Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European left parties have been debating their anti-war positions. This is occurring in the context of accusations of positions being “pro-Putin”, “naïve” or “not supporting oppressed peoples’ right of self-defence”.
Die Linke, Germany’s left party, is experiencing the same debates. At its most recent national congress, held in June, the party maintained its long-held anti-war position. However, it is about to launch a national discussion to develop alternative positions to be voted on at its next national congress in 2023.
Die Linke’s recent congress resolution condemns Russia’s war of aggression, identifying it as of imperialist character and calls for punishment of all responsible. It acknowledges the Ukrainian people’s right of self-defence, as well as the need for more than appeals to force Russia to the negotiating table.
The resolution argues that the German government is exploiting the population’s fear of war and desire for solidarity with the Ukrainian people in order to push through a huge armaments package. Recently, both legislative levels of government approved a special fund of €100 billion for the Bundeswehr (military). Incidentally, this amount goes beyond the 2% of gross domestic product agreed to by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO’s) member states. A six-page defence department document released in October last year, calling for a special fund of €102 billion to be established, illustrates that this was an opportunistic move by the government.
The vote on this new package required a change to the constitution, because the German state is prohibited from going into debt beyond a set amount, which would have made this military expenditure impossible. The cap on national debt was legislated under former Chancellor Angela Merkel, during the Christian Democratic Union/Liberal-Democratic Party coalition government in 2009. This also required a constitutional amendment.
Die Linke’s resolution notes that “the consolidation of the special fund in the constitution means that armament gains the status of a constitutional right”, which contradicts the law of peace — also part of the constitution. It further argues that military spending neither assists the Ukrainian people nor creates peace or security, since it accelerates the likelihood of war and only creates profits for the arms industry.
German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall recently boasted about its profits to shareholders at a meeting in May, noting that its revenue for contracts with the Bundeswehr would double to a minimum of €4 billion a year. Rheinmetall is one of the biggest arms producers in the world.
Contrary to this spending, the party calls for disarmament as a constitutional goal, and for civil society and unions to jointly campaign on this demand.
The resolution reaffirms the position that the country’s military should be restricted to defence operations and that overseas deployments should be ended. It also counters the argument that the Bundeswehr is underfunded, by pointing to wasted spending on consultancy contracts and inefficient procurement. In fact, the country’s military spending has risen by 55% since 2014, making it the seventh-highest military spender globally. The new spending will make Germany the third-highest.
The resolution expresses solidarity with people in the Ukraine who are dying, fleeing or resisting the invasion. Solidarity is also expressed with people in Russia who are opposing the war, deserting or assisting people to escape.
The resolution’s demands include the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine and a ceasefire that enables serious peace negotiations to take place. It notes that lasting peace can only be achieved by reasserting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, as well as addressing Russia’s legitimate security concerns and ensuring that minority rights are adequately considered.
To achieve this, die Linke reaffirms the use of civilian means and alternatives to military means, supporting the peace movement’s opposition to the €100 billion armament package. In line with this, the party rejects calls for an export of arms in general and especially into areas of crises and war. It highlights the need for disarmament and de-escalation, supported by security agreements, cooperation and a just world economy. As such, overcoming all military alliances, including NATO and the Australia-Britain-United States AUKUS security pact, is articulated as a goal.
The resolution argues that NATO’s history as a military alliance is one of pursuing geostrategic and economic interests over democratic ones, ignoring United Nations human rights positions and international law, and fostering a rise in destabilisation of international order, with devastating consequences.
The resolution ends with a foreshadowed discussion on the party’s peace policies in conjunction with the peace movement, academia and civil society, relating to targeted sanctions, options of defence without NATO, the role of the European Union and approaches to democratising the UN.
This discussion is already vocal and public, and is likely to see some changes next year, if not earlier.