Socialist Worker

What Die Linke can achieve

by Anny Heike and Thomas Handel
Issue No. 2055

Die Linke (The Left) party has entered a west German state parliament for the first time.

We won a sensational 8.4 percent of the vote, and social justice has a voice in Bremen's state parliament once more, creating a strong political opposition in the parliament. The established parties suffered considerable losses.

Following our success as WASG in the 2005 parliamentary elections, we have once more scratched through the gloss of neoliberalism and neoconservatism.

We have proved that alternatives to the present politics can be transformed into political power. And support for Die Linke is growing, standing at more than 10 percent according to recent polls.

Three quarters of Germans are opposed to the government’s military activity in Afghanistan and are against raising the retirement age to 67. Approximately half of the population was against the G8 summit in Heiligendamm. There is a widespread feeling that the German government rules against its own people!

In the German trade unions – which although officially politically independent are aligned to the Social Democratic Party (SPD) – support for Die Linke is increasing. Discussions of how trade union influence can be strengthened in political debates are intensifying.

Important as workplace issues are for German unions, a wider political consciousness is growing, and not just in the progressive trade unions like IG Metall, Verdi and GEW. Across the union movement there is a feeling that confining unions to simple workplace demands is not sufficient to ward off the attacks on the working and living conditions of workers and the unemployed.

Prospects of success are also dependent on political decisions. Up to now the SPD was the 'political arm' of this process, but their policies are increasingly in conflict with the political objectives of trade unionists.

German unions want to maintain their demands and extend their influence on government activities. This influence will substantially depend on alliances with other organisations and movements.

As a leading member of one of the biggest German unions put it, 'Since Die Linke became a relevant power, we find negotiating with the SPD much easier.'

However, Die Linke can't restrict its activities to parliamentary work. We have to create a permanent and active connection between parliamentary politics and the interests of the people who suffer the impact of the outrages of neoliberal politics.

In alliance with other social movements, and with the unions, we will fight against neoliberal attacks on our already underdeveloped welfare state. Our social alternatives are increasingly popular. We are still fighting against long hours, privatisation, wage cuts, and the dismantling of the welfare state.

Die Linke also has another task. When the government made great pre-election promises and then broke them, they heavily damaged the credibility of the democratic system. We have to relate to people to reinforce their confidence in politics and to strengthen their creative potential.

The redistribution of wealth is at the centre of our policies. The greed of capitalism impacts badly on the majority of the people and does not show any consideration for the natural basis of existence.

Die Linke must oppose the growing gap between poor and wealthy – nationally as well as internationally. For the first time since 1945, with the Die Linke, the left in Germany has a real chance to achieve this aim.

Anny Heike and Thomas Handel are members of WASG, one of the parties uniting to form Die Linke

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Tue 12 Jun 2007, 19:56 BST
Issue No. 2055
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