Publikation Soziale Bewegungen / Organisierung For an anti-capitalist left (March 2006)

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At the local elections in Hessen and at many places at the elections to the regional parliament in Baden-Württemberg, the Left has achieved important successes after a campaign waged predominantly in solidarity by WASG and the Left Party.  These results were reached despite a number of conflicts in the party creation process before the elections. In particular the (conceivably narrowest) decision by the Berlin WASG to run independently for the Chamber of Deputies elections in the fall is publicly often judged as a putting into question of the project of a united Left.

Representatives (women and men) from Left Party and WASG have elaborated in common the programmatic theses “For an anti-capitalist Left” that we herewith submit to the public. The signatories (women and men) of these theses want the chance offering itself today for a strong Left, accepted East and West, anchored in trade unions and social movements and in this way socially influential Left  not to be gambled away. We consider the current conflicts to be surmountable. Necessary for that is in our opinion, however, a clear left profile of the new party that determines its politics at all levels – in the federation, in the regions, and in the local communities – in an unambiguous way that people can follow.

We want to contribute with these theses to the programmatic debate of the new Left, however, we do not understand our paper as the counter-paper to the recently published “programmatic corner stones”, since our approach is a different one: We concentrate on the question for a political strategy that makes possible an unambiguous left profiling of the new party and in the form of concrete projects is action-oriented at the same time. Many programmatic questions can and must still continue to be discussed in a solidary debate still over a longer period and worked out from the point of view of content. The basic decision in favour of a clear anti-capitalist profile in our opinion, however, should stand at the beginning of the party creation process. What we mean by that, we have committed to paper. We want to struggle for such a profile and for the minimal conditions mentioned to be anchored in a future party programme.

First signatories: Sahra Wagenknecht (MEP, PE Left Party), Nele Hirsch (MFP), Tobias Pflüger (MEP), Eva Bulling Schröter (MFP), Sevim Dagdelen (MFP), Lutz Heilmann (MFP), Ulla Jelpke (MFP), Heike Hänsel (MFP), Elke Reinke (MFP), Rainer Spilker (PE WASG), Marco Röhring (WASG – PE NRW), Torsten Koplin (MRP Mecklenburg Western Pomerania, PE Left Party), Barbara Borchardt (MRP, Mecklenburg Western Pomerania),
Birgit Schwebs (MRP MV, substitute regional chairwoman MV), Gerhard Bartels (MRP MV), Volker Külow (MRP Saxony), Klaus Bartl (MRP Saxony), Dieter Pellmann (MRP Saxony), Antje Brose (‘solid, PE Left Party), Frederico Elwing (federal speaker ‘solid)

For an anti-capitalist left

With the dropping out of the systemic competition, the capitalist system has entered into a new expansive and aggressive phase. The world-wide demolition of capital traffic controls and regulations, the blackmailing of the poorer countries to open their markets and to transfer their natural wealth and their economic resources to the multinationals, shameless privatisation policy world-wide have led to an unprecedented global concentration of economic power. A few hundred company giants today decide on the development of the world economy, investment and jobs, the distribution of welfare and poverty, the life perspectives of billions of people. The more unrestrained their profit interests rule, the deeper gets the gap between North and South, between Rich and Poor.

In the Federal Republic as well, the scissors in between top and down open increasingly further. The profits of the German companies in the last two years alone have more than doubled. The DAX companies will pay out 21 billion Euros in dividends in 2006, more than ever before. This is helped by the growing competitive pressure and an army of more than 5 million unemployed. At the same time, social conquests won in hard struggles are being dismantled. Women in particular are shifted into cheap jobs or completely pushed out of the labour market, basic freedoms and liberties are restricted, and reverse gear is implemented in ecological questions. The military budget by contrast is left at a high level. Massive investments are made into the conversion and rearmament of the Federal Army into an intervention army. Federal army interventions abroad, taboo for more than forty years, have become normal again already under the Red-Green federal government. Over 7,000 German soldiers are deployed at this point worldwide, from Sarajevo to Kabul. Germany was involved comprehensively and supportively in the Iraq war; vis-à-vis Iran, it is today actively kindling mutual aggression. The Federal Republic acts in a committed way in the building up of NATO and EU intervention troops. The German arms exports are booming.

