Publication: Financial Times

Full Citation

  • Title Herr Ulbricht Toes the Line
  • Publication Title Financial Times
  • Collection The Financial Times
  • Date Thursday,  Jan. 17, 1963
  • Issue Number 22,906
  • Page Number 12
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Editorial
  • Publication Section Opinion and Editorial
  • Source Library The Financial Times Limited
  • Copyright Statement © The Financial Times Limited. All rights reserved.
THE LINE The congress of the East Ger- man Communist Party, despite SMr. Khrushchevs' last-minute decision to lead the Russian dele- Sgation, has so far produced few .surprises. Both Mr. Khrushchev :. and Herr Ulbricht have devoted a large part of their speeches to the praise of peaceful co-exis- tence and the condemnation of China; since the Chinese have not sent one of their own leaders to Berlin, however, the con- demnation serves only to demon- strate that East Germany, too, is now solidly behind Russia. The doctrinal schism between eastern and western communism seems unlikely to end quickly. Mr. Khrushchev himself has now acknowledged that an immediate conference of communist parties to discuss the dispute is unlikely to achieve anything and that it will be some time before things t settle down again in the socialist camp. Doctrinal Issue The preoccupation of both S leaders with the doctrinal issue has tended to distract attention from the domestic issues which the congress has been called to consider. It seems fairly clear, however, that East Germany proposes to overhaul its economic policy thoroughly. The economic position, as usual, is unsatisfactory. Productivity in industry is low and production has been lagging well behind target. A good harvest has prevented a repetition of last year's disaster, but food is still sufficiently short to demonstrate that collectivisation has not yet worked. If the object of build- ing the Berlin wall was to persuade East German workers to accept the inevitable and buckle down vigorously to the task of building socialism, it has not been achieved. The economic failings of East Germany, and the large balance of payments deficit which is one result of them, are of some con- cern to Russia: on several occasions she has had to help out with large emergency credits. It sems likely, there- fore, that Russian pressure is mainly responsible for the decision to overhaul policy and play a more effective part in Comecon. Mr. Khrushchev, for all Herr Ulbricht's wholehearted support in the dispute with China, found time yesterday to make some very pointed remarks about East Germany's economic performance: "no god or devil," he informed his audience at one stage, "can give you bread, butter or milk if you do not produce it yourself with your own work." The next Russian credit, apparently, will be much harder to get. Priorky for Produdctiy Herr Ulbricht has already taken the hint. He admitted in a speech last month that his attitude to the German problem had changed, that economic problems must be given priority over political issues, that East Germany's economic perform- ance had been poor, and that communists must be ready to learn from capitalism. The chief planner has been dismissed, and a new seven year plan (as in Czechoslovakia, the other indus- trialised satellite) is now to be introduced. Although increased production must precede in- creased consumption, the plan provides for an average increase of 7 to 8 per cent. in production and a rise of 25 per cent. in living standards by 1970. It has not yet been made clear how these increases are to be achieved. The decision to put produc- tivity first, however, is obviously relevant to the Berlin problem. Mr. Khrushchev said nothing yesterday to confirm Herr Ulbricht's statement that Russo- American discussions had already achieved results, but the chance of a settlement is some- what better and the risk of another crisis less than for some time past. The interesting question is whether East and West Germany can themselves make any progress towards living with one another. It is significant that the request made by Herr Ulbricht last spring for long-term trade credits from West Germany is still under con- sideration. Dr. Adenauer is thought to be prepared in prin- ciple to supply a small credit (a much smaller credit than that asked for) if East Germany will make some concession in return -particularly about access to East Berlin. No Concession It is disappointing, therefore, that Herr Ulbricht has now refused outright to consider the two matters together and that Mr. Khrushchev has endorsed the decision to build the Berlin wall as essential to the develop- ment of Communism in East Germany. Until Herr Ulbricht is ready to make some con- cession to the strong feelings held by all West Germans about the division of Berlin, it is un- likely that his new policy of collaboration between the two countries on matters of common interest will make very much progress. I