"Struggle against unemployment and not against the unemployed"
Five million watch German Trotskyist
Lucy Redler, currently the most prominent Marxist in Germany, was watched by around five million viewers when she appeared on the "Sabine Christiansen" discussion programme last Sunday on ARD, Germany’s main TV channel. This programme is the top weekly political programme on German television, often helping to set the political agenda. Lucy’s appearance was the first time in many years that a Trotskyist has been able to explain their ideas to such a large audience in Germany.
Lucy, a prominent member of the Socialist Alternative (SAV, the cwi in Germany), was introduced as the WASG’s top candidate in the September regional elections in Berlin. This was despite the attempt by the WASG’s national leadership to stop the Berlin WASG standing independently in that election (see previous reports).
The programme’s discussion was entitled "Poor through work, Rich through Hartz IV", a reference to the right wing claim that some unemployed became better off through the controversial benefit changes popularly known as Hartz IV.
In an hour long programme Lucy debated with Wolfgang Clement, the former SPD Economy and Labour Minister; Markus Söder, General Secretary of CSU (Christian Social Union), the right wing Bavarian party currently in the national coalition; Hans-Ulrich Jörges, the deputy editor of the Stern weekly and Klaus Wiesehügel, the national leader of the building and agricultural workers’ union, IG Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt. Clement was the minister in the last Schröder-led government who implemented the series of attacks on both the employed and unemployed called Hartz I, II, III and IV. Jörges is a right wing journalist was has argued that Hartz IV is a "communist victory" because he claims that the unemployed receiving Hartz IV are better off than low paid workers.
Repeatedly during the programme Lucy was able to refute the right wingers arguments and strengthen the opposition to Hartz IV expressed by Klaus Wiesehügel. She pointedly challenged her comfortably-off opponents on whether they knew what it was like to live on benefits.
Lucy declared that "Hartz IV legally created poverty" and that there needs to be a "struggle against unemployment and not a struggle against the unemployed". Faced with other participants’ claims of widespread benefit fraud, Lucy replied that any such instances paled into insignificance when compared with the official estimate that just in 2005 alone, the top companies attempted to avoid paying 11 billion euro in tax.
Against the right wing arguments that there now need to be more cuts because Hartz IV, they argue, is costing too much Lucy replied "we have no cost explosion in Hartz IV, but there is another explosion, namely in profits. The top companies on the German stock exchange paid out 20 billion euro in dividends last year … money that went into the pockets of the rich and super rich. Society’s wealth must be used to create work."
Lucy also explained that the Berlin WASG would not stand jointly with the Berlin Leftparty (L.PDS), which has helped implement cuts, in the September elections as "we say no to the politics of the ’lesser evil’."
These arguments got an immediate echo with large numbers of emails being sent to Lucy via the Berlin WASG or the SAV. A serious movement is built in the workplaces and communities, not around TV appearances, but where the opportunity presents itself television can be an important medium to utilise, something that Lucy was able to achieve.