It is always the same lies that have to serve in justification of neoliberal policy: We must save, the very same politicians state who have contributed to the explosion of company profits by lavish tax presents and hardly reach into the pockets of top earners and the wealthy even with velvet gloves any more. The social state has become impossible to pay for, they say, and they watch inactively how large companies and banks destroy socially insured employment situations by the tens of thousands. Under the pretext of longer life expectancy, the beginning of the pension age is pushed backwards, even though already a fifty year old has hardly a chance left on today’s labour market. There is talk of human rights and the struggle against terror, even though it is as a matter of fact a matter of access to natural and energy resources.

The ruling policy is not guided by material constraints but dictated by interests. It has profiteers. Their influence, however, is not founded in electoral votes, but in economic power. They are the lobby associations of big capital that for over two decades have forced the reconstruction of European societies in the direction of an unleashed capitalism. And who still have by far not had enough as their most recent projects, for instance, the Bolkestein directive, show.

More and more people, however, do have enough of such a policy and development. The outcome of the constitutional referendums in France and in the Netherlands is just as much proof for that as the more frequent demonstrations and strikes in Europe against wage dumping, against the destruction of social benefits, against privatisation. The neoliberal lies get into conflict with elementary experiences of daily life. Also in Germany. That record profits do not create any jobs, but are most compatible with further reductions in jobs, last but not least Deutsche Bank and Telekom have hammered into the consciousnesses of the concerned. That even subjection under the demands of the capital lobby for longer working time with less income does not secure wage and bread, Siemens has demonstrated with the sale of his mobile phone business. Sinking real wages and an expanding low wage sector for fifteen years in the Federal Republic have been going hand in hand with continuously growing unemployment. The consequences of harsh privatisation policy as well – be it high electricity prices at desolate networks, escalating water fees, or discontinuations of railroad tracks – are meanwhile obvious. There are simply too many people who get to feel in their daily life that the neoliberal promises of greater liberty and individual responsibility mean mainly one thing: the rule of the fist of the economically stronger no longer bound by any rule.

Even the ruling policy can no longer completely ignore such feelings. The hypocritical critique of capitalism of the SPD in the last elections to the federal parliament is just as much proof of that as the justice verbiage of the grand coalition. Above all, however, over 4 million of voteresses and voters of the Left are sign that also in this country something has started to move. Four million votes for a left project that at the time of the election was still much more a project than political reality, however, are not an expression of sympathies, expectations and hopes alone, but also an incredible advance in confidence that we should not gamble away.

PDS and WASG come from different traditions. The PDS was born at the time of the defeat of the East European attempts at socialism. While the concrete evaluation of its pre-history and history remain under dispute, critique of capitalism and the orientation toward the objective of a socialist society belong to its founding consensus. To be not only a party of social reforms, but a socialist party, was and is a core part of its identity and for not so few members has been an important motive for engagement in the PDS, despite political exclusion, humiliation and massive attacks, especially in the early 90s. There have been attempts to part from this programmatic orientation, also marked by a clear profile of peace policy; however, they were never capable of a majority. However, along with the gains in acceptance and the electoral victories that paved it the way into the regional governments of Schwerin and Berlin, at the same time, there also developed a political wing in the PDS that began to stand, unencumbered by programmatic stipulations, for a real politics that became increasingly similar to that of the neoliberal party cartel. Privatisations, wage cuts, the compensation of rich funds earners from tax means simultaneously with concomitant deteriorations for those financially worse off, painful cuts in education and culture – much of what the PDS opposed at the federal level, in some regions and local communities now suddenly belonged to its own political repertoire. A crass recent example is the decision for the privatisation of tens of thousands of communal apartments in Dresden. Such a policy has not only cost the PDS much credibility and trust. It has also led to a sharp contrast between social programmatic claim, on the one hand, and real-life policies that the PDS is partly responsible for, but that did not even do justice to the elementary demands from a social reform strategy.

The WASG was issued especially from the protest movements against Schröder’s agenda 2010.  Anchored mainly in the old federal regions, with a strong trade union basis, it was and is, by its claim, rather a social state-oriented anti-neoliberal project. The anti-neoliberal founding consensus of the WASG, however, included one thing very clearly: criticism of and opposition against any kind of anti-socially oriented policy, including that, which the PDS bore responsibility for in regional governments. Not last because of that the WASG, also beyond the trade unions, became a point of contact and crystallisation for social movements. By their roots in the anti-Hartz protest movement, it was part of the founding consensus for many members of the WASG: Extra-parliamentary pressure and position should not be neglected along with parliamentary representation.

With their common candidacy and success at the election, PDS and WASG together have become a political force in the Federal Republic as none of the parties alone could ever have been and can be on its own. The chance for a strong left, capable of mobilisation with a broad basis in East and West and real social influence, is today given. Whether it is redeemed depends on the strategic-substantive orientation that the new party will give itself.

