Report by Walter Ulbricht at the Third Party Conference of the SED, March 25-30, 1956
Great progress was undoubtedly made in the area of culture during the first Five-Year Plan. [ . . . ] In the first Five-Year Plan, the German Democratic Republic increased funding every year for national education, science, and art, while West Germany, under the banner of NATO politics, curtailed spending for cultural purposes. State expenditures for culture in the first Five-Year Plan came to 12.6 billion DM, of which
in year 1951 — 1.7 billion DM,
in year 1952 — 2.2 billion DM,
in year 1953 — 2.6 billion DM,
in year 1954 — 2.9 billion DM,
in year 1955 — 3.2 billion DM.
If one drives through the industrial regions and agricultural districts of our Republic, one sees today well over 1,100 houses of culture and club houses, one third of which are already found in the countryside at machine and tractor stations, state farms, and agricultural producers’ cooperatives. The technical and artistic intelligentsia has more than 50 clubs of its own. The number of clubs and cultural spaces has grown to 17,428; there are 154 open-air theaters; 10,500 state and about 8,100 union libraries are available to readers. The number of theaters rose in the first Five-Year Plan from 77 to 88.
The flourishing of our national art is evident in the fact that currently about 800,000 working people are active in 25,000 ensembles, groups, and circles, whereby more than 15,000 of such groups exist in the national enterprises of industry and in the Socialist sector of agriculture.
There has also been a surge in our book production, which reached six books per inhabitant per year, while in West Germany it is currently only 2.5 books per capita per year. Likewise, the number of lectures to spread scientific knowledge is growing year by year. If the goal we set at the beginning of the Five-Year Plan was to overcome the cultural backwardness and cultural erosion left behind by the rule of the Fascist and militarist monopolists and the Junkers, and to develop a progressive German culture for our entire German fatherland, then we can speak today of historically significant successes in fulfilling this task in city and countryside. With the radical Socialist change in our agriculture, we are bringing education, science, and art into the most remote village.
Five years ago, the artists in our German Democratic Republic still stood in the midst of a difficult struggle to overcome the legacy of bourgeois decadence, especially of formalism, which impeded our forward development toward a new realistic art, toward a Socialist art. Back then, literature was the only exception, because the realistic tradition of the anti-Fascist struggle was alive and strong in it.
As our Socialist society has taken shape and grown, there has been a turnaround in all areas of art. Our impetuously forward-moving life became the strongest teacher for the artists as well. They have increasingly realized that the cultural revolution in our Republic also demands from every artist an inner revolution, which will allow him to elevate himself and his artistic creations to the heights of the historical tasks involved in the building up of Socialism.
Some years ago, the party eliminated wrong-headed administrative methods, which had developed for a time in the collaboration between some functionaries and creators of art, and it made sure that discussions with artists about the content and form of a Socialist art are now being conducted carefully, patiently, persuasively, and with respect for the personhood of the artist. We welcome the honest efforts our writers and artists have made in the attempt to clarify problems. We welcome their ideological quarrels, which have become increasingly objective and deeper. After the fulfillment of the first Five-Year Plan, we can say that in all areas of art, even if still unevenly, Socialist Realism is establishing itself as the most progressive creative method of our time.