What do you mean by intermediate science

GDR history

Andreas Malycha

To person

Dr. phil., born 1956; research assistant at the Center for Contemporary History, Potsdam.

Address: Center for Contemporary History, Am Kanal 4 / 4a, 14467 Potsdam.
e-mail: [email protected]

Publications including: On the way to the SED. Social democracy and unity party in the countries of the Soviet occupation zone 1945/46. A source edition, ed. from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in connection with the Institute for Social History Braunschweig / Bonn, Bonn 1995; The SED. History of their Stalinization 1946-1953, Paderborn 2000.

In the post-war years, the relationship between politics and science changed significantly. It distanced itself from the traditional bourgeois understanding of science.

I. The construction and reconstruction phase 1945 to 1951

In this article, the determinants and characteristics of the determining understanding of science in the Soviet Zone / GDR are specifically discussed [1]. Specifically, this means: what understanding of science was underpinned by the science-political decisions, and what changes or changes can be demonstrated in the understanding of science of the SED leadership in the years from 1945 to 1961? This touches on fundamental questions of the relationship between science and politics.

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  • 1. Predominant autonomy of the sciences

    In the construction and reconstruction phase, it is still possible to speak of a discursive relationship between science and politics, although this is not a discourse community of equals and equal opportunities. At best, politics emerged as direct directives for science at certain points. Binding normative requirements for science were not evident in the first few years. In terms of form and content, science was largely traditional. Not only at the universities and colleges, but also at the research institutes of the academies, institutional science took place in the years up to 1951/52 mainly within the framework of old research structures. Scientific working methods, job characteristics and standards remained untouched for the time being.

    The scientific-political steering institutions in the political-administrative system (party apparatus, university committee, German central administration for national education, German economic commission, state ministries for national education) initially tried to integrate science into changing socio-political structures (economic planning, education and culture). The instances available at the beginning could only be used for indirect instruction mechanisms. A comparatively small bureaucratic apparatus initially existed for science and university policy, but it expanded rapidly over time.

    The lack of external function assignments and effective political control instruments was mainly due to the fact that the political decision-makers in 1945/46 did not have a stringent science policy concept. The political understanding of science oscillated between an ideologically founded belief in science and a more politically motivated mistrust of the bearers of bourgeois science [2]. The main science policy activities took place at the universities. Here, far-reaching interventions in science policy in research and teaching were carried out at the personnel level. In the first phase, the party bureaucracy largely faced no alternative to the self-image and the social organization of traditional science.

    At the same time, science policy emerged as funding policy: through material privileges for scientists as well as through financial support or the reopening and re-establishment of scientific institutions [3]. As part of this funding, the autonomy of science was largely secured, while other areas of society such as economy, administration, schools and justice were subject to rigid interventions and were consistently redesigned. That was among other things. because the degree of institutionalization of science policy apparatus was lower than that of the science sector. In addition, the SED leadership concentrated on establishing and securing power and the necessary policy areas, to which science was not yet a part at that time. The political and ideological arguments for a "leading role" for the party in relation to science and intellectuals were lacking. A claim to the social function of the sciences to produce new knowledge - problem solutions - did not (yet) exist. It was not until the early 1960s that the Politburo began to raise the question of society's need for knowledge in connection with the debates on the challenges of high industrialization and technological development.

    2. Approaches to a Marxist understanding of science

    The scientific understanding of the leading functionaries in the party apparatus and in the state administrations was based on the conviction that with "consistent Marxism" [4] they had a worldview that withstands scientific criteria and offers the prerequisites for building a new social order. A distinction was made between two separate areas. For the ideology-related area, it was assumed that there would be an absolutely secure body of knowledge that was to be protected against any revision and that could not be shaken by new knowledge and experience. Here, and this particularly concerned the social sciences oriented towards Marxism, the foundations of knowledge were inviolable. In non-ideological areas, especially the natural sciences, leading SED politicians considered the existing knowledge to be criticizable and open to changes based on new knowledge. This corresponded to scientific normality, but did not apply restrictively to that increase in scientific knowledge that threatened to question the basic lines of the political course. This twofold understanding of science had far-reaching effects on the science policy of the SED [5].

    Marxism as a science primarily meant having insights into the regularity of historical processes through the knowledge gained through dialectical and historical materialism and thus having a politically usable set of instruments for the establishment of socialism. In the first post-war years, the understanding of Marxism as a science that enables "correct" political action was related, in particular, to the political program of the SED. In the second half of the forties, there was no talk of the primacy of Marxism in science or of binding methodology. Only in the course of the fifties did the SED leadership claim to be the highest scientific authority in fundamental theoretical questions, to interpret Marxism-Leninism as the only valid theory through party resolutions.

