Socialist Worker

Can the German left unite against neoliberalism?

by Volkhard Mosler
Issue No. 2033

A strong Left Party will be needed to resist neoliberal policies in Germany in the coming year. VAT (value added tax) rose by 3 percent on all goods and services except food on 1 January.

In March the government intends to raise the pension age from 65 to 67 and plans an attack on public health services.

The German army will probably send new aircraft and tanks to help in the occupation of Afghanistan after pressure from Nato.

The G8 group of the world’s most powerful leaders will meet in Heiligendamm, near Rostock in east Germany. There will be mass protests against the meeting.

The WASG party, which is based in west Germany, and the Linkspartei, based in east Germany, will have to show their ability to stand up against neoliberalism and militarism.

These two organisations are moving towards unity. The next step will be two separate party conferences on the same weekend in March.

These will hopefully agree to the draft programme and to the draft constitution for a new party named “Die Linke” (The Left).

If the party conferences vote for the programme and constitution the membership of both parties will vote on unification.

The first party conference of a united left party will have to finalise the process of unification by 16 June.

There is still resentment against unification in both parties – in the left within the WASG and in parts of the right in the Linkspartei.

The bone of contention is the same – the neoliberal politics of the Berlin senate, where the Linkspartei are in coalition government with the SPD, which is similar to Britain’s Labour Party.

Critics in the WASG rightly fear that Die Linke will lose its political credibility and trustworthiness if the united party has to go on taking responsibility for social cuts and the privatisation of services in Berlin.

This critique of Berlin’s “governmental socialists” is shared by the whole of the WASG. The last WASG conference in November criticised the “red-red” coalition in Berlin.

Klaus Ernst and Oskar Lafontaine, the two leading WASG MPs, both condemned the policies of the Linkspartei in Berlin.

The right wing leadership of the Linkspartei fears unification as it might come under pressure from rising class struggle. Nobody can say who will prevail. Much will depend on the level of class struggle.

This level can be raised with the impetus of the new Left Party. A strong mobilisation against the G8 meeting could shift German politics to the left.

The draft programme for the new party reflects both the weaknesses and the strengths of the left.

The WASG conference voted against a “socialist” programme, while the Linkspartei wants to emphasise the socialist character of the new party.

The Linkspartei, stands in the tradition of “socialism from above”. Its predecessor governed East Germany in the name of socialism for over 40 years.

It lost its state through a democratic revolution from below in 1989. It has since transformed itself into a left wing social democratic party.

It still has about 1,000 full-time workers and a membership of 60,000. Many of its members believe they have spent their lives struggling for socialism.

“Socialism” is still a catchword used to hold the different wings of the party together.

The WASG leadership mistrusts this sort of socialism. It comes from a social democratic tradition and would emphasise a left-Keynesian programme against unemployment and for the rebuilding of a welfare state.

Oskar Lafontaine refers to Sweden frequently in his speeches. But Swedish social democracy and East German “socialism” have both hit the rocks of global capitalism.

The task for Marxists in the new party is to fight for socialism from below. Hopefully the strong connection between parts of the trade union left and the WASG can help this process along.

With this orientation on class struggle Linksruck, the SWP’s sister organisation in Germany, has joined one of the tendencies within the WASG and Linkspartei.

The tendency calls itself the Socialist Left and it is based in the trade union movement, mainly in the industrial centres of West Germany.

The new Left Party will present a historic opportunity for the rebuilding of a mass socialist party.

Volkhard Mosler is a leading member of Linksruck and secretary of the Frankfurt section of WASG

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