The Socialist 9 March 2006
Wanted: A party for the millions...not the millionaires!
Berlin Left reject unprincipled coalition
THE BERLIN WASG (Election Alternative for Work and Social Justice) regional party conference on 25/26 February overwhelmingly reaffirmed its previous decision not to stand jointly with the Linkspartei.PDS (former East German Communist Party) in regional elections on 17 September. A referendum amongst the Berlin membership is expected to confirm this decision.
Tanja Niemeier, Berlin
In Berlin, the PDS is part of the governing coalition with the SPD (the social-democrats) which has carried out a policy of social welfare cuts and privatisation.
The majority within the Berlin WASG regional leadership, as well as the majority of its activists, supported the idea of standing independently of the PDS. Given the specific circumstances in Berlin, they felt that a joint candidacy on a principled, left-wing anti-cuts basis is not possible with the current Berlin PDS leadership.
This view was confirmed in the joint public meetings with the PDS held prior to the conference. "It is not trustworthy to stand together with a party that speaks of socialism on Sundays and carries out social cuts throughout the rest of the week," argued Lucy Redler, member of the WASG regional executive committee and member of SAV (Socialist Alternative - CWI, Germany).
Since the previous Berlin WASG conference last November first agreed this position much pressure had been put on the Berlin WASG to change its opinion and put forward a joint list with the PDS. The main argument was that this was necessary in order to help the proposed national fusion of the two parties.
Effectively, the 142 delegates were asked to decide upon the new party's political direction. In the weeks leading up to the conference, the question of standing independently or forming a joint list with the PDS had been the focal point of the debate.
After another, very lively, debate a large majority of delegates (91 to 39) voted in favour of standing independently. This is another, very important marker in the process of building a genuine new left force in Germany.
It is thanks to the left of the WASG in Berlin, of which SAV is a prominent part, that the debate on the character of a new left party is still ongoing - in Berlin as well as on a national level. At the conference a new WASG regional executive committee was elected and SAV member Lucy Redler came top of the poll.
The leadership of the Linkspartei.PDS along with the majority of the WASG national committee would have preferred to see a fast merger of the two parties and a joint list "despite all the differences".
Nobody is opposed to the important process of forming a new left force throughout Germany. However, a new force should not be a simple merger of WASG and Linkspartei.PDS but needs to involve activists from the trade union and social movements. It also needs a clear left-wing programme and policy as its political foundation. This means it should reject any government coalitions that carry out social cuts and privatisations.
The Berlin WASG, and especially the socialists within it, have made clear that they want left unity but with left-wing politics. They have played an important role in offering a real alternative for those in Berlin not represented by any party in the city government. Even before the election campaign has started, the WASG on its own scored 4.7% in the latest Berlin opinion poll.
The Berlin WASG will come under big pressure not to stand independently. The main media are not enthusiastic at the prospect of a clear anti-cuts party standing in elections and the WASG national leadership want to remove obstacles to their plans to merge on any terms with the Linkspartei.PDS.
But the growing opposition to the continuing onslaught against jobs and living standards in Germany provides the base upon which the WASG can help build the new workers' party that is needed to struggle against cuts and for socialism.
WASG - a left-wing alternative
WASG IS the new, left-wing political formation launched in January 2005 which includes the former SPD minister Oskar Lafontaine. It was established in opposition to the neo-liberal attacks of the social democratic party (SPD) and the bosses.
It is a broad anti-capitalist electoral alternative which contains a variety of left-wing currents. The Socialist Party's counterpart in Germany, Socialist Alternative (SAV), actively participates in WASG. It is attempting to build the party based on the struggles of the working class and encourages the trade unions to break with the capitalist SPD.
Standing on a joint slate with the Left Party (Linkspartei - formerly, the ex-communist PDS) WASG won 4 million votes (8.7%) in the September 2005 general election (the PDS had won just over 1.9 million votes in 2003), and gained 54 seats in the federal parliament.
Mass strike wave continues
PROTESTS AND strikes involving hundreds of thousands of public-sector workers in local, regional and federal government is continuing in Germany. As part of the 'neo-liberal' offensive the employers are attacking workers rights and conditions, including extending working hours from 38.5 to 40 hours without extra pay - when unemployment is over 5 million. This has led to the biggest public sector strikes since 1992. (see last week's the socialist).
Although the leadership of the Ver.di union has agreed to 39 hours in Hamburg state, indefinite strikes are continuing elsewhere. In Baden-Wuerttemburg state strikes may be expanded after union/employers talks broke down.
In the same region more than 8,000 workers at several DaimlerChrysler car plants walked out over employers plans to cut paid breaks. Walkouts were also staged at auto parts supplier Robert Bosch with the total number of strikers amounting to 11,400, according to the IG Metall union.
More reports on the situation in Germany see www.socialistworld.net
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