August 4, 1998: Setting the course for the year 2000

Interview with Stefan Engel, chairman of the MLPD

stefan-engel.jpgRed Flag: The MLPD began its street election campaign at the beginning of August. What can be expected?

Stefan Engel: The political offensive of the MLPD in connection with the national elections has already been going on for several months. 15, 000 signatures in support of the registration for the election were collected at first. All candidates as well as the federal state lists of the MLPD/open list have now been admitted. Another main focus has been the building of the voter action groups. Now we are beginning with the offensive street election campaign, which, in essence, is nothing else than a struggle for the mode of thinking on a massive scale. We are demonstrating, discussing, singing, dancing, eating, drinking, hanging up posters, designing billboards, going from door to door and with these activities we are organizing more and more people for the new opposition. With our program and the style of our election campaign we are, of course, swimming against the tide of bourgeois parliamentarism. The clearer our outline, our arguments, our agitation and propaganda, as well as our organizational work are, the more we can achieve success with our proletarian parliamentarism against this tide!

Red Flag: Proletarian parliamentarism - an unusual term! The proletarian road just does not go by way of parliament.

Stefan Engel: Proletarian parliamentarism takes into account that the broad masses of working people still regard elections as the most important opportunity for political activity. It makes use of the politicized atmosphere of the election campaign for the attack against the petty-bourgeois-parliamentary mode of thinking. The bourgeois parties want the masses to accept that representatives take control of their destinies. We want the masses to act on their own and stand up against the Kohl-government, but also against the useless old opposition as well as against the entire style of the corrupt, arrogant and anti-labor policy.

The successful building of the voter action groups as the most important independent activity in connection with the election campaign represents this direction.

Up to now, about 2000 people are organized in the voter action groups in support of the 41 direct candidates - people without party affiliation, members of various parties and nationalities, people between 6 and 90 years old, from the actress to the skilled worker, people working in the MLPD, in the militant trade union or women's movement, MLPD-members and many others who are active in an organized way for the first time.

This composition makes it clear what kind of a new political force - and what kind of a fruitful process of learning - is being organized here.

Parliamentarism is from the start the territory of the bourgeoisie

Red Flag: What result do you expect for the MLPD from the election?

Stefan Engel: Of course, we are fighting for each and every vote in the election. But in spite of all enthusiasm, it is a fact that parliamentarism is the territory of the bourgeoisie from the start. Today we are in a position, at best, to overcome the relative isolation only at certain points. This relative isolation is brought about by the systematic policy of the media of drawing a veil over the party, by anti-communist defamation or by direct repression. For this reason we are mainly using the election to rally the forces to swing the balance of power in our favor step by step.

There is, nevertheless, no alternative to the political offensive in connection with the national election campaign. We cannot stand by idly while the monopolies, in combination with their state and the parties in Bonn, use the national elections to corrode class-consciousness. We have imposed a strict concentration of forces upon ourselves today, because we cannot guarantee an effective election campaign on a nationwide scale. This is the only way we can develop the superiority of the proletarian mode of thinking over the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking. The decisive yardstick of success will be the extent to which the new opposition will emerge from the election campaign with increased strength, attraction and a higher level of organization.

The latent political crisis has continued to deepen

Red Flag: The election campaign of the parties in Bonn could not convince anybody up to now. In 1994, a stabilization of bourgeois influence upon the masses could already be observed at this stage. What is going on now?

Stefan Engel: In spite of all the commotion about the election campaign, the latent political crisis has continued to deepen:

The in-fighting among and within the coalition parties in Bonn is marked by streaks of panic in face of the impending electoral defeat.

The aggressive anti-communism brought into play by the CDU-election campaign leadership, e.g. in the «red-hands-campaign», has backfired - even within the CDU, entire federal state and county branches refused to back it. The mass influence of CDU and CSU has reached an all-time low.

At the same time, there is growing skepticism about the SPD-alternative Schröder, especially among the industrial workers.

Even now, it is already apparent that there is no constellation of a possible election result that could solve the latent political crisis.

A continuation of the Kohl-government will meet with the rejection mainly by the working class from the very beginning.

A SPD/Green-government or a big coalition, on the other hand, constitutes the threat for the monopolies of an acceleration of the wearing out of the petty-bourgeois-parliamentary and reformist illusions.

The Greens have developed a remarkable capability of making one big mistake after the other. When Joshka Fischer in his new book «For a New Social Contract» is mainly «settling a score with the left», that unmistakably reveals which course the Greens are following. With this they come into an unsolvable conflict with their committed and militant rank and file, e.g. the environmentalists. Therefore it is not surprising that in the meantime not only the FDP, but also the Alliance 90/The Greens and the PDS are worried about their re-entry into the Federal Parliament.

Red Flag: Presently the PDS is making its mark as a socialist alternative.

Stefan Engel: As a gathering point of the petty-bourgeois left in the Federal Republic of Germany, it is objectively the task of the PDS to integrate especially the working people in the new federal states into the system of state monopoly capitalism of the FRG. Of course, it has not been lost on the PDS that the masses are increasingly becoming receptive to socialism. For this reason, it hastened to adopt the slogan of the socialist perspective in its program at its party congress for the elections. Its entire election campaign is mainly directed against the MLPD and the development of the new opposition. This became fully clear when the PDS-representative in the federal election committee was the only(!) person to abstain in the vote on the registration of the MLPD for the election, whereas she had no problems in voting for the registration of the neofascist DVU.

The associations of the capitalists change their tactics

Red Flag: During the last weeks Kohl and Schröder were quarreling fiercely over the question: who is the initiator of an alleged economic upturn.

