The third national conference of Sol – Socialist Organization Solidarity took place in Berlin from 8 to 10 December. One hundred delegates, members and guests from Germany, as well as international comrades, came together to discuss the new era of capitalist barbarism and the struggle for socialism. Amongst other things the conference, Sol’s highest decision making body, decided on two resolutions which drew political and organisational conclusions from discussions both before and at the conference.
The conference took place against a backdrop of intensifying class struggles. Two days before the conference began, the train drivers’ union GDL had announced another warning strike for December 7 and 8. From the conference, we sent our solidarity to the striking colleagues.
For many comrades, it was their first time attending a national conference and also their first opportunity to get to know larger parts of the organisation. This is partly due to the fact that we were able to further build the organisation in the last year. And partly due to the fact that some members in individual locations without a local group were only able to attend meetings online. In order to better integrate these individual members, an online branch has been established in recent months, which creates the opportunity to bring these comrades together for discussions and to support Sol’s development in their areas. This online branch was recognized by the conference as an official branch with all rights and obligations.
Capitalism’s death agony
The conference began with an introduction by Sascha Staničić, Sol national spokesperson and member of the CWI’s International Executive Committee, on the international situation and our world perspectives. The world is in the midst of a new era of instability, in which one crisis follows another, events can quickly spiral out of control and anything but stability is possible. But capitalism will not simply die. In its death agony it will do everything it can to preserve itself and its class rule. These developments continue to take place against the backdrop of the relative decline of US imperialism and the rise of China. The increase in imperialist conflicts and polarisation worldwide are an expression of the intensifying competition between and within the imperialist power blocs and the multiple systemic crisis.
The intervention in the globally spreading protests against the war in Gaza, with a programme that formulates the common class interests of workers and advocates a socialist solution to the national conflict, took up a large part of the discussion. Fiona O’Loughlin from the Irish section (Militant Left) of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) spoke about how the national question in Ireland is having a major impact on workers’ consciousness in relation to the war in Gaza and how in Northern Ireland comrades need to deal with different levels of consciousness in different sections of the working class.
Generally, the global situation is also characterised by the failure of left-wing forces and the rise of right-wing and right-wing populist parties. Further electoral successes of right-wing populist parties are looming next year, for example in the European Union elections, and a Trump victory in the USA cannot be ruled out either. But this does not mean that the working class is also moving to the right. Although we have seen repeated uprisings and revolts and even revolutions in recent years, there is a lack of revolutionary leadership everywhere that can lead these movements to success and overcome capitalism. “New” left parties such as Podemos in Spain or Syriza in Greece have capitulated to capitalism. Leading figures, such as Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, have been unwilling to take the initiative to build new parties of the working class. Robert Bechert of the CWI International Secretariat stressed the importance of a revolutionary programme and political clarity. While the CWI is also involved in rebuilding a militant and socialist working class movement, it therefore sees a particular need to focus on building revolutionary Marxist forces. Many left and revolutionary forces are going astray in their search for shortcuts and getting lost in the process.
Perspectives for Germany
The next discussion on German perspectives was introduced by Svenja Jeschak, Sol national committee member and branch secretary in Dortmund. German capitalism and the bourgeois “traffic light” coalition national government are in a deep crisis. The German economy is heading for a recession. Due to its dependence on exports, it has been hit hard by the international crises. In addition, a number of structural problems, such as the self-inflicted labour shortage, are causing problems for German capitalism.
The budget crisis that has arisen since the federal court ruling that the government’s financial plans are unconstitutional is becoming a crucial test for the federal government. There are big tensions within the Social Democrat/Green/Liberal coalition and it is not clear whether this government will remain in power until the end of the legislative period in autumn 2025 or whether there will be snap elections. However, even a conservative-led government would not bring fundamental stability. The previously announced budget cuts will now be further intensified. The court ruling could become the starting point for a bigger attack on the working class in the not too distant future. Only the special fund of an extra 100 billion euros for the Germany military, with which German imperialism wants to equip itself for an offensive appearance on the world stage, will certainly be spared from cuts.
