Why was the Die Linke election campaign so successful? What were the main issues that it raised?
Germany has been at the mercy of neoliberal governments who have been attacking the foundations of our welfare state for the past ten years.
First we faced the coalition of the Labour-like SPD and the Greens, then the SPD and conservative CDU alliance. Both governments agreed to massive cuts in public spending.
Right from the start, Die Linke absolutely opposed the cuts in unemployment benefit and the raising of the state pension age to 67. We put the issue of social justice at the centre of our campaign.
That message chimed with millions of people who fear that they are going to be made to pay for the economic crisis.
How important was the question of Afghanistan to your campaign?
Very. Die Linke campaigned hard on withdrawing German troops from Afghanistan – and we are the only party to take such a stand.
The Greens and the SPD, like the right wing parties, want to continue the occupation, despite 69 percent of Germans wanting the troops home.
The mainstream parties wanted to keep Afghanistan out of the election. But in September, after a German officer called in an airstrike on petrol tankers in Kunduz, north Afghanistan, and killed scores of civilians, there was no way they could do it.
Many people reject the claim that the German military is only in Afghanistan to build schools and protect the rights of women.
There is still an enormous amount of pressure on Die Linke from the establishment to relax its opposition to the war.
What are the main tasks for Die Linke after the election?
Everyone knows that the new government wants to introduce big new cuts in public spending, so one of our first priorities must be to help organise the resistance to their plans.
But we are also going to face attacks from the bosses.
They made a deal with the government in advance of the election that they would not announce any mass redundancies until after the results.
Now we expect that they will attempt to sack thousands of workers.
Die Linke will be at the centre of the campaigns to stop them. We want to help bring the unions together with the many social organisations to mount the biggest possible resistance.
How do Die Linke MPs show they are different to those of other parties?
We stress that building resistance is key to bringing social change and fighting against war. That means we use our authority to help organise campaigns.
In my constituency in Hesse we organised a meeting that brought together union shop stewards and campaigners.
We discussed how to bring workers from different factories together in the fight for jobs.
We always stress that voting for our candidates is important, but that workers need to organise against the recession, not wait for solutions from parliament.
Are there dangers for Die Linke in the future?
Yes. Now that the SPD has joined the ranks of the parliamentary opposition, both they and the Greens are trying to present a more left wing face and win support away from Die Linke.
The two parties are now prepared to criticise the government’s policies on Afghanistan – even though they are identical to the ones they pursued when they were in office.
Die Linke has to ensure that it keeps its opposition to the government sharp. There’s always a danger in parliament that you can be drawn into endless committees and that you compromise on crucial questions.
Die Linke has to show that it can deliver on its promise to be a party of activists – one which stands firmly on the questions of war and social justice, or we risk alienating those who have given us their votes.