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The Black Façade of the Universities of German Revisionism (1968)

A Maoist critique of the East German university system published in 1968 by the Shanghai Red Guards.  

Quinn Slobodian, Soldiers of the Struggle against Revisionism24 May 2018

Andreas Schubert Building at TU Dresden.

This 1968 text from Maoyuan Hongqi (The Red Flag of the Shanghai University of International Trade) was first translated and published in Comrades of Color: East Germany in the Cold War World, edited by Quinn Slobodian, whose introduction is also reproduced below. 

Editor’s note: The following article appeared in the midst of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in a publication of the Red Guards in Shanghai. The author’s familiarity with East German universities suggests that they may have spent time in the GDR. Chinese students and instructors were regular visitors on East German campuses since the early 1950s. After the Sino-Soviet split, their number decreased but did not disappear. Chinese students and instructors often made trouble for the authorities by propagating a more radical, Maoist brand of socialism, particularly among their fellow foreign students. The lineaments of the Chinese critique of East German “revisionism” are visible in this piece, including accusations of institutional hierarchy, ideological impurity, and the alleged distance of the SED from the working class. Many Chinese students were called back to participate in the Cultural Revolution in early 1967. The author may have been one of these returnees.

Revisionism is a bourgeois ideology. The revisionists blur the difference between socialism and capitalism, between the dictatorship of the proletariat and the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. In reality, what they represent is in no way a socialist, rather a capitalist idea. —Mao Zedong

The ruling clique of German revisionism has betrayed the dictatorship of the proletariat. It follows Soviet revisionism, carries out a revisionist line and has transformed the socialist GDR into bourgeois and fascist dictatorship state. In order to consolidate its reactionary rule and restore capitalism, the ruling clique of German revisionism has built up the universities of the GDR as huge camps to train the successors of the bourgeoisie.

The universities of the old Germany were prime examples of the implementation of the Anglo-American education system. After the establishment of the GDR, the German revisionist clique dabbed some Soviet revisionist paint on the Anglo-American foundations of the education system, thus turning the German universities into a gigantic mish-mash of American, English, and Soviet education systems.

Bourgeois professors and specialists practice dictatorship in the universities of German revisionism. The highest organ of state power in the universities is the Senate, composed almost entirely of professors. The Senate elects the Rector, the Faculty Council elects the deans of the faculties. Elections occur every five years. The SED still hangs up the sign of Marxism and the Communist Party but, in reality it has long turned into a club-like people’s party. In the universities, it follows behind the Senate and the Rector and has no right to decide about the big issues of the schools. Its activities are limited solely to corrupting a number of people for entry into the party, cashing party contributions, and leading the collection of regular reports on goings-on. The party is stuffed with bourgeois intellectuals at the rank of Ph.D and professor. These people enjoy the highest honors in the party, have the most to say and control the leading positions in the universities at all levels. Bourgeois intellectuals dominate the universities and have a strict ranking system.

The situation in the institutes, the basic units of the universities, is such that only a professor may be entrusted with the function of institute director. An institute may have only one professor. If this professor does not die or is not transferred, nobody else can be named professor, regardless of how high their academic level is. The absolute authority of the institute director is maintained in this way. These professors enjoy privileges and have the power to sit high above everyone, doing as they please. 

All decision-making power in the institutions is in the hands of the professors, including scheduling, course content, enrollments, examinations, promotion to the next year of study, distribution of graduates, retention or departure of employees, support of aspirants, selection of research topics, conclusion of contracts with other institutions, and delegation of employees for business trips or overseas training.

Power relations in the institutes are formed like pagodas and have a feudal coloring. Professors — doctors — assistants — laboratory assistants — material provisioners — cleaning staff — instrument cleaners. In reality, the relationships are as follows: the professors direct and determine, the doctors and assistants spin intrigues…the cleaning staff and instrument cleaners are people of a truly low standing.

