Video: A new European socialist movement? The rise of the the Left party in Germany

The emergence of the Left party (Linkspartei) in Germany is the most significant development of a new political party to the left of social democracy in decades in Europe. The formation of the Left party coincided with the anti-G8 mobilisation in Germany a year ago. It was followed by a startling rise in the opinion polls, and political break-throughs in West Germany, building on its political base in East Germany and the old Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS).

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Part 1: Introduction by Greg Albo.

Ingar Solty, while doing a PhD at York, is a frequent contributor to the journal Das Argument in Germany, where his seminal paper on neoliberalism and the rise of the Left party was originally published and is now forthcoming in English in the journal Socialism and Democracy.

Part 2: Ingar Solty.

Part 3: Ingar Solty.

Frank Deppe has been one of the leading Marxist intellectuals and political activists in West Germany since the 1960s with extensive publications on labour and politics and on Eurocapitalism and the global political economy.

Part 4: Frank Deppe.

Part 5: Frank Deppe.

Part 6: Frank Deppe.

Part 7: Frank Deppe.

Part 8: Frank Deppe.

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“There are centuries in which nothing happens, and weeks in which decades happen” (Lenin). In such historic moments, what flourishes is not just the battle of ideas and the freedom social actors experience to change the social structures that determine them; frequently historical advance also depends on coincidence and individuals. In our time of pessimism, relativism and posthistoire, it is not easy to think historically and grasp historic time-compressions. This kind of thinking needs to be wrested from the culture-destroying media which turns even our historical responsibility and position into a spectacle created for the purpose of improved TV ratings. In what follows, an attempt will be made to do the necessary kind of thinking, as we focus our attention on the historical break which, to all appearances, we are now living through. A symptom of this break is the rise of a left political force in Germany.

I am going to argue, first of all, that the German Left Party, Die LINKE, is the first (party-)political leftist articulation of the contradictions of neoliberalism in the core capitalist countries (i.e. outside the Latin American [semi-]periphery). In recent years in many of these countries attempts have been made to establish leftist parties (both by regrouping old parties and by founding entirely new ones) which could counteract the neoliberalization or marginalization of the traditional parties of the labor movement. The parties include, first and foremost, Italy’s (somewhat compromised) Rifondazione Comunista, but also Jan Marijnissen’s Dutch Socialist Party (as the currently most influential opposition party in the Netherlands) and the Norwegian Left Party (with its promising national coalition government program and the contradictory role it played afterwards)2 as well as smaller attempts with Québec Solidaire, the Scottish Socialist Party, Respect! in the UK, etc. However, in all of these countries the new articulations either have not been exclusively left ones – often being in heavy competition with, or helpless in the face of, strong right-wing populist parties (France, Italy, the Netherlands) – or have been of limited relevance because of either their organizational size (Canada, the UK), their financial, intellectual and political resources (the UK, Canada, but to a degree also the Netherlands and the fragmented left in France), or simply the size of their countries and their relevance in the global political economy.

Second, apart from its exceptional status, I am arguing that the relevance of Germany’s Left Party can only be unravelled through the lens of hegemony theory and needs to be seen in the context of an emerging hegemonic crisis of neoliberalism. In this context, parallels can be drawn between the impact of the 1968 events and the aftermath of 1848. Both historical eras are characterized by failed revolutions, the cooptation of certain revolutionary elements compatible with a new system of rule, and the marginalization of other – more radical – elements that were incompatible. In the post-1968 case, we are dealing with the partial cooptation of the “old” New Left and its absorption into neoliberalism – a new means of production and a way of life – followed by the emerging hegemonic crisis of neoliberalism and the consequent rise of a new left party, Die LINKE.

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by Stefan Bornost, editor of Marx21 Magazine (via anticapitaliste)

Monday, 7 April 2008

Civil war is raging in the SPD, the German Labour Party, following the successes of the radical left Die Linke party in recent elections. The crisis has grown to such an extent that a recent opinion poll put the SPD at 22 percent, with Die Linke at 14 percent.

There are now growing splits between the right and left inside the SPD – with the right openly attacking party leader Kurt Beck and demanding he retract his candidacy for chancellor in the general election scheduled for 2009.

Beck had tacked the rhetoric of the SPD sharply to the left in an attempt to thwart the growth of Die Linke, while at the same time ruling out any cooperation with it.

When that strategy failed, Beck said that Andrea Ypsilanti, SPD leader in Hesse, could form a minority state government with the Greens and be elected the state’s leader with the votes of Die Linke.

But this brought protests and defections from the right of the SPD, and Ypsilanti did not stand.

This led to a situation where Roland Koch, the conservative prime minister of Hesse who had been voted out, is still ruling – despite not having a majority.

Up until this debacle an uneasy truce held in the SPD, where the right didn’t object to Beck’s leftward lurch in the hope that it would keep Die Linke out. This truce has now broken down.

This is partly because the bosses are exerting pressure on conservatives and the SPD alike to attack the welfare state in the face of a looming US recession.

So far the German taxpayer has been presented with a bill of roughly 20 billion euros for bank bailouts due to the subprime crisis. All experts agree that this is merely the tip of the iceberg.

The conflicts in the SPD have cost the party dearly. In polls the SPD’s ratings have fallen to an all-time low, especially in their former heartlands.


In Saarland, the political home of Die Linke leader Oskar Lafontaine, a recent opinion poll has put Die Linke at 29 percent – almost double the SPD’s 16 percent. That means there is a chance that Die Linke will get more votes than the SPD in this state’s elections in 2009.

This would be the first place in the west where Die Linke could overtake the SPD. In the east it is already stronger in Sachsen, Thüringen and Sachsen-Anhalt.

The crisis in the SPD takes place as the class struggle increases.

Despite a major public sector strike due to start in mid-April being called off, strikes involving public transport workers in Berlin and workers at the Deutsche Post are set to begin next week.

The success of Die Linke has intensified the debates inside the new party about its future course.

The rising struggle has strengthened the hand of those in Die Linke who want to build it as a working class party that bases itself inside the movements.

They also see the chance to loosen the grip of the SPD on the trade union movement – thus making an overdue revitalisation of the workers’ movement possible.

But those within Die Linke who orientate mainly on joining coalition governments with the SPD are worried by its meltdown because they see the chances of coalition dwindling away.

They are also worried that the hard oppositionist stance that Oskar Lafontaine and many party activists in the west are taking could be a barrier to an agreement with the SPD.

Lafontaine has never ruled out joining a government with the SPD, but he has put down minimum conditions, such as the withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan, an end to privatisation, the scrapping of the Hartz IV unemployment laws and the reduction of the retirement age from 67 to 65.

Attempts to water down these conditions, for example to tie the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan to exit conditions, have so far failed.

Die Linke is set to begin its first party conference on 23 May. Hopefully Germany’s new spirit of resistance will inspire the debates there.