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Socialist Fraternal Aid and the Downfall of Ulbricht (January 21, 1971)

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Comrade Walter Ulbricht pursues an individual course, to which he clings stubbornly, not only in domestic policy but also with regard to our policies toward the FRG. This consistently disturbs the reliable course of coordinated action between the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the SED and the agreed-upon arrangements with the FRG.

Regrettably, these differences of opinion have become known not only within our party but, thanks to the circle around Comrade Walter Ulbricht, also in the West.

We think that the growing difficulties that our party is facing on account of Comrade Walter Ulbricht’s behavior are caused in part by his advanced age. This is certainly a human and biological problem. We understand – and everyone in our party will understand – that it is exceptionally difficult, at the age of 78, to attend to the great volume of tasks and obligations associated with the position of First Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED and chairman of the Council of State of the German Democratic Republic, especially considering the high demands placed upon us by the current and future political situation.

We can say with full confidence that we have done everything possible to help Comrade Walter Ulbricht. And we also highly value his past contributions. Unfortunately, we cannot help but note that certain negative aspects of Comrade Walter Ulbricht’s already difficult character have become increasingly pronounced of late. For as he alienates himself from the actual life of the party, the working class, and all workers more and more, unrealistic ideas and subjectivism are gaining an ever firmer hold on him. In his dealings with Politburo comrades and other comrades, he is often coarse and offensive, and he takes on an air of infallibility in discussions. It is increasingly the case that Comrade Walter Ulbricht, guided by a sense of his own infallibility, issues political and other prognoses for decades to come, even up to the year 2000 – prognoses that no other party in the community of socialist states is making. It is apparent from many comments and some incidents that Comrade Walter Ulbricht likes to see himself as on a par with Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Comrade Walter Ulbricht sees it as one of his most essential tasks to “creatively advance” Marxism-Leninism in a most diverse range of areas.

His attitude culminated in a claim he made in the Politburo, namely, that he is “one of a kind.” He transfers this exaggerated sense of himself onto the GDR as well, repeatedly trying to maneuver it into the role of “model” and “teacher.” For example, in all seriousness, he gave the party and the state the goal of increasing, under any circumstances, industrial production and labor productivity by ten percent a year for the next few years, because this, according to him, is objectively necessary. At the same time, he advanced the view that this would depend on assessing and taking stock of “that which has not been thought of thus far.”

Certainly, in the past we were not always sufficiently critical and forceful when it came to Comrade Walter Ulbricht’s inappropriately exaggerated sense of self.

Comrade Walter Ulbricht’s attitude and public behavior are a serious threat to our party’s relationships with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the fraternal parties. The Politburo has already had to contend with him on several occasions to prevent more serious problems and conflicts. Our concerns also give due consideration to certain lessons learned from events in the People’s Republic of Poland and the ČSSR [Czechoslovak Socialist Republic].

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