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Europe, Germany

German elections: Interview with Die Linke

IN THE RADICAL PRESS / HUMANITE

Interview by l’Humanite newspaper with Wolfgang Gehrcke outgoing Die Linke (Left Party) MP in the Bundestag and spokesman for the party’s parliamentary group on international matters. One day before the vote on 22 September,  opinion polls showed the party obtaining 8.5% of the vote.

A climate of social dissatisfaction reigns in Germany. However, the outgoing Chancellor is riding high in the polls . How do you explain this apparent contradiction?

Many German citizens are experiencing in social insecurity and others continue to see their situation deteriorate. But given the scale of the crisis in many other European countries, the Chancellor was able to instil the idea that she had managed to avoid the worst for the Germans. On the Left, we have two problems. One is abstention, which may be very significant in this election. Many voters believe that whatever they vote, it will not change their personal fate. And then there is the SPD’s drift, whose name is associated with the [deregulatory] Hartz reforms of the labour market. Our main task in Die Linke is to open up a new perspective for Europe. To achieve this, I believe that we need to rely on social protests and indignation, as in Spain or Greece. We have no other choice in order to change the balance of forces. Because we have, at present, no ally in Parliament.

When the European debate takes populist or nationalist around Greek debt, how do you react?

I’m worried that people may be tempted to vote for the populist right. The AFD Party (Alternative for Germany), launched in April by former Christian Democrats, cultivates an anti-euro demagoguery and uses a discourse with racist overtones. Although [opinion polls] place it below the 5% threshold, there is a real danger. So far, Germany has been spared the extreme right-wing forces that have emerged as a result of the crisis across Europe. But we have no certainty that such a phenomenon will not also emerge here.

How do you fight it?

We stand against the clichés of the major parties on these “lazy Greeks” for which German taxpayers will have to one day pay. But we need a left-wing critique of the European project. Otherwise, we run the risk that the Right dominates the debate. The policy imposed by Merkel has destroyed the Hellenic economy. Europe today is at a dead end. If one intends to preserve the euro, we must review its rules, such as the role of the European Central Bank (ECB) , from top to bottom. We must stop the competition between workers, on tax. We must, in Germany, end the policy that relies solely on exports and re-energise the internal market by significantly raising our social standards. This requires real increases in wages, pensions and welfare benefits.

Translation by Revolting Europe

More on Die Linke 

German Left Party advocates three-party election coalition against Merkel (DW, September 2013)

Is there a future for the Germany Left (Counterpunch, June 2013)

Inequality is back on the agenda in Germany (Left Foot Forward, May 2013)

Articles on Die Linke in Revolting Europe blog

Articles on Germany in Revolting Europe blog

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

Discussion

2 thoughts on “German elections: Interview with Die Linke

  1. A fascinating situation seems to have developed in Germany, where according to the BBC the combined seats of the SPD, the Greens and Die Linke are just enough to form a coalition government. ( 319 out of 630, with the CDU on 311). Will the SPD risk electoral oblivion by going into a coalition with the CDU again, or is there a possibility of a left coalition? I am aware that the SPD and the Greens are not in favour of such a coalition, but the figures would seem to suggest it.

    Posted by Peter Rowlands | September 23, 2013, 6:09 pm
  2. Maybe the appeal of groups like AfD is a bit racist, but frankly it would be preferable to have had them win 10-20% of the vote at Merkel’s expense. The entire German political system has behaved in a racist and fascist manner towards South Europe recently, so there is no need to scapegoat newcomers with no parliamentary seats as the core of the problem. Merkel uses racist appeals to destroy the Greek economy for the benefit of German banks. The AfD and most Germans actually believe the propaganda about the Greeks but want to react in a then-rational manner, by either withdrawing from the euro or kicking out the Greeks, either of which would be better than the status quo. Of course, this is not in the cards since the point of the racist appeals is to appeal to German desires to feel and act superior as a counter-balance to the fact they are asked to spend more tax revenues to bail out … German banks.

    The élites in Western countries are often more cosmopolitan and in an way less racist than the people, but they make crude racial appeals to the public when it suits them for more dastardly ends. Your average Westerner with a few racial stereotypes only wishes to feel superior not to see people suffer.

    Die Linke has a confusing and fruitless policy on the euro and euro crisis.

    Posted by Maxime | September 25, 2013, 5:16 am

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