Understanding the Class Enemy: Foreign Policy Expertise in East Germany
Scala, Stephen J.
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This study makes use of reports, resolutions, analyses, and other internal documents as well as oral history interviews in order to detail the construction, functioning, and output of foreign policy expertise in the GDR. Subordination to the practical needs and political-ideological requirements of the leadership of the ruling Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) represented the defining feature of East German foreign policy expertise. Yet its full politicization, which was essentially complete by the late 1960s as the SED succeeded in establishing a comprehensive system of foreign policy expertise tailored to meet its particular vision, entailed the maintenance of a degree of professional and intellectual autonomy--the GDR's <italic>Aussenpolitiker</italic>, or foreign policy professionals, were expected not only to comply with the political and ideological postulates espoused by the party leadership but also to deliver sound, specialist analysis of international relations. The persistent tension between these contrasting objectives was directly reflected in the output of East German experts, who in the conditions of diplomatic isolation prevailing until the early 1970s formulated a GDR-specific conception of international relations that fused clear identification of East Germany's realpolitical interests with the Marxist-Leninist notion of foreign policy as a form of class struggle. Following foreign policy normalization in the first half of the 1970s, however, increasing specialization and professionalization matched with a dramatic increase in East German experts' exposure to the capitalist West, including integration into a transnational network of foreign policy specialists, allowed the specialist element of expertise to gain preponderance over the dogmatic-ideological element. The great challenge to the international position of the Soviet Bloc and the GDR represented by the "second Cold War" in the first half of the 1980s then prompted East German experts to abandon simplistic adherence to Marxist-Leninist foreign policy dogma in favor of prioritization of the concrete realpolitical interests of the GDR. In the process, the GDR's experts formulated a body of non-dogmatic foreign policy thought that mirrored the Soviet New Thinking without taking on its comprehensiveness or overt rejection of inherited postulates.