The shift to the right by the Merkel government is an expression of its latent crisis

Interview with the Chairman of the MLPD, Stefan Engel June 2016

Not only concerning the government’s shift to the right, Stefan Engel offers precise and succinct answers to central questions of the current developments in Germany as well as on an international level. What is going to happen next in the VW crisis, or what is the MLPD’s understanding of new-imperialist countries? Is the crisis of bourgeois refugee policy over since fewer refugees have been arriving in Germany lately? And how are the preparations for the 10th Party Congress proceeding? These are just some of the questions Rote Fahne magazine raised in the interview with the chairman of the MLPD.

 

Rote Fahne: The AfD (Alternative for Germany) achieved a double-digit result in the state elections. Is this an expression of a shift to the right in Germany?

Stefan Engel: Without a doubt, the AfD is the first ultra-reactionary, extremely anti-people party with a nationalist and racist program that has been able to establish itself in Germany in the postwar period. This has not been possible for the openly neo-fascist parties because of the anti-fascist attitude of the masses. Nevertheless, it would be oversimplifying to describe the situation in Germany as a shift to the right. There are very opposing tendencies developing among the masses, which are expressions of a social polarization. On the one hand, the growth of right-wing, neo-fascist, racist tendencies. On the other hand, a clear awakening of anti-fascist and anti-racist activities, a strengthening of trade-union militancy, growing activities of young people, internationalist willingness to help and solidarity, as well as the increasing number of people searching for a societal alternative. This is accompanied by politicization among the masses. The main tendency is still the progressive change of mood that started in 2015, even if the countermeasures of the ruling powers have influenced the political climate noticeably.

The AfD got votes mainly by claiming to be a “protest party”. In reality the AfD is an ultra-reactionary, extremely anti-people party, also functioning as a gathering point of neo-fascist and other anti-human arch-reactionaries. The fact that the AfD could get a lot of votes among the broad masses has something to do with a still low class-consciousness, mixed with a general dissatisfaction and anger over the established parties.

The AfD’s main mass basis comes from a petty bourgeoisie threatened by ruin, from independent businessmen, restaurant owners, farmers, partly also backward workers, unemployed and impoverished people. Obviously, the ruling powers are looking for an effective counterforce and method against the growing discontent of the masses and their search for a societal alternative. The shift to the right by the Merkel/Gabriel government has played a crucial role in the AfD’s current electoral successes. There is no TV talk show now without leading representatives of the AfD being allowed to speak completely unimpeded to an audience of millions, spreading their racist, xenophobic and islamophobic demagogy. It is also interesting that great parts of the donations for the AfD are coming from smaller monopolies like the engineering company SMS Group or the Hamburg shipping company Folkard Edler. The non-monopolized bourgeoisie or those monopolies that do not belong to solely ruling finance capital strive for a nationalization of the economy and thereby try to avoid international competition, which they feel unable to cope with. That is why they are against a too extensive opening of the markets, against the EU and other forms that solely ruling international finance capital has created.

The social polarization undermines the mass basis of the grand coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD and their long “proven” system of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking. In some polls the SPD has already dropped to less than the historical mark of 20%. In a survey of May, more than two-thirds of the population declared that Angela Merkel – for years the most popular among German politicians – should not be chancellor anymore after the next federal elections.

We have to be vigilant towards the fascist and racist tendencies. However, we should not be taken in by the theory of a shift to the right, which seeks to make the population responsible for the government's shift to the right.

 

On an international level, too, we can observe how bourgeois governments or parties shift to the right or pursue a definite fascization of the state apparatus. How is that to be assessed?

In the presidential elections in Austria we could witness how an ultra-reactionary, proto-fascist party like the “Freedom Party of Austria” (FPÖ) could become the strongest party. In the run-off election they only narrowly lost against the Green presidential candidate van der Bellen. Nevertheless, their candidate Hofer received 49.7 per cent of the votes. Also in Turkey and in Russia we can see a drastic fascization of the state apparatus and of government policy. There is a downright hunt on progressive people and revolutionaries; democratic rights are severely restricted; the press has been put under state control, and massive repressive measures are taken against the population. In Russia there is now only a very limited right to demonstrate, and any opposition against Vladimir Putin is oppressed. In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has lifted the parliamentary immunity of almost all representatives of the electoral alliance of the Kurds and the progressive and revolutionary left wing in Turkey, the HDP – in order to be able to openly prosecute and incapacitate them. Donald Trump, an ultra-right-wing proto-fascist billionaire, is the presidential candidate for the Republicans for the next elections in the USA, and in India the Hindu-fascist Narendra Modi won the elections in 2014. Also within Europe there are ultra-right-wing, proto-fascist tendencies in Poland, Hungary, Macedonia and Slovakia. All this shows that with the crisis of imperialism the external and internal reaction comes to light more and more openly.