The conceivably worst variant to find a common basis in the different traditions of WASG and PDS would consist in the combination of a government-oriented pragmatism, corresponding for instance to the dominating tendency in the PDS- Berlin, with the renunciation to programmatic anti-capitalism and socialist objective as demanded by individual representatives of the WASG. Clear anti-war positions might also remain by the wayside in such a development. He or she, who wants to participate in government also at the federal level under the ruling social conditions, must be ready to accept Federal Army and NATO in today’s form and, therefore, also to approve of war-type missions. What would stand at the end of such a development would be a party acceptable to the SPD as a coalition partner at the federal political level that would, however, then presumably not distinguish itself fundamentally of the neoliberally twisted SPD. For such a party, there is no social need. Such a party we do not want and do not need. With this type of outcome of the fusion process, the project of a strong left would not be redeemed but abandoned.

What tasks, in other words, does a left party have at a time, where majorities seem to share the feeling that things cannot continue the way they are? What tasks does it have in a period, where in Latin America, elections are won under the slogan “For a democratic socialism” and the debate over the value of public ownership of energy resources and natural riches takes place offensively once more, while in Europe the thought of an anti-capitalist perspective only gradually finds support again? What tasks does it have in a country, where active resistance is beginning to show, the rise of a broad protest movement, however, can hardly be recognised yet? In brief: what can a Left in Germany accomplish under the given conditions in a foreseeable future, and what does it have to achieve if it does not want to deceive the hopes invested in it?

We see two central tasks? A left that wants to exercise social influence must become capable of mobilisation. A left that wants to win in attraction and radiating force must take care that the perspective for which it and only it alone stands, is again present as possible answer to the troubles in the world also in Germany.

Mobilisation capacity means to be not only cautious supporter of social protest movements but to be able to become an independent actor in them. All big left parties of the European abroad have disposed in the past of this capacity and to a certain degree still do so today. Mobilisation capacity is decisive to whether a left party can get through demands at the parliamentary level at least in part and can force it onto the ruling policy. Strong parliamentary representation is an important, but by far not sufficient condition. Even the SPD, due to its former intertwining with the German trade unions partly lasting until today has always been capable of mobilisation and has used this influence in the last seven years as power to demobilise. While the Left Party was and is well anchored in the associations and federations of East Germany, its backing in the social movements and mainly in the trade unions was never strong enough to be able to single-handedly motivate and imprint protest movements. The WASG contributes a trade union basis at least in some of the old federal regions. Whether we shall succeed to clearly expand this backing and become part of the social movements will be an essential factor for the future chances of the left party project. To work on that must be a point of emphasis of our political activity in the next couple of years.

The second basic task would be to bring the social alternative to capitalism back into the public debate. At least in the long term, identity and identification of a social left are only possible by way of a critique of capitalism going to the roots or respectively the orientation towards a socialist perspective. Non-binding anti-neoliberal phrases are, if they seem opportune, also not alien to the SPD, as the last campaign to the federal parliament showed. What the SPD is not going to practice for the foreseeable future is antineoliberal policies. If only for the reason that under the conditions of the globalised capitalism of today, there no longer exists an internally coherent antineoliberal policy concept any longer that in its direction would not at the same time be anti-capitalist. Antineoliberal demands are possible, and in the case of strong protest movements can also be implemented in individual sectors. Yet 500 global economically powerful companies and financial giants that control the world production of goods and services and on the basis of their liquidity are in a position to drive any currency to ruin, do not simply let themselves be re-regulated by single-state laws. Consequent anti-neoliberalism under present-day conditions presupposes to ask the question of property and power.

We also know: basic changes in the economic order are difficult to reach under the given relationships of forces. Yet if the left can succeed in only a small minority beginning to at least think about the possibility of a society advanced beyond capitalist capital utilisation, we will have done a first important step towards the change in power relationships.

The Left should, therefore, define itself by a number of anti-neoliberal demands anchored in the present and which at the same time make possible the debate about the tomorrow: meaning also the debate about the prerequisites of war policy and capitalist social barbarism and the capacity to surmount them, about the small minority of the profiteers, and about the conditions of company power and extortion, about the advantage of public in contrast to private capitalist property.

