East Germans organise for justice
By Catherine Brown
MUNICH — "After the euphoria of the year 1990, many people in eastern Germany feel they are second-class citizens, marginalised politically, economically, socially and culturally", stated an appeal by a broad coalition, the Committees for Justice, formed on July 11 in east Germany.
The coalition's co-founder Gregor Gysi, chairperson of the Party for Democratic Socialism, explained it would be necessary to give people in the east fresh courage. Grassroots committees, Gysi added, will be formed to help alleviate mass unemployment, de-industrialisation, destruction of agriculture and the "humiliation" of east Germans.
Other signatures on the appeal included the playwright Heiner Muller, the east German novelist Stefan Heym and some west German intellectuals.
Another co-initiator, Peter-Michel Diestel, was a Christian Democrat interior minister in the interim east German government before unification. Diestel has been unpopular with the Bonn CDU leadership for criticising the "subjugation" of east Germany.
Diestel claimed the committees could become the nucleus of a political party. This has sent alarms through the mainstream parties, already concerned by the PDS becoming the strongest party in the east Berlin boroughs after the May elections. The social democratic SPD and the CDU alike hoped to isolate the PDS.
The coalition will seek to build among those increasingly dissatisfied with the Bonn government. Nearly three-quarters of east German production workers have lost their jobs since unification or are on short-time work. For many others, so-called retraining and job creation programs hold no promises. Psychologically, claims Heiner Winkler, an east Berlin journalist, "they are worse off than before".