Germany: Berlin WASG overcomes obstacles and fights in election

Right-wing suffer setback

The last two days have seen legal decisions that have cleared the way for the clearly anti-neoliberal Berlin WASG (Election Alternative for Work and Social Justice) to stand in the city’s September 17 regional election.

May 31 saw a court overthrow the WASG national executive’s decision to remove from office the Berlin WASG regional executive (see WASG leadership suspends party’s Berlin Regional Committee). The court declared that this step could only be taken by a WASG national congress and restored the regional executive to office. The next WASG national congress is currently scheduled for November.

This decision meant that the attempt by the national WASG leadership to stop the Berlin WASG standing independently was doomed to failure. The national executive had replaced the regional leadership with a plenipotentiary who tried to withdraw the Berlin WASG’s application to stand in the elections. The city’s election committee met June 1 to review all the applications to stand. Already it was clear that it was likely that the Berlin WASG’s application would be upheld, but the previous day’s reinstatement of the Berlin executive made this almost a formality.

The national WASG leaders are saying that they will appeal to a higher court to secure the removal of the Berlin executive. However it seems unlikely that they will be able to prevent a Berlin WASG list of candidates standing in September.

As we have previously reported the national WASG leadership, in the name of ’left unity’ want the Berlin WASG to support and stand on the list of the Leftparty.PDS (L.PDS). But in Berlin the L.PDS has been running Berlin in a coalition with the SPD since 2001. This coalition has implemented job cuts, wage reductions, privatisation and social cuts. One result is that the L.PDS is currently at 15% in the city’s opinion polls compared with the 22.6% they won in 2001.

The national WASG leaders say that the Berlin L.PDS has changed. In their statement on their court defeat they attack court interference in the life of the party and criticise the Berlin WASG for not considering the Berlin L.PDS’s “clarifications” in a recent joint document with the national WASG “on critical points such as privatisation of public property or the acknowledgement of collective agreements”.

It is of course regrettable that the issue came down to legal cases, but how else concretely could it be ensured that left anti-neoliberal candidates were allowed to stand in the Berlin election? The national WASG leaders are being misleading when they talk about the Berlin L.PDS changing its policies. One example out of many is that the L.PDS now says it is against compulsory redundancies, but it still supports the plan to cut 18,000 Berlin city jobs by 2012.

The fact now that the Berlin WASG is able to stand is a big step forward. It could be a difficult struggle. The national WASG leaders around Oskar Lafontaine will join forces with the L.PDS to loudly bang the “Left unity”drum, hoping that the noise will drown out criticism of the Berlin L.PDS’s policies. But a serious campaign by the Berlin WASG could not only achieve a significant vote but, more importantly, build the forces that will continue to fight neoliberal cuts after the election.

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