The following demands in our opinion would be in a position to bring into motion such a debate. They could be central political projects that the new Left would bring in and that it would at the same time use to open the discussion about social perspectives beyond capitalism:

1. Millionaire tax for eliminating poverty. The Federal Republic is rich. Over 4,000 billion Euros at present is the sum of private money wealth. However, only very few really dispose of that money. The richest one percent of the population own over half of it. If the money wealth of this super-rich upper stratum was charged with a tax on money wealth of 5 percent, this would yield, for the public authorities, receipts of more than 100 billion Euros per year. 4.4 million ALG II/Unemployment Money II recipients at this point together must live on about 26 billion Euros a year. It would cost an additional 37 billion Euros to equip each one of them with 1,200 Euros a month. That would be easily covered by the millionaire tax, and there would still remain money left over for higher educational expenditures, public investment and for an expansion of public employment.

2. Taxing big inheritances instead of reduction of debts by social robbery: The debts of all public budgets in the Federal Republic at this point run at about 1,400 billion Euros. Large parts of the tax receipts cannot be used for useful expenditures, because they are squandered for the payment of interests and the yield on interest. Insofar the demands for the reduction of public debts are understandable. However: the debts of the public authorities are at the same time private wealth. These incomes were to start with not earned, but have been passed on from generation to generation and been multiplied by accumulated incomes from wealth. This concerns in particular the wealth of those 760,000 richest citizens who dispose of more than 1 million Euro net money incomes. If this money wealth of the richest in so far it exceeded the one-million threshold was taxed with a 100 inheritance tax, the public authorities would be discharged of their debt after only one change of generation. Without one single social cutback and without reductions for over 99% of the population.

3. Punish job annihilation instead of promoting it: The holes in the social treasuries, in particular for pensions and health, do not come from rising expenditures but from the destruction of socially insured employment. The large companies alone, since the middle of the 90s in the Federal Republic, have destroyed more than a million of jobs. Therefore, they did not only push uncounted men, women, and children into social misery, but at the same time evaded many billions of Euros of payments into the social cash registers. That need not be this way. If the social contributions to be paid by a firm were to take account of the number of jobs destroyed, in other words, if they were based on the overall value creation in the company, job reductions would become much less profitable. Who fires a lot or closes whole parts of firms in the end will ultimately have to pay more into the social pot and in this way at least in the end could no longer shift the social costs caused by the dismissals onto the community.

4. End to the two-class medicine: Health prevention is an elementary human right. We demand full health insurance for sickness and invalidity, into which everyone pays according to his or her income and which in the case of need takes over all costs that arise. A real reduction of the costs is not achieved by curtailment of benefits but by a social limitation of the prices of medication at the expense of the profits of pharmaceutical profits. For the pharmaceutical concerns as well as for private insurances, sickness is today a lucrative business. The fewer of the treatments are covered by the legal insurances, the more the patients become self-paying customers treated according to their purchasing power. The personal purse in this way also decides about one’s life chances. Such conditions are inhuman. The logic of market and profit has nothing to do in essential sectors of human life. Private co-payments as well as private insurances bring about inequality as well as loss of solidarity; they belong abolished.

5. Financial sharks need control and regulation: The financial acting of the large banks hits common weal into the face. While small and medium-sized firms hardly get any credits any longer for their investment, billions are pumped into the financing of fusions and takeovers that eliminate jobs and continue to increase the concentration of economic power. Extremely high overdraft and consumer credit interests also contribute to the strangulation of purchasing power and to the reduction of demand. 3 million households in Germany are already head over heel in debt. There is therefore a need for limitations on credit and account yields as well as for a legal obligation of the banks to hand out a determined minimal share of their deposits in the form of small credits at low interest rates to middle-sized firms. The strengthening of the public savings bank sector face to private banks facilitates the implementation of such demands.

6. Peace and disarmament instead of state terrorism: Wars are not led for human rights but for natural resources and energy sources. Armament is lucrative business. Also rebuilding contracts after wars yield billions of profits. Therefore, US American and West European companies belong to the profiteers, but also to the driving forces, when it is a matter of preparing new war adventures. We strive for the end of militarisation of German and EU foreign policy as well as the dissolution of NATO. We demand the keeping of the order of renunciation to violence anchored in the UN Charta in international relations and fight for the renunciation to foreign missions of the federal army. In that context, there also belongs the German contribution to UN mandated military interventions. Our middle-range objective is the structural non-aggression and non-intervention capability of Germany, linked to an effective disarmament and peace project. Military bases that supply the infrastructure for the foreign missions of the Federal Army must be closed. The same holds for all military bases of the USA, Great Britain and NATO in Germany that were and are used for the conducting of wars contrary to international law and to the deportation of prisoners. The EU and Germany must renounce on principle to all nuclear options and all nuclear weapons stationed in Germany must be withdrawn.

