Germany - Leave the Left in the Right's territory!

Remarks on the So-called "Left Party" and other Catastrophes - We reproduce below a text by the Gruppe Internationaler SozialistInnen on the regroupment between the PDS (Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus, offspring of the East German Stalinists) and the new social-democrats of the WASG (Wahlalternative Arbeit und soziale Gerechtigkeit - Labor and Social Justice Alternative) for the German elections. The Left Party made significant gains coming out of these elections with 8.7% of the vote and 51 seats.

The decoy of political responsibility, moreover, doesn’t come from nowhere, it corresponds to and springs from the logic of bourgeois thought, for which it remains inconceivable that someone could actively busy themselves with politics but without wishing to "govern".

Johannes Agnoli

The option of a new “Left Party” has stirred things up. In the media the new project is being suitably exaggerated, and sometimes even the “new power of the left” (Der Spiegel, no. 34, 22nd August 2005) conjured up. The opinion poll institutes now correct the estimated vote of the Left Party upwards, and then back down again, while the established parties are really striving to discredit their unloved competitor as “populist” or standing for the frustrated vote. The overwhelming majority of the left is obviously overexcited by the alliance of necessity of the post-Stalinist PDS and neo-social-democratic WASG: the talk is of “an historic opportunity”, “new challenge”, and even of “the dream of a united left”. The phenomenon of the Left Party owes its emergence in the final analysis to two political developments: firstly, the widespread dissatisfaction and anger over the demolition of social security and the dwindling illusions in the “free-market economy”, and, secondly, the manifold defeats for the social struggles against Hartz IV and Agenda 2010. (1) This party is in no way the product of a substantial shift of society to the left against the background of sharpened class struggles, but of the weaknesses of the present initial stages of a movement. Even although there is great outrage over our rulers’ plans for cuts, and there is a climate more open to left socialist ideas, the present political landscape is now, as before, determined by political apathy, isolation and the vague hope for solutions using present institutions. Against this background, the “Left Party” project is primarily the expression of a new shape for the bourgeois left, which has inscribed on its banners the re-foundation of social-democracy, in view of the SPD’s crisis and vanishing ability to recuperate things.

New social-democrats - old social-democrats

The so-called “Left Party’s” framework for its political orientation is a bourgeois programme borrowed from the Keynesian world-view. Obviously, one would look in vain for any demands transcending the logic of capital realisation. Rather, the chewing over of old social - democratic banalities is the theme: strengthening internal demand, state investment programmes, increasing the highest tax rates, a “fairer” distribution of social wealth, etc. The hub of the argument is a largely indefinite and abstract critique of so-called “neo-liberalism”, to which is added the demand that the social state “be secured” and/or “further developed for the conditions of the 21st century” (WASG Election Manifesto). With their transfiguration of the social state as a supposedly class-neutral distributor, which, through a little pressure and some tricks with the order of parliamentary business, can be trained to be “just”, the “Left Party” orients itself towards participation in and the design of the adminstration of capitalist alms-giving. Its strategic calculation is aimed at following the SPD as a “partner in the social state”, or “to show in practice too that a state can be run with the left” (Gregor Gysi). Where that leads in practice can be seen sporadically in Meclkenburg, Vorpommern and Berlin, where “the left PDS” shows itself responsible for social cuts, forced wage agreements and racist state terror.

One Oscar is one too many!

With his media-savvy exit from the SPD and his announcement of his candidacy for a common PDS-WASG list, there is no doubt that Oskar Lafontaine accelerated the formation of a “left” election alliance. Even while the WASG was being founded, Lafontaine was often considered to be a “wild card” and possible figurehead for a new project on the left, which shows how things are with certain “left” intellectuals. In Oskar Lafontaine, a charlatan advanced to bear the hopes of the left, who, not very long ago, outlined the demand for the shortening of working hours without compensatory wage increases and, with the proposal for eroding unemployment benefit by using the principle of basing social help on means testing, invented the fundamental idea of the Hartz reforms. In 1998, he threatened the unemployed in an unmistakable fashion in the Bildzeitung: “A job offer must be accepted. If not, benefits will be cut.” As SPD Chairman, Lafontaine significantly pushed forward the sharpening of the law on asylum and was conspicuous in his persecution of returning ethnic Germans as well as Sinti and Roma. Schilys’ proposal for the setting up of “internment camps” for refugees in North Africa found his support and he agreed with the threats of torture in the case of Jakob von Metzler. (2) In the light of this, his diatribes against so-called “foreign workers” who take away “the jobs of German heads of family” represent no exception. The only new thing is that Lafontaine is making racist remarks without having a SPD membership card. For the social - democrat Lafontaine, the concept of “social justice” was and is continually coloured with nationalism. With his reference to the state’s function to produce order, the “social market economy” and the simultaneous denunciation of “anglo-saxon neo-liberalism”, Lafontaine stands for a reactionary national social programme and will certainly be able to find many admirers and imitators in the “left”.