This development surely intimidates the masses to a certain extent, but on the other hand, it is also an eye-opener, showing the real character of the social system and making them receptive to Marxist-Leninist persuasive efforts for genuine socialism. This, in the end, is what really counts, if there are revolutionary working-class parties which understand how to make use of this situation.

 

In the last interview you assessed that the MLPD is starting to grow into a new societal role. Has this tendency continued?

There are more and more situations arising in Germany in which only the Marxist-Leninists are able to lead the progressive, revolutionary pole of the polarization in Germany. For instance, it was only the Rebell and the MLPD who could oppose a fascist concert in the city of Hildburghausen with active resistance. Crucial forces among the Left Party or the autonomist movement capitulated in the face of an anti-fascist demonstration and even publicly warned against it.

In the municipal elections in Hesse the überparteilich (non-party-affiliated) electoral alliance “AUF Kassel” gained almost 30% of the votes in the district Rothenditmold. The well-known Marxist-Leninist Hans Roth achieved the best individual result and was even elected later as local municipal administrator. This election result cannot be explained only with a better rank-and-file work and stronger ties to the population in Kassel, but is an expression of a general change of mood. Wherever the masses see a clear left-wing alternative, they are willing to support alliances in which the MLPD is working, despite anti-communist reservations.

Especially in self-organized and union-organized strikes during the last months, in some cases workers explicitly asked for the support of the MLPD and its representatives, because they lost their trust in the union leadership and its class collaboration policy. This new societal role above all means to be at the vanguard of the anti-fascist struggle, at the vanguard of the fight for a social alternative, at the vanguard of the struggles of the working class and the militant women, as well as the militant environmental movement – and that we are also capable of doing so. Surely this is a particular challenge for our comrades, who up to now are often only used to working with commitment in the different movements, but not to taking the lead responsibly. In the end the trust in the party, in the masses and their fighting ability is the decisive point whether this leading role will be accepted and accomplished.

 

By closing the Balkan route, increasing military measures against the streams of refugees from Africa and making a deal with the Erdoğan regime, the Merkel/Gabriel government achieved that the stream of refugees coming to Germany has clearly decreased. Does that mean that the crisis of bourgeois refugee policy is over?

Although there are indeed fewer refugees coming to Germany and Europe because of all these measures, there is not a single refugee less worldwide. It certainly will take some time for the refugees to find new ways to come to Europe, but the problem will not get better in future, but worse. Because the reasons to flee – wars, environmental catastrophes, social misery and repression – are increasing. We can see more and more clearly what inhumane measures are employed against refugees at the borders – this has already led to an active resistance of the people in refugee camps in Greece. The German government is further dismantling the right of asylum, and with its new integration legislation wants to degrade asylum seekers and refugees to second- and third-class citizens. We resolutely reject this discrimination. It has absolutely nothing to do with a dignified behavior towards refugees. We are proletarian internationalists! We stand for the unification of the working class worldwide; we stand firmly at the side of all oppressed worldwide. The refugees have fled from their countries because they cannot go on living in the old way anymore, and the ruling powers are not able to receive them in dignity. This leads to a situation of political crisis and is also an important basis for the refugees’ politicization. We have to win them over to fight for their social rights and finally to join the struggle for a societal alternative and the international revolution.

The crisis of bourgeois refugee policy remains the government’s Achilles’ heel that we have to use to encourage people to get active against the government.

The reactionary character of German imperialism becomes more and more evident because of its refugee policy and is not accepted by the people. So we find ourselves in a situation of obvious change – a situation in which we as Marxist-Leninists are especially challenged.

 

How do you explain that VW is not able to come to grips with its crisis?

As long as the Volkswagen Group was a monopoly that was merged primarily with the German national state, which could protect it effectively against the interference of its competitors, such criminal schemes like the diesel emissions manipulation could be organized quietly and without bigger problems. Government, state agencies and the right-wing trade union leadership covered up for them or integrated them into their systems of deception. This, however, does not work so easily anymore due to the full-blown competitive struggle among the international supermonopolies on the foundation of the reorganization of international production.

