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THE BRITISH LABOUR PARTY AND THE GERMAN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC DURING THE ERA OF NON-RECOGNITION, 1949–1973

  • STEFAN BERGER (a1) and DARREN G. LILLEKER (a1)
Abstract

The German Democratic Republic (GDR) became the focus of a recurrent and sometimes heated debate within the British Labour party before 1973. The official stance of the party followed an all-party consensus within parliament about the non-recognition of the second German state. Yet many on the left wing of the Labour party came, for various reasons, to perceive such an inflexible stance as governed not by reason but dictated by the West German government. Such ambivalence towards West Germany and the Adenauer government in particular led to ambiguities within the party's policy as a considerable minority, including some key figures within the party, offered alternative strategies for maintaining or improving relations with the GDR. The most radical alternative, official recognition of the GDR as a legal, political entity, was only propounded by a core of hard left campaigners both within and outside the party. This article examines why sections of the Labour left came to sympathize with the GDR and how successful it was in influencing official party policy during the whole period of non-recognition of the GDR between 1949 and 1973.

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The authors would like to thank Norman LaPorte who helped researching aspects of this article and read a draft version of it. We would also like to express our deep gratitude to Henning Hoff and Marianne Howarth who provided very helpful comments on draft versions of this article and who shared their expertise of the subject and their knowledge of the archives generously with us. A British Academy small research grant helped considerably with our research in Germany and we are grateful to the Academy for their support. The final version of this article also benefited from the astute readers' reports of two anonymous referees for this journal. Thanks are, of course, also due to them. A very special thank you finally goes to Kevin Passmore who helped to cut an overlong article to a more reasonable size. Any remaining errors, are, as always, entirely our own.
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The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
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