Die Linke elects new leaders, reaffirms 'political project needed more than ever'

Issue 

Germany's Die Linke (The Left) party elected a new leadership team at its June 2-3 congress. It came at a time of rising economic and social crisis in Europe, as well as losses for Die Linke in recent state elections.

Die Linke was formed in 2007 as part of a unification of two parties, one with a base in the old eastern states (the PDS) and the other based in the western Germany (the WASG). Between 2007 and 2009, Die Linke achieved strong electoral results in federal elections and was represented in all state parliaments.

There are a number of organised tendencies within Die Linke, ranging from radical, anti-capitalist to reformist.

Recent elections were high on the corporate media’s agenda before and after the congress, hyping up the tendencies’ disagreements within the party as irreconcilable fights. This media interest is not coincidental, and aims to marginalise the politics of Die Linke as futile.

Die Linke is the only parliamentary party in Germany with a clear position on the need to reorganise the financial sector in Germany and on a Europe wide level. It organises against the European Fiscal Pact.

Some of the alternatives put forward by Die Linke include a tax on millionaires in Germany and Europe, the nationalisation of large, private banks and a new process for European states to access loans. It also calls for a minimum wage of 10 Euro per hour for Germany.

Debates on political strategies and also personalities within Die Linke, have become an opportunity for the corporate media to talk up a split in the party.

This was illustrated by the case of Oscar Lafontaine, one of the founding members of Die Linke. The charismatic Lafontaine nominated for one of two chairperson positions but withdrew after his nomination was used to pit tendencies against each other.

In a speech before voting began, Lafontaine noted: “Our party is a political project which in these times in Europe is more necessary than ever before … who is meant to demonstrate resistance if not Die Linke.”

After many hours of deliberation, the 553 party delegates voted for two new chairpeople made up of Katja Kipping and Bernd Riexinger. Neither of the two are considered as hardliners of any tendency and represent strong interests in ecology, social justice and the workers movements.

Despite the red-baiting and media stirring, the Die Linke congress produced a new leadership team and sent a clear message of the need to engage stronger in the movements and struggles.