    The claim, articulated at an early stage by SED functionaries, to develop a completely new view of history, was seen as a possibility to propagate the theoretical foundations of Marxist ideology and method and to create a recognized place in the theoretical structure of the sciences. In historical studies, the examination of previous knowledge, its updating and its reworking began as an example, primarily the knowledge about historical goals and social laws of movement [6]. With a selective historical knowledge that supposedly progressive and humanistic parts of the cultural heritage transformed into patterns of interpretation, political decisions should be legitimized and values ​​and orientations conveyed. This concept prepared the turning point towards the politicization of science, which was already becoming apparent in 1948, with the aim of making science controllable and orienting it towards political and economic tasks [7].

    In general, the SED leaders responsible for science initially showed traces of a "bourgeois" understanding of science. This included the pragmatic tolerance of a relative autonomy of scientific research and pluralism as part of scientific debate. This applies primarily to the natural sciences, but for the first few years also to large parts of the social sciences. But as soon as scientific policy discussion and advisory bodies began to institutionalize - for example the "Committee for University Issues at the Central Secretariat of the SED", which was set up in May 1947 - the risk of expressing unorthodox views increased. Internal party repression against "dissenters" in the ranks of party-affiliated scientists and political indoctrination have increased significantly since 1948.

    The understanding of science, as SED politicians articulated it in the first phase, was always coupled with science-political intentions. In line with its claim to leadership, the SED initially tried to exert political influence at universities and colleges through its university groups. The project, which can only be realized in the long term, aimed to create an academic scientific enterprise that is dominated by politically loyal or party-bound professors and that meets the needs of a centrally controlled educational and scientific system. The first step towards this perspective was to control the recruitment of young academics politically and socially. However, the initial attempts to bring the traditional route to university teaching career under political control failed. That is, to break the dominant position of the old professors in the selection, training and shaping of mentalities and behavioral norms of the younger generation [8]. Until the early 1950s, the SED leadership had only partially succeeded in transforming the once relatively autonomous university bodies, such as the academic senates and faculty councils, into subordinate organs of the administrative hierarchy. Despite all its efforts, the SED was unable to decisively expand its political influence on university teaching staff in the first few years after the war.

    For the SED functionaries responsible for science, it was initially important to give Marxist social science, in particular historical and dialectical materialism, a respectable place in the East German scientific community. If one looks at the speeches and statements made internally and publicly by Anton Ackermann and Fred Oelßner on various occasions, they testify to a high degree of theoretical belief and are permeated by the conviction that this is also taking place parallel to the socio-political changes and the change in political power political thinking or - as it was said - the social consciousness of scientists would change in the sense of Marxism and historical materialism. Human resources policy naturally played a key role in this. One attempted with all available political possibilities - and initially with insufficient success - to place Marxist social scientists or social scientists close to the SED at universities, colleges and scientific institutes.

    In the 1940s, the party leadership was guided by the assumption that sooner or later the Marxists would prevail in the natural sciences thanks to their superior worldview. It was believed that many scientists would turn themselves into Marxists if they only studied the "classics" of Marxism. Ackermann took this view in a lecture in October 1948 in Leipzig, which played a certain key role with regard to the dominant understanding of science at the time. Since "exact science", according to Ackermann's thesis, stands on the foundations of philosophical materialism and carries out scientific experiments on this basis, the path to dialectical materialism is not far. "From the time when Rome was the center of the civilized world, the saying comes from: All roads lead to Rome. In our time it must be said: All roads of science lead to dialectical materialism." [9]

    In the first few years, therefore, the assumption was very strong that the ideology of Marxism-Leninism would prevail in the conflict of approaches and theories. In fact, this dispute, in which the traditional rules of science should be observed, never took place in a plural political environment, but was limited from the start by normative political premises. Although "bourgeois" scientists were initially given extensive autonomy in research and teaching, there were areas or even disciplines defined by politics that were considered reactionary and had no place in the teaching and scientific activities of universities. The lack of political pluralism in state and society had to have long-term effects on all areas of society. Even if the political penetration of all areas never completely succeeded and the expansion of the ruling and administrative apparatus was still in its infancy in the first few years, the development in the second half of the forties did not lead to a differentiation into semi-autonomous areas such as politics and science, but rather there is a tendency towards de-differentiation of the institutions [10]. The possibilities to use leeway for self-organization and to build up informal networks of relationships, which had existed in the sciences not only in the first years, diminished as the party and state succeeded in increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of their bureaucratic apparatus .

    The theoretical principle of the Marxist-Leninist worldview, that politics and science should be understood as a dialectical unit, could not be recognized in this phase either in the public statements or in internal guidelines. The question of the extent to which questions, topics and results of the sciences should be aligned with the needs of a new socio-political order was only rudimentarily discussed, for example in advisory committees of the German Academy of Sciences or at university conferences of the SED. The party was initially dependent on scientific achievements in research, consulting, teaching and other applications that could also lie outside of its ideological positions. This expectation largely determined the relationship between science and politics until the early 1950s. This was not due to the as yet underdeveloped theoretical claims, but mainly to the limited practical possibilities for planning, steering and monitoring science.

