Archive article from The Socialist Issue 364
Socialist Alternative Win Two Council Seats
LOCAL ELECTIONS took place in Germany's most populous regional state North Rhine Westphalia on September 26.
Socialist Alternative (SAV), the Socialist Party's sister organisation, initiated and headed two slates against social cuts in the cities of Aachen and Cologne.
Achieving 2,253 votes in Cologne and 785 votes in Aachen, both lists won one council seat in the respective local councils - Marc Treude in Aachen and Claus Ludwig in Cologne.
There was a lot of chanting and singing going on at the well-attended election parties in Cologne and Aachen when the final results came through late on Sunday night.
This is a marvellous achievement and it will strengthen the voice of working-class people and the unemployed in the council. Aachen town hall was already half deserted when a group of 30-40 members of "Together against social cuts" walked in and chanted: "Down with the power of the banks and big business! Down with Hartz IV! (the common name of the law that will cut unemployment pay).
Intense election campaign
DURING THE extremely active and intense election campaign, the two slates were heavily involved in supporting and co-organising the local Monday demonstrations. These have taken place across the country over the past weeks to protest against the national government's vicious attack on unemployment benefits. When Joschka Fischer, the Green Party's minister for foreign affairs, visited Aachen, the slate co-organised a protest action which resulted in him having to give up his speech after 30 minutes.
Precisely because of its activist, pro-working class and anti-big business character, it is not surprising at all that both SAV supported slates were largely ignored by the local media during the election campaign.
Despite this, dozens of new people joined the lists against social cuts and many more helped out in the election campaign. The role of Socialist Alternative members in the election campaign was widely appreciated and a number of people agreed to join and pursue discussions with us.
Ruling parties suffer heavy defeat
BOTH, AACHEN and Cologne were ruled by a conservative party (CDU) led coalitions. They lost more than 10% of the vote in both cities and even though it is too early to be definite about it, it is most likely that both cities will see a change in their ruling coalition. Severe local cuts had been introduced by the local councils in the previous period, which the ruling parties were punished for.
Given the massive attacks on living standards on a national level which are carried out by the Social Democratic Party (SPD) led coalition, the working class is left with hardly any alternative on the electoral plane. This has led to an increased disgust and alienation with the political establishment and explains why it is particularly difficult convincing working class people to turn out and vote.
These elections saw a weakening of the big traditional pro-cuts parties and an increased vote for smaller parties and independent lists. The PDS, the former East German state party, slightly improved their results, largely because of their involvement in the anti-Hartz protests.
Unfortunately, there has also been an increased share in votes for right wing and neo-fascist organisations which once more underlines the urgency to build a new mass workers' party in Germany.
After having three councillors elected this year in Germany, SAV hopes to speed up that process by arguing for a fighting programme in the meetings held in the run-up to the November conference of "Electoral Alternative for Work and Social Justice" that will decide whether to launch a new Left party.