Closer to Berlin - not politically but by begging letter
By 1988, with SED files recording growing CPI divisions, the Workers’ Party star was in the ascendant.
In April, Günter Sieber, head of the SED ZK’s international relations department, attended the WP’s annual conference in Dublin. In his report, he noted that the party’s reputation among the working class had “risen continually”.
Sieber recorded, too, Garland’s description of the WP as “a left-socialist party that is in the process of developing itself to a Marxist vanguard of the working class”.
While in Dublin, Sieber paid a courtesy call to the CPI’s O’Riordan, who warned his visitor that the WP harboured “many adherents to armed struggle” and favoured a “scientific socialism . . . without openly embracing Marxism-Leninism”. Despite growing reservations in East Berlin, the CPI remained the SED’s official Irish partner and new CPI general secretary James Stewart was invited to attend the GDR’s 40th anniversary celebrations in October 1989.
Wall about to fall
In the last months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, fundraising requests from the WP and CPI in this period were declined almost without exception due to what one ZK official notes as the GDR’s “tense market situation”.
Apparently sensing this, WP officials changed tack and used regular visits to the GDR – often in transit to North Korea – to lobby for trade deals.
In September 1988, for instance, a ZK report says Garland brought to a meeting samples of mattress covers, asking if similar products were available from GDR companies. The reply was positive and patterns, designs and colours were forwarded to Dublin.
Further meetings were set up to explore importing “spring steel for mattresses, motorbikes, angling equipment, home electronics, beer”.
But history intervened in Garland’s fundraising efforts when the Berlin Wall fell on November 9th, 1989. Three decades of contacts in the files conclude with a November 2nd letter confirming the dispatch of gifts for the CPI’s Christmas bazaar through London via diplomatic bag – so as to avoid customs.
Send us your teddys Christmas wish list
The SED central committee, ZK, granted a request for items to sell in the Irish Communist Party Christmas bazaar. The list of gifts, worth 10,000 marks, included 21 watches; 30 books; 51 records (workers' songs, classic, folk, dance); 500 toys (soft toys, dolls, gyroscopes, balls, bags); 435 items of folk art (tins, dishes, vases, lamps, cushions, bags, wooden animals, coffee warmers); and one marquetry (wooden) image of Lenin.