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Anti-cuts alternative confirmed in Berlin city elections
BERLINERS WILL have a clear opportunity to vote for clearly anti-cuts and anti-'neo liberal' candidates in the forthcoming 17 September city elections.
Robert Bechert, Committee for a Workers' International
This was confirmed by a two-thirds majority (81 votes to 33) at a weekend congress of the Berlin WASG (Election Alternative for Work and Social Justice) that finalised its decision to stand independently.
The Berlin WASG has been under enormous pressure from the national leadership to stand jointly with the Linkspartei.PDS (Left Party/PDS - former East German Communist Party) but has consistently rejected this unless the PDS changed its policies and ended its coalition with the social-democratic SPD in Berlin.
Since 2001 this Berlin coalition has been in the forefront of the neo-liberal offensive that has been cutting living standards throughout Germany.
The PDS and SPD Berlin coalition took the initiative in breaking national wage agreements to enforce wage cuts amongst its own workers. It has carried out a systematic privatisation campaign, even selling off the city's traffic lights!
The Berlin WASG's position of no rotten deal with the Berlin PDS has been constantly attacked by the national WASG leadership as putting in jeopardy the planned merger between the WASG and PDS.
The Berlin WASG majority was not against having a joint election list with PDS but argued that it could only be on a principled anti-cuts basis, including rejecting a coalition with the SPD.
While the Berlin PDS, the National Executive Committee of the WASG and a minority within the Berlin WASG reached agreement on a programme which was presented as a possible compromise, this document did not even exclude further privatisations while avoiding the issue of coalition and so was rejected by a majority of the Berlin WASG.
An important factor in the Berlin WASG's principled position has been the role of Socialist Alternative (SAV, the CWI in Germany). Lucy Redler, a leading figure in both the SAV and Berlin WASG, was elected as the Berlin WASG's top election candidate with 79.1% of the votes.
Afterwards the national WASG leadership voted by 8 to 5 not to carry out its initial threat to try to withdraw the Berlin WASG's application to stand in September's election.
This weekend's national WASG party congress will now see sharp debates around questions of political orientation and party democracy. It is most likely that a majority of delegates will reject any measures against the Berlin party members. However it cannot be ruled out that the right-wing may still attempt to take measures against the Berlin WASG.
Significantly most of the minority in favour of a joint candidature with the PDS walked out of the Berlin WASG's congress when they lost the vote. This walkout included members of Linksruck, the grouping linked with the British SWP, who have formed a bloc with the WASG right wing. Linkruck's leader voted with the right wing minority on the WASG national executive in favour of attempting to block the Berlin WASG standing.
A recent opinion poll indicated that 12% of the electorate consider voting for the vote WASG in Berlin, including 18% amongst under 30 year olds and 15% amongst those households earning less than 1,000 euro per month.
The challenge in the next five months is to mobilise the potential support for a party clearly rejecting the ruling class's offensive against living standards.
The continuing national media publicity given to the debate in the Berlin WASG is an indication of how a successful anti-cuts election campaign could play an important part in building of a new all-German force that can both defend living standards and challenge capitalism.
Lucy Redler, a leading figure in both the SAV and Berlin WASG, was elected as the Berlin WASG's top election candidate.
WASG is the new left-wing political formation launched in January 2005. It was established in opposition to the neo-liberal attacks of the then social democratic party (SPD) government 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.
In The Socialist 27 April 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party election campaign
1926 General Strike
Environment: Nuclear power
Campaign for a New Workers Party
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis