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After the party congress: the agony of the Left Party

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On the weekend of 25/26 June, the G7 met at Schloss Elmau near Garmisch-Partenkirchen under the banner of the Ukraine war and the economic crisis. At the same time, attempts were made in Erfurt to contain a completely different kind of crisis – at the meeting of the 8th Federal Party Congress of the Left Party.
The mere fact that DIE LINKE decided months ago to put its own event on this weekend speaks volumes about the prioritization of an organization that still likes to act as a movement and peace party. But why should a socialist opposition party give priority to mobilization against the imperialist exploiters of this world and its "own" government?
In view of the state of crisis of the party, the catastrophic election result in the Bundestag election and the resignation of the party executive in connection with #linkemetoo, more important things have to be done. To a certain extent, the scheduling symbolizes the state of a party for which it would not have been a problem to postpone its own meeting by one week.
But those who had expected trend-setting decisions, a political showdown between the wings or at least a clarifying debate from the weekend were disappointed. The confrontation, which at least resounded in several articles before the conference, did not take place or at best took place in a shadowy manner. In the end, the substantive debate did not take place, or to describe it in the words of Thies Gleiss: "With the well-known styled, synthetic and always terribly exaggerated staging of the professional party congress organization staff of DIE LINKE, the '1st meeting of the 8th party congress' took place on the last weekend of June in Erfurt. As always, it was expensive, inauthentic and boring."
What would it have needed?
Instead of the played agreement between the wings that there is no need for another scandal to the outside world, the clarification of the content should have been brought to the fore. The SAV writes: "At the party congress, however, only two hours were set aside for a general debate, and one hour for a discussion on the fight against patriarchal power structures, violence and sexism. It should have been clear that this time would not be enough. More than 70 contributors did not have their say in the general debate. Instead, greetings, interludes, celebrity speeches and voting procedures took up a lot of space – an unfortunate party congress direction in view of the expectations of the crisis party congress."
Instead, the agenda should have provided a deliberate opportunity for delegates to openly discuss the differences in content in debates and motions. Why? Overplaying these differences does not make them disappear.
Rather, the "pluralism" of the party is one of the reasons why the external image seems so shattered. With mere admonitions or forced kindness, the problems cannot be solved, since they rarely bear their origin in the form, but in the content. Instead, the old party executive, whose majorities in the new one actually persist, decided to continue to manage the crisis of the Left Party.
Cause of the crisis
What is portrayed in the media as an eternal petty war between Wagenknecht and the rest of the party is more multifaceted in reality. Nevertheless, the core of the conflict can be summed up quite well. Thus, in the end, the main question is what socialism is and how to get there, with the role of the bourgeois state playing a major role in particular. Roughly three wings can be identified: While that of the "government socialists", such as Bodo Ramelow, verbally mentions democratic socialism from time to time, his policy consists of nothing more than a left-wing variant of social democracy. Openly and practically, he strives for participation in bourgeois governments – and ultimately, without resistance from another wing in the party.
The left-wing populist current around Sahra Wagenknecht has no objection to government participation. At best, she accuses Ramelow and Co. of selling themselves too cheaply. It tries to position itself as the last bastion of the Left Party's "peace policy" and as an advocate for wage earners and their social needs, but this does not change the national-centred and social-chauvinist character of this policy.
As a third wing, the so-called "movement left" has positioned itself in recent years, which has the most members in the old and new board.
They like to claim a fundamental criticism of the de facto focus on parliamentary work, including that in regional and local representations. It would like to oppose this bourgeois realpolitik with another one that relies on mobilizations and work in social movements. More than other currents, it also conjures up the socialist goal – admittedly not in the sense of a transitional programme, but rather as a detachment from the real work of DIE LINKE in the form of deputies, trade unionists, activists in social movements in the distance.
But even most of the spokespersons of the movement left see no problem in this, because for them too "socialism" is just a vision that can only become reality in the distant future. Meanwhile, "transformation strategy" is announced, i.e. the more or less pragmatic combination of government participation and movement activism.
