Full Citation

  • Title Berlin Election Test for Reds
  • Author Elliott, John
  • Publication Title New York Herald Tribune (European Edition)
  • Collection New York Herald Tribune (European Edition)
  • Date Monday,  Oct. 14, 1946
  • Issue Number 19815
  • Page Number 2
  • Place of Publication Paris, France
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library The New York Times Company
Berlin Election Test for Reds October 20 Vote Will Measure the Strength of the Soviet-Backed Socialist Unity Party BERLIN. tiTriHE EYES of the world are on A Berlin,” Jakob Kaiser, leader of the Christian Democratic party in the Russian Zone, said today in referring to the Berlin municipal election October 20. The reason is that the election will provide a gauge of the German attitude toward the clash of poli¬ tical and economic ideals now tak¬ ing place between the Western powers and Russia. For the first time the Soviet- sponsored Socialist Unity party, which espouses the political and economic principles of Soviet Rus¬ sia, will battle for control of the former German capital against poli¬ tical parties whose faces are turned toward the West. In the western zones of Germany the Socialist Unity party (fruit of the enforced amalgamation of the Communist and Socialist parties in the Russian Zone) is not permitted. In the Russian Zone, the Social Democratic party is not tolerated. * * * In "Red Berlin,” the 700-year-old city that has been oriented political¬ ly toward the Left, these two Marx¬ ist parties will fight it out for su¬ premacy under the eyes of the four Allied parties who will hold the ring. Berlin is the one city in Germany where the citizens have had first¬ hand opportunity to compare Soviet rule with the type administered by American, British and French mili¬ tary governments, and the out¬ come of this political struggle will show whether the voters prefer the Eastern system or the Western. In less than two weeks approxi¬ mately 1,500,000 Berliners will go to the polls to vote In the first free election in nearly fifteen years. They will elect 130 members to a City Council and 805. members to District Assemblies. The City Council in turn will elect the executive board for the city (the Magistrat), and this ad¬ ministrative body will elect the Lord Mayor and his three as¬ sistants. At the present time the govern¬ ment of the city is firmly in the hands of the Soviet-favored Social¬ ist Unity party. Of the fifty-five top city officials today, thirty-six are members of the Socialist Unity party, six belong to the Social Democratic party, four to the Christian Democratic Union, and two to the Liberal Democratic party, while seven are non-partisan. The predominance of the Socialist Unity party in the city government is attributable to the fact that the Russian^ were the first in Berlin and naturally appointed their friends to most of' the top posts in the city administration. The present Lord Mayor of Berlin is sixty-nine-year-old Dr. Arthur Werner, an architect, who has no party ties. * * * The object of the opposition par¬ ties is to break this control of the Socialist Unity party, and hence of the Soviet Military Government., over the city. Although the election still is nearly two weeks off, Berlin is al¬ ready in the throes of the campaign. Political rallies are being held every night, and party posters decorate the advertising pillars throughout the city. The Socialist Unity party is cer¬ tainly the most aggressive party. Its election posters dominate Ber¬ lin, as they did the cities and towns in the Soviet Zone during the re¬ cent communal elections. One of the means of party propa¬ ganda is winning the good will of Berlin parents by kindness to their children. Members have been serv¬ ing biscuits to the schoolchildren and giving them notebooks contain¬ ing the .words “learn industriously so that you will give your parents By John Elliott greater pleasure.” This formed the subject of a grave discussion at a meeting of the Kommandatura re¬ cently, where some of the Allied commanders considered that such propaganda tactics were not per¬ missible in the city schools. The Socialist Unity party has made its principal issue during ,the campaign the expropriation of such world* renowned firms as Siemens and the Allgemeine Elektricitaets werke, claiming that these concerns belonged to the “war criminals and Nazis.” This party also claims to have taken the lead in clearing up the city’s rubble and in taking steps to rebuild Berlin. * * * Its chief candidate in Berlin is fifty-four-year-old Max Fechner, who was formerly a Social Demo¬ crat and transferred his allegiance to his new party las»..April. The Socialist Unity party has been something of a disappointment to its Soviet sponsors. Despite all the favors it obtained from the Russian military authorities, in the form of greater allowances of gaso¬ line and paper, it got barely half of the votes in the communal elections in the Soviet Zone. In fact, in many of the big cities in industrial Saxony, which have been Socialist strongholds since the days of the Kaiser, the party ran behind the bourgeois parties, and if it were not for the vote it picked up in the rural regions, where for tech¬ nical reasons the opposing parties w'ere unable to place tickets, the Socialist Unity party would have fared still worse. Its favorite issue in the campaign is “unity of Germany.” But