Un Rendez-vous

2009/09/28

Left Party Celebrates While Greens Quarrel

Filed under: anti-war, politics — Tags: , , , , — simonlecoeur @ 08:24

For some reason this wasn’t reported on the BBC this morning…

The Left Party was celebrating its historic election result on Sunday night but for the Greens there was disappointment. While the Left Party’s position as a protest party seems to have gone down well with voters, the Greens had to constantly explain which party they wanted to govern with.

Even the illuminated red supermarket sign above their heads matched their party color. On Sunday evening Oskar Lafontaine, Gregor Gysi, Lothar Bisky and Klaus Ernst gathered for a moment outside the party venue in renovated brewery in the trendy Berlin district of Prenzlauerberg and celebrated another victory for their Left Party. Just a few meters away their supporters were cheering the election projections as they came in, while the four top party bosses beamed like schoolboys, flinging their arms around each others necks and patting their arms. “In Bavaria we are over 6 percent,” Ernst, who hails from the southern state, says to Lafontaine. The party boss pretends to be baffled. “What?” says Lafontaine, before they all laugh and head into the election party.

The Left Party have a lot to laugh about this election night. They have reached double digits, securing 12.4 percent of the vote, a marked improvement on their 2005 result of 8.7 percent. And they also did well in state elections in Brandenburg and Schleswig-Holstein. “We have broken the sound barrier and have double digits,” Bisky told the cheering supporters while Gysi described the result as “historic.”
‘The SPD Needs a Rebellion’

Lafontaine allowed his fellow party leaders to speak first. For almost 10 minutes he stood there speechless on the podium. He looked left and right and straight ahead and the smile never once left his face. Laftontaine knows that the Left Party’s triumph is above all his own success. “We want the left-wing camp to be stronger,” Lafontaine tells the jostling crowd of supporters — but for that there first of all has to be a left-wing camp.

It is an exhortation to the SPD and Gysi was even clearer in his choice of words. “The SPD now needs a rebellion and it has to make itself social democratic.”

For the Left Party this election night is a clear affirmation of their campaign: They have been re-elected to parliament with a clear growth in support while the SPD has suffered a historic defeat. That means that the Left Party will expect a clear swing to the left in the SPD before they will countenance cooperating with it in the future. “We will stay on our path, the SPD has to change its path,” said the party’s deputy leader, Ernst, who is a former Social Democrat. Otherwise the SPD faces even further losses in the future, he warned. “Then at some stage they will drop to 15 percent and the last one to leave can turn out the light,” he said. Ernst is certain that the SPD will soon draw the necessary consequences from the election debacle: “This will lead to a change of leadership and direction in the SPD.” It is clear what kind of change in direction the Left Party wants to see the Social Democrats go in, they have said it often enough — move away from the Hartz IV welfare reforms introduced under the previous SPD-Green coalition and an end to the Bundeswehr deployment in Afghanistan.

There was still a lot of applause left for one of the great figures from the SPD’s past. The Left Party wants to “dare more democracy,” Lafontaine said, referring to the famous quote by former Chancellor Willy Brandt — but that is only possible with a “new economic and social order.”

Der Spiegel

2009/09/18

Die Linke

Filed under: anti-war, politics — Tags: , , , , , , — simonlecoeur @ 00:38

Who would have thought that the Germans would be against a doomed war in Afghanistan or — gasp! — wealth redistribution?

Against a backdrop of multicoloured pre-fabricated housing blocks, a tanning salon and a travel agent offering last-minute deals to the Baltic coast, Frank Spieth handed out red balloons, pens and advice in equal measure.

The concerns of those who approached his campaign bus in Erfurt, the former communist east of Germany, were primarily local: a woman fighting for compensation from a hospital after contracting MRSA, another seeking a ramp access to her building, a man complaining about the state of windows in the city’s schools, which he said needed replacing even before the fall of the wall 20 years ago.

But in little more than a week, when Germans vote for a new parliament, Spieth and his allies are hoping to make a national impact.

His anti-capitalist, pro-social justice Die Linke is striking a chord with an increasingly disenfranchised electorate, espousing causes – such as inequality, reunification issues and, crucially, the war in Afghanistan – that are finding a receptive audience in both east and west.

“Our voters are representative of millions of Germans who feel cut off from the political process and they could have a significant impact on Germany’s political landscape,” said 62-year-old Spieth, who left the Social Democratic party (SPD) in 2003 after 37 years in protest at its restructuring of the social welfare state.

While Die Linke’s rivals have mercilessly attacked it for its radical wealth redistribution plans and its links to the defunct communist regime, its message is clearly getting through.

“The promises [of the mainstream parties] to us about the blossoming landscapes which would follow after unification are mere speech bubbles,” said 68-year old Erika Seebach, the MRSA sufferer, in Erfurt. “While some might accuse Die Linke of populism, they get things on to the agenda that really matter.”

Polls gives the party about 14%, but after huge gains recently made in key regional elections at the end of August, where it won 21% in the western state of Saarland, Die Linke is being seen as the party that could shake up the political landscape in the 27 September vote.

The policies of bigger parties, including the chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU and its junior Social Democrat partner, are now seen to be disturbingly similar in comparison.

“Generally there are only a few themes that particularly distinguish most of the parties,” according to Renate Köcher, joint head of the Allensbach Institute for Demoscopy. “It’s only really Die Linke that stands out, in particular for their critical position regarding the German economy and societal order.”

Spieth embodies the verve and drive of many in Die Linke. The party, founded just two years ago is, he admits, “a motley crew of democratic socialists, social democrats, communists, Christians, you name it”.

Broadly speaking it consists of disillusioned easterners, former members of the ruling communists, and disaffected members of the centre-left SPD.

Die Linke is promising to redress the rich-poor divide by pumping €200bn (£178bn) a year into job creation and financing a gigantic public spending programme, a plan opponents dismiss as unworkable.

Its anti-capitalist stance has raised its profile at a time when expressing such views has become increasingly fashionable, though it has failed to cash in on the economic crisis as growth resumes in Europe’s largest economy.

But it came into its own in the aftermath of a recent Nato air strike, ordered by the German military, in northern Afghanistan. The attack triggered a fierce debate about pulling German forces out of Afghanistan. Die Linke is the only party in parliament that is calling for the immediate withdrawal of German troops. As many as 80% of people in Germany are against the Afghan mission.

“It’s got people talking about the war, which the other parties had wanted to exclude from the discussion, and that can only be a good thing for us,” said Oskar Lafontaine, a former SPD finance minister and one of Die Linke’s most prominent leaders.

“The majority of people are against this war due to our own appalling experiences in two world wars but if we don’t keep this issue on the agenda, no one will,” he told the Guardian at an anti-war rally at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

As he went on stage there were roars of approval as he punched the air and with sweat dripping down his shirt, proclaimed: “We’re proud to be anti-war. As Willy Brandt said there should never be war on German soil ever again. That should be the message for now and the future.”Christoph Hein, a leading German novelist from Leipzig, who as a pacifist said he was a Die Linke supporter, albeit a reluctant one, put the rise in its popularity down to the increase in floating voters.

“The days when people voted for one party are over. People feel deceived by the other parties, but at least they feel Die Linke speaks their language, and this war issue is a good example of that.”If there is one factor holding the party back, it is the claim that it is a home for the “loony left”.

Die Linke party wins German votes by standing out from crowd

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