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

Under the leadership of Erich Honecker, members of the Politburo, the highest decision-making body of the SED, appeal to the general secretary of the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) for help in removing Walter Ulbricht. They argue for the necessity of his departure, pointing to mistakes he had made in economic and foreign policy.

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Members of the SED Politburo to the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and General Secretary Leonid I. Brezhnev

Dear Comrades!

As you know, over the past few months, our situation in the Politburo has been steadily deteriorating and has now become extraordinarily difficult. The reason for this follows: since the middle of 1970, Comrade Walter Ulbricht has repeatedly offered assessments and raised questions that are inconsistent with the actual circumstances of the German Democratic Republic and with our tasks.

This fills us with great concern because it is weakening the political and organizational leadership of the party at a time when domestic problems and complex foreign policy issues are demanding our complete attention and strength. Comrade Walter Ulbricht does not adhere at all to decisions and agreements that have been reached. He does not refer to decisions made by the Central Committee and the Politburo but instead continues to question them and constantly forces the Politburo to engage in discussions that prevent the concrete work of solving our most pressing tasks to an extent that is no longer acceptable.

We have tried and are still trying to fully and consistently implement the agreements made in Moscow in August 1970; in accordance with this, we already made a fundamental decision back on September 8, 1970, to stabilize the situation in the German Democratic Republic. Comrade Walter Ulbricht has repeatedly spoken out against this decision outside of the Politburo in front of a large audience.

After the 14th session of the Central Committee (December 9-11, 1970) had developed and approved both a realistic assessment of domestic (especially economic) developments and corresponding goals, Comrade Walter Ulbricht made closing remarks whose general tenor was inconsistent with what had been said during the meeting and with our common party line. The Politburo was forced to prevent the publication of these closing remarks. The same thing had already happened with a speech that Comrade Ulbricht gave to an extended session of the Leipzig district leadership in November 1970. In January 1971, the Politburo also had to withhold materials that Comrade Walter Ulbricht had unexpectedly submitted for delivery to all district and county authorities [Bezirks- und Kreisleitungen] and to the Party’s base organizations in preparation for the 8th Socialist Unity Party Congress. In these materials, once again, verbal acknowledgement was paid to the decisions of the 14th session of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party and of previous Politburo sessions; in reality, however, an attempt was made to offer a different assessment of the situation and to direct the party, once more, toward unrealistic goals. These materials envision the following: that the 8th Party Congress will be given a certain orientation and that it will pass resolutions that do not address the concerns people have in their daily lives and that do not make the current program more concrete on the basis of developments, but rather replace the program with out-of-touch, pseudo-scientific, and partially “technocratic” theories of a so-called projection to 1990 and beyond. When evaluating international issues, he sometimes reverts to formulations predating the resolutions of the Moscow Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties and the various conferences of the states of the Warsaw Pact. This would lead to our entering the 8th Party Congress not with a unanimous opinion but with the opinion of a majority of the Politburo and the Central Committee, on the one hand, and with Comrade Walter Ulbricht’s opinion, on the other. Lately, his behavior as a whole has obstructed our preparations for the party congress.

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