan. The workers, the working farmers, and the intelligentsia hope for, and expect, new works of art that are worthy of this great era in the building up of Socialism. The hopes that our people are directing at the work of our writers and artists, the involvement of our working people in the creation of new works of art and in public discussions about them, express the new relationship of our people to the artists: Their work is recognized as vital to our society; their work is becoming a matter of interest for our entire nation, as never before in the history of Germany. That is why we believe that the importance of the Fourth Congress of German Writers lies in the fact that our writers, after an ideological quarrel, arrived at a full realization of their historical task, to create a national Socialist literature in Germany.

This principled orientation of the Fourth Congress of German Writers applies to all areas of art, whereby, of course, its discussion about artistic issues cannot be mechanically transferred to the various arts, but must be adjusted to their peculiarities. Our working people expect works of a high artistic level, works that will contribute, above all, to deepening the patriotic and Socialist consciousness of our nation, and to inspiring our workers, working farmers, and intelligentsia to great deeds in building our new, truly humanistic society, and to defending our workers’ and farmers’ state.

The question of mastership is of such great importance because the world-changing ideas of Socialism in all areas of art can have a profound, activating effect on people only through real works of art and through masterful artistic interpretation. In this sense, our working people do not expect bland and conflict-free works from our literature, cinematic art, music, and visual arts in the second Five-Year Plan, but artistic creations in which the great thoughts and feelings of the new heroes of our society, the deep conflicts of the present and the overcoming of them, the battle against the impeding capitalist and petty bourgeois thinking, and the struggle for the higher morality of Socialism are dealt with convincingly.

High demands on literature and art correspond with the nature of our Socialist society and Socialist culture. Our working people are hoping that the close union between art and life will bring them new popular and folk songs, as well as works that meet their natural need for good entertainment. Our cinematic art, which has produced first-rate international achievements with the Thälmann film and other films, is still suffering from a completely uneven level of artistry. The average film production of DEFA, which rose from eight in 1953 to eighteen in 1955, and which will rise from twenty in 1956 to thirty-two in 1960, must attain, along with outstanding achievements, a higher average ideological-artistic quality as well. More so than before, we need films about the past and present of the German workers’ movement, but, at long last, we need good comedies as well. One should help remedy the lack of screenplays with prize competitions. In the technical area, during the second Five-Year Plan, our cinematic art must transition rapidly in shooting and playback technology to anamorphotic wide-screen processes and stereophony, which means that 600 movie theaters and 100 important houses of culture in our Republic and in greater Berlin have to be switched over to this, the most modern technology. In the area of television broadcasting, the highest technical level must be achieved and color television must be developed.

The nature of Socialist art is determined by the fact that its entire riches, everything good and beautiful produced by literature, art, and science, belong to the entire nation. This has never before existed in Germany, and it is possible with us because the Socialist reformation of our economy provided the solid material foundation for this new development of culture. The power of Socialist culture rests on this basis and on the further unfolding of all creative energies of our workers, working farmers, and workers of the mind. The new, richer cultural life in city and countryside that is growing up in the second Five-Year Plan shows the entire German people, shows all of Germany, the beautiful prospects of the path of democracy and Socialism.

Source: “Report by Walter Ulbricht at the Third Party Conference of the SED, March 25-30, 1956” [“Referat Walter Ulbrichts auf der 3. Partei-Konferenz der SED, 25. bis 30. März 1956”], Neues Deutschland, no. 73, March 25, 1956; reprinted in E. Schubbe, ed., Dokumente zur Kunst-, Literatur- und Kulturpolitik der SED [Documents on the Artistic, Literary, and Cultural Politics of the SED]. Stuttgart: Seewald Verlag, 1972, pp. 428-32.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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