    3. Changes in the relationship between science and politics

    From 1948 the relationship between science and politics began to change significantly. The claim to leadership now openly proclaimed by the SED also affected the science sector. After practical emergencies had initially overlaid cognitive deficits, politicians began to show more interest in scientific and technology-oriented research with a view to increasing the efficiency of the restructured economy. With the founding of the GDR - in contrast to 1945/46 - state instruments were available for the control of the economy and society, which were also important in terms of science policy. The intention, which was not only articulated internally and then also realized, to make science controllable and to orient it towards political and economic tasks, marked a new quality in politics.

    Now the social sciences received a higher political status, which was reinforced by educational policy offensives. In the beginning, well-known non-Marxist scholars were activated, which at first seemed to be an expression of the resurgence of educated middle-class scholar ideals, but soon an ideological review of philosophers in particular began, which led to the expulsion of middle-class humanities scholars. In the course of these cultural-political campaigns, which were always ideologically motivated, the number of deliberately staged repression campaigns against bourgeois professors in the humanities, which led to dismissals and politically controlled retirements [11]. The dismissals ordered by the national education ministries of the federal states restricted the employment contract sovereignty of the universities and thus represented a serious act in the curtailment of university autonomy. The personal displacement processes also had an impact on the form and content of teaching, in particular they resulted in a reduction in teaching freedom . In this way, the emphasis shifted between the humanities and the natural sciences, which had been largely balanced immediately after the war.

    The SED's objectives in terms of science policy could only be realized if it succeeded in breaking the traditional functioning of higher education as a mechanism for the self-reproduction of the educated middle class.The "Storm on Science Fortress" proclaimed in 1948/49 began, however, with great hesitation, because the necessary personnel was lacking for the establishment of a Marxist science. The small number of academics with university teaching qualifications who belonged to the SED or were close to it made it hardly possible to bring about a personnel renewal of the teaching staff in a short period of time. That is why the path through the social and political regulation of study access was chosen in order to create a "new intelligentsia" in which a changed relationship to the party and the state should manifest itself.

    The workers 'and farmers' faculties founded for this purpose were not only an educational institution that deliberately broke through the traditional structures of the education system [12]. They were primarily treated by the party leadership as a power-political factor that should lead to the formation of a new leadership elite closely linked to the SED. With the introduction of the compulsory basic social sciences course as part of the university reform of 1951, an "ideological offensive" began, primarily in the humanities, aimed at the growing "new intelligentsia". In the long term, the implementation of political and social criteria and rules for the recruitment of a new generation of scientists resulted in a departure from the bourgeois ethos of science.

    4. The beginning politicization of the sciences

    Since the beginning of the fifties, the social status of science has changed, and it was no longer viewed merely as a component of educational and cultural policy. Research in the humanities should increasingly focus on the development of a "new socialist consciousness". On the cognitive level, this corresponded to the fact that the systemic categories of Marxism-Leninism (power, class struggle, productive forces, etc.) were not only used in party propaganda, but were also introduced into the scientific debate. Unlike in the past, the party leadership expected the natural sciences to provide scientific advice on pressing issues of economic policy and planning. At the same time, it asked for technically relevant knowledge for the internal and external market [13]. At the institutional level, the science-political apparatuses were more and more differentiated and new control mechanisms were installed in order to make science controllable.

    There were major changes and changes in the understanding of science of those functionaries who made science policy decisions in the party apparatus and in the ministries. In this regard, a theoretical conference of the SED in June 1951 marked a clear turning point under the significant theme: "The Significance of the Work of Comrade Stalin, On Marxism and the Questions of Linguistics" for the development of science. For the first time, the demand for a Marxist concept of science was raised and the role of science in building socialism in the GDR was redefined. Now the view emerged more strongly - without, however, completely dominating the understanding of science - that scientific activity in the true sense is only conceivable on the basis of Marxism-Leninism. Fred Oelßner said apodictically at this conference: "Dialectical materialism, which was founded by Marx and Engels and further developed by Lenin and Stalin, is the first and only scientifically founded world view... That is why real science can only be based on Marxism. Leninism flourish. The more thoroughly scientists understand this, the better they will advance science. " [14]

    This was directed in particular against the bourgeois intellectuals with non-conforming doctrinal opinions at the universities, who were supposed to be integrated into the structure of society with their specialist knowledge within the framework of the intelligence policy that has been pursued up to now. With the termination of the previous political alliance arrangements, the socio-critical and alternative potential of bourgeois scientists should now not only be limited and restricted, but largely eliminated. Right from the start, the SED primarily made political convictions the criterion for judging intellectuals, but now not just political loyalty, but political commitment.

    With the campaign against "bourgeois objectivism and cosmopolitanism" staged between 1949 and 1951 at the universities, efforts intensified to make ideological questions the basis of appointment policy in humanities disciplines. As a result of increased political indoctrination, which was also felt by the natural science and medical faculties, the emigration of numerous scientists increased significantly, which in turn was to be curbed by means of material improvement measures.