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Economic and Social Policy at the Local Level (1986)

In a book that became a GDR bestseller, Landolf Scherzer reports on the difficulties of party politics at the local level. In this account, the first district secretary of the SED in Bad Salzungen asks, among other things, whether East Germans who demand better services from the state would be willing to work harder to make them a reality.

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Tuesday, December 2
Yellowed Slogans

The mild autumn days are over. This morning the rain froze into a transparent icy skin.

HDF* and I go slipping and sliding through the city. The party leadership is meeting in the cold rolling mill in the Salzungen plant, which, according to the “state plan project,” will be enlarged twice in the coming years. It contains one of the most modern roll stands of the COMECON and the production of extremely thin sheet steel is supposed to increase 100 percent …

Horst Gubitz, party secretary, meets us by the gatekeeper. He’s beaming.

The First** asks why he is so happy. (Maybe happy people who are full-time party secretaries are suspicious – with the exception of the party at the Kissel,*** I hadn’t seen any happy ones in four weeks).

The plan has been exceeded, Horst Gubitz says, and besides that the party’s program [Kampfprogramm] for 1987 is finished …

HDF offers praise and then says: “But look, above the gatehouse and over there at the administration building …”

White writing, already illegible, on red fabric. He recently counted seventeen of these slogans in the plant, HDF says, every one of them “from crooked to slanting.” He asks if the workers work better if for five years they keep reading that the decisions of the 11th Party Congress have been fulfilled, and if afterwards the 11 is replaced with a 12 …

[ . . . ]

The program [for the company party leadership] is not rolled thin, it is eighteen pages altogether; … 95 percent of all apprentices are supposed to do the work of a skilled tradesman right after they finish their training … the production must be computer-controlled … fifty percent of the workers are supposed to participate in the innovation process, exactly 72 percent of them young people; … exports are supposed to increase 200 percent, … rejects lowered ten percent … Q production raised 80 percent …

Behind thirty-six combat positions it says: Responsible – BD (that means Betriebsdirektor, plant director). Deadline – ongoing.

* Reference to Hans-Dieter Fritschler, main protagonist of the report – eds.
** Reference to Fritschler’s role as First Secretary in the SED county leadership of Bad Salzungen – eds.
*** Lodge and Restaurant Kissel in the Thuringian Forest – eds.

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