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"Between Trotsky and Lafontaine"

www.socialistworld.net, 24/05/2006
website of the committee for a workers' international, CWI

‘Junge Welt’ debate between Lucy Redler (SAV) and Christine Buchholz (Linksruck)

socialistworld.net

The following is a translation of a printed debate between Lucy Redler, Socialist Alternative (SAV) member, member of the WASG (Election Alternative Work and Social Justice - the new German left party) Regional Executive Committee, and number one on the WASG Berlin slate for September’s elections for the Berlin regional parliament, and Christine Buchholz, member of Linksruck, the German sister organisation of the Socialist Workers Party, in Britain (SWP), and a member of the National Committee of the WASG. Christine Buchholz is opposed to the WASG standing independently in Berlin.

The article was published in ‘Junge Welt’, a Berlin-based left daily newspaper, on 16 May. The interview was conducted by Jürgen Elsässer and Rüdiger Göbel.

Original version of interview in German.

socialistworld.net

"Between Trotsky and Lafontaine"

Between Trotsky and Lafontaine

On the meaning and relevance of the Berlin WASG’s independent candidacy and the perspectives of the class struggle between Hellersdorf [Berlin district] and Havanna [Havana, Cuba]: A debate between Christine Buchholz and Lucy Redler.

Question (Q):

Ms Redler, what is the sense of a whiter than white vanguard standing in the Berlin regional state elections which will only score two or three per cent of the vote?

Lucy Redler:

Who speaks of a vanguard? What is important to us is that there is going to be a left slate at all. We want to break with the policy of the lesser evil which is defended and practised by the Berlin LeftParty.PDS as part of the coalition with the SPD [Social Democratic Party] in the Berlin senate. According to the latest polls, three per cent say they will definitely vote for us. Another poll finds that our overall potential in Berlin stands at 12%. That means we stand a chance to get elected and workers and unemployed would finally have a voice in the Berlin parliament.

Christine Buccholz:

The candidature must not be an end in itself. Despite all the justified criticism of the "red-red" senate and of the Berlin LeftParty.PDS, in order to build the necessary social resistance, we need a strong Left in East and West. That will only work with the LeftParty.PDS. It does not benefit workers and unemployed if the Berlin WASG, by standing against the LeftParty.PDS, questions this united Left.

Q:

Ms Redler, do you actually want this project of a New Left on a national scale?

Redler:

Yes, I do, but a new Left can only exist if it is left in content. It is the Berlin LeftParty.PDS which damages this project. A New Left cannot be built upon the political basis of the Berlin LeftParty.PDS. One example: Both, the national party conference of the LeftParty.PDS, and the national party conference of the WASG, agreed a campaign for a minimum wage of €8 an hour. How is this campaign supposed to work, if, at the same time, Left Party.PDS Senator Thomas Flierl wants to introduce wage cuts for the health workers in the Charite hospital? Who is supposed to believe that the Left is serious about this campaign, if the Berlin Senate employs PIN AG to deliver their post, a company which pays workers €5.86 per hour?

Q:

Can you stop this fatal policy of the LeftParty.PDS in Berlin by bringing about an "external shock" through standing against the LeftParty.PDS in Berlin? Would it not be better to change the balance of forces in the LeftParty.PDS together with Oskar Lafontaine?

Redler:

The fact that Lafontaine has moved to the left since last autumn is also a result of our candidacy in Berlin. His support for the election campaign of the LeftParty.PDS in Berlin, however, gives reason to believe that his words and his deeds are contradicting one another in Belin. As long as the apparatus of the Berlin Left Party.PDS is dominated by the Berlin senator for economy, then an "external shock" is needed to change its course.

Q:

Do you mean that? The Berlin WASG has pushed Lafontaine to the left?

Redler:

We contributed to it.

Buccholz:

Your so-called "external shock" is taking away pressure to change the LeftParty.PDS. Lafontaine, on the other hand, by putting forward his minimum conditions for an anti-neo-liberal Left, has had the effect that the Left Party.PDS in Dresden and in Berlin can no longer act as it did in the past. Lafontaine is part of the solution and not the problem, even if some in favour of standing independently in Berlin denounce him and Klaus Ernst as the "right wing" within the WASG.

Redler:

The national conference in April marked a shift to the right and an abandoning of the WASG’s plurality. As a matter of fact, the conference has agreed to support the election campaign of the Berlin LeftParty.PDS. Even the joint paper of the WASG National Committee and the Berlin Left Party.PDS allows further privatisations and doesn’t entail a clear rejection of €1 jobs.

