“I was really impressed that you put up election posters yourself, Ms Lehnert”, said an employee of the city during the official election party in the city hall to the newly re-elected SAV (CWI in Germany) member of the City Council and congratulated her. This shows the difference between Christine Lehnert and all the other representatives. She still works as a travel agent, is a representative for the working class and decides her policies with and for the working class – without being bribed or garnering privileges.
This re-election is a vindication of five years of Christine’s consistent socialist opposition and policies in the city council and on the streets and her participation in social protests and movements. Five years ago, SAV stood for election to the city council for the first time, winning 4,222 votes, 2.5% (in Rostock, you can cast three votes) and was elected to the city council. This time, our vote dropped to 3,408, 1.6%, which seems, on the surface, to represent a weakening of SAV. But a more precise look shows that it is just a loss of few hundred votes, as voter participation was higher than last time, when it was 35.7% compared to 43.6% now.
The reason for this drop was the fact that conditions for the SAV were more difficult than in 2004. For a small marxist organisation, elections are more difficult than they are for the established capitalist parties. Election campaigns are based mostly on political passivity and separation. Marxists stand for activity and collective struggle and can mobilise support in movements and forms of direct democracy much easier than in election campaigns.
The 2004 election took place against the background of two movements which made it much easier for the SAV – even as small and relatively new force – to convince people to elect us: mass protests against the neo-liberal, austerity Agenda 2010 and Hartz IV counter-reforms plus the movement towards building a new left-wing party that led to the founding of the WASG in 2004, which at that time was not running in elections. Both in Rostock itself and the regional state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania the PDS was discredited in the eyes of many workers and youth because of its participation in both the city and regional governments and the SAV found a ready response.
These factors did not exist this year. The capitalist crisis leads to growth in the level of anger towards the system, but it has not yet been reflected in social resistance and a clear positive support for an alternative socialist model of society. Plus the formation of DIE LINKE (Left party) through the merger of the PDS and WASG has led to hope amongst a layer of people who were previously frustrated by the former PDS, that this newly formed party will be different.
This was strengthened by the fact that DIE LINKE is now in opposition both in Rostock and the regional state. So, along with being seen as the national left opposition to the Federal government, locally DIE LINKE is no longer a governing party. This currently does not leave much room politically to the left of DIE LINKE, unlike with the PDS in 2004. Nationally, SAV members are active within DIE LINKE and are trying to build it into a strong socialist party. Before this election, the SAV in Rostock also made an offer to the local branch of DIE LINKE of having SAV members on the list of DIE LINKE for this election and joining DIE LINKE, which was not picked up by the party.
These national, regional and local changes since the last election meant that DIE LINKE now won more votes than the PDS did in 2004. Regionally, it saw an increase from 373,697 to 406,900 votes, while in Rostock its vote rose from 40,973 to 50,785. Another factor in the Rostock result was that some new local voter blocks were standing in this election and the “protest vote” was divided. This meant that while the total number of votes for DIE LINKE increased, its share was slightly down from 24% to 23.7%. So it is much more important that the vote for SAV this time was less a protest votes than in 2004 and more political: the majority of those who voted for SAV did so consciously instead of voting for DIE LINKE or other forces.
The excellent feedback during the election campaign, an obviously increased degree of popularity and much more people attending the SAV election party shows this positive support.
This re-election to the city council means that Christine Lehnert and the SAV in Rostock will continue to use the city parliament as stage for more important activities, such as supporting and organising resistance against job losses, social cuts and privatisation, and arguing for a socialist solution to the capitalist crisis.
And there is much to do. No more than two weeks ago, the dismissal of 40 rubbish collectors was announced and the local shipyards went bankrupt.
These issues were put on the agenda of the first meeting of the new city council last Wednesday by Christine Lehert. All resolutions for the saving of all jobs, support for the resistance of the employees of the shipyard and the rubbish collection were accepted. Furthermore, there will be an education sector strike in Rostock on 17 June which is supported actively by SAV. Our new and active membership will play a key role in all of this.