Such criminal schemes, not unusual in such supermonopolies, meanwhile repeatedly fail due to the contradiction between the internationalized mode of production and the national-state character of the state-monopoly structures.

Currently more and more is coming to light how other international supermonopolies like the Deutsche Bank or the Commerzbank are also disregarding prevailing law or aligning it to their requirements. The disclosures of the “Panama papers” are evidence of the state toleration of a law firm which, like the Panamanian Mossack Fonseca, has set up more than 200,000 letterbox companies. That allows banks, politicians and corporations to evade billions in taxes and do business to expand their position of power. The growing contradictions, all the way up to mass protests against TTIP, show that the masses less and less approve of the fact that solely ruling international finance capital is establishing its power over the whole society more and more ruthlessly.

 

What does the MLPD intend to do in view of the criminal schemes of VW?

From the very beginning the MLPD declared that, firstly, the criminal fraud of VW's top management has to be cleared up without compromise. It was ridiculous that in the first statement of the Supervisory Board the former metalworkers' union head Berthold Huber already declared that Martin Winterkorn had nothing to do with the whole matter – even before anything had been investigated. From the very first minute those primarily responsible were to be acquitted of all blame.

Secondly, comprehensive resistance must be organized against shifting the burden of crisis to the workers and the masses by the VW group. This includes the limitation of bonus payments to the blue- and white-collar workers, but also the reduction of jobs especially among the temporary workers. It also includes the missing tax payments of VW to the community, which could lead to painful cutbacks of municipal, social and ecological obligations.

The MLPD published a booklet about VW to convey a class viewpoint on all these occurrences to the workers. The anger of the VW staff unloaded during the bargaining round on 11 May, when 61,000 VW employees participated in warning strikes. Not only did they demonstrate for the demand for a five-percent wage increase. They were also outraged that, shortly before, the Board of Management and the Supervisory Board had absolved themselves of all blame and even approved high bonus payments for themselves. To take the sting out of discontent, in mid-May the VW Board of Management conceded payment of a profit share amounting to 3,950 euros to all employees covered by the collective agreements. But that does not solve the problem.

We have to develop organizational forms of active resistance against these machinations of the VW Group. Here it is particularly important that our factory party groups and neighborhood party groups take the initiative. Such resistance cannot be expected from the reformist trade-union leaders and works councils. From the very beginning they opted for a policy of class collaboration and blathered about the “VW family” which would have to “stick together” now. That is completely out of the question! The responsibility for these criminal schemes lies with the top management and the Supervisory Board – and also with the supporting Federal Government and the Land government in Lower Saxony. These have to be called to account accordingly and prosecuted if necessary.

 

The 2nd Rebellious Music Festival took place in Truckenthal at Whitsun. What was special about this event and what did it achieve?

In the middle of the societal polarization, the festival became an event of the militant left, anti-fascist and internationalist direction among the youth. More than 200 bands applied, powered by the need to support a “festival of upright conduct” in these times, as one band put it.

With the struggle against the fascist concert in Hildburghausen one week earlier, as well as the proletarian refugee policy, the festival became much more politicized than two years ago. Most of the enthusiasm at this festival resulted from this politicization.

The progressive culture of the festival combined with the rebellious, anti-fascist spirit and the struggle for democratic rights and freedoms of the refugees. The evening events made a strong impression on the participants, for example when musicians and revolutionaries from the “Arab Spring” in Egypt and Tunisia were on stage together with revolutionaries from Germany. Or when on Sunday the Solidarity Pact between the ICOR and the Kurdish liberation struggle found its echo in a cooperation between the well-known Kurdish music group Koma Berxwedan and the rebellious band Gehörwäsche. The whole festival with its 1,600 participants was pervaded by a revolutionary and internationalist atmosphere.

Comrades of the MLPD actively supported this festival, contributed their know-how, proletarian discipline and dedication to the self-organization of the festival. Without them it certainly would not have been possible in that quality!

The youth league Rebell has made a name for itself with these activities and is offering an orientation for more and more young people. It is heartening that quite a number of young people – partly as a whole group – have organized in Rebell. This shows what attraction revolutionary and Marxist-Leninist positions can develop today among young people, especially among young refugees!

The Rebell summer camp will be the next highlight with which we have to further develop and try out this kind of work. I expect considerable progress in realizing the Marxist-Leninist work among youth as mass tactics of party building.

