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Report of the Central Party Control Commission of the SED on the Emergence and Goals of the "Harich Group" (March 26, 1957)

In the 1950s, Communist intellectuals who did not follow the line of the SED came under increasing political pressure in the GDR. On December 1, 1956, Wolfgang Harich, a philosophy professor and chief editor at the Aufbau Verlag, was arrested along with his colleagues at the press. They were subsequently sentenced to long prison terms. Harich had advocated a liberal Socialism with anti-Stalinist traits and had called for reforms within the party. This report by the SED Party Control Commission branded his activities as counterrevolutionary.

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The party’s investigation of the emergence and development of the Harich Group uncovered chiefly the following three things:

1. Harich prepared his plans very carefully and systematically. In the beginning, he proceeded in a very cautious and clandestine manner. Only later did he become increasingly open.

2. The party organization of the Aufbau Verlag offered, in large majority, a favorable breeding ground for the emergence of a counterrevolutionary group, since the largest segment of party members there had reservations about the policies of the party.

3. There were sufficient clues that something hostile to the party was taking place around Harich in the Aufbau Verlag.

However, because of a gross failure of vigilance, these clues were not heeded. It would thus have been possible to unmask the Harich Group sooner.

The investigation revealed that the counterrevolutionary platform of Wolfgang Harich did not, of course, come like a bolt of lightning out of the blue, but that it had been systematically prepared since the XXth Party Congress and the 3rd Party Conference.

According to unanimous statements by those involved, at first, Harich came out chiefly with satirical remarks about various matters concerning party policy and the party leadership. The purpose of his ostensible jokes was evidently to gauge the extent to which individual members of the party organization would be suitable for participation in the group. If his ostensible jokes were challenged, which happened very rarely, however, Harich withdrew with the comment and said that he had merely made a bad joke. If they were not challenged, he knew that he could go further with this party member.

Even though Harich employed this method primarily in the first period, he still retained it until the end, since it offered him a good opportunity to estimate the extent to which the ground had been prepared for an open coming-out against the party.

Harich’s first open action that was accompanied by a stance that was fleshed out in some sense came at the end of June or beginning of July in a member meeting of the party organization. The statements about Harich’s comments at this party meeting are not entirely consistent. However, what emerges from these statements is that he came out in this sense:

“The manifestations of the cult of personality that were condemned at the XXth Party Congress must not be seen as the fault of comrade Stalin.

Before World War II, the Soviet Union found itself in a very difficult position as a result of the imperialist encirclement and the aggression of Fascist Germany. The violation of Socialist legality was therefore a historical necessity.

The difficult situation of the Soviet Union and the historical necessities had led, invariably, so to speak, to an entire system of mistakes, as a result of which the Soviet system had become frozen in mistakes. Later, this system was extended to the people’s democracies, and the issue now was to overcome this flawed system.”

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