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Leadership Reaffirms Committment to Communism

October 11, 1989

BERLIN (AP) _ East German Communist leaders reaffirmed their commitment to doctrine, but expressed willingness Wednesday to discuss reform in search of an ″attractive socialism″ to counter growing discontent with the rigid regime.

A statement from the ruling Politburo capped a day of conflicting signals about whether the East Germans would maintain the course of hard-line leader Erich Honecker or join the reform spreading through Eastern Europe.

In addressing the flight of tens of thousands of East Germans, the statement said: ″We aren’t indifferent when people who worked and lived here renounce our German Democratic Republic. The reasons for the step could be varied. We must and will seek out them among ourselves, each in his place, all of us together.

″Together we want to discuss all of the basic questions of our society which must be solved today and tomorrow,″ and suggestions ″for a strategic conception of continuity and change″ will be made at a Central Committee meeting scheduled for late November or early December, the Politburo declared.

″All expressions of opinion and suggestions for attractive socialism ... are important,″ said the statement, distributed by the official news agency ADN. ″We are open to discussions.″

It did not mention the growing opposition movement, but urged East Germans to refrain from the kind of street demonstrations that swept the country last week and on Monday night.

Earlier Wednesday, party sources said high-ranking Communist officials had warned of possible labor unrest and demanded a report from Honecker, 77, on the nation’s ″critical situation.″ Kurt Hager, the party ideologist, reversed himself and called for reform to curb the growing unrest.

The demand for a report, made in the Politburo meeting Tuesday, suggests Honecker may face an internal challenge to his 18-year leadership. The sources disclosed it soon after the radio broadcast Hager’s remarks.

Party sources quoted the complaining officials as telling Honecker ″there are increasing signs of coming strikes in the factories″ and ″there is no time to waste.″

Honecker was told some workers already were refusing to work overtime and called on the government to address the ″increasingly pressing questions″ of the the nation’s people, the sources reported. He was asked to report by the end of the week, they said.

Politburo member Egon Krenz was responsible for the restraint shown by security forces to show restraint during Monday’s pro-democracy demonstrations in Leipzig, East Berlin and Dresden, the sources said. Krenz often is mentioned as a successor to Honecker.

Late Wednesday, ADN said Honecker had postponed a visit to Denmark scheduled for Oct. 25-26. No reason was given.

Hager, one of the hierarchy’s most influential figures, recommended a greater role for the people in solving national problems, a more open society and reform of the state-controlled news media. He did not suggest specific actions.

The ideologist, also 77, made the recommendations in an interview Saturday with the Soviet weekly newspaper Moscow News while street protests were under way and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev was visiting East Germany.

State radio read his comments Wednesday. Earlier in the day, the party newspaper Neues Deutschland vigorously defended the country’s communist system.

″Our task in the immediate future is to come up with a clear concept for the development of necessary changes,″ said Hager, who has been known as a hard-liner opposed to the Gorbachev-style reforms in Eastern Europe.

″That will require, above all, the active involvement of the people in solving important problems and a new policy of public information. A freer and broader discussion is developing in the press.″

Virtually all news media are under strict official control.

Referring to the mass exodus, mostly of skilled young people, Hager said: ″All of the obstacles have to be cleared away that have apparently prevented our youth from developing their full potential.″

He said the government should respond to the ″needs and mood″ of the people.

During his two-day visit last week for East Germany’s 40th anniversary, Gorbachev urged Honecker to make democratic reforms.

In Bonn, chief government spokesman Hans Klein repeated West Germany’s offer of ″wide-ranging help″ if East Germany implements reforms.

Guenter Krusche, head of the Lutheran Church in East Berlin, told Deutschlandfunk radio in Cologne, West Germany, he was ″optimistic that a dialogue will soon start between the nation’s leadership and the opposition movement.″

Party officials in Dresden, Leipzig and Magdeburg have either started talks with pro-democracy activists or plan them, West German news reports say.

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