After the 'Socialist Spring' in the GDR : a study of collectivised agriculture in Bezirk Erfurt
This thesis is an analysis of the role of low level political and economic functionaries in the organisation and management of the farming collectives, the implementation and development of agricultural policy and the parallel development of the East German village in the 1960s and 1970s. With the completion of the (forced) collectivisation of agriculture in the spring of 1960 began the next major step towards the socialist transformation of rural society in East Germany. The process by which over subsequent years the rural population came to terms with this new situation and by which the SED regime established new systems of economic and social organisation in the rural communities of the GDR was long and complex in comparison with the campaign for collectivisation. Using a broad range of archival material from state and SED party sources as well as Stasi files and individual farm records along with some oral history interviews, I have made a thorough investigation of this process with respect to one of the GDR's 15 regions (Bezirk Erfurt). This thesis examines on the one hand how East Germans responded to the end of private farming by resisting, manipulating but also participating in the new system of rural organisation and on the other how the regime sought via its representatives to implement its aims with a combination of compromise and material incentive as well as administrative pressure and other more draconian measures. In addressing the roles and responsibilities of the various levels of functionaries involved in the development of agriculture, my research has contributed to a more differentiated understanding of the nature of authority (Herrschaft) at the grassroots in the SED dictatorship, which qualifies the simple top- down model of the transmission of authority and a starkly dichotomous view of the state and society.