 

In its preparation of the party congress, the MLPD has advanced the thesis that a number of new-imperialist countries are developing. How does the discussion stand? How was this received by the rank and file?

This thesis is largely unified among the rank and file of the MLPD. Of course, further analyses have to be made on this. In the international Marxist-Leninist and working-class movement, however, this thesis is shared to date by only a few organizations.

We assume that the transformation of former neo-colonially dependent countries into new-imperialist countries represents a new phenomenon of the imperialist world system in the framework of the reorganization of international production. Without this assessment you cannot explain today the several hotbeds of war, as in Iraq or in Syria, the growing ecological crisis or the course of the world economic and financial crisis of 2008–2014.

The new-imperialist countries evolved rapidly when international finance capital changed its investment policy since the turn of the millennium. At a quickening pace it flooded mainly densely populated neo-colonially dependent countries with gigantic capital exports. With the privatization of state institutions and enterprises and the accelerated transformation of the peasant agriculture into industrial production, private and national monopolies emerged there from the national big bourgeoisie. With monopolization and the development of state-monopoly structures, the transformation into new-imperialist countries begins. This mainly applies to the so-called BRICS and MIST1 countries, but also to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Especially from the so-called BRICS and MIST countries, some big monopolies even moved up into the ranks of solely ruling international finance capital. The number of supermonopolies from the BRICS and MIST countries in the circle of the 500 most powerful monopolies of the world quadrupled, from 32 in 2000 to 140 in 2014.2 The biggest boost to the formation of new-imperialist countries came from the world economic and financial crisis of 2008–2014, when solely ruling international finance capital flooded these countries with gigantic amounts of surplus capital to maneuver itself out of the crisis and thus to solve the problem of the chronic overaccumulation of capital. The BRICS and MIST countries' share of worldwide industrial value creation doubled from 17 percent in 2000 to 34.9 percent in 2014.3 The G20 summit on 15/16 November 2008, the first summit immediately after the beginning of the world economic and financial crisis, already had to take this into account. Along with the old, bigger imperialist powers, the heads of government and state from China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, South Korea, Indonesia, Argentina and South Africa had a seat at the table. They had moved up into the circle of the representatives of solely ruling international finance capital and the leading imperialist powers.

As I said above, mainly an international debate has flared up on this assessment of the MLPD. For instance, regarding the new-imperialist character of Turkey, for example, the objection is raised that “no independent monopolies” exist there. These were in the hands of foreign capital and the Turkish state could “not act politically independently”.

Already in 2014, of the biggest monopolies in Germany, listed in the DAX, 56 percent4 were also in the hands of foreign finance capital. However, nobody would seriously claim that Germany is not an imperialist country! Today no imperialist country, not even the remaining superpower USA, can act politically absolutely “independently”, without imperialist allies. The reality of imperialism today has become much more complex and does not fit into the concept of dogmatic answers.

Another objection is that countries like Qatar or Saudi Arabia “hardly have an advanced production base of their own”. Indeed, it is typical for solely ruling international finance capital not to obtain its maximum profits primarily from its own national production base, but from its international investments and its subsidiaries. Qatar holds a 17 percent share in VW and thus is without doubt owner of monopoly capital. How else should a monopoly capitalist be defined? With about 400 billion US dollars in revenues in 2013, the Saudi Arabian oil company Aramco has already moved up to become one of the six most powerful supermonopolies of the world. Saudi Arabia with Aramco and its estimated value of two trillion US dollars is now pushing toward the biggest stock market flotation in history.

The special feature of some of these countries is that they have a feudal political structure. But this is not crucial for their imperialist character. This also applied to imperialist Russia during the reign of the tsars. There we also were dealing with a feudal tsarist superstructure, but the economic base of imperialism had already reached such an advanced stage through the monopolization in industry and trade that tsarism pushed for international expansion.

The new-imperialist countries pursue independent expansionist interests, partly in an aggressive way. They are leaders in the aggressive buildup of military apparatuses. With about 1.3 million soldiers, India's army meanwhile has the strength of the biggest NATO army USA. The troop strength of China is about 2.3 million, of Turkey about 830,000, of South Korea 687,000.5

With chauvinism and nationalism the new-imperialist countries justify their imperialist claims. It does not suffice to describe their governments and rulers like Narendra Modi in India, Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, Jacob Zuma in South Africa or Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey as “autocratic puppets of the US”. Often ultra-reactionary or proto-fascist, they represent exactly the type of government which new-imperialist countries need to enforce their claim to power at home and abroad.

