State, Society and Developed Socialism

  • Martin McCauley
Part of the Studies in Russia and East Europe book series (SREE)


The building of the Berlin Wall was a watershed in the development of the GDR. Unlike citizens in other socialist states, those in the GDR had a choice: remain or emigrate. This prevented the full rigour of Stalinism being applied and may have been the main reason why spectacular show trials were not staged. The Wall, of course, signalled defeat in the battle to win over the recalcitrants to socialism. It conceded that peaceful competition between capitalist West Germany and socialist East Germany benefited the former rather than the latter. This was a surprise and a bitter blow to the SED leadership which had become used to appealing to the West German working class over the heads of its own government. The greatest impact of the Wall was psychological. That part of the population, probably a majority, which was not committed to building socialism had now to come to terms with the regime. There has always been tension between the German and Soviet traditions in the GDR. Until 1961 the SED placed greater emphasis on the Soviet tradition and succeeded in consolidating its power along Soviet lines. After the Wall it felt more secure and was able to adopt policies which owed more to the German tradition.


Mass Organisation German Democratic Republic Full Member Diplomatic Relation Socialist Society 
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© Martin McCauley 1983

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  • Martin McCauley

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