The professors and the doctors claim the scientific accomplishments of the institute as their own and make them redound to their prestige and advantage. The awkward theory of the so-called “division of labor” is used widely to maintain and consolidate this system of exploitation. The intellectual work of the professors and doctors is claimed to be “valuable.” It would be a “waste” to make them work in the laboratories and clean the instruments themselves. This is the lowest defamation of workers.

The revisionist German governing clique has established diverse systems of regulations to strengthen and consolidate the basis of their rule. To preserve the interests of the privileged classes with high salaries, they raise the social status of the bourgeois intelligentsia, lifting some of the so-called scholars, celebrities, doctors and professors up to the heavens. Celebrations and gatherings are held to mark the sixtieth and seventieth birthdays of every professor. The Central Committee of the party of the German revisionists, including Ulbricht himself, send telegrams of congratulations. They receive generous bonuses and medals on every holiday. Ordinary workers and laborers at the universities share no part in this. On May Day every year, all the universities designate the most “progressive” individuals, and the strange thing is that among those photos hanging under the honor roll, one finds absolutely none of the workers who labored diligently throughout the year.  This is a great insult to the magnificent holiday of the world proletariat. In order to train so-called top cadres (Spitzenkader), the German revisionist clique has adopted unaltered the whole academic system built up by the old Germany. As soon as a professor, associate Professor, PhD, etc., has gained a position, he is surrounded by a halo, so that the young people are enticed to strive for “prestige and advantage” and the attainment of an academic degree and a high salary as the sole goal of struggle.

The salary gap between the bourgeois intellectuals and ordinary workers in the German revisionist universities is shocking. The average fixed income of a professor is 5,000 marks, and those of some well-known professors can reach 15-20,000 marks. A cleaner’s wage, by contrast, amounts to 200 marks at the most, meaning a difference of the nth degree. In addition to high salaries, the professors and specialists have diverse additional income: fees for books and articles, for the training of aspirants, for partipating in examinations, for scientific reports, etc.; there is money for everything. The real income, therefore, is much higher. Furthermore, these high wage-earning classes also enjoy various privileges. The legally-fixed annual leave of professors is a week more than normal workers and employees. Some famous professors have the right to permanent vacation. They can take leave whenever they want and for as long as they want. They even have privileges in their pensions. When professors retire, their pensions are thousands of marks. When a professor dies, their family receives 300 marks a month. By contrast, average workers only receive 170 marks in retirement income. When a worker dies, his dependents receive only 60 marks of support monthly. As a porter stated aptly: “These people (the higher income classes) that are rich anyway, get so much in their retirement, and we, who have no savings as it is, can get neither full nor happy on our pensions!”

The high wage-earning class turns the institutes they run into their own independent kingdoms, and use the institute employees as their slaves. Thus, for example, the Director of the Microbiological Institute in Jena claims for himself all the wine planted by the institute. Each year during the wine harvest, his subordinate have to spend a number of days pressing wine for him. A professor in Freiberg has one of the workers wash his private car. They even treat the secretaries like servants; they have to make them coffee and wash their dishes.

The high wage-earning class leads an extremely luxurious life. The above-mentioned director of the Microbiological Institute does not know how to spend his money, so he keeps dogs for pleasure. He has five dogs and sits with them every day at the table feeding them sausages and milk. It is not surprising that his subordinate employees say: “His dogs attend a banquet every day, and we have only our daily dry bread to eat.”

Old men and women, some over 80 years old, still have to do arduous physical labor, e.g., an 83-year-old worker in the cafeteria of the University of Leipzig, who has one foot in the grave and still cleans up, washes dishes, and continues to be exploited and oppressed by the bloodsuckers of the high wage-earning class.

It is not only the material living standards of the working people that are low. They are oppressed even more politically, with no right to express their opinion in matters of state. It’s called a “workers and peasants state,” but the great majority who sit in the highest organ of government — the Volkskammer — are professors, scholars, and traitors to the interests of the working class and the working people.

