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Erich Honecker Defends the Achievements of Socialism on the 40th Anniversary of the GDR (October 6, 1989)

The fortieth anniversary of the founding of the GDR provided Erich Honecker with an opportunity to celebrate the glorious achievements of socialism (increased economic production, the extension of welfare benefits, and the maintenance of peace) at just the moment when opposition critiques and public dissatisfaction were about to topple his regime.

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Dear friends and comrades!
Honored foreign guests!
Ladies and gentlemen of the diplomatic corps!

Forty years ago, the first socialist state on German soil, the German Democratic Republic, was founded. Anyone who was lucky enough to participate in this historically significant event feels moved when thinking back to the days when the workers and farmers, in alliance with the intelligentsia and all workers, established their power in the truest sense of the word. In the West, where the Potsdam Agreement was ignored, a separate state was established without asking the people. There, the process of restoring the old society was started, as were the preparations to establish a new Wehrmacht for NATO using the former [Hitler] generals. They did not confront the past. Today it is clearer than ever before: The founding of the German Democratic Republic, which came about through a popular movement for unity and a just peace, and whose draft constitution had already been discussed by a broad base in all the zones, was virtually a historical necessity.

[ . . . ]

Today our republic is among the ten most productive industrial nations in the world and also among the nearly two dozen countries with the highest standard of living. Let us not forget that this country’s prosperity neither gushes out of the ground nor comes at the expense of others. The GDR is the work of millions, over several generations, who worked hard to build up the Workers’ and Farmers’ State, a state with modern industry and agriculture, with a socialist education system, with flourishing science and culture. And finally: the GDR, a world-class nation in athletics. With our hands and our heads we have achieved this under the leadership of the party of the working class. Nothing, absolutely nothing, was given to us or fell into our laps. On top of that, not only was there more [war] rubble to clear away here than west of the Elbe and the Werra, there were also the rocks taken from there and put in our way. Today, the GDR is an outpost of peace and socialism in Europe. We will never forget this fact; this keeps us, and should also keep our enemies, from misjudgment.

Like the Soviet Union, which liberated us, like the People’s Republic of China, which recently celebrated the fortieth anniversary of its founding as well, like the People’s Republic of Poland and the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, and like the other socialist countries, the GDR will cross the threshold to the year 2000 with the certainty that the future belongs to socialism. Socialism is a young society; nevertheless, it exercises great influence on international developments. Its social achievements are significant and will continue to be so in the future. Not only our people but all of humanity has gained hope through its existence.

[ . . . ]

Forty years of the GDR – these were forty years of heroic labor, forty years of successful struggle for the advancement of our socialist republic, for the good of the people. And that will continue in the future. The important thing is that the leading party of our society, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, will continue to strengthen its own ranks in preparation for its 12th party congress, will further tighten its ties to the working class, to the collective farmers, the intelligentsia, the people as a whole. We will also continue to act in the spirit of the insights of Karl Marx, that what matters is not only to interpret the world, but to change it. In the future, through our policies of continuity and renewal, we will go on changing our republic within the community of socialist countries in a manner consistent with the true colors of the GDR. The aims have been laid down in our party program. It is a matter of further shaping the developed socialist society.

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