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"Ten Years of Social Policy in the Two German States": Article by the Former Director of Social Security of the GDR, Paul Peschke (October 1959)

The GDR saw the introduction of a comprehensive social safety net for its citizens – guaranteed work, housing, free medical care, and pensions – as an important accomplishment of Socialism. At the end of the 1950s, the former director of Social Security of the GDR, Paul Peschke, compared East Germany favorably with the West German social welfare state. In his efforts to discredit West German social policies under the CDU government of Konrad Adenauer and to unmask it as detrimental to workers, Peschke painted a distorted picture of West German social policy. This is especially true of his characterization of the 1957 pension reform, which for the first time allowed West German pensioners to regularly share in economic growth by introducing a dynamic old-age pension, and by protecting pensions against future monetary devaluation. The pension reform was one of the greatest domestic political successes of the Adenauer government.

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The term social policy includes the totality of the legal measures of a state and the activities of the social organizations of workers and employees on the social level. This broad complex includes all regulations and actions relating to labor law, such as working and compensation conditions, the right to associate, the right of co-determination, equal pay for equal work, the protection of youth, industrial safety, and so on, as well as social welfare benefits in the case of work accidents, illness, disability, old age, and health care. In short, all those areas which, taken together, constitute a certain measure of social safety.

In the capitalist state, the struggle of the exploited for social security endangers the capitalist profit economy, which, by making use of bourgeois-democratic freedoms, can increase the measure of social security for a time. However, in West Germany at this time, a process is taking place that the unions have denounced as “social dismantling.” It is an expression of the fact that the power-holders of monopoly capitalism and the militarists do not need social security, but rather social insecurity and an increase in the economic dependency of the workers. Therefore, under the conditions of nuclear armament, they are engaging, as they already did thirty years ago, in social dismantling in all areas of social policy.

In mining, for example, the Bonn government and the mine owners are currently destroying all social partner-illusions about progressive social policy, the right to work, “just” compensation, and job security. Equal pay for equal work does not exist in the tenth year of the Adenauer government, either.

In the area of social benefits, the employers’ association and Adenauer’s CDU are in the process, under the guise of social reforms, of removing, once again, the guarantee of material security in cases of illness, a guarantee that was only recently achieved through the large metalworkers’ strike in Schleswig-Holstein.

State Secretary Dr. Claussen in the Federal Ministry for Labor and Social Affairs, who previously insulted the workers rudely, gave one of the main talks at the Protestant Church Day [Evangelischer Kirchentag] in Munich; his talk was entitled: “Insured, but not Protected.” The title alone shows the perspective of this side of social policy in the Bonn state: insurance without security!

In an interview in Welt der Arbeit [World of Work] on August 14, 1959, Claussen went on to justify the co-payment scheme he and Blank are pushing for someone in the health insurance fund who goes to the doctor.

The health insurance fund reform of the likes of Adenauer, Blank, and Claussen seeks to limit the shared insurance of workers and employees to the concern of the individual for himself and his family. The infamous Rheinischer Merkur mockingly provided the arguments for this already back in 1958:

“If the employee today is truly not capable of making a health care contribution of 100 to 150 DM, that is not because of his inadequate income, but because of his habit of living hand to mouth, without any reserve. [ . . . ] He has brought this habit with him from a proletarian past. And an excessively generous social welfare policy has led him to make himself at home in this living situation.”

But on February 25, 1959, CDU man Tacke pointed out in Heidelberg that 90% of all workers and employees in industry were earning less than 500 DM per month, and that the officially calculated living costs for a four-person household are 560 DM per month.

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