Left wing protection for state capitalist plans

Admittedly, Lafontaine’s nationalism and elements of the Left Party’s programme are sometimes regarded and commentated upon critically by parts of the left, but, in general, the hopes for the “Left Party” vehicle as a means to win influence and make gains on the political landscape dominate. In particular, various Trotskyist groups, which have grown used to the role of “critical supporter”almost as a second nature, are making themselves very busy giving the new project the necessary left appearance. A colourful to-ing and fro-ing about the “Left Party” has begun, with outrageous perspectives like “a combative workers’ party” (SAV, Sozialistische Alternative), “anti-neo-liberal unity” (Linksruck - Left Turn), the necessity for “making a step towards the masses” (Arbeitermacht - Workers’ Power) and/or of a “historic compromise” between the “anti-capitalist and reformist left” (Sozialistische Zeitung, July 2005). We are relatively indifferent as to when and how such groups find their eternal peace. Nevertheless, it should be clear that an orientation towards work within the framework of the “Left Party” can only be possible in the long term at the price of considerable conformity and neutralisation. Moreover, it cannot be assumed that the Left Party will contribute to “strengthening left positions as a whole and improving the framework for our work” as an open letter from the Berlin groups ALB (Antifaschistische Linke Berlin - Berlin Anti-Fascist Left) and Fels (Für eine linke Strömung - For a left current) to the PDS and WASG hoped. The signatories of this devoted address, who very immodestly displayed themselves as those who “in many places and cities make politics from below visible and maintain both projects and structures”, make themselves laughable when they celebrate the “demand for the introduction of a proper basic income [...] as the correct answer to the present neo-liberal policy”, and then, for the sake of the peace on the left, invite the new Social Democracy to “decisively stand up to racist and nationalist hate-mongering”. Nevertheless, the accompanying covering letter admitted with astonishing honesty, that the “PDS/WASG is thoroughly interested in connecting with the extra-parliamentary left as a reservoir of voters”. What is behind this playing of the role of clown of the movement is the striving for jobs, or, at least, apprenticeships, by dressing theirselves up in “left-radical” clothes. The (in) famous balancing act between Parliament and the movement, which is served up as the latest “strategic option” here, contributes to so many torn ligaments fon the left of the movement.

The lure and poverty of parliamentarism

This certainly has something to do with the chronic naivety and stupidity of various leftwingers, but has much more to do with the structural recuperative power of parliamentarism in modern capitalism. Parliament has long lost the role created for it by the bourgeois revolutions, as the central organ mediating between classes. While the real decisions are made in the hidden committees of the state apparatus, parliamentarism has for our rulers the primary function of ideologically dressing the deeds of their governments in democratic clothes. Due to the parochial fixation on the nation-state’s framework for action, every parliamentary orientation sooner or later leads to the desire to co-administer the necessities of capitalism in accordance with “public opinion”. Every smart alec who again and again likes to parrot Lenin’s writings on “left radicalism” and the “tactical use of parliament”, should understand that we in no way regard the outcome of this “tactic”, the social-democraticisation of the Communist Parties and the subjection to the foreign policy requirements of Moscow state capitalism to be worth repeating. For that reason we categorically reject any participation in the parliamentary spectacle and every call to vote and campaign electorally. These can only lead to encouraging, or even cementing, illusions in “bourgeois democracy”. As a classical variant of political representation, parliamentarism stands opposed to the only passable road to change society, the autonomous action of the class. The new Left Party is nothing other than a spiced-up variation of a left bourgeois party respecting bourgeois legality, whose original function was to utilise and divert extra-parliamentary movements. It is not a starting point but instead a further obstacle for the development of autonomous resistance and solidarity from below. The “Left Unity”, which is celebrated and summoned up in the context of the “Left Party”, is not unity of action on the basis of autonomous class politics but on the basis of the institutions of the bourgeois state. The break without compromise with the state left and the construction of a communist alternative proves itself against this background both as a question of principle and of intellectual honesty.

For a stateless and classless society!

Gruppe Internationaler SozialistInnen (September 2005)

(1) The plans of the German bourgeoisie to restructure (i.e., abolish) social security.

(2) Jakob von Metzler was the 11 year-old son of a banker who was kidnapped (and killed) by Magnus Gäfgen in order to demand a ransom. The proposal was to torture Gäfgen to make him reveal the whereabouts of Metzler, while it was still believed that the latter was alive.