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Friday, September 18, 2009

Oskar Lafontaine and Die Linke show the way

Last December, in my article 'Socialism's Comeback' in the New Statesman, I highlighted how across Europe, socialist parties-proper socialist parties- were making ground on the pro-globalist faux leftist parties that have dominated the scene for far too long.

One of the parties I discussed was Die Linke, the German party co-chaired by Oskar Lafontaine.

Die Linke's unapologetically socialist policies, which include the renation alisation of electricity and gas, the banning of hedge funds and the introduction of a maximum wage, chime with a population concerned at the dismantling of Germany's mixed economic model and the adoption of Anglo-Saxon capitalism - a shift that occurred while the SPD was in government.

Last month, Die Linke made spectacular gains in state elections in Germany, which you can read about here, while in today’s Guardian there‘s a very interesting report about the growing popularity of the party.

Die Linke is striking a chord with an increasingly disenfranchised electorate, espousing causes – such as inequality, reunification issues and, crucially, the war in Afghanistan – that are finding a receptive audience in both east and west.

While Die Linke's rivals have mercilessly attacked it for its radical wealth redistribution plans and its links to the defunct communist regime, its message is clearly getting through.

"Generally there are only a few themes that particularly distinguish most of the parties," according to Renate Köcher, joint head of the Allensbach Institute for Demoscopy. "It's only really Die Linke that stands out, in particular for their critical position regarding the German economy and societal order."

The faux-left globalists favourite line of attack against Die Linke is to label them ‘populist‘, and Oskar Lafontaine a ‘populist demagogue’

And that tells you one thing: Lafontaine and Die Linke are on the right track. For when a globalist labels someone a ‘populist’ it means he/she is frightened that the person in question’s ideas - and policies -are far more popular than theirs. (Hugo Chavez is routinely labelled a ‘populist’ by the same people too.

It's because of the fact that his ideas and policies are popular- and that he is such an effective communicator- that Lafontaine is so despised by the globalists- and so feared.

I wish Die Linke all the very best in forthcoming German elections.

Politics in Germany has suddenly become very, very interesting.


olching said...

Thanks for this, Neil. It is really exciting that there seems to be a left-wing alternative emerging in one of the most important countries in Europe. Whether it will have a knock-on effect remains to be seen.

For when a globalist labels someone a ‘populist’ it means he/she is frightened that the person in question’s ideas

That is indeed sometimes the case. As far as Lafontaine and Gysi are concerned it is certainly the case. Lafontaine is an interesting figure precisely because he is a disenchanted social democrat who left when the SPD and Greens embraced neoliberalism with open arms under Schroeder but more overtly with that fuckwit Joschka Fischer.

Lafontaine grates on people's nerves because he points out obvious flaws in so-called mainstream political thinking (which, when broken down, is merely neoliberal extremism).

The true populists in Germany are the FDP, the liberals; a vile bunch of free market extremists with their chairman Guido Westerwelle who is a proper media harlot.

Yout say it's unapologetic socialism (I can't check the way you've phrased it right now as I'm on the comments page), but I think it's an interesting mix between socialism and social democracy. It's a really fascinating synthesis, which is why Die Linke are becoming quite attractive to the German public.

And one last thing: You'll have noticed that all the media commentary has labelled these elections as 'boring' and uneventful. Why is that? It may well be that some of the commentators (often affiliated either with the CDU/CSU or the SPD) see the rise of Die Linke and want to downplay any involvement or excitement viz the elections.

But yes indeed: Good luck to Die Linke next weekend.

David Lindsay said...

Last month saw big gains for Die Linke, a party with its roots in East Germany (from which it has carried over an unsavoury internal minority, although that minority is not in charge), where the political culture is still very left-wing, and where the grammar schools were restored by popular demand as soon as the Wall came down.

Die Linke almost quadrupled its vote, so that it now has councillors in every major city, in the local elections in the old Social Democratic heartland of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the grammar schools were saved by, again, popular demand.

Nowhere near all of these Die Linke voters are Hard Left. People like that already voted for it anyway. They are voting against the abandonment of historic, popular principles by the CDU and the SPD, which are instead chasing after neoliberal economics, neoconservative foreign policy, and European federalism.

All also rejected by the solidly Catholic, heavily dominant CSU in Bavaria.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the CSU is both neoconservative and more neoliberal then the CDU:

"Germany could be forced to pull its troops out of Afghanistan if Angela Merkel is forced to form another "grand coalition" with the Left, the country's influential economy minister warned yesterday.


Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told The Daily Telegraph that Germany's Left has become increasingly radical and would compel Mrs Merkel, who is certain to emerge as the leader of some form of coalition, to exchange her moderate foreign policies for ideological positions.

"The Left would put Angela Merkel under pressure to abandon her approach, which has been to be a bridge builder on international affairs and turn her into a person who works along lines," he said.

"They would question our alliances, particularly Nato and our role in Afghanistan. That means a slide to bring our troops out of Afghanistan sooner rather than later."

Germany has more than 4,000 troops serving on an Afghanistan mission that has become increasingly unpopular. The deaths of 30 Afghans in a German-ordered air strike near Kunduz earlier this month triggered calls across the Left for a withdrawal.


The 37-year-old Bavarian aristocrat, who is known as the rocking baron for his love of the heavy metal band AC/DC, is the main campaign asset of the Christian Social Union (CSU)- the southern sister party of Mrs Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU).


Mrs Merkel has been careful not to promise tax cuts or radical reforms as she pursues centrist voters. The CSU has taken a firmer stance. It's publication of a timetable to introduce 15 billion euro tax cuts as early as 2011 exposed divisions between the parties.

Mr Guttenberg has chided Mrs Merkel to recognise pressure for a tax cut. He said: "She is concentrating on the national picture but there is a larger discussion now about the opportunity to reduce our very high national debt and lower taxes to promote growth in the years ahead."

The wealthy Mr Guttenberg, who lives in the family castle in Bavaria, ... "

Megan Donovan said...

I've met Oskar Lafotaine last week, when he was on tour accross Germany. He is such a nice and sympatic man and I wish him and Die Linke that they surprise the others with a stunning 15-20% result on Sunday.

Neil Clark said...

olching; i totally agree with you re the FPD. It's the party The Economist is championing, surprise, surprise, for their 'pro-business' views and their 'pro-American' foreign policy stance.
anonymous: quite.
megan: nice to hear from you. it would be fantastic if Die Linke could get 20%.