Germany: Berlin WASG rejects joint election list with party carrying out cuts

Decides to stand independently in regional state elections – important victory for the Left

The February 25/26 Berlin WASG (Election Alternative for Work and Social Justice) regional party conference overwhelmingly reaffirmed its previous decision not to stand jointly with the Linkspartei.PDS in September 17’s regional elections. In Berlin, the PDS is part of the governing coalition and as part of this so-called “red-red” coalition with the SPD, the PDS has carried out a policy of socials cuts and privatisation.

Nationally the WASG’s founding programme states that participation in a government on any level is only possible if this leads to a change in policy in the direction of the principles of the party. Therefore the majority within the Berlin WASG regional leadership, as well as the majority of its activists, supported the idea of standing independently of the PDS. Given the specific circumstances in Berlin, they felt that a joint candidacy on a principled, left anti-cuts basis is not possible with the current Berlin PDS leadership. This view was confirmed in the joint public meetings with the PDS held prior to the conference. “It is not trustworthy to stand together with a party that speaks of socialism on Sundays and carries out social cuts throughout the rest of the week” argued Lucy Redler, member of the WASG Regional Executive Committee and member of SAV (Socialist Alternative- CWI Germany)

Since the previous Berlin WASG conference last November (see 1 December 2005 report) first agreed this position big pressure had been put on the Berlin WASG to change its opinion and put forward a joint list with the PDS. The main argument was that this was necessary in order to help the proposed national fusion of the two parties.

Effectively the 142 delegates were asked to decide upon the new party’s political direction. In the weeks leading up to the conference, the question of standing independently or forming a joint list with the PDS had been the focal point of the debate.

After another, very lively, debate a large majority of 91 to 39 delegates voted in favour of standing independently. This is another, very important marker in the process of building a genuine new left force in Germany. It is thanks to the left of the WASG in Berlin, of which SAV is a prominent part, that the debate on what must be the character of a new left is still ongoing – in Berlin as well as on a national level. The leadership of the Linkspartei.PDS along with the majority of the WASG National Committee would have preferred to see a fast merger of the two parties and a joint list “despite all the differences”, as the Berlin WASG minority puts it.

The Berlin WASG plays an important role and has made a tremendous contribution to the national discussion on what the next steps should be in building the left. They have helped in putting concrete political issues back on the agenda. Nobody is opposed to the important process of forming a new left force throughout Germany. But a new force should not be a simple merger of WASG and Linkspartei.PDS but needs to involve activists from the trade union and social movements. It also needs a clear left-wing programme and policy as its political foundation. This means it should reject any government coalitions that carry out social cuts and privatisations.

The Berlin WASG, and especially the socialists within it, have made clear that they want left unity but with left-wing politics. They have played an important role in offering a true alternative for those in Berlin who are currently not represented by any party in the Berlin city government.

The majority of the Berlin WASG was optimistic and confident that they will be able to build a strong and active party in the next period. “6 % plus X must be the objective for the September elections”, said many delegates at the conference. Already before the election campaign has started the WASG on its own scored 4.7% in the latest Berlin opinion poll. A referendum which is held amongst the Berlin membership between February 27 and March 7 is expected to confirm the decision of the party conference.

At the conference a new WASG Regional Executive Committee was elected and SAV member Lucy Redler came top of the poll. The Berlin WASG will come under big pressure to not to stand independently. The main media are not enthusiastic at the prospect of a clear anti-cuts party standing in elections and the WASG leadership want to remove obstacles to their plans to merge on any terms with the Linkspartei.PDS. But the growing opposition to the continuing onslaught against jobs and living standards in Germany provides the base upon which the WASG can help build the new workers’ party that is needed to struggle against cuts and for socialism.

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