In the beginning of the 21st century, the peoples of the earth have moved closer together. Satellite TV, internet, international air traffic and the developments in the area of nuclear technology, biology and chemistry convey to an up to now unknown extent the experience that all humankind is linked by a common fate. The dependencies are growing. Pollution in one country has just as damaging effects in the neighbouring countries. The national economies fuse with one another, and ever new developments lead to a dramatic increase in the forces of production. In less than a decade the World Social Product has doubled and world trade has tripled. Energy consumption grows at a breathtaking speed.
While the industrial states accumulate an ever greater wealth, a hundred thousand people die every day, because they have too little to eat. Every ten seconds, a child dies, although, following the information of the world Food and Agricultural Organisation, 12 billion people would be able to get enough on this planet.
Hunger and starvation are the result of a Barbarian world economic order. Capitalism depends on its constant expansion. It conquers sales markets and raw material sources even by military force. Be it Afghanistan or Chechnya, Iraq or Iran, Syria or Saudi Arabia, it is not a matter of freedom or democracy, but of the oil and gas supplies of the Middle East and of the countries on the Caspian Sea. In the unrestrained struggle for power and spheres of influence, mainly the United States of America disdain human rights and the Geneva conventions. They push aside international law and abrogate the norm of international law that prohibits any kind of war of aggression. Following the new doctrine, countries that pretend to be threatened, have the right to attack others. This predatory capitalism in large parts of the world leads to bitter poverty and terrorism. The USA fight this terrorism with wars contrary to international law, in which many thousands of innocent people use their lives. They prolong the spiral of violence and that way provoke ever again the readiness to engage in terrorism.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, a social order failed which many people had invested with great hopes. In the effort to give equal life chances to all its citizens, women and men, and to distribute well-being equally, the East European states and the Soviet Union ignored the two great maxims of Rosa Luxemburg: “Freedom is always the freedom of those thinking differently.”, “No socialism without democracy and no democracy without socialism.” The clearly worse economic point of departure in comparison to the Western countries and the not very efficient economic systems forced the state socialist countries to indebt themselves heavily in the West in order to increase the living standards of their populations. In spite of undisputed progress in the realisation of social equality, the overcoming of educational privileges and equal rights for women, they congealed into systems of bureaucratic tutelage, dropped back in economic terms and increasingly lost the support of their women and men citizens.
The failure of these attempts to construct a socialist society, the crimes of Stalinism and the injustice of the one-party dictatorships do not absolve the Left of the attempt to make a new attempt at overcoming the barbarity of capitalist society. Freedom and social security, democracy and socialism condition one another. In a democratic-socialist society, the freedom of the other is not the limit but the condition of one’s own freedom. He is also not free who oppresses and exploits his fellow human beings.
The human dream of a world society of the free and equal is alive. In South America, socialist presidents (women and men) come to power. They no longer want to leave the use of the raw materials of their countries to international companies. They wage upon democracy and a more just society.
In Europe, at the end of the 20th century, socialist and social democratic parties took on governmental responsibility. They were too weak, however, to still oppose themselves to capitalism acting in an ever more unrestrained manner. Rather they subjected themselves voluntarily to the multinational companies and the imperatives of the international financial markets, deregulation, privatisation, build-down of democracy, tax reductions for companies and the rich and cutting of social benefits were the new messages of salvation. Neoliberalism, originally only an economic theory, became a substitute religion. It corrupts language and therefore thought as well.
The neoliberal ideologues speak of reconstruction of the social state and mean its demolition. They speak of future-oriented reforms and mean the curtailment of social benefits. The protection against dismissal is being watered down, collective agreements are being sapped and the institutions of public existential care are being sold out. Increasingly more people work in insecure, badly paid jobs where they are exploited or forced to self-exploit without any shame. The social security systems that are supposed to give the people protection and social rights are being privatised. The high point of this development in Germany has been the Hartz IV laws and the Agenda 2010 decided by CDU/CSU, SPD, FDP and the Greens.
The world of work is in a process of change. As a result of the rise in productivity, ever more services and products are being produced by ever fewer employed. This progress should benefit all. But the contrary is the case. Among those employed, stress and work time are growing. The unemployed are put under pressure and relegated to the margins. The labour market is made more flexible and an extreme mobility is demanded of those who have a job. Limited job contracts, work time around the clock and ever longer ways to work destroy family and community life.
The dissolution of social ties coming with deregulation and greater flexibility changes the people and sets free destructive potentials in them. Millions of people are unemployed and have the feeling to be no longer needed by society. While company profits and incomes from wealth break ever new records, wages are dropping. Unemployment money and pensions are reduced.
In the process of this development, voter participation goes back and right wing parties enjoy greater popularity. Social democracy turned towards neoliberalism loses adherents and votresses and voters. This party that formerly stood for peace and social justice, now just like the CDU/CSU, FDP and the Greens, advocates wars violating international law, a low state quota and constant cuts into the social net.
