Today marks a day of infamy in Germany, one not much mentioned by socialists, and when it is, it is always with the excuse that it was done to "protect the rights of the workers from fascist exploitation." What am I talking about? No, I'm not talking about the similar event in Hungary three years later, I'm talking about events in the so-called German Democratic Republic on this day in 1953.
First, a little history. When the Nazi gvernment finally surrendered in 1945, Germany was occupied by the Allies in the West and the Russians in the East. The western powers tried to get a democratic process into place, and to hold 'free and fair' election, but Stalin wanted complete control and a "soviet satellite" to include the whole of what remained of Germany. Many of Germany's pre-war eastern provinces, including both East and West Prussia and parts of several other eastern "lands" were summarily transfered to Poland, or, in the case of East Prussia, the Russia herself. Stalin's plan to gain control of the rest of Germany required the imposition of "socialist" government in what remained, including the western occupied sector.
Carefully orchestrated riots, demonstrations and intimidation disrupted elections in a number of western occupied, sectors, including Berlin. In the east, the Soviet army made sure there was no opposition to the German "Socialist Unity Party" in any election, but they failed to gain their objective. Even Stalin's attempt to starve West Berlin failed, thanks to the "air bridge" which kept it supplied.
In 1949, Germany was partitioned, the Western Lands becoming the Federal Republic of Germany, while the remaining six Lands and East Berlin, became the German Democratic Republic, a "one party state" firmly under Soviet control. The Socialist Unity Party set about nationalising all major industries and activities, brought in laws restricting private enterprise and property ownership and the rebuilding of their military and police "to defend socialism." By 1952 they were running out of money, but still pushing ahead with their legalising of confiscation of people's businesses, property and homes. It was this that triggered the events that began on the 17th June, 1953.
It started with the passing of a resolution to intensify "Sovietisation". This was to be achieved by forcing small businessmen, traders, craftsmen and farmers to pay higher 'fees' for 'services' from the State. People owning property were to be forced to "rent" spare rooms, or, if they owned a second property, to accept tenants at a rental determined by the state, but which made no allowance for the land tax, maintenance or service - all of which remained to the charge of the owner.
On the 16th June, 1953 builders in East Berlin went on strike after the 'employer' announced that their pay would be cut if they failed to meet the 'quotas' set for their 'output'. Word spread quickly, and on the morning of the 17th 25,000 workers with homemade placards and banners assembled outside the House of Ministries to protest. As the day went on the crowd grew, despite attempts to disperse them by the Police and State Security. A small number of determined demonstrators actually managed to storm the seat of the government itself and it was clear the unpopular Socialist government was in danger of being overthrown.
The Chairman of the Central People's Committee of the Socialist Unity Party, Walter Ulbricht, called on the Russians for help. Within hours, Soviet troops and tanks were on the streets. Over 20,000 soviet soldiers were turned loose with their tanks under orders to suppress the revolt. Ulbricht's propagandists went on the offensive, branding the strikers and protesters "dupes of the western capitalist imperialists" and so began the reprisals. How dare the "masses" challenge the "leaders"? In the immediate intervention, 513 people were killed, a further 106 were executed for 'crimes against the people' and 1,838 were injured and 5,100 arrested. Of these last 1,200 were sent to prison for five years or more - all in the name of "protecting" the very workers who wished to reject the socialist "Utopia" Ulbricht and his cronies wished to impose.
A fascinating little footnote is the fact that some 16 Soviet soldiers were subsequently executed by firing squad for refusing orders to fire on unarmed civilians. Ulbricht and his cronies were saved, and went on to build a wall and a death zone in their efforts to imprison the people they purportedly 'served' in the name of their socialist paradise. The 17th June, 1953 must stand as a day of infamy, a day when an unrepresentative government, driving an unnatural economic philosophy was saved from its just desserts by an even greater oppressor. It locked the people of Germany's eastern provinces into a further 36 years of hardship.
Unbelievably, the Party that caused this is still in business as "Die Linke" and still refuses to admit that not only is their ideology false, but that their efforts to impose it led to nothing less than the murder, false imprisonment and misery for the millions of people trapped by the Russian occuppation. Only when the Soviet troops were finally withdrawn in 1989 did this evil government fall.
Their example of a socialist paradise is something every socialist today should be compelled to study - including the use of force to impose their twisted, unworkable and worthless ideology.