To safeguard their own grandeur, professors build a wall around themselves and intimidate their assistants; each is his own king. A worker is worth less than a dog in their eyes. The following incident took place at the University of Chemistry in Merseburg. An assistant put a piece of sodium in a retort, and a senior laboratory assistant, over fifty years old, who did not know better, washed it out with water. An explosion led to their immediate death. A Chinese student wanted to bring a wreath to express his grief for the old woman. But the institute prevented the Chinese student from doing so, saying, "An old woman died, no need to get too upset. There’s an up side, we’ll save on her pension later." In a revisionist State that already restored capitalism, you can see how the bourgeoisie exploits and oppresses the worker and peasant masses to the point of death.

To train a broad, educated class as the social foundation for revisionism, the leading clique of German revisionism induces young students to turn away from politics, instills them with the ideology of seeking prestige and advantage, propagates the primacy of money, and poisons the youth.

In their universities, one hears neither of proletarian revolution nor sees a proletarian solution. No political-ideological work is carried out among the young students. Because they are following the course of creating a "party of the entire people" and an "association of the whole people," most students only have to fill out a form to become a member of the youth organization. There is no form of political activity inside the youth organization.  The permanent activity of the organization consists of organizing dance and film events, excursions, etc.

As a result of this revisionist poisoning, the youth have no wide-ranging ideals. They admit openly that the goal of their studies is to earn more money in the future and to be able to climb to the top with relative speed. It is difficult for the sons and daughters of the poorest working and farming families to enroll in university at age eighteen. After completion of compulsory education, as a rule, they become apprentices in factories or attend various trade schools and work on a special technology to lighten the burden of the family on the one hand, and because there are no ways of getting out of it, on the other. In this way, the doors of the university are only really opened specially for the sons and daughters of high wage-earning class, in order for these classes to train their own successors.

After entering the university, the students’ learning process is stimulated by promoting the pursuit of prestige and advantage. Thus, for example, the size of one’s scholarship depends on one’s grades. Students with good grades get the largest scholarship. In addition, the best students are selected annually from the university and across the whole country. The very best students in the whole country can receive a monthly stipend of 500 marks. This corresponds to twice the wage of an ordinary worker. Moreover, there are constant competitions in universities, such as mathematics competitions and foreign language competitions. The winners receive material rewards to stimulate the interests of students for learning these subjects.

To degenerate the younger generation and lead them to decadence, the German revisionist clique of leaders has given the green light to Western “yellow culture”. Already, English and American blue films along with jazz lead the cultural world of leisure at the universities. The youth have degenerate morals, and the number of crimes committed is innumerable. Some older workers say: “The behavior of this generation of youth is a disgrace for the Germans.” To anesthetize the youth further and loosen their ties to reality, the ruling clique of German revisionism has thrown the doors of the churches wide open. It is not only old people who go to church, but also the youth, and no small number of the youth organization’s members go to pray and listen to music. Especially at Christmas, people crowd into the churches.

The German revisionists boast that there is a so-called "connection to productive labor" in their schools. But how does it work in reality? The state and the universities have the students go to the factories and work for wages to compensate for the serious labor shortage in the country. The vast majority of students are arrogant. The students want to work intellectually but not physically, usually they design something or finish off a blueprint. Only very few participate in physical labor with the workers, much less become connected to them.

Under these diverse influences, many German students care nothing for politics and have grown distant from class struggle. They fear war above all, do not distinguish between the kinds of wars and protest against all of them. The revisionist education system operated by the leading clique of German revisionism poisons even more of the German youth than those that suffer under it. Yet the rays of the great ideology of Mao Zedong have already awoken the progressive German youth and shine the way forward. A fire can grow from a spark. The day of the downfall and collapse of the kingdom of German revisionism and all its evil spirits is announcing itself already.

[Archival Source: Winzer to Ulbricht, Stoph, Honecker, Hager, Axen. 7 Nov 1968 Bundesarchiv NY 4182 1222] 

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Filed under: 1968, china, education, germany