This is the first in-depth analysis of social and political changes within the party structure of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) during the period 1954-1968 which have been largely misunderstood in the West. The book focuses on and provides detailed information about the Socialist Unity Party (SED), the dominant Communist organization in East Germany.
Ludz investigate the party's organization, the development of the social structure of its Central Committee, and party ideology. The text is documented by extensive tabulated material—59 detailed tables in all—containing data concerning shifts and longevity tendencies of Central Committee personnel and on other high-ranking party functionaries.
The book presents a newly emerging image of the SED—that of a system characterized by authoritarian rather than totalitarian rule and determined by principles of efficiency and performance rather than by Marxist-Leninist dogma. Further, results pf Ludz's study reveal that the SED is a viable organization capable of functioning despite internal tensions brought about by conflicts between the two dominant (and conflicting) groups within the party—the Central Committee, which determines party policy, and a widely stratified and influential group of technical experts. These groups are identified as the “strategic clique” and the “institutionalized counter elite.” The Central Committee attempts to maintain an authority principles in the face of pressures from the counter elite.
Analyzing these tensions, Ludz postulates that the ascendancy of government by bureaucracy has gradually been replaced by a selective process within a “career society,” and that the impetus toward modernization has shifted from the party elite to the government apparatus and to the technicians and organizers of state-owned industries.