The time has come to collect the dispersed forces of the Left. The PDS issued from the SED has changed. It has won many new members and has turned into a democratic socialist party. To these changes, there corresponds its new name: Left Party. The WASG was founded mainly by disappointed trade unionists, social democrats and representatives of the social movements. More than four million voters at the federal elections of 2005 gave Left Party and WASG the task to found a new left party.
THE LEFT understands itself as a collection of people of diverse political and social background that fights for more social justice. It wants a solidary society where the free development of each and every one is the development for the free development of all. It wants a free society, in which the people, independent of origin and skin colour, religion and citizenship, gender and sexual orientation have the same rights and chances.
THE LEFT wants to dare more democracy and commits to the extension of fundamental rights and freedoms. Citizens, men and women, should acquire the possibility to contribute, by way of popular petitions and referenda, to the fashioning of their life conditions. Political engagement finds its expression not only in membership in a party, but also in cooperation in a non-governmental organisation and in social movements. THE LEFT will pick up the demands of the extra- parliamentary movements and encourage the participation of the latter in the political decision-making process.
THE LEFT does not want to repeat the mistakes of traditional organisations critical of capitalism and get tied up with the global capitalist system. It supports itself by the contributions and donations of its adherents and the state subsidies regulated by the state.
Its office holders are obliged to fulfil the democratic resolutions of the party organs and the promises made before the elections. In contrast to the representatives of other parties they do not act as lobbyists of companies or entrepreneurial associations.
THE LEFT puts its stakes on the peaceful common life together of the peoples. It wants foreign policy to be peace policy and demands a preventive policy for conflict prevention. It condemns imperialist wars over sales markets and raw materials and defends the right of the peoples to decide autonomously over the utilisation of their wealth. It insists on compliance with international law and with the nuclear proliferation treaty. As long as the nuclear powers do not divest of their nuclear arsenals, other states will acquire nuclear weapons.
THE LEFT commits to democratic socialism. Capitalism is not the end of history. Because the weaker can only be free, when laws and rules prevent him against the arbitrariness of the stronger, it wages on regulation instead of deregulation. The basic moral values of society should also come to expression in the economy. Laws and regulations must make sure that capital utilisation is obligated to the common weal as it is demanded by the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany. Key sectors of the economy and of public existential services must be transferred into public property forms and be subject to democratic control.
THE LEFT struggles for the equal position of men and women. The women’s movement is one of its political roots. Therefore, it struggles for social security systems that are based on an individual legal claim. That is also supposed to apply to the social, tax and labour law. THE LEFT wants equality of situation for women in salary policies. It is unacceptable that women in Germany receive considerably lower wages.
THE LEFT wants the realisation of equal conditions of life East and West. The neoliberal thesis following which unemployment can be overcome by lower wages and longer work times is unambiguously refuted by the development in the East German regions. Unemployment was and is double as high in the new regions than in the West. The Left is in favour of people East and West being treated equally in terms of incomes, social benefits, and pensions. Positive cultural and social experiences of the East Germans such as longer learning in common should be transferred to the whole of Germany.
THE LEFT wants a more just distribution of gainful work by reduction of work time as well as the creation of jobs in sectors with great social need, mainly in the public sector and in the sphere of publicly promoted occupation. It wants an economic order that offers everybody the possibility to participate in gainful employment. Enforced unemployment is an act of violence that often leads to loneliness and marginalisation and this in spite of the fact that there are meaningful activities beyond classical gainful employment that we want to promote. The distribution of the commonly earned wealth shall reward in the first line living labour and not dead capital. An economic policy following the image of Scandinavian states combines a high level of employment with a tightly knit social net. Above-average investments in education and research and into public infrastructure as well as an effective public service in these countries form the basis for a good economic development and growing well-being. THE LEFT advocates a finance and tax policy that will enable the state to fulfil its duties. By way of more tax and fee justice it wants to adequately involve high incomes and huge fortunes. A taxation of money incomes of the richest Germans at the level of five percent would add one hundred billion annually to the public cash registers.
THE LEFT wants to finish with a politics that sells off public property and thereby expropriates the population. Instead of neoliberal privatisation, it wants socialisation, i.e. state and communal responsibility for education and health, for water and energy supply, for city development and housing, for public local and long-distance transports as well as for important cultural sectors. Elected representatives shall shape local public existential provision. The elimination of jobs in the public sector increases unemployment. In hardly any other industrial society – not in the USA, also not in Great Britain and even less so in the Scandinavian countries – do there work so few women and men citizens in the public sector as a share of the total number of employees as in Germany.
THE LEFT struggles for the ecological reconstruction of industrial society: In order to safeguard the life bases of future generations, we must work our economies in a sustainable way and deal responsibly with atmosphere, water and the earth. Precisely the leading industrial nations who contribute the most to polluting air and water are obligated to fundamentally change their way of dealing with the natural resources.
