A short biography of council communist, organiser of underground network, Alfred Weiland, kidnapped by the East German state in the post war period
Alfred Weiland was born on 7th August 1906 in the Moabit district of Berlin. He apprenticed as a fitter. He later worked as a telegraph worker.
In 1925 he was for a short time a member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) which in Berlin had a more “left” outlook than elsewhere. Soon after he joined the communist KAPD and AAU.
At the end of the twenties he was editor of the council communist paper Kampfruf (Call to Struggle) and was in the last years of the Weimar Republic international contact man of the AAU (which became the KAU in 1931).
He was involved in the work of the SWV and Red Fighters-RK (see Alexander Schwab).
Between 1933 and 1934 he spent some time in Hochstein concentration camp. He became involved in illegal work, which had stagnated in the early 30s and was re-activated after the first big defeats on the Eastern front in 1943.
He was active in underground council communist work up to his drafting into the armed forces in autumn 1944. He was less under surveillance by the Gestapo at the front!
Following the war the council communists like other political currents tried to reorganise and take up political activities again. After some short attempts to cooperate with some Trotskyist circles former members of the KAU and the RK re-established a framework much like that of the SWV/RK in the early 30s.
Immediately after the end of the war the remaining members refounded the KAU at Weiland’s flat in Schoenberg. There were about 150 members in Berlin. Weiland defined himself as a libertarian socialist and believed in the unification of both branches of anti-authoritarian socialism: anarchism and council-communism.
With Alfred Weiland as a central figure a new network of groups were organized in Berlin calling themselves the Group of International Socialists, GIS, publishing the magazine Neues Beginnen. The paper defended the concept of the control of the economy by workers councils. These councils must take the place of political parties. The chief weapon of the workers would be the wildcat strike. The paper changed its name to Der Funke (The Spark) in spring 1950.
The network adopted the principles of the closed group of the RK and used educational activities in the high schools sector and in educational courses of the trade unions and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). A new SWV was founded as cover for the GIS and provide an official framework for activities.
Starting from May 1945 the GIS began thinking about infiltrating the Communist Party (KPD). This continued with the forced merger of the SPD and the KPD into the United Socialist Party (SED) by the Russian authorities. However, both the East German Communists and then the Soviet security forces began to occupy themselves with infiltration and subversion of the SED.
Weiland and his associates believed that imperialist powers faced up to each other in the Cold war. However, in the West basic liberties were possible and allowed for the development of a new workers movement, while in the East any such developments were brutally crushed.
However an application to get licensing for the SWV in West Germany was rejected by the Allied authorities in 1949. The GIS’s anti-Sovietism led them into dubious relations with the American trade union federation AFL/CIO, and other groups in which US intelligence had an influence.
Berlin was the centre of activities of Weiland. At first he worked in the Central Direction of Popular Education in East Berlin, and then in the Institute of Journalism. A member of the works council there, he became suspect in the eyes of SED members there and was sacked.
He became a teacher in a People’s High School in in West Berlin. He made active propaganda against the SED dictatorship. He became the target of the East German and Soviet security forces. He was the victim of two physical attacks from which he managed to escape. But on 11 November 1950, whilst buying a paper from a newsstand, he was kidnapped and handed over to the Russians.
He was put in front of a military tribunal accused of high treason, espionage and sabotage. The tribunal released him after he denied these charges but handed him over to his kidnappers.
He was tried before a “People’s” Court in East Germany and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. He refused to confess, and went on hunger strike 7 times. He was only allowed to receive news about his family after 2 years. He was tortured and made to write a book of confessions. However he added so many ludicrous confessions to the book that the authorities decided not to publish it.
A campaign for his release was begun in West Germany. The case was taken up by socialist newspapers in Holland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and France. In January 1951 the GIS in Berlin Moabit organised a solidarity demonstration in Moabit of about 150 people.
Finally, after a process of deStalinisation began in East Germany in 1956, his sentence was reduced to 8 years and he was released from Brandenburg prison on 8th May 1958 and returned to West Berlin. However the SWV and the GIS had dissolved in 1955/56 and most of its members had joined the SPD.
Weiland himself joined the SPD but made no headway within it.His militant anti-Sovietism was no longer so much in demand. He did not get a publisher for the account of his kidnapping and imprisonment. In 1960 he joined the Combination of Political Prisoners of the Soviet system (VPH) and became its chairman in 1963.
He organised such activities as the exhibition The Pictures Look Alike, which put propaganda photos from the Nazi period alongside those from East Germany. The German government withdrew funding from the VPH in 1964. Due to internal arguments the VPH split in 1966 into several smaller, competitive and insignificant groups. Weiland gradually lost any political influence.
In 1968 he had a heart attack, which was not diagnosed correctly and as a result he had a further deterioration of health. He rejected the student movement of 1968 because it did not recognize “the fundamental and completely independent value of political liberties ". Daniel Cohn Bendit was for him a “clown bandit ". Similarly he rejected the ExtraParliamentary Opposition (APO) in West Germany because of its lack of criticism of the Soviet states.Towards the end of his life he returned to the radical council communist conceptions of his youth.
Alfred Weiland died on 18 September 1978 in West Berlin.