What unites all wings
The fact that it was never concerned with a revolutionary transformation of society, despite all the invocation of an ultimately more morally understood "socialism", is part of the founding consensus of the party. Just as Social Democracy or Labourism understood and understands its task in the "reform" of capitalism, which is to lead to socialism through numerous advances and setbacks after a lengthy but essentially gradual transformation process.
This concept, as the history and degeneration of social democracy make clear, has historically failed and has long been theoretically refuted by Marxism. Of course, the socialist end goal of the "transformation" does not serve as a real, but above all as an ideological incantation formula, as utopian accompaniment to the lowlands of "realpolitik".
However, whoever refuses to break the rule of capitalism through a revolution, who does not want to know anything about the destruction of the bourgeois state apparatus and its replacement by the rule of workers' councils, is ultimately forced to rely on the bourgeois state as an instrument of change. Under this condition, participation in bourgeois governments is necessary, even logical. The only thing that remains open is whether the course to red-green-red appears opportune or only at a "more favourable" time.
Within this framework, the power struggles of the party are carried out. Of course, the fact that they are currently so sharp is due to the fact that DIE LINKE, even in the bourgeois spectrum, can currently achieve little success and it is questionable why a left-wing social democratic party is needed at all in addition to the SPD original. But since this did not flow into the debate of the party congress, this leads us to the question: What was then discussed and decided? Before we talk about the personnel decisions, we will devote ourselves to the substantive debates.
For or against NATO?
Although the bourgeois press tried in advance to paint the picture of the Left Party as a Putin understander, even if there may be members in the party, they represent only a marginal part. The lead motion 3 "No rearmament, no war" of the party executive regarding the Ukraine war also makes this abundantly clear. But there is another stumbling block: the role of Western imperialism and the positioning with regard to NATO. The motion ignores the prehistory of the war, the NATO criticism is quite tame. Clear demands that there should be no NATO interventions, or even criticism of their plans for eastward expansion, are not included.
An alternative to this was the replacement application of the left camp, which was apparently under the leadership of marx21, but also cooperation of the AKL and was supported by state executives in Hesse and NRW as well as by some district associations and many delegates.
It states: "This war is not only a war between Russia and Ukraine, it is also a war for Ukraine, namely a power struggle between NATO (the EU and the US) on the one hand and Russia on the other." The motion also spoke out against an economic war (read in full length here: https://linke-gegen-krieg.de/).
Despite a broad alliance of left forces, the replacement motion failed, but received a respectable 43% of the delegate votes. The party executive was apparently even forced to send the party left Wissler forward in order to defend the content of the lead motion and to prevent a majority for the left-wing motion.
Other motions that were intended to shift the position further in the direction of arms deliveries or even pro-NATO were rejected, as were those that rejected sanctions altogether, such as the application of a Sol member from Bad Cannstatt.
It is striking that the youth league provided the right wing of the party congress and, for example, was one of the forces that would like to be in favour of sanctions and arms deliveries per se.
But why is there a debate at all? This conflict – and the way it is being fought out – is just another expression of the left-wing party's crisis. Because the voices of the government socialists had already codified their NATO solidarity before the Ukraine war, as this would be necessary for possible coalitions at the federal level, this also shows how a lack of analysis and common methodology can have a negative effect. Although DIE LINKE rejects arms deliveries and war missions, it is unable to recognise the imperialist character of German and Western politics. Nevertheless, the 43% in favour of the left-wing motion represents one, albeit the only, success of the left at the party congress and an approach to forming an opposition in the party around a central political question.
#linkemetoo
Another substantive focus was the debate on #linkemetoo. Although Gregor Gysi used his speaking time to criticise gender-inclusive language and there were outraged exclamations after Wissler's election, the motion "Renew the basic consensus. For a feminist LINKE". In terms of content, this sets positive notes: the sexualised violence within the Left Party is understood as a mirror of social conditions. However, this is not an excuse to ignore them, but means that structures are needed to deal with them – and creating them is not only the task of FLINTAs.