The willful destruction of the unity of humanity and nature is being pushed aggressively by the new-imperialist countries. Protected by the nimbus of allegedly being “developing countries”, China, India, South Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey pushed up their share of the worldwide CO2 emissions from 29.5 percent in 2000 to 45.3 percent in 2013.6

We know from history that new imperialist countries always have prepared global political changes. German imperialism, newly emerged at the end of the 19th century, started two world wars. The present multipolarity of imperialism aggravates the general danger of war. The solution of the Syrian conflict has failed so far because of the very different imperialist power interests of the various participants. It is therefore not enough for Russia and the US to reach an agreement. The new-imperialist countries Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Iran are aggressive warmongers in this process and are using Islamist-fascistic mercenaries to expand their regional hegemony in the Middle East. Of course, the classic imperialist powers do not disappear due to the rise of new-imperialist countries. So inter-imperialist rivalry is intensifying into a general danger of war in a growing number of hot spots.

The correct qualification of the character of the particular state is of fundamental significance for the respective proletarian strategy and tactics of the international socialist revolution. Despite all the destructive forces that this worldwide imperialist tendency is generating – at the same time the forces of the international socialist revolution are increasing because of the growing and merging of the international industrial proletariat and the rebellion of ever broader sections of the masses against imperialism.

 

The MLPD is currently preparing its 10th Party Congress. Is there really enough time for that in the face of so many tasks?

The struggle to occupy the new societal role of the MLPD is inconceivable without the boost of awareness which we are striving for with the 10th Party Congress. The recent months of preparing the party congress have been especially characterized by a great ideological-political initiative of our party rank and file. Nearly 3,100 motions of the rank and file were received on the drafts of the Central Committee for the work report and the revised party program. Via their own group and the local delegates' conference, each member had the opportunity to contribute to the advances in knowledge. In the process, the party has fought for increasingly finer, dialectical qualifications of new appearances and essential changes in society and in the consciousness of the masses. With the many motions, or the preparation of interventions, it additionally creates a more and more differentiated and comprehensive picture of how our system of rank-and-file work and leadership work has to function today. Without all this, it would be unimaginable that the MLPD could position itself so clearly in the social polarization and take over its leading role. This process also gives the lie to modern anticommunism, which reinterprets democratic centralism as a top-down, bureaucratic, administrative monster. This process cannot be compared with the party congresses of bourgeois parties. The MLPD distinguishes itself through great initiative, independent thinking, an achieved cohesion and conviction. It is particularly encouraging that despite the intensive ideological-political work at the rank-and-file level, the party took no steps back in regard to its practical responsibility in class struggle – on the contrary! The MLPD has gained more influence and new allies and could break through the relative isolation on various occasions. All this is manifested in a positive membership trend and also in successes in our financial policy. Projects like the healthcare center in Kobanê and the “House of Solidarity” have been financed essentially from mass work – and at the same time, the financial strengthening of the MLPD was successful. In 2015 alone, the MLPD and its youth league Rebell collected small and single donations amounting to 1.8 million euros for the different aspects of work!

 

How has the criticism and self-criticism campaign for the 10th Party Congress developed up till now?

In the first phase of the preparation of the party congress the Central Committee elaborated the draft of the report and the draft of the reworked party program. In a second phase of eight months the party rank and file dealt with these documents, formulated motions for them and proposed their delegates and candidates for the central bodies.

The present third phase of the preparation of the party congress mainly serves the immediate preparation of the party congress by the central bodies and the elected delegates. It is a phase in which decisions and the in-depth discussion of the ideological-political questions that have arisen have particular importance. Part of this is to evaluate the discussion among the rank and file and draw conclusions from that. A self-evident part of the preparation of the party congress is the work of the entire party in continuing our criticism and self-criticism campaign as a struggle for the MLPD's new role in society.

As an important ideological-political advancement of knowledge, in recent weeks and months the party has acquired a deeper understanding of the dialectical relation between the objective and subjective factors. In the past there was often a tendency to put these two factors of class struggle next to each other and not to understand their fundamental relationship. The objective aspect of the class struggle constitutes the decisive basis for the subjective development. At the same time, the subjective development is dependent on the objective development being consciously assimilated and comprehended – and the correct conclusions being drawn.

Thus, in the last year the basis for our successful proletarian refugee policy was that we understood that the bourgeois refugee policy is in a deep crisis and, at the same time, a new potential for the revolutionization of the masses has arisen with the influx of refugees to Europe. With this advancement in our knowledge and work we have started to grow into a new role in society and could strengthen our forces considerably. This, on the other hand, exerts influence on the objective factor.

This advance in knowledge about the unity of the objective and subjective factors will become even more important in the future. Because the crisis-ridden development of imperialism is always creating new situations in which the masses are no longer willing to live in the old way and those in power can no longer rule in the old way. In such situations the revolutionary party as the vanguard has to be capable of analyzing the new developments exactly and elaborating the correct strategy and tactics and the tasks.

 

You talk about an offensive of world outlook. How must this be understood?

The general crisis-proneness of capitalism intensifies the search for a social alternative and promotes the openness to genuine socialism. People are becoming more political and posing more questions about the background, interrelations and fundamental solutions.

They cannot get such answers from the bourgeois parties. On the contrary, more and more people are turning away from them. In current opinion polls about one third of the voters have declared that they have no idea whom they should vote for.

The Central Committee has ascertained that we are still insufficiently prepared for the ideological offensive necessary for that. Even though there are a number of excellent initiatives and means for that: the treasure of our Marxist-Leninist literature, films, or our new magazine Rote Fahne. The MLPD also participated in commemorations for revolutionary uprisings like that of the Red Ruhr Army in 1920. But also joint celebrations on the occasion of birthdays or anniversaries as well as dignified commemorations are more and more becoming important ideological events. Nevertheless, a disregard for work in the field of world outlook still exists.

In order to make decisions for a revolutionary life, to be organized lastingly, the deeper ideological questions have to be clarified. To put it short: You have to be really convinced! The core of the problem still is to come to grips with modern anticommunism. The films of the MLPD on the classics of Marxism-Leninism that have been brought out up to now, on the Holy Alliance to Exorcise Communism and Karl Marx, have a great importance in this situation. The film events conducted up to now have tremendously inspired the visitors to give deeper thought to the issue.

The offensive of world outlook, however, has to interpenetrate mainly with all the tasks and daily work. In order to further prepare the party for that theoretically, the Central Committee is working on the new edition of the series Revolutionärer Weg with the title: The Crisis of Bourgeois Ideology, and the Doctrine of the Mode of Thinking. As Karl Marx said appropriately: “Once the interconnection is grasped, all theoretical belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions collapses before their collapse in practice.”7 This book will be a preliminary ideological battle for a new upswing in the struggle for genuine socialism. The work on this book is accompanied by further developing our understanding of the propagation and firm establishment of the proletarian ideology and the doctrine of the mode of thinking.

In addition, we have started work on a book entitled Biographical Reflections of the MLPD on the Role of Stalin. It is not a further biography of Stalin, but about the struggle over the mode of thinking regarding the most important questions of the international revolutionary and working-class movement which have been raised in the evaluation of Stalin. The basic orientation is, of course, that we defend the lifework of Stalin against all attacks of modern anticommunism. At the same time, we nevertheless have to learn from both the achievements and the mistakes of Stalin, which also includes a critical reflection.

We also expect from this book that new insights from the partially opened archives will enter into these reflections and that especially young comrades will learn more ideologically. The last central work in this field was the reworking of the party program. This was not about writing a new program, but about consciously taking up the progress of knowledge which the party has made since the reworking of the last party program in the 1990s. This activity was at the same time an important ideological-political training for the entire party and made it clear that in future we have to work much more with the party program. The Central Committee therefore proposes to intensify work with this program in the future with a larger number of copies that are less expensive and to use it broadly in the federal elections in 2017.

 

The 2nd World Women's Conference of grassroots women in Kathmandu, Nepal, had to be fought through against numerous obstacles. How did it accomplish its goals in your view?

The 2nd World Women's Conference embodies a milestone in the new quality of proletarian internationalism. Its success is based mainly on the solidarity of ICOR, and of ICOR representatives who are internationally acknowledged in the international women's movement, with the many and various women leaders, movements and organizations of the worldwide militant women's movement. This “axis” has contributed essentially to the fact that meanwhile 61 countries are involved in the process of the world women. The women speak rightly of a movement “of the world women” that is deeply rooted in the relevant movements and organizations of the grassroots women.

