East German anti-reformprotest marches criticised

6th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

6 August 2004 , LEIPZIG - Protest marches throughout eastern Germany against unemployment reform measures came under attack Friday from key organizers of 1989 marches that brought down the communist regime. Thousands of people in eastern Germany have taken part in recent weeks in Monday evening protest marches under the banner "We are the people", which was the rallying call of anti-communist regime protest marches on Monday evenings 15 years ago. "In those days we were marching in pursuit of liberty, but

6 August 2004

LEIPZIG - Protest marches throughout eastern Germany against unemployment reform measures came under attack Friday from key organizers of 1989 marches that brought down the communist regime.

Thousands of people in eastern Germany have taken part in recent weeks in Monday evening protest marches under the banner "We are the people", which was the rallying call of anti-communist regime protest marches on Monday evenings 15 years ago.

"In those days we were marching in pursuit of liberty, but now people are marching in pursuit of money," said Antje Hermenau, a Greens party member of parliament who was a founding member in 1989 of the Round Table of anti-regime activists in then-East Germany.

She was not the only anti-regime figure condemning the new wave of protest marches.

"The current economic reforms are vital to restructuring the economy, particularly in eastern Germany," said Reverend Christian Fuehrer, pastor at Leipzig's St Nicholas Lutheran Church.

"To equate the federal government of unified Germany with the east German communist regime is wholly incomprehensible to me," said Fuehrer, who like many eastern German church leaders, had actively supported peaceful efforts to bring down the regime.

Marchers in Leipzig and other cities in eastern Germany have vowed to continue their protests against reforms aimed at reducing government spending.

On Thursday evening about 1,000 persons converged on a federal unemployment office in Leipzig to protest against proposed cuts in unemployment benefits for recipients who have been out of work for more than a year.

Marchers carried banners equating capitalism with communism and calling for removal of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement.

In response, Clement lashed out at the marchers, accusing them of shortsightedness and distortion of history.

"Comparing our democratic society with a totalitarian regime is an insult to all thinking people and a blatant distortion of historical fact," Clement said.

"The Monday marchers back in 1989 were risking their lives in pursuit of freedom," he said.

"The current scandal is not the fact that we are forced to implement unpopular reforms. Instead, the scandal is the fact that high unemployment has bred an atmosphere of fatalism and apathy. People have come to assume they will be on the dole forever."

Earlier this week it was announced that German unemployment rose to 10.5 percent in July, indicating that the country's labour market is failing to benefit from the recent recovery in Europe's biggest economy.

Unemployment had been at 10.2 percent in June, but the seasonally adjusted number of jobless jumped by 11,000 month on month to 4.39 million in July. This was more than double the 5,000 increase that analysts had originally forecast for the month.

Unemployment levels have now risen for the sixth consecutive month.

DPA

Subject: German news

 

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