EAST BERLIN — East Germany's struggling Communist Party convened an emergency meeting Saturday amid calls for its disbandment and said its membership had shrunk to 1.2 million, half last January's figure.
The party said that figure could shrink further, perhaps to half a million. But some grass-roots Communist groups think even that is optimistic. They say the party has been unable to adapt to reforms and weed out all hard-liners and should be dissolved.
Yielding to pressure, the party leadership convened the emergency session Saturday to decide whether to call a special congress that would vote on disbandment.
Party chairman Gregor Gysi told the meeting at the old Central Committee headquarters that the party should fight on. To break it up now could destabilize the country and even endanger Moscow's \o7 perestroika \f7 reforms, he said.
It is a measure of the Communist Party's fall from grace that it should even consider dissolving itself. Four months ago, it dominated the state, government and security apparatus.
As the Communists met, 11 small East German center-right political groups merged to form a new party that aims to align itself with West Germany's Christian Democrats.
The chairman of the new party, named the German Social Union, said the party considers itself a natural ally of Bonn's senior coalition partners.
The chairman said the new party opposes "socialist experiments" in East Germany and seeks unification with West Germany.
He put the combined membership of the new party between 25,000 and 30,000.
At the same time, a separate disciplinary commission of the Communists was meeting to decide on ousting remaining members of the old-guard elite.