Buchholz:

There wasn’t anyone on the old National Committee who supported the Berlin candidature either. By plurality you simply mean the addition of existing left tendencies and groupings. But the Left will only stand a chance when it convinces former SPD voters and many others who have now come into opposition to neo-liberal policies. That is what the newly elected national committee stands for. Since the national conference in Ludwigshafen, in a number of places, people are finally joining again. People feel that the New Left is now really becoming a reality.

Redler:

The political breadth must not be at the expense of political content. I am indeed ready to make a compromise on the question of creating 20,000 or 15,000 new jobs in the public sector. I am not willing to compromise when it comes to privatising flats - no matter whether the senate sells off 15,000 or 1,700. "Haltelinien" - lines that must not be crossed - these barriers to the implementation of neo-liberal policies must not only be declared but also be stood by

Buchholz:

With Lafontaine and Ernst - where are things taking place at the expenses of content? It is exactly Lafontaine who - against the resistance from within the LeftParty.PDS - is pushing for an end to privatisation and a rejection of military interventions, as is the case with Iran, at the moment.

Q:

Ms Redler, with a lot of luck, the WASG could enter the Berlin parliament. But why all the fuss, if next year, WASG, and LeftParty.PDS, will merge, anyway?

Redler:

If we get in, in the process of merger, the cards will be redistributed. It will then be clear that the Berlin LeftParty.PDS will not dominate the policy and programme of the new project.

Q:

But the Left.Party.PDS has punished the neo-liberals within their ranks at the party conference in April. Things are moving.

Redler:

It was only those who voted in favour of privatising all council flats in Dresden who were "punished" at that conference. At the same time, Katina Schubert, a representative of the "pro-government" wing, was elected as deputy chair.

Q:

And Gregor Gysi distanced himself from those human rights imperialists in the European parliament who voted in favour of a Cuba-hostile resolution.

Redler:

The Left party does not stand by what it says. One example: In relation to the deportation of a Kurdish family, the LeftParty.PDS in the Berlin parliament abstained in order to not to cause trouble for their coalition partner, the SPD. A few days later, however, the regional party conference votes in favour of the family’s right to stay. But this is not credible when it is not put into practise.

Q:

A prognosis, Mrs Buchholz. Where does the Left stand in five years from now?

Buchholz:

The policy of the ‘grand coalition’ [present CDU and SPD government] will lead to breaks within the SPD. The grand coalition will carry on with what has been started with ‘Agenda 2010’. On an international scale, US president Bush is losing partners: Aznar is gone, Berlusconi is gone, Blair is tumbling. If in this situation, the government steps in and supports the attack against Iran, the SPD will lose its anti-war-bonus which helped Schroeder to survive in 2002. The Left stand a great chance if it is not divided but becomes part of the resistance, opens up further and positions itself against neo-liberalism and war.

Redler:

It is exactly the sharpening of those contradictions and the fact that they will lead to an increased dissatisfaction within the population and the working class, which will make it necessary for the Left to stand on the side of the unemployed and the working class. As a socialist, I want to contribute to that so that future struggles will be led with a socialist perspective. The caving in of the present LeftParty.PDS towards neo-liberalism has got a lot to do with the fact that the then PDS emerged from a bureaucratic and Stalinist society, such as the GDR [former Stalinist East Germany]. Without a socialist perspective, you don’t have the firmness to resist the alleged logic of neo-liberalism.

Q:

This is Trotskyism in its pure form: The masses are discontented and need a steeled socialist leadership. Don’t you neglect the fact that the increased and intensified contradictions even breaks open the crusts of organisations like the PDS, and that there are new possibilities for a revolutionary or a left radical to be a part of it?

Redler:

This decisively depends on the development of the class struggle. But only if there is a fighting and leftwing within those parties, will the class struggle find an expression in those organisations.

Buchholz:

The regroupment processes are taking place on an international scale. Since the collapse of the Eastern block, the old dividing lines - how do you hold it with the Soviet Union? - are no longer decisive. The decisive questions for the new left - how do we stop privatisations and war, should the left take part in governments? - are taking place both within the LeftParty.PDS and the WASG and not just in the one or the other. On the basis of common activities, we can begin to discuss the alternatives to capitalism again.

Q:

In five years time - will you still be in the same party?

Buccholz:

If the Berlin WASG accepts the decisions of the national party - yes. If Lucy Redler’s policy of splitting is successful - then rather not.

Redler:

If Christine Buchholz will help to prevent administrative measures of the national party against the Berlin WASG - yes.



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