Stalinist tendency rattles German former Communists

Just a few months ago, the former Communists of East Germany were popping champagne corks to celebrate successes in the parliamentary elections in October.

Yesterday, as they began their three-day conference, they were tearing each other apart. The Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), as the Communists renamed themselves a after the Wall came down, is in the midst of an identity crisis. n The leadership hadrelucantly accepted the creation of a hardline group called the Communist Platform in the PDS. The Platform is led by Sahra Wagenknecht,25, the party's enfant terrible, with a penchant for Stalinist outbursts.

The philosophy student has shocked colleagues by arguing that Socialist ideals were betrayed after Stalin's death in 1953 and by calling the quashing of the 1968 Prague Spring "the suppression of the counter-revolution".

"Socialism that is not democratic and that does not embrace human rights is condemned to fail," the party's leader, Lothar Bisky, warned the 425 delegates yesterday.

Mr Bisky, a former film school rector, says that he feels "shivers running down my back", at Ms Wagenknecht's remarks. Gregor Gysi, the party's best known public figure, has insisted that unless Ms Wagenknecht is voted off the executive this weekend, he and Mr Bisky will go.

The fury may signify little. A Communist split still seems unlikely. If it does come, the popular appeal of the "mainstream" PDS would only be strengthened. In last year's elections, the PDS gained 20 per cent of the east German vote and 30 seats in parliament. The party came within a whisker of being able to help unseat Helmet Kohl's ruling Christian Democrats.

Mr Gysi's "bright troupe" - a mixed bag of former Communists, fellow-travellers, and mavericks, like the east German author, Stefan Heym - were well pleased.

The PDS's success is based on disenchantment with the western takeover. Many east Germans feel their identity has been trampled on. The PDS's east German identity is its strongest card. In Bonn, west German Social and Christian Democrats talk of the PDS as a totalitarian danger. In the east, even the party's opponents are unwilling to write the PDS off.

Christoph Bergner, a Christian Democrat unseated as a regional prime minister last June because of the PDS, believes Bonn's tactic of demonising the PDS has been misguided. One recent poll suggested that almost two thirds of east Germans believe the PDS is unfairly treated by the west.

This week's internal explosions are overdue. Ninety per cent of the 130,000 members are former Communist Party members, many of whom yearn for the old days. Then there are reformers, including many who were at odds with the old regime (Mr Gysi was a lawyer who defended East German dissidents) but who decided to throw in their lot with the PDS. And there are the disadvantaged who profited little from the old regime, but who have no love for the brave new world. They are perhaps most important of all.

Some,however, have already had enough. Karin Dorre, a member of the party executive, last week announced that she was leaving the party in advance of the conference this weekend.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
Sport
Danny Cipriani of England breaks clear to score his second try
rugby
Life and Style
New research says leaving your desk can help you to avoid serious illness
health
Arts and Entertainment
tvSPOILER ALERT: Like a mash-up of 28 Days Later, Braveheart, The Killing and Lord of the Rings, this GoT episode was a belter
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral