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Dialogue between the SPD and the SED (September 11, 1988)

One year after the SPD and the SED issued a controversial joint declaration emphasizing both sides’ resolution to dialogue and peaceful “competition,” Erhard Eppler takes a critical look at its reception in both German states in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio.

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Relations between the SPD and the SED. Interview with Dr. Erhard Eppler in Deutschlandfunk Radio
by Karl Wilhelm Fricke

DLF: The subject of this interview is supposed to be relations between the SPD and the SED. The point of departure is the statement of principles that the SPD and the SED worked out together and published a year ago. To be more precise, it was the Basic Values Commission of the SPD and the Academy for the Social Sciences within the Central Committee of the SED. The title is “Conflicting Ideologies and Common Security.” You, Mr. Eppler, were one of the main contributors to this paper. After the political experiences of the past year, would you sign it again today?

Eppler: If I think about it carefully, then, after a slight hesitation, I’d say yes. I would do it again, although some of the hopes that we linked to this paper have yet to be fulfilled.

DLF: The basic idea of the document, if I can put it in my own words, consists in the realization that peace in the nuclear age can no longer be achieved by arming against each other; rather, it can only come by making agreements with each other. Consequently, for both partners, the common struggle for peace also requires new forms of political exchange: a willingness for dialogue, a culture of ideological dispute, in which each side accepts the right of the other side to exist, and a capacity for peace and reform. My question is: haven’t some remarks by leading ideologues and SED politicians, their retrospective reinterpretations, served to call this consensus fundamentally into question?

Eppler: Mr. Fricke, in just a few sentences you have in fact recapitulated the most important aspects of this paper. We were aware from the very outset that there were some points in this paper that would cause bellyaches for politically trained Marxist-Leninists. We can say that the Politburo of the SED approved this paper and had it published in Neues Deutschland, and that since then all kinds of interpretations have been made, some that we can accept as legitimate and some that we cannot accept as legitimate . . .

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