THE LEFT rejects power production out of atomic energy. In the international struggle for the distribution of energy sources that are becoming rarer and more expansive, the environment may not be sacrificed. The problems of energy supply are increasing. Energy must be affordable to all and its exploitation compatible with environmental soundness. Therefore, the energy economy may not be subjected to the laws of capitalist profit-making. Energy prices must be approved by the state. Environmentally friendly energy services and technologies must replace nuclear technology and step by step also mineral fuels.
THE LEFT wants economic democracy. The dependently employed and their trade unions shall, like in all other European countries, have the right to a political strike, to a general strike. The co-determination and co-decision rights of the employees, women and men, in the enterprises must be enlarged. The teams must be able to vote on the decisions crucial to the future of a firm. THE LEFT struggles for a renewed understanding of solidarity between full-time employees, job holders with precarious job status and the unemployed.
The capitalist economic order leads to the concentration of wealth in the hands of a minority. Five hundred companies control half of the world social product. The accumulation of economic power imperils democracy. Power that is democratically not legitimate may not determine economic relationships. THE LEFT wants the primacy of politics. Strongly concentrated economic areas must be disentangled. For this reason, we want to reinforce the control over cartels. Only then can the market and competition unfold their effectiveness and strengthen social welfare. Market and competition do not only lead to a more efficient economy but also to the decentralisation of economic decisions and that way to the limitation of economic power. THE LEFT, therefore, puts its stakes primarily on the encouragement of the 2.9 million firms who have less than 10 million Euro in turnover, and the over one million small firms in Germany who have less than ten employees.
THE LEFT resists social demolition. It wants to improve the social state and renew the systems of social security in such a way that they hold up to the challenges of a changing work world. They are supposed to be based on a citizen’s insurance to be financed by a fee on all incomes. By way of the citizens’ insurance, security in old age is put back on more secure feet. The avoidance of poverty of pensioners, women and men, in their retirement and the struggle against the income distribution getting ever more unequal in old age stand at the centre of our effort in this context. A legal minimal wage and a repression-free social basic security are supposed to guarantee a human life in dignity to all, also to those, who were not able to contribute long enough to the social security system. The rights of protection at work of the workers, women and men, must be extended. In that context, THE LEFT lets itself be guided by the model of a democratic social state that protects against poverty and enables democratic participation.
THE LEFT is committed to equality of chances in education and turns against any kind of elitist exclusion. From the child care centre to life-long learning, the general institutional, material and cultural conditions must be shaped in such a way that all can develop and use their talents and gifts. THE LEFT demands more investments into early-childhood education and the right to cost-free pre-school spaces and learning standards for day-care centres. They are supposed to make sure that children, independently of their origins, get equal starting conditions for their learning before they even get to school. THE LEFT commits to dismantling the three-pronged educational system and to introducing an integrative comprehensive school system. This is supposed to take its orientation in its personal as well as material equipment as well as in the areas of learning – intellectual, cognitive, and musical and artistic – from the Finnish educational system. An essential prerequisite for this and for enabling professional activity by the parents is the switch from half-day to all-day schools.
THE LEFT wants informational liberty. It turns against the creation of any kind of monopoly in the area of mass media. Journalistic and cultural diversity must be encouraged by the reinforcement of public radio and the extension of internal press freedom. The intertwining of editorial and political power represents a threat to democracy. “Information capitalism” is not a mere fiction, but becomes a threatening reality, when the production, distribution and recording of information are concentrated in monopolies and the collective memory of humanity is privatised in the form of writing and recording of audio-visual signs.
THE LEFT wants a united Europe. It knows that the realisation of this vision will only succeed on the basis of a social state. The collective life of Europeans shall be regulated by treaties and laws that undercut the dumping competition between the countries by prescribing minimal standards for basic rights, wages, social services, taxes and environmental protection.
The answer to the Europeanisation of political conflicts and social struggles is a European Left Party that has developed a political alternative to the Europe of the neoliberals.
THE LEFT, in communal regional parliaments, at the Federal level, in the European Parliament as well as in extra-parliamentary movements is committed to its goals. It resists neoliberal policy and wants to break its hegemony. For that purpose, what is needed is a policy that changes the spirit of the time. Protest, co-determination and alternatives pointing beyond capitalism form a strategic unity in the work of the Left. It will accept governmental responsibility when and if it can improve the life worlds of the people and open alternative paths of development. It will enter coalitions, however, only when and if its principles are respected. Institutions of public existential provision may not be privatised. Personnel reduction at the federal level, in the regions and at the local level must be stopped and the cutting of social benefits must also be prevented.
Against the predominance of capital, democratic progress and the improvement of living conditions for a large majority can only be achieved by a broad reform alliance. All over the world, resistance forms against unleashed, neoliberal capitalism. In Germany as well, all those who want a more peaceful, more just, more ecological, and more social collective life of the people are called upon to take their part in the founding of the new left party.
Lothar Bisky, Klaus Ernst, Gregor Gysi, Katja Kipping,
Oskar Lafontaine and Felicitas Weck
Berlin, June 2, 2006
Translated by Carla Krüger, June 5, 2006