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18 May 2006

Germany: WASG rebels suspended

IN AN unprecedented but not unexpected act, the national executive of Germany's new left party, WASG (Election alternative - work and social justice), suspended the regional executives in the federal states of Berlin and Mecklenburg Vorpommern.

Tanja Niemeier, Committee for a Workers' International

By implementing those decisions, they have overruled the democratic decisions of the regional sections to stand independently and, subsequently, against the Left Party.PDS (L.PDS - the former East German 'Communist' Party); the party the WASG is about to merge with on a national scale.

WASG was formally established in 2005 and is led by Oskar Lafontaine, former chair of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD). Standing in the last September's federal elections WASG and the L.PDS won 8.7% of the vote and secured 54 MPs.

There is a special situation in Berlin. Since 2001, the L.PDS has been in a coalition government with the SPD which has carried out privatisations, social and wage cuts, in order to "consolidate the budget", at the expense of the working class and youth.

When the WASG was first set up, it agreed as one of the founding principles not to join any government that carries out cuts, privatisations and redundancies.

Lucy Redler is one of the suspended regional executive members and SAV (Socialist Alternative, the Socialist Party's German counterpart) member. She explained that if the Berlin WASG stuck to its founding principles and presented a genuine left-wing, working-class alternative, the WASG would have no choice but to stand against all the established parties in Berlin, including the L.PDS. This position was confirmed by two regional party conferences and in a ballot amongst the whole of the WASG membership.

The suspension marks a further shift to the right by the newly formed party. The national executive is introducing a method whereby political differences are 'solved' by administrative means.

In the past few weeks, the Berlin membership has successfully started campaigning in order to collect the necessary 2,200 signatures for the election list.

The national executive selected an MP to be in charge of the Berlin WASG and who is expected to try and withdraw the nomination to stand. The Berlin WASG regional executive is ready to challenge the decisions legally as well as politically.

A regional party conference is taking place on 16 May and a national 'left opposition' meeting, which is getting a big echo amongst the membership nationally, will take place next weekend.

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