it has been handicapped on this issue by Foreign Commissar V. M. Molotov’s declaration at Paris that Germany’s frontier with Poland was definite. Only a few days before the Socialist Unity party, on the platform and in its press, had been declaring that the Oder-Neisse line was only “pro¬ visional.” They would hardly have ventured to make such categorical statements unless they had been given encouragement by the Soviet authorities. Molotov’s declaration was made after the communal elections in the Soviet Zone. One explanation for this statement was that the Soviet Foreign Minister was disappointed with the showing of the Socialist Unity party in the elections and decided to .write off the Germans as a bad risk. The Socialist Unity party still is adhering to its stand that the Polish frontier is only pro¬ visional, hut it is soft-pedaling this issue and Warning, lest it be made an instrument for Nazi and Nation¬ alist propaganda. * * V Naturally, the frontier issue is being strongly pressed by the rival Social Democratic party. Its top candidate in the Berlin elections, forty-two-year-old Franz Neumann, recently attacked the state of af¬ fairs in the east so vigorously that the Polish Mission here protested to the Allied Control Council. “While in Germany the big war criminals are being condemned on account of their horrible actions be¬ fore an international tribunal, a few hundred kilometers east of us crimes similar to those over which the Nuremberg tribunal now delib¬ erated are being committed—crimes which strongly remind us of the Jewish programs of 1938,” Neumann said. “We acknowledge gratefully that according to the news which we have received the Red Army has intervened energetically against these attacks,” he added. Neumann is the Berlin chairman of the Social Democratic party and a brilliant orator. He was impris¬ oned by the Nazis during the Hitler period, and since the Allied occu¬ pation of Berlin he has been Mayor of the Reinickendorf district in the French sector. He was the outstanding opponent of the merger of his party with the Communists in Berlin last spring. In one cf his brilliant speeches he sized up the significance of the coming election by saying that “the political meridian today passes through Berlin, .which will influence the destiny of Europe.” The Social Democratic party again is occupying the proud posi¬ tion of being the No. 1 party in Berlin—a position, it held by virtue of being numerically the largest party until the designation was wrested from it by the Nazis in 1932. This time it owes it to luck. A five-year-old boy and a four-year- old girl, both war oruhans, drew lots, and the first place went to the Social Democrats, who see in this a favorable omen for their electoral prospects. The Socialist Unity party drew place No. 2. The other .two parties in the Berlin election are the Christian Democrats and the Liberal Democrats. * * * The Christian Democratic party is a brand-new political organization in German politics which has prov¬ ed itself to be the strongest party in the American, British and French Zones of Germany and has also done amazingly well in the Russian Zone. It is a union of Catholics and Protestants who stress the Christian ideology in politics in contrast to what they call the “materialism” of Marxian Socialism. In the western zone this party is conservative, if not reactionary, but in eastern Ger¬ many, under the leadership of a former Catholic trade unionist, Jakob Kaiser, it is distinctly Leftist. The fourth party in the Berlin elections is the Liberal Democrats, which carry on the traditions of the “Manchester School of Liberalism.” It unashamedly champions the cap¬ italist system and the principle of private property. It might have been supposed — in a country as ruined as Germany, where almost everybody has been reduced to the status of a proletarian—to be ob¬ solete, but, to everybody’s surprise, this party polled an impressive vote in the elections in the Soviet Zone, and in some big cities, like Jena and Weimar, did better than the Social¬ ist Unity party. However, Berlin after all is a “Red” city, and the general expecta¬ tion is that the Socialist Unity party and the Social Democratic party will fight it out for leadership. With the exception of the strongly Ca¬ tholic Cologne-Aachen region, Ber¬ lin, despite little Dr. Josef Goeb- bels’s efforts, remained the most anti-Nazi district in the Reich, and even in the Reichstag elections of March, 1933, the Nazis got only 31 per cent of this city’s poll. * * # Despite the imposing electioneer¬ ing propaganda of the Socialist Unity party, the Social Democrats are the favorites to lead the field on October 20. Some German ob¬ servers here even predict that they will get about 50 per cent of the vote. Wilhelm Pieck, the Commun¬ ist leader of the Socialist Unity party, was quoted in the “Neue Zeit,” the American Military Gov¬ ernment publication for the Ger¬ mans, as saying, “I am too much of a real politiker not to know that the Socialist (Unity) party will not have the majority in Berlin.” Pieck hastened to protest that he had been misquoted, but the general expectation (which may, of course, be grievously belled by the election results) is that the twentieth of October will result in a severe poli¬ tical reverse, not only for the Socialist Unity party but for its backers, the Soviet Military Gov¬ ernment.