East Germany

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There were four periods in East German political history. These included: 1949-1961, which saw the building of socialism; 1961-1970 was a period of stability and consolidation; 1971-1985 was termed the Honecker Era; and 1985-1989 saw the decline of East Germany.

Organization

The ruling political party in East Germany was the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (Socialist Unity Party of Germany, SED). It was created in 1946 through the Soviet-directed merger of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in the Soviet controlled zone.

The Potsdam Agreement committed the Soviets to supporting a democratic form of government in Germany, and unlike in most Warsaw Pact countries, other non-communist political parties were allowed. Nevertheless, every political party in the GDR had to register with the National Front of Democratic Germany, an alliance of parties and mass political organisations, including:

Elections took place at the Volkskammer but were effectively controlled by the SED/state hierarchy, as Hans Modrow has noted. Elections were held in less-than-secret conditions, with voters given the choice of approving or rejecting "unity lists" put forward by the National Front and predetermining the distribution of seats given to the different parties and mass organisations. As was the case in most communist countries, approval rates of 90% or more were routine.

The Volkskammer also included representatives from the mass organisations like the Free German Youth (Freie Deutsche Jugend or FDJ), or the Free German Trade Union Federation. In an attempt to include women in the political life of East Germany, there was a Democratic Women's Federation of Germany, with seats in the Volkskammer.

Important non-parliamentary mass organisations in East German society included the German Gymnastics and Sports Association (Deutscher Turn- und Sportbund or DTSB), and People's Solidarity (Volkssolidarität, an organisation for the elderly). Another society of note was the Society for German-Soviet Friendship.

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