On January 8 the control commission of the Berlin Left Party announced that it had decided to overrule the decision of the district committee in Berlin-Neukölln to accept two high-profile SAV (Sozialistische Alternative, German CWI section) members, Lucy Redler and Sascha Stanicic, into the party. The deputy national party chairman Klaus Ernst had put forward a formal objection to that decision (and also against the membership of nine other SAV comrades) which the Berlin regional control commission agreed with.
What is presented as a formal case is, in reality, an attempt to keep critical marxist voices outside of the party and to weaken those forces in the Left Party who do not agree with the pro-capitalist coalitionist policy of its right-wing. This issue is especially critical in Berlin where the Left Party governs Germany’s capital together with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in a so-called ‘red-red’ coalition. This coalition has been responsible for many attacks on workers, youth and unemployed over the last years. Redler and Stanicic, together with the whole SAV, were always, and still are, actively campaigning against this anti-working-class policy.
The control commission just announced its decision in a two-minute meeting. The only explanation they gave was that Redler and Stanicic, in a previous hearing in December, could not convince them that they would not act against party decisions. Of course the two marxists had explained that they would not support any policy which is directed against the working class, but that any such policy was anyway is a contradiction to the party programme. They had explained that the Left Party’s statutes define the party as an open and pluralist party and that the demand for ‘respect’ for party decisions does not mean that members are obliged to put every decision into practice or to toe the party line on every question.
In reality several members of the control commission expressed an idea of the party’s structures which itself is in contradiction to its statutes. They criticised Lucy Redler and Sascha Stanicic for publicly criticising party decisions. This attitude has nothing in common with the constitution of the Left Party where it says that every party member has the right to freely comment on party issues.
When this case began several months ago, the SAV warned that it represents the beginning of a campaign in general against critical and marxist forces within the party. This has been vindicated by the attempt to expel two other SAV activists in Munich, Bavaria. Oliver Stey and Max Brym were Left Party candidates in the regional elections last year. The regional chairwoman, the Bundestag member Eva Bulling-Schröter, and another member of the regional committee now demand their expulsion claiming that they put up too many ‘personal’ election posters (and which had radical demands on them!). This sounds ludicrous however it is sad but true. This attempt is even more scandalous as at the last Bavarian party congress a majority of delegates signed a petition demanding the acceptance of the party membership of the Berlin SAV activists. In the election for the new male and female party chairs the elected new chairman openly defended the SAV against these attacks, while Bulling-Schröter only received 54 percent of the votes despite the fact that she was the only candidate for the chairwoman’s position.
The political background to all this is the deep capitalist crisis and the fact that the leadership of the Left Party lacks an adequate political reaction to it. The Keynesian policy of the leadership means that the established bourgeois parties and the Merkel government have moved over to some of the positions of the Left Party or even goes further to save capitalism (like the latest part-nationalisation of Commerzbank). Recently the Left Party has not gained in opinion polls because it gives no combative and clear alternative to capitalism. At the same time the party leadership wants, after elections later this year, to enter three regional governments (in the Saarland, Thuringia and Saxony) in coalitions with the SPD which will certainly follow the example of the Berlin ‘red-red’ coalition of cuts in social services, wage restrictions in the public sector etc.
This has given rise to a certain polarisation within the party, at least in the west of the country. Several regional party conferences in the west have put forward the demand for the nationalisation of all banks under democratic control and management – a demand which so far has been rejected by the majority of the party leadership and parliamentary group. Unfortunately the decisions for more radical demands has so far not been transformed into a more campaigning policy on the streets and in the workplaces and communities. The campaign against SAV activists also is aimed at weakening the shift to the left amongst layers of the party members and keeping control over the party.
But the effect so far is a strengthening of support for marxists. Requests to join the SAV have gone strongly up in the last weeks and we are is about to start new groups in cities like Essen, Frankfurt, Würzburg, Bamberg and in Thurungia where SAV groups have not existed so far. Solidarity messages were sent from many members of the party and in a number of cities the support for SAV inside the party’s structures has increased. Lucy Redler and others have been accepted into the Left Party’s youth section Linksjugend[’solid]. This means that despite the possibility that some SAV members are not accepted into the party – the final decision will be taken by the national control commission – it will be impossible to simply expel marxism and the forces of SAV in general. In this situation of a rapidly developing capitalist crisis it is also impossible for the right-wing in the party leadership to use bureaucratic, dictatorial measures to stop the growing support and influence of marxism.