1960s >> 1964 >> no-723-november-1964

What’s happening in East Germany

The information contained in this article is taken from the Democratic German Report (DGR) which is published and printed in East Germany. Its general theme is anti Bonn Government, but in most issues there is an article on some aspect of life in East Germany. Recent articles have dealt with Agriculture, Gambling, Women, Religion and Education.

If East Germany were a Socialist Society as claimed one would expect the economic and social conditions in East Germany to differ from those in Britain. However, a perusal of the articles in the DGR show that the aims of their society, the problems and the suggested solutions are the same as in Britain.

I. Agriculture (Quotes from D.G.R., Vol. XIII No. 6. 20/3/64.)
Having split the land into small units after the war to hand to the peasants they are now .

  “having a big drive to get all farmers , to join co-operatives” and “the final aim is to transform them into enterprises run like industrial enterprises; ”
  “the choice of specialisation will depend on the region, the type of soil or grazing land, and on the traditional farming carried out in a particular part of the country.”

Further,

   “Labour productivity must be vastly increased through rationalisation and mechanisation of farm work.”
    “Investments will have to be channelled into the most important projects.”

Note that this is the pattern of agricultural development in the “Western World.” Farmers in the U.K. and U.S.A. specialise; they attempt to raise the productivity of labour (i.e., raise the value of the output of the labourer proportionately more than any percentage increase in wages); they are mechanising and enlarging their holdings.

Why do they do this? Capitalism has only one God—profit, and the aim in farming, as in any other enterprise, is to increase the opportunities for maximising profit. It is no different in East Germany. Commenting on the larger cooperatives the D.G.R. states they

  “now had their own machinery and were trying out new farming methods on their larger fields; their bigger herds of livestock were better housed, could be looked after with proportionately less labour power and were more profitable.” (Our italics.)

In this “desirable Socialist” society there is a “steady drain of young people away from the land and into better paid, more comfortable jobs in industry.”

Who paid them so badly in farming? The state farms? The Cooperative Farmers? Or the 50 per cent. of farmers who are not in cooperatives? In the U.K. we all witness the drain away from the land. In the USA the farm population is falling by nearly a million people every year, It seems that in East Germany, the UK and the USA, workers have the same need—“better paid, more comfortable jobs,” and these are not to be found easily on the land.

The subsidisation of farming in the UK has long been a cause of argument between the reformist political parties. Not for, or against, but how much and in what manner. The Presidential Election in the USA was in part fought over the farm programmes of the major political parties, and as in the past subsidies will be one of the central themes. But in East Germany, of course; “Walter Ulbricht, Chairman of the German Democratic Republic State Council gave some examples of how subsidising would work in the future”;
It is well said that one can know a leopard by its spots. The spots of East German farming—Profit, lowly paid labour, productivity not production, subsidies—place it fair and square with its capitalist counterparts in the U.K. and the U.S.A.
II. Gambling. (Quotes from D.G.R., Vol. XIII, No. 9 1/5/64.)
The article in the D.G.R. was in response to a letter from a Miss M.B. of Birmingham, who asked: “Are there any football pools, betting or gambling in the German Democratic Republic(G.D.R.)?”
The following quotes state briefly the situation;

   “There is quite a lot of betting and gambling in the D.G.R., but no overall figures are available on the sums spent on these pastimes. You can lose your money on the horses at two race courses near Berlin, but the most popular forms of betting are football pools, similar to those in Britain, and various forms of “Lotto” in which you pick your numbers which you hope may come up in a weekly draw. In addition, there is the old fashioned lottery in which you just buy a ticket and hope for the best.”
  “All these various forms of taking a chance are nationally owned or municipally owned and nobody makes a fortune out of betting with the exception of a very few winners who may get pay outs ranging up to about 500,000 marks (about £45,000).”
   “What happens to the winnings? They are not subject to income or/and property tax so long as they remain in the bank and are not re-invested, and they accumulate the usual 3 per cent, interest paid on bank savings.”
   “Some (winners) say they must go home and think. . . .”
  “Others say they want to buy a car or a house first. Most winners take out the odd thousands and deposit larger sums. Older people sometimes decide to settle sums on their children or open savings accounts for their grandchildren, and many give quite large sums to various good causes, including the Society for the Protection of Animals.”
 “People very seldom seem to give up their jobs on the spur of the moment and go on the spree, although some cases have come to light. . . .”

These quotes (emphasis ours) are of interest. Much of them could apply with equal validity to Britain.
It is evident that despite the claim that gambling is a “pastime,” many gamblers in East Germany, as in Britain, “hope for the best.” Why? Because “they want to buy a car or a house,” “settle sums on their children,” “go on the spree.” As in Britain they seek release from the struggle within society, the need to seek “better paid, more comfortable jobs”. Gambling is widespread in East Germany for the same reason as it is in Britain—it may be a short cut to greater social and economic security.
Note that in Britain also, winnings are not subject to income or property tax, and here the only tax free investment that you can make is the first £15 in the Post Office Savings Bank, where the interest is 2½ per cent., not 3 per cent. as in East Germany.
The most significant thing, however, is that some people in East Germany own more property than others, and there are ways in which this property can be passed on to their heirs. Property owners can invest, and not only in savings accounts. The interest on these investments can be met only out of the unpaid labour time of the workers. Workers are exploited in East Germany just as in Britain, or if we believe their propaganda that all their citizens are workers, some are obviously more “worker” than others!
Gambling occurs in East Germany because workers there, as in Britain, are looking for something more in life, and have the desire to change their social and economic situation. They can do the same thing with their winnings as here, including investing them and thereby exploiting the working class and perhaps sopping their consciences by making a donation to a “good cause.”
Only Socialism will change this. In a Socialist society people will be engaged in useful, fruitful pursuits. The property basis of capitalist society will be gone. There will be no need to gamble, nor will be so monotonous that it will require something like gambling to give it a kick.

The “spots” of East German society look even more like those in Britain. There is only one reason—it suffers from the same disease—capitalism!

Ken Knight

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