Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 1967

German establishment closes ranks against the left

This article is over 16 years, 4 months old
Christine Buchholz from Wahlalternative, which will support Linkspartei in the upcoming elections, spoke to Socialist Worker about the country’s general election campaign
Issue 1967
Oskar Lafontaine
Oskar Lafontaine

Ever Since its launch in July, Linkspartei has been picking up significant support across the German working class. This has predictably led to a concerted smear campaign against Oskar Lafontaine, the party’s best known leader.

Lafontaine has been accused by the press and by rival parties of being a “right wing populist”. The first volley of attacks referred to a speech Lafontaine made in the city of Chemnitz 12 weeks ago.

In the speech he used the term “Fremdarbeiter” (foreign worker) to refer to migrant labourers. The press seized upon this, pointing out that the term was used by the Nazis to describe slave labour in their concentration camps.

But “Fremdarbeiter” is also used by all the mainstream parties in Germany — the word has appeared on all their websites to describe migrant workers.

Linkspartei’s rise has rattled Germany’s ruling coalition, made up of the SPD — the German equivalent of the Labour Party — and the Greens. Both have tried to smear Lafontaine as “the German Haider”, referring to the Austrian fascist.

But the witch-hunters deliberately ignored the context of Lafontaine’s speech. He was attacking businesses that employ migrant labourers on lower wages than those of German workers. He called for a decent minimum wage that would protect all workers, German and migrant alike.

The second wave of attacks on Lafontaine was led by Bild, a right wing tabloid similar to the Sun in Britain. They invited Lafontaine for an interview while he was on holiday in Majorca, Spain.

Bild offered to fly him and his family back to Germany by private jet — then claimed he said he would only come for an interview if they flew him in. But Lafontaine has made it clear that it was the other way round — he offered to fly over on a normal charter flight.

The desperate attacks on Lafontaine show that the ruling coalition is terrified about losing votes to the Linkspartei. And attacks are also coming in from the right wing CDU. The entire neo-liberal establishment is worried — because they know the voters don’t trust them.

In recent years the SPD has pushed through Agenda 2010 and Hartz IV — the most savage attacks yet on Germany’s social security system.

When SPD chancellor Gerhard Schröder announced the 18 September general election, he promised that the party would “continue in the same way”.

Yet now the SPD is running a left sounding election campaign — and they are keeping very quiet about these neo-liberal attacks.

The focus of the SPD’s campaign is on preventing Angela Merkel, the CDU’s candidate for chancellor, from taking power. The SPD claims that it represents social issues and trade union rights — even though in practice it represents the opposite.

Nevertheless, the SPD’s rhetoric has some impact on trade unionists who are worried about Merkel.

Other trade unionists, however, have declared their support for the Linkspartei.

Linkspartei has issued a call by trade unionists who say “We vote left”. Some 1,500 trade unionists have signed up so far, including many middle ranking officials, such as regional union leaders.

The SPD launched a similar campaign — but got only 300 signatures. These rival calls have provoked an intense debate in many workplaces.

We are fighting back against the all the smears and attacks by running a very positive campaign. And the reaction of ordinary people in Germany has been very good.

They want a change and they want another left in parliament — a left that speaks out for ordinary people, and not one that acts as the poodle of capital.

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