Archive article from The Socialist Issue 408
Massive gains for new Left Party
A MASSIVE defeat for the Right and a big victory for the Left, that is the result of the general election. It represents a defeat for the German ruling class and will have important consequences for the working class in Germany and Europe.
Robert Bechert in Berlin
The two major German capitalist parties, CDU/CSU and the SPD, suffered big defeats after having either carried out vicious cuts in living standards and public services, or promising to do so.
The ruling Social Democrats lost over 2,300,000 votes since 2002 as a result of their vicious capitalist policies, which combined lowering real wages for the employed and the 'Hartz IV' attacks on the unemployed with handouts to the rich and big companies. All this was in the name of boosting Germany's economy but unemployment rose to over six million.
The opposition Christian Democrats led by Angela Merkel were stunned and almost left speechless on election night as they discovered that, far from gaining support, they had one of their worst ever election results and lost over 1,850,000 votes, recording a smaller percentage of the vote than in 2002.
Their policy of drastic tax cuts for the rich, and the implied social welfare cuts that this policy would mean, helped drive away support. Although the large SPD losses meant that the Christian Democrats ended up with the highest percentage of votes, their own big loss of support undermined their authority.
Four million votes
THE BIG winner was the Left Party which gained over four million votes, 8.7%, with a policy of rejecting social cuts. The Left Party was a combination of the renamed PDS (Party for Democratic Socialism - the former Stalinist party which ran the East German state) and members of the WASG (Work and Social Justice) party that was formed last year.
While the PDS won just over 1,900,000 votes in 2003 the more than doubling of the Left vote reflected the support which the WASG and particularly Oskar Lafontaine, the former SPD leader and Finance Minister, were able to generate.
Against a background of deepening anger against Schröderęs SPD/Green coalition government, Lafontaine was able to rally significant support for his attacks on Schröderęs neo-liberal policies.
The success of the Left party was also important in limiting the advance of the neo-fascist NDP. However, the NDP was able to increase its vote from 266,000 to over 740,000, a clear warning of what could happen in the future if the labour movement fails to offer a serious alternative.
In the last weeks of the election campaign the SPD was able to regain some support by attacking the Christian Democrats and presenting themselves as the 'lesser evil'. Unfortunately, the Left Party's material was not always able to counter this, particularly in the city of Berlin where their local leaders are involved in carrying out social cuts and the worsening of wages and working conditions.
IN THE words of many capitalist commentators the election result has produced a "chaotic situation" where there is no obvious new government. Different combinations of parties are being discussed. The German bosses want a government that could carry out more cuts, but now they could end up with a weak government. The formation of a 'grand coalition' between the CDU and SPD would make it easier for the Left Party and WASG to build support if it develops a consistent policy of opposing cuts and campaigning.
What is clear is that any German government resting on capitalism will be under enormous pressure to make cuts. Many workers will hope that the Christian Democrats do not enter the government. The Left Party and WASG, while being sympathetic to that feeling, will have to show to those workers that voting for the SPD will not end the attacks.
Socialist Alternative (SAV - CWI in Germany), is arguing that the election result is a massive boost to the Left which needs to be consolidated by the building of a combative workers' party with socialist policies.
The election has not meant an end to the continuing bosses' offensive. The day after the election Siemens, Germany's biggest private employer, announced that it will cut up to 10,000 of its 164,000 German workforce.
Sunday's election showed that millions reject the ruling class's policy. The task for socialists and the Left is to help build this opposition into a movement that rejects capitalism and fights for a socialist future.
A fuller analysis of this important election and its implications will appear shortly on the CWI website.