East Germany's stopgap measures. Expulsion of activists shows party leaders still seek to control dissent - but without tarnishing their image abroad
Bonn — East Germany's expulsion of Christian dissidents to West Germany this week is probably only a ``provisional'' solution. ``The basic problem [of controlling dissidents] cannot be solved either through hard or soft approaches. It can only be solved by giving more latitude [to East Germans], and the present leadership is incapable of doing this.''
This is the opinion of Joseph Dolezal, the new spokesman for East-West German affairs for the Social Democratic parliamentary party and, for many years, a spokesman for the West German Ministry of Inner-German Affairs. He echoes a view widely held in West Germany.
Mr. Dolezal noted that this was the second time in recent months that East Germany's hard-line security forces have been overruled - for reasons of the country's prestige abroad - after arresting young environmental and peace and civil-rights activists who have found refuge under the Protestant church in East Germany.
The first time came last November, when they arrested, but later released, young people who have collected what is believed to be the only environmental library in the country in the Zion Church in East Berlin. The second and more spectacular time came this week with the expulsion of up to two dozen young dissidents to West Germany, in lieu of jailing them. The exact number is not yet known.
But expulsions are not a lasting solution, according to Mr. Dolezal.
``Ever more critical generations follow. They start to be open, and then they are criminalized. They are deprived of their leaders for a while [with the expulsion of such people as balladeer Stephan Krawczyk this week],'' Dolezal said. ``But then new ones come along. With the passage of time [the security forces] can no longer operate with the methods [of suppression] of the '50s and '60s.''
East German citizens ``have many more contacts with the West,'' and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is also having an impact with his new policy of openness, Dolezal said.
East Germany still will likely try to contain dissent by a mixture of allowing or forcing uncomfortable activists to emigrate to West Germany.
The Communist Party newspaper Neues Deutschland already has given notice that the authorities will not be lenient with new dissidents. The newspaper has opened a campaign charging West German journalists in East Germany with working for Western intelligence agencies to instigate opposition in East Germany.
The accusation reflects the distress of East German authorities over the resonance the tiny number of activists has found during the past two weeks of attempted crackdown. West German radio and television have reported this story each day to the 90 percent of East Germans who can receive West German television broadcasts and the 100 percent who can receive West German radio signals.
That the penalties for dissent have now been shown to be so limited - exile to West Germany rather than long jail terms - suggests that increasing numbers of East Germans will be emboldened to join in pressing for reform.
Since Soviet tanks put down the workers' uprising in East Berlin in 1953, such civil courage has been a minority phenomenon in East Germany. But already the church vigils that have spread about the country in recent days have engaged a growing segment of the population.
Roland Jahn, a peace activist expelled from Jena to West Germany in 1983, expressed an increasingly common view. After Mr. Krawczyk's expulsion, he said, the young generation of East Germans will no longer put up with being punished for expressions of opinion that are guaranteed by East German laws and by the Helsinki Final Act of 1975.
Ironically, as it is turning out, Krawczyk's expulsion is serving to magnify rather than diminish his influence among East German citizens.
Since 1985 Krawczyk has been banned by the party from performing publicly in East Germany. And while the balladeer continued to sing his songs (about such topics as refusing to leave East Germany) before church audiences, he could only reach tens of thousands that way.
Now, besides suddenly becoming a celebrity, he will be singing on West German television and will be coming directly into millions of East German homes.