Protest against Egon Krenz being installed as chairman of the State Council outside the State Council building in East Berlin, 24 October 1989.
Source: picture-alliance/dpa/Wolfgang Kumm

The SED saves its skin

The SED leadership's ignorance and delaying tactics in autumn 1989 caused many party members to become bitter and to revolt. They expressed their indignation as publicly as possible at a demonstration in front of the building of the highest body within the party, the Central Committee, on 8 November 1989. They jumped ship and demanded a party congress, intended to decide the future of the SED.

By mid-November, all SED regional secretaries and most SED district secretaries were forced to give up their posts, often pressured by grassroots party members. The drop in membership was dramatic. On 3 December 1989 the entire party leadership resigned. Enquiry boards were set up and investigation proceedings were launched against some of the former officeholders for abuse of authority and corruption.

At the special party congress in mid-December, a new leadership was elected and the party renamed SED-PDS (Party of Democratic Socialism). Only a few members demanded that the organisation should be completely dissolved. In this case, the party would have immediately lost its huge assets and, more importantly, all its power.

Demonstration on 3 December 1989 in East Berlin. Members of the SED protested repeatedly in front of the building of the SED Central Committee. They demanded a radical change of policy and party reform.
Source: ullstein bild/Bildarchiv
Around a hundred thousand SED members participated in a Berlin district party leaders’ rally on 10 November 1989. Members of the Politburo, reshuffled two days previously, introduced themselves. This did nothing to dispel the doubts of the grassroots party members – particularly since the Berlin Wall had come down during the previous night.
Source: imago stock & people/Schulze
SED special party congress on 8 December 1989 in East Berlin. Gregor Gysi (m.) became party leader. The delegates declared themselves to be against dissolving the party and founding a new one, thus managing to save their assets. The party was now called SED-PDS (Party of Democratic Socialism). Another cosmetic change was made in February 1990 when the abbreviation SED was dropped.
Source: ullstein bild/Bildarchiv
The mood of many SED members in December 1989 was sombre.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Bernd Markowski
Demonstration by the SED-PDS on 3 January 1990 at the memorial in the Berlin district of Treptow. Graffiti by right-wing extremists had been discovered here at the end of December 1989. The SED-PDS attempted to turn this to their advantage by presenting a united front against the right wing with itself at the helm.
Source: Bundesarchiv/183-1990-0105-300/Ralf Hirschberger
Revolt at grass roots level: around 150 members of the SED who had joined together to form a platform in Berlin expressed their lack of confidence in the party leaders on 30 November 1989. They demanded an uncompromising renewal of the SED.
Source: Privatarchiv Bernd Flohrat
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