In view of the worsening social situation, there could be increased protests and resistance against the social cuts next year. At the same time, DIE LINKE (the Left party) is in a historic crisis – and not just since or because of the recent split in the party. With the resignation of Sahra Wagenknecht and other members of the Bundestag from the party, DIE LINKE has lost its parliamentary group status in the Bundestag. In January, a new party will be founded around Wagenknecht and her supporters. It remains to be seen how this party will develop. As we have written elsewhere, it will not be a step towards a much-needed socialist workers’ party that focuses on self-organisation and class struggle. Wagenknecht’s anti-immigration positions may reinforce divisions in the working class and her populism is not directed against capitalism even if it advocates some left-wing social policies. In the absence of a better alternative, however, parts of the working class could place their hopes in the new party.
It is more than doubtful that DIE LINKE will now find its way out of the crisis. Since the European Party Conference of DIE LINKE, 2,000 new members from movements around DIE LINKE have joined. This is a positive development, but it does not solve the party’s fundamental problems. Under the cloak of unity, the pressing issues, such as the position on government participation in coalitions with the SPD and Greens or a continuing dilution of the party’s formal socialist positions, are not being discussed.
The rise of the far right AfD, the conservative CDU’s high poll results and the shift to the right in recent weeks, including in migration policy, are frightening many people. In next year’s EU and federal state elections, there is a threat of further AfD successes and thus, for example, the real danger of an increase in racist agitation. However, various contributions at the conference also pointed out the limits and contrary developments, which continue to indicate that we are dealing with a polarisation in society and not a general shift to the right, including in the consciousness of the majority. This year we have seen a new resurgence of a strike movement. Hundreds of thousands took part in warning strikes and gained valuable experience in the class struggle. The ver.di public sector and service trade union recorded the highest annual number of new members since it was founded. Even if many workers are likely to be disappointed by the wage settlements in the public sector, the railways and the postal service, our perspective has been confirmed that the trade unions, despite their bureaucratic and pro-capitalist leadership, serve as a point of reference for the working class.
The discussion on building our organisation was introduced by Max Klinkner, Sol national committee member and branch secretary from Mainz. Even if our hopes around a “hot autumn” of mass protests last year have not been confirmed, we have been able to continue building in many places since the last national conference last year. One particular success was the organisation of local ‘Socialism Day’ events in Mainz, Lemgo, Aachen, Dortmund and Berlin. The Aachen branch was able to double its membership last year, with the prospect of further new members joining and possibly even tripling it by the end of the year. The Berlin branch was able to divide itself in two and thus doubled in size.
Sol members were also active in strikes and showed solidarity and support in the various collective bargaining rounds, including in the public sector, at the postal service and the railroads. Together with critical colleagues from the “Network for a militant and democratic ver.di”, Sol members helped to voice their discontent and opposition to the poor compromises in the public sector and at the postal service. Since then, the network has been revitalised – and we want to continue to drive this forward.
Sol members also played a leading role in the founding of Youth for Socialism this year. With a first founding meeting online at the beginning of the year and a successful summer camp and founding conference, the foundation was a success. Even though our expectation that a number of other left-wing youth groups would join Youth for Socialism has not, so far, been fulfilled, we were able to expand our network to a number of new locations.
For the next six months, in addition to recruiting new members, the focus will primarily be on the practical and theoretical training of our membership. We want to bring every member one step closer to understanding and applying our programme and our methods in the class struggle.
Four workgroups also intensively discussed the recruitment of new members, youth work, company and trade union work and political training within the organisation. Robert Bechert reported on the development of the Committee for a Workers’ International. In several greetings from sections of the CWI in Ireland, Sri Lanka, Chile, England and Wales, Nigeria, France, Austria, Scotland and South Africa, the central role of Germany in the global capitalist system and the associated need for a revolutionary organisation that fights to overcome capitalism and build socialism was emphasised. Over 19,000 euros have already been collected for this construction in a winter appeal at the conference. The sum is sure to be increased even further by the end of the year.
A large part of the money will go to the development of our International – to support the development of the sections in the neo-colonial world, as well as for travel costs to international meetings of the CWI.
The conference discussed and adopted two resolutions: one on the political situation and the tasks of Sol and one on political education in the membership. An abridged version of the former will also be published on solidaritaet.info. These resolutions and the discussions held at the conference will form the basis for the upcoming debates. In addition, a new national committee, a control commission and new financial auditors were elected.
With the federal conference, we have created an important basis to look forward with revolutionary optimism to a difficult future characterised by many upheavals and to tackle the further development of our Marxist forces.