What will probably be a difficulty is the implied debate regarding the power of definition. The motion itself refers positively to the presumption of innocence, but a clear rejection of the power of definition unfortunately does not take place from this and would probably have been discussed more heatedly.
It is a pity in this debate as a whole that the Left sees itself as a mirror of society, but does not draw the consequences of fighting for improvements in society as a whole. The innovations within the party, the development of guidelines and sensitisation are right and important. However, there can only be a real improvement for those affected if, for example, progressive reforms of sexual criminal law are fought for, those affected are financially supported or the possibility of reporting assaults is massively simplified. For our proposals, see: https://arbeiterinnenmacht.de/2022/04/18/linkemetoo-aus-den-fehlern-lernen/.

Personnel
Overall, the party focused on personnel issues. The tandem of Janine Wissler and Martin Schirdewan was elected as chairperson, i.e. a new edition of the last chairmanship with Schirdewan instead of Hennig-Wellsow. The candidates attributed to the Wagenknecht wing each received around a third of the votes. But in the election to the party executive, they could not prevail.
The party executive itself was reduced from 44 to 26 members. Here, the AKL rightly criticises the fact that once again there was no decision to separate offices and mandates or to introduce control of these functions. The current development is described more as further centralisation. She writes: "Above all, however, the professional politicians and parliamentary groups have now taken over almost completely. Of the eight directly elected executive board members, four are full-time deputies, two office employees of the party, one deputy employee and one union full-time official. In the 18-member remaining executive committee, three deputies, employees of deputies, paid by the RL Foundation or political initiatives as well as trade union full-time officials, are one employee of the party. In addition, there are two students, a journalist and a policeman in the higher service."
This alone illustrates that the party is firmly in the grip of a bureaucracy – and significantly, none of the three major wings clashes with this.
Similar to the last party congress, the Movement Left (BL) is well involved in the executive committee in terms of numbers. Anyone who could have interpreted this initially as a shift to the left is probably more cautious in the evaluation after this period. 11 members of the 26-member board are attributed to it. The second largest group are the government socialists, whose goal is, of course, to make R2G a reality. On the expected practice, the AKL writes: "These are not good starting conditions to solve the crisis of the party. Already after the last board elections, the 'Movement Left' had a majority in the party executive committee, which it did not use in all important decisions, but regularly rowed back in front of the faction and the 'horseshoe' dominating there. In just a few months, this party executive majority disintegrated. It is to be feared that this will happen again."
What do the centrists say?
While marx21 could not hold back with optimism even before the party congress, the situation is different with SAV and Sol. Both groups view the party congress with mixed feelings and note that the promised crisis party congress did not take place in order to proceed "Keep it up!", which ultimately harms the party. However, the consequences remain vague. Thus, the SAV continues to place hopes in the movement left and writes: "If the movement left fights for a party that is oriented towards movements, can be its political expression, helps to build the workers' movement, prepares for the coming protests against rising living costs, the climate crisis, even more inter-imperialist wars, and fights for a socialist social alternative, can still save the united party left DIE LINKE. For this, however, the movement left must shed its rabbit-footedness towards the reformers."

That sounds nice. But not only the behaviour of the movement left since its foundation has shown that the members may be motivated and raise individual content-good demands, but give in to central questions – not only because of personal-pragmatic opportunism, but also because it corresponds to the inner logic of the so-called transformation strategy, i.e. the strategic orientation of this current.
In order to build up pressure on the movement left, proposals for joint action are not enough – it also requires a critique of their basic, reformist strategy to make clear the need for a break with this variety of reformism.
The Sol keeps almost even more covered when it concludes in an evaluation article: "Sol members fought at the party congress as delegates for consistent socialist positions. We were able to sell 61 newspapers and sell literature from Manifest-Verlag for several hundred euros. With the Sol, a number of party members want to continue the discussion about how to continue with the LINKE and how a strong socialist force can be built up in the Federal Republic."
Nice for the Sol. But this is not a concept for the struggle for a revolutionary position.