An important basis for the success of the conference was that in Nepal nine women's organizations from various progressive, revolutionary and Marxist-Leninist parties united to form the United Women's Alliance (UWA) in order to prepare the world meeting together. Against the background of the great fragmentation of the revolutionary organizations in Nepal, this is an important victory – a signal that the fragmentation can be overcome! The World Women's Conference could be prepared based on a broad militant women's movement in Nepal and among the masses of women. This was an important advance compared to the successful first conference in Caracas in 2011. The World Women's Conference is really a success achieved in struggle, despite the horrible earthquake and against the trade blockade imposed on Nepal by the reactionary Indian Modi government.

It is important to extend the international degree of organization which was apparent at the World Women's Conference – and to overcome the discrepancy between this and the fact that in Germany the women's organizations have not gained in strength correspondingly. Today we can assume that the trump cards of the consolidated work of the militant women's movement in Germany meet a women's consciousness awakening on a broad front.

The militant women's movement in Germany unequivocally declared its position against racism and sexism in the face of the cheap propaganda of the government against refugees after the attacks on New Year's Eve in Cologne. With 14,000 women, significantly more women participated in militant, internationalist rallies and demonstrations on International Women's Day on 8 March 2016.

 

The Rote Fahne has dealt with the El Nino phenomenon8 lately – especially in one issue. What importance does this have for the evaluation of the development of the environmental catastrophe?

The appearance of the El Nino phenomenon about every two to seven years is a natural fluctuation in the interaction of the circulation systems of the atmosphere and the Pacific. At the same time, as an expression of the accelerated transition to a global environmental catastrophe, global warming is changing the ocean currents and the direction of wind currents. This reinforces El Nino, which in turn reinforces the global environmental crisis. This has tremendous repercussions in almost all parts of the world. In East Africa the worst famine in 30 years has been caused by that. The worldwide coral bleaching, a record warming of the oceans, the continuing melting of the polar ice etc. have been accelerated. The strongest hurricane up to now, Patricia, on the western coast of Mexico in October 2015, emerged against this background as well. 2015 was again the warmest year since the beginning of recordings. The speed of the rise of the emissions of greenhouse gases exceeds the speed of the natural changes of the last 65 million years by ten times. This gives rise to a unique condition in the evolution of the Earth.

From Bangladesh alone, 20 million people will have to flee within the next ten years for ecological reasons. Thus the MLPD is quite right with its analysis in the book Catastrophe Alert! What is To Be Done Against the Willful Destruction of the Unity of Humanity and Nature? Namely that the struggle to save the environment has to be waged against the profit system.

 

On the 1st of July 2016 you will be retiring from the responsibility of ICOR as international main coordinator. How do you take stock of that?

All my life I have only assumed a function if I could perform it with the necessary quality and to the necessary extent. While I have no acute illnesses, the state of my health now limits the scope of my activities to such an extent that I have to give up various tasks. For this reason I asked the Central Committee of the MLPD last year to release me from this task and to propose a successor in accordance with the statute of ICOR. The Central Committee then decided to nominate Monika Gärtner-Engel for this main coordination. She has excellent qualifications for that. The International Coordinating Committee (ICC) of ICOR has respected my decision and unanimously welcomed the decision of the MLPD. Meanwhile we have received dozens of letters from home and abroad expressing appreciation for the work until now and regarding this change above all as an opportunity to assume more responsibility oneself.

I retire from this function with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I have worked for nine years on the construction of ICOR in a leading position. I developed the idea for it, mobilized parties and organizations for it intensively, and also during the last six years in my work as international main coordinator left my mark of a style in which trust and confidence were built up. At the same time, the construction of ICOR has meanwhile been consolidated enough that it no longer depends on me working personally in a leading position. ICOR meanwhile has 49 member parties and organizations from 39 countries.

Since the beginning of the year, ICOR could welcome two new member organizations from Togo and Egypt. The meeting of the ICC in January established a new social relevancy of ICOR. A basic idea of its foundation was that never again should a liberation struggle suffer defeat because of lacking international solidarity. The Solidarity Pact with the Kurdish liberation struggle was the crucial and most successful test up to now – and the ICOR mastered that excellently. This not only prevented the Kurdish liberation struggle from being isolated. More and more Kurdish comrades regard their place in thinking, feeling and acting to be on the side of the international revolutionary and working-class movement. The growing international trust and fraternization are great goods. They also enable us to continue the discussion on controversial ideological-political questions in a spirit of solidarity. This is a great advance if you consider that ICOR unites revolutionary parties and organizations with very different histories and conditions. However, the meeting also realized that the growing role of ICOR in world politics is in contradiction to the fact that the continental structures do not yet have the ability to act which is necessary today, but especially in the future. The real practical coordination and cooperation in party building and class struggle is the main yardstick of the new stage of proletarian internationalism. Today this has to be organized mainly on the continental and regional level.

