6. The SED acknowledged past mistakes as it announced the New Course
The new leadership in the Soviet Union officially established policies to correct what it called “a serious threat to the political stability of the German Democratic Republic“. Those policies were force-fed to the East German SED. They ordered a decrease to the government subsidizing of industry, with a simultaneous increase in subsidies for consumer goods, health care, and food. They also directed the East German government to relax restrictions imposed on the churches, allowing greater religious freedom. The Soviet High Commissioner for Germany, Vladimir Semyonov, ordered Ulbricht to announce the new policies immediately, while denouncing past policies as mistakes. For a professional politician to denounce his previous policies as errors is a rare event in history. Nonetheless, Ulbricht complied with Soviet demands. He announced the immediate reversal of his own Sovietization programs.
In his announcement, Ulbricht did not address the work quotas previously imposed on the East German work force. Workers continued to labor under production quotas which effectively cut their wages. At the same time, subsidies went to benefit the agricultural workers and the bourgeoisie. Under the New Course, farmers, small businesses, and privately owned industries stood to benefit at the expense of the workers. The New Course, and the frank admissions of error in the previous policies, sent shockwaves across the GDR. Local party organizations, the backbone of the SED in East Germany, expressed dismay with their leaders. Demonstrations against the New Course and the SED took place, beginning in Brandenburg on June 12. They soon spread to other cities and towns. On June 14, Neues Deutschland published an editorial condemning the work quotas, alongside articles praising those who exceeded them.