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Information bulletin
(January 1952)

Plischke, Elmer
[Government and politics of Berlin],   pp. [10]-15 PDF (3.4 MB)

Page 15

legislature in November 1948. It pretends to function
under the temporary constitution of 1946, under which
Soviet authorities excercise a unilateral veto over all
legislation, appointments and dismissals.
The government of East Berlin is headed by Mayor
Fritz Elbert, eldest son of the first President of the Weimar
Republic. It is far from democratic. Aside from not con-
forming to its own constitutive act of 1946, there are such
fundamental deficiencies as: (1) lack of a guaranteed bill
of rights to protect the individual against the arbitrary
encroachments of the government; (2) defunctness of the
legislature - rule is rather by executive decree; (3) lack
of impartial, independent judicial authority, as exempli-
fied by the political control of judges and the existence
of people's courts; (4) prohibition of the freedom of poli-
tical parties to organize and participate freely in public
activities; and (5) the absence of any elections since 1946.
The East Berlin government is closely associated with
that of the Sloviet Zone of Germany. Yet it is excluded
from the governmental regime established in the Soviet
zone of occupation. This permits a possible reunification
of the two portions of Berlin without simultaneously
requiring the reunification of all Germany. It also results
in this peculiar situation: a portion of a city serves as
the capital of a "country" (East Germany) without con-
stituting an integral segment of it.
Politics and Elections
Since the surrender, three elections have been held in
Berlin -in 1946, 1948 and 1950. In the election of 1946
the Communists suffered serious defeat. No subsequent
elections, therefore, have been permitted in East Berlin.
The chief political parties in West Berlin today are the
Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Christian Democratic
Union (CDU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP). A
number of minor parties also participated in the 1950
elections, including the German Party (DP); the Bloc of
Expellees and Victims of Injustice (BHE); the Conservative
party, the Free Social Union (FSU), and the Independent
Social Democrats (USPD). None of these lesser groups
received sufficient support to achieve representation in
the House of Representatives.
In East Berlin, the chief party is the Socialist Unity
Party (SED), produced by a forced merger of the Com-
munists (KP) an~d Social Democrats (SPD) in April 1946.
It is Communist in all but name. There also are the East-
Christian Democrats and East-Liberal Democrats, splinter
groups affiliated with the Socialist Unity Party under the
bloc program of the National Front. Real competition
among these parties does not exist, and the Communists
remain in control.
The election of 1948 was held during the Berlin block-
ade, which had important effects upon its outcome. In
the West Berlin election campaign of 1950 -while the
Communist threat continued to be ever present-local
issues were given greater attention. Perhaps the most
important of these was the question of socialization versus
free enterprise.
Toward the end of the campaign, however, the issue
of associating West Germany with the Western security
program was introduced and became the principal topic
of West German leaders who campaigned in Berlin. Be-
cause of the negative stand taken by leaders of the West
German Social Demiocrats with respect to the question
of future rearmament, the Berlin. Social Democrats lost
some of the support they enjoyed in the election of 1948.
When the election returns were in, the Social Demo-
crats still ranked first, but their vote dropped from 64.5
percent in 1948 to 44.6 percent in 1950. The Christian
Democrats again ranked second, polling 24.6 percent, as
compared with 19.4 percent in 1948. But they were closely
followed by the Free Democrats, who made an even
better showing by increasing their share from 16.1 to 23.1
percent. Thus, for the first time since before World War I,
Berlin's parliament does not have a left wing majority.
The government of Berlin is comprised of a "grand coali-
tion," including the Social Democrats, Christian Demo-
crats and Free Democrats.
One of the important conclusions to be drawn from
the experience of postwar Berlin is the growing political
maturity of the electorate - provided that it is able freely
to participate in uncontrolled elections. This has been
evidenced in a number oif ways.
It was manifested, for example, in the refusal to suc-
cumb to Communism despite its devious. political machi-
nations, such as bribery with promises of better food
rations, exhortation to boycott the ballot box, threats of
reprisals of various kinds, and actual physical violence.
Political maturity has been evident in the high percentage
of voter participation in Beirlin elections. (This partici-
pation amounted to 92.3 percent in 1946, 86.3 percent in
1948, and 90.4 percent in 1950.) When, in 1950, the voters
rejected the splinter parties, including those of the radical
right, it was shown again.
Political maturity was similarly manifested by the poli-
tical parties. The Social Democrats gave evidence of poli-
tical sagacity and courage in refusing to amalgamate with
the Communists (SED), at a time when such action may
have appeared to be to their political advantage. The
parties -both liberal and conservative - have indicated
their willingness to compromise their immediate interests
in forming the "grand coalition" in order to present a
united front against the pressure and design of the Com-
The fundamental imponderable of Berlin politics is the
strength and position of the Communist Party, under what-
ever name it may choose to masquerade. The people of
Berlin hope for the eventual reunification of the city,
but the people of the western sectors do not appear to
be anxious to achieve it if the price is a government
dominated by Communists. The parties of West Berlin
also hope for reunification, but not at the expense of their
dissolution by such a Communist-controlled minority
Eventual reunification of the city is coupled with the
reunification oif all Germany. Without it, Berlin's critical
economic and financial problems remain virtually un-
solvable without outside assistance, and its governmental
life remains a paradox. Without it, the city of Berlin
continues to be a house divided against itself.  +END

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