 

In the last year ICOR experienced an upswing. Which tasks does it intend to take on?

The ICC of ICOR took a series of forward-looking decisions, for example on the campaign for the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution or for building up the “Friends of ICOR”. 2017 will be the year of the campaign “100 years October Revolution”. It is all about the commemoration of the revolution “which not only changed Russia, but the world. … ICOR will pay tribute to the Socialist October Revolution in keeping with its universality and relevance to the present....

The campaign will last from 1 January to 7 November 2017. In view of the growing potential for a revolutionary world crisis it will set an unmissable global signal for the upswing in the international revolutionary and Marxist-Leninist and working-class movement and the necessity of revolutionary parties. The activities will focus on getting ICOR firmly established and organizing and financially strengthening its member organizations. In Germany we intend to collect donations of 750,000 euros, 10 percent of which will go to ICOR. In addition, we aim at gaining opinion leadership in the struggle for a socialist perspective in the mass debate that can be expected around this anniversary.

For this an international theoretical seminar on the lessons of the October Revolution will be taking place in Germany, followed by a public cultural mass meeting. ICOR delegations from all continents will participate in the traditional ceremonies in Saint Petersburg on 7th November with a demonstration on the occasion of the 100th anniversary.

The ICC also presented the proposal to the ICOR organizations to build up “Friends of ICOR”. ICOR is known to be a member organization of revolutionary parties and organizations. At the same time, interest in ICOR is growing among groups and individuals who do not belong to member organizations of ICOR. This is often combined with questions on how one can support ICOR without being a member of an ICOR party. In countries which have no ICOR organization up to now this will make it possible for ICOR to manifest itself and for the friends of ICOR to become the nucleus of new revolutionary parties. In those countries where ICOR organizations exist, like the MLPD in Germany, the “Friends of ICOR” can do important support work.

In the past years ICOR has also guaranteed and given fresh impetus for important associations not affiliated to a party. After the World Peasant Conference in June 2016 in Nepal, the second International Miners' Conference will be taking place in India in February 2017. It will be adopting a practical program of the worldwide militant miners' movement. The international miners' movement is a pioneer in combining the struggle for jobs with the struggle to save the natural environment.

 

What is the MLPD planning to do?

Already this year, but mainly in 2017, the offensive for genuine socialism and against modern anticommunism will be playing a particular role in connection with the participation in the federal elections. The politicized mood among the population must be made use of, and the advances achieved in the past years must be brought to bear. Thus, an alliance of progressive, militant and revolutionary forces has already been formed, which is preparing a closer cooperation, also for the federal elections in 2017. It is important that the revolutionary, internationalist and radical left join forces and constitute a clear revolutionary pole against the ultra-reactionary bourgeois parties. The Left Party is not capable of a real polarization against the shift to the right of the government, because it has an eye on participation in the government. The alliance is also related to local cooperation, which, as yet, often takes place sporadically with single activities. In this sense our past method of voter action groups will be extended to meetings of the alliance that include all forces of the revolutionary left, progressive migrant organizations and individual persons who want to collaborate in them. By this association we hope to realize a significant strengthening of the revolutionary potential in Germany.

Another important task in the coming years will be to advance the change of generations within the MLPD. This applies to all levels of our party, which have to conduct it by means of intensive training and educational work. This has to be accompanied by courageously promoting young comrades in new tasks. We must especially promote all comrades who have surpassed themselves in the societal polarization during the last months, who took the lead in the complicated debates and struggles, courageously showed backbone and demonstrated great commitment in our revolutionary rank-and-file work.

 

Thank you very much!

1BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa; MIST: Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey

2Fortune Global 500 – own calculation GSA

3World Bank, World Development Indicators, figures on industrial value creation – own calculation GSA

4Ernst & Young GmbH Wirtschaftsprüfungsgesellschaft www.ey.com/de

5NATO Press Release 10 Mar 2011 and 22 Jun 2015 and Austrian Armed Forces www.bundesheer.at

6IEA; www.globalcarbonatlas.org

7Marx to Kugelmann, July 11, 1868, in Marx/Engels, Selected Works in three volumes, Vol. 2, p. 419

8Rote Fahne, No. 5, 2016

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