England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Far right on the rise in Germany: What’s missing is a militant left party

By Sozialistische Alternative (ISA in Germany) 

October’s elections to regional parliaments saw big increases in the vote for the AfD (Alternative for Germany), a far right, racist party. In Bavaria the AfD won 15% and in Hesse 18%. The SPD (SocialDemocratic Party) and the Greens both registered significant losses and Die Linke, the left party, is no longer represented in the parliament in Hesse.

This shift to the right reflects a vicious campaign by the AfD, but also the ‘conservative’ CDU against asylumseekers, replicated in the capitalist media, which clearly pushed other parties further to the right. It’s true that over a million Ukrainian refugees, who do not need to claim asylum, have entered the country, although last year the number of immigrants claiming asylum actually fell slightly, to just under a quarter of a million.

This has put pressure on public services, but there is enormous wealth in the country, it’s just in the wrong hands. The wealth of Germany’s leading capitalists is soaring. According to Manager Magazin the top 500 bosses are doing just fine, despite the Ukraine war, higher energy costs and interest rates.

Germany in the new world of disorder

There is a deeper crisis for German capitalism, which has been severely affected by the turmoil of the new world of disorder. More than any other European country Germany’s manufacturing industries depend on low price energy from Russia, and the sale of machine tools and cars to China. Sanctions against Putin, and the US trade war on China, have created serious disruption. It’s clear that a section of the capitalists, particularly among smaller manufacturers, just want to be able to make a profit and resent the restrictions on trade that Germany, as a leading European Union state, is expected to adhere to.

This, and the so-called immigration ‘crisis’, have given rise to widespread nationalist sentiment. Unfortunately Die Linke has failed to resist deportations of asylumseekers in practice when holding positions of government responsibility, and has tail-ended other capitalist parties in declaring solidarity with Israel.

In Bremen, the health secretary under Die Linke defended the closure of a hospital in Bremen, and works in its state government with SPD and Greens, supposedly to ‘keep the right wing at bay’. In reality, actions like this will only gain the AfD more support if Die Linke representatives allow themselves to be presented as ‘just like all the other parties’.

Right split from Die Linke

It is just at this time of crisis for the left party that one of its leaders, Sahra Wagenknecht, a dominant figure in the party in recent years, has decided to leave the party and found her own, named after her. This is a major blow to the left and the working class.

Where next for Die Linke?

Jan Hagel and Sebastian Rave of Sozialistische Alternative (ISA Germany), analyse what this means for Die Linke:

Wagenknecht’s populism: right or left?

Wagenknecht’s new party is a right-wing split from Die Linke. This does not mean that it will necessarily be a right-wing populist party like the AfD, despite somewhat similar views on migration and economic policy demands that all come from a “national” perspective.

Scandalously, Die Linke carries out deportations in the state governments in which it participates. Wagenknecht even goes beyond this when she blames “unregulated migration” for problems in the education system and calls for benefits to be cut to zero for immigrants and young unemployed people.

Wagenknecht is deliberately tapping into right-wing attitudes in society. But racism will not be the core of the party programme, it is a means to an end. Still, the emergence and the programme of the new party are an expression of a worrying right-wing development in society.

Under no circumstances should Die Linke sit back and hope that it will now make progress in building a left party. The split to the right is first and foremost a defeat for Die Linke. We have supported the project of building Die Linke because the existence of a relevant party to the left of the SPD improves the conditions of struggle for the working class – its disappearance would be a weakening.

No alternative to building a militant, anti-capitalist left

It is clear to us: Wagenknecht’s party is not an alternative. It would be nice if, after the departure of Wagenknecht and her supporters, who have dominated the internal party debates and their external perception for years, the orientation of the party could once again be discussed politically instead of personally.

Unfortunately, the likelihood of this is low; the parts of Die Linke that are committed to government participation and post-1990s social democracy are initially strengthened by the split, also because some nominally on the party’s left will follow Wagenknecht’s call.

The split should be a clear warning: social democratic politics and adaptation to capitalist politics can lead to the destruction of the left. Against this, a change of course is urgently needed. Instead of hoping for a false peace in the party across all wings, the political confrontation must continue. The politics of the ‘reformers’, who focus on recognition and government participation, must be countered with a militant and anti-capitalist course.

There is potential for a left party that is the only one to stand against the shift to the right in capitalist society, to name the causes of the multiple crises that capitalism produces and to campaign for socialist solutions – it is time to use it.

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