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.

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