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A Shortage of Everyday Commodities (May 15, 1979)

These reports from local functionaries in the SED start off by dutifully emphasizing the populace’s broad approval of the party’s social policy; yet they also convey the harsh criticisms voiced by many GDR citizens on account of shortages in everyday commodities.

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Party Information from May 15, 1979

[ . . . ]

Our path to social protection and the ambitious implementation of the social policy program are being met with great approval and support. Numerous discussions in the collectives clearly show that our successful thirty-year path is viewed as the work of many generations and as the result of the industriousness and creative strength of the workers, only under the leadership of our party and in close alliance with the Soviet Union.

[ . . . ]

On the basis of the information passed on by the county [SED] leaderships on the mood of the people, the following arguments and opinions continue to be discussed:

– The present supply situation in no way corresponds to the notion of a consistently improving satisfaction of material and psychological needs.
Many high-quality articles and goods are exported, creating great shortages in supply.
There is a creeping price increase in the GDR, especially for shoes and textile goods.
More and more articles are being sold under the table, especially household cleansers. [ . . . ] The Böhlen county leadership [of the SED] estimates that during such discussions even some communists allow themselves to be put on the defensive and do not assume a party position. In evaluating the 10th [party] meeting, increased discussion with such comrades should take place in the party collectives.
– Within the range of goods, the supply level for some consumer items in the lower price groups has gotten worse.

What is the cause for the reduction in car imports from the Soviet Union?

What are the causes for certain supply difficulties for bed linens, cars, and vegetables?

All the first-class items our republic produces are either exported or sold in special stores [Exquisitläden]* that ordinary people cannot afford.

* These stores carried high-quality items produced in the West or under western license, or hard-to-obtain local products – ed.

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