7. Extension of basic and freedom rights instead of repression and discrimination: The sharper the social contrasts are getting, the greater also becomes the interest of the rulers to reduce democratic rights and to expand the state repression apparatus. In order to comprehensively guarantee basic and freedom rights, we demand equal rights for all people in Germany, the reestablishment of the basic right to asylum, the abolishing of secret services, more direct democracy by the expansion of popular petitions, popular referenda, and popular initiatives as well as the introduction of an election right for non-Germans who have their life centre here. Moreover, we demand the consequent, high-priority fight against neo-fascism, right-wing extremism, racism and sexism by politics and by criminal prosecution, and the abolition of all special treatment laws as for instance the asylum seeker benefit law.

The immediate policies in daily life of the new Left – at the federate level, in the regions, and in the communities – must stand in the sign of identification with a strategy credibly identified with such concrete demands. Not the capability to govern at the federal level together with the SPD brings us closer to their realisation but growing capacity for liberalisation as well as the pressure of a public debate that we contribute to imprint and that no longer restricts itself only to anti-neoliberal demands. It is here that our political priorities must lie if the new Left wants to become a project with a future, radiance, and social influence. If instead, there comes up the impression that we strive more towards apparent power than towards political objectives, this will impinge on our credibility and make more difficult the anchoring of the social movements that we aim for and also reduce the force of conviction of our goals and visions.

A credible Left can also not afford a permanent conflict between regional and also local policy on the one hand and federal policy on the other. At the regional level, redistribution from the top down is hardly achievable in a grand style. What we must tell the people convincingly is what won’t happen with the Left under any circumstances. As absolute minimal conditions of governmental participation at the regional level, we propose the following points:

1. No more privatisations: The Left fights for the expansion of public property, for the retraction of past privatisations, for the re-communalisation of property, in particular in the areas of housing, water, energy, health and short-distance traffic. The least that the Left in governments must guarantee under any circumstances is an immediate stop of further privatisation policy, regardless in what area and in what facets.

2. No reduction of public employment: The Left fights for an expansion of the public employment sector, for shorter work times and with full wage compensation. The least that we must promise is maintenance of the existing employment at the present wage levels. Germany belongs to the European countries, where the number of public employees per head of the population is already today very low.

3. No encouragement of social educational privileges:  The German educational system reinforces social exclusion and inequality of chances. Poverty today is heritable again. University education becomes more and more a privilege of well-to-do parental households. The Left is fighting for regulations that will change this situation. In the educational sector, regional policy has a certain influence. Under no circumstances should one be able to be confident that the Left will not carry any measures that further reinforce the social exclusion in the educational sector. In here, there count any kind of fees – be they for kindergartens or for universities – as well as further deteriorations in equipment. Cost-free learning materials must be guaranteed or respectively re-established. Nursery and pre-school fees should in no case be raised, but if at all possible be lowered or completely abolished. The three-pronged school system must be gradually eliminated.

4. No cutbacks for the weakest: The Left struggles to improve the social situation precisely of the weakest. There are more than enough means for that in a rich county. In any case, however, it must hold: There is no budgetary emergency justifying further cutbacks at those who are in any event already getting the smallest piece of the pie. A governmental participation of the left at the regional level must guarantee that or it must be ended.

5. Demilitarisation and conversion programmes at the regional level:  For the parading of the military as on occasion of public vows and solemn curfews, we will offer no support. By contrast, we strive for a better recognition of civil and peace policy commitment. Also at the level of the region, we are committed to a retreat of nuclear weapons and a closing of the military- interventionist infrastructure.

A strong authentic Left today has a realistic chance to change this country and its society. It has the chance to win support and to exercise influence. It has the chance to oppose the downward spiral of an ever less inhibited wage and social dumping. It has the chance to bring socialist, anti-capitalist, and fundamentally oppositional ideas and goals again into the social debate.

Because more and more people do not want to live in a country that presents mega-profits to the companies, while unemployment and poverty grow further. They do not want a Europe, where the supply of people with elementary goods such as water and energy or the access to education is left almost solely to the free play of capitalist market forces. They do not want any unrestrained capitalism, but a society of solidarity and of social justice. Let us struggle for  acceptance by the people, and let us struggle together with them for anti-neoliberal demands and an anti-capitalist perspective.

Translated by Carla Krüger, March 31, 2006