In summary, this means that marx21 does not want to be left out of the haggling over positions, ignores the rightward development of the party and continues to rely on the movement left and the principle of hope. The crisis is spoken of, but at the same time every smallest gain is celebrated as a step towards socialism.
The other forces are more realistic in their assessment at this point, but vague and inadequate in terms of consequences.
DIE LINKE and the struggle for revolutionary politics
The party congress makes it clear once again that the Left Party is in an existential crisis – regardless of whether the "popular left" around Sahra Wagenknecht leaves or not. It may just give the crisis a different, shocking form. Otherwise, the political spectrum simply continues, in which one part of the left may be on the streets, the others can be found in the parliaments and not so few in governments or local governments.
Basically, however, we must state that anyone who thinks that the left will become a socialist workers' party worthy of the name can also wait for a parallel solar and lunar eclipse. If revolutionary leftists in or outside the Left Party want to achieve more than win over individual members, but seek to exploit the crisis of the party to form a larger political force that gathers and politically forms dissatisfied, class-struggle, anti-imperialist members, it faces several interconnected tasks.
1. The militant elements must be actively formed around concrete campaigns
43% in favour of the left-wing motion against the war show that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of activists in the Left Party who are at least able to be won over by signature for a policy that condemns the invasion of Russian imperialism in Ukraine and at the same time wants to oppose the Western imperialist policies of NATO, the USA, the EU and Germany.
But in order for the 43% to appear not only in the minutes of the party congress, they must be formed into a force that actively builds a movement against the war and the associated economic crisis, price increases or the threat of plant closures. Such a system would also have to act actively in the trade unions against social partners and national solidarity and for a policy of class struggle.
2. Formation of a revolutionary action programme
In order to work out a political alternative to the reformist, bureaucratic strategy of the party leadership, campaigns for individual demands are not enough for two reasons. First, in the current period, the great questions of the class struggle – ecological catastrophe, massive price increases, flight/migration, war, gender-specific division of labour, to name but a few – raise the question of property and that of the reorganisation of society itself, i.e. after the struggle against capitalism. Closely related to this are the questions of an understanding of imperialism as a global capitalist order as well as of the character of the bourgeois state and the socialist revolution.
In short, what is needed is a programme, an answer that connects these questions and a system of transitional demands that represents a bridge between the struggle against current attacks and for improvements with that for a socialist, revolutionary revolution.
Secondly, there is a need for a fundamental alternative to the politics of the left itself, a political-programmatic alternative to the Erfurt Programme and the transformation strategy – not to mention pragmatic government socialism and left-wing populism. This is precisely the task that the Left Party has not yet set itself. The movement left makes – at best – a virtue out of necessity, the lack of its own programme. The AKL was also unable to present anything for years (!). Marx21, SAV and Sol either did not face the task at all or only half-heartedly.
3. Preparation for a break
In the current situation, the goal of such a formation must be the political-programmatically organised break with the Left Party in order to gather isolated, politically perplexed members in this dispute, so that not only individuals leave independently of each other and frustrated, but this takes on an organized character in DER LINKE and in solid.
Especially the conflict in the party and about a factional struggle would also be important in order to clarify the awareness and the political orientation and to prepare comrades who so far only know the political life in a largely passive reformist party for a future after the Left Party.
From the outset, all revolutionary forces outside the Left Party should also be involved in this process, which share the goal of a revolutionary, communist regrouping on the basis of joint intervention in the class struggle and a clear programmatic basis. In order not to repeat the mistake of the Left Party itself, the discussion of the existing, sometimes very deep political, theoretical and programmatic differences among the various currents with revolutionary claims must not be put on the back burner. Rather, it would have to be integrated into the programme debate itself.
As the GAM, we want to bring the three points as well as our own programme into such a process, should it come about. We do not understand this as a precondition, but as a contribution that calls on all other currents inside and outside the Left Party to discuss it, which want to tackle the goal of creating a revolutionary alternative to reformism in the here and now.

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