Stefan Engel: In 1994, Kohl had also promised an economic upturn, but the result was, up to now, an official 20 per cent rise in unemployment, a decline of the general wage level to the level of 1980 and a dismantling of social services without precedent in the post war period. People have good reasons for now being skeptical about such programs. Opinion polls are demonstrating accordingly that discontent with the Kohl-government, which has reached its climax, could not be eliminated by such measures.

Even the associations of the capitalists, BDI and BDA, had to respond to this situation. The Kohl-government was their favorite. Now the employers' associations have changed their tactics. In an interview with the «Frankfurter Rundschau» from July 7, 1998 under the headline : «The economy is getting along with any government», BDA-leader Hundt made it clear that they see their program of crisis management being implemented also by an SPD-government and that they will push it through.

The propaganda of an economic upswing - whether voiced by Kohl or by Schröder - is pure manipulation.

Like in 1994, plans for job cuts are being deliberately postponed until after election day. The 45,000 «newly created» jobs since 1996 in the auto industry are, for the most part, fixed-term contracts. The short term extension of job-creation measures and wage cost grants aim at giving the impression that the trend is being reversed.

The world economy is heading for a new devastating overproduction crisis

Actually, the development of the world economy is unmistakably heading for a new devastating overproduction crisis. One year ago, on July 2, 1997, the so-called Asian crisis broke out in Thailand. The 117 billion dollars which the IMF pumped into the so-called «tiger-states» even accelerated this development rather than halting it. South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia are hit by a deep overproduction crisis.

In the capitalist model country Japan, a cyclical overproduction crisis broke out some months ago. It combines with a severe financial and monetary crisis. Bad loans are undermining the entire banking sector of Japan, which controls one third of the bank deposits in the world.

At the end of 1997, the Japanese monopolies launched a crisis program amounting to DM 100 billion. The enormous loss of purchasing power involved directly triggered the overproduction crisis. This is a new phenomenon regarding the erosion of the regulatory machinery of state monopoly capitalism. Its crisis-delaying effect will go into reverse on the basis of the continuing internationalization of production.

The IMF has completely used up its financial reserves. A large part of its emergency funds already had to be tapped for new loans for Russia. Bourgeois economists are completely helpless in view of this development. The policy of international crisis management has failed.

The fact that by now one third of the capitalist world economy is not growing any more has repercussions on all capitalist countries. The battle of annihilation of the international monopolies is taking on new dimensions against this background. The stock market records in the USA and in Europe result from the flight of capital from Asia and are only the other side of the development there. After the running-out of the self-restriction agreements next year, the Japanese automobile and electrical engineering monopolies will flood the international markets by means of their radically devalued yen.

It is exactly the great dependence of the German economy on exports accompanied by a feeble domestic demand which makes it respond to such developments extremely sensitively. The export growth rate is already decreasing noticeably. We have to assume that the FRG will be hit by a new whirl of crisis in the near future.

The masses are deeply calling into question the existing conditions

Red Flag: So there are no signs that the crisis of the capitalist system and of the government in Bonn will be overcome?

Stefan Engel: The awakening of the class consciousness on a broad front which has marked the development since the fall of 1996 could not be corroded by the monopolies up to now, despite of all their efforts. Emnid has stated that the term «reform» has become a «misused term». According to the maxim: «If we get less and have to pay more for it, that is a reform» (analysis of Emnid 1-2, 1998).The magazine «Wirtschaftswoche» 18/98 reported that only 41 per cent of the German people are prepared to make concessions to the enterprises to enhance their competitiveness.

In all our discussions we have noticed how deeply the masses are concerned about the future. These reflections lead to a profound questioning of the social conditions, while the masses don't yet see a clear alternative. The bourgeois opinion poll magnate Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann is prophesying: «Our society will soon be faced with a return to the socialist conception of freedom» («Stern»-magazine, July 30, 1998). Our comrades in the factories also report about intensive discussions on socialism and on the MLPD in the departments where they are doing a systematic work among rank and file. There it was also possible to win entire groups of fellow workers for an active participation in the voter action groups.

Undoubtedly, we are still in the first stage of class struggle, the stage without a revolutionary situation. At the same time essential characteristics which have marked this stage do not simply apply any more.

«A relative strengthening of the bourgeoisie» e.g. cannot be confirmed any more, nor «a lacking readiness of the workers to fight». This widens our tactical opportunities and we have to use these in an offensive way.

At least 14 independent strikes and militant actions have been staged since February

Red Flag: In the bourgeois press we cannot read much about workers' struggles at the moment.

Stefan Engel: The process of the ripening of the working class offensive has continued, even if it is less intense and on a smaller scale than in 1997.

Since February of this year, at least 14 independent strikes and militant actions have taken place.

Their most important features were:

concrete militant actions on the company level against the offensive of exploitation, particularly against flexibilization, wage cuts and mass lay-offs.

The strikes are taking place in the entire country, but up to now, as a rule, they involve only a few sections or departments of companies.

They are linked to the nationwide movement of the «Rotthausen-declaration» and to the movement of criticism within the trade unions against the reformist policy of class collaboration of the rightist trade union leaders.

Most of the strikes have been more or less distinguished by marked political traits owing to the intimidation of management; economic and political demands have been combined more closely, mainly since March.

Assuming responsibility for the future of the youth plays an even more important part.

There is a growing desire for platforms involving entire industries and for union.

The «Red Flag» is used for the exchange of experience and serves as a guidance for the organization of the struggles.

All strikes are organized against the strong opposition of the reformist trade union bureaucracy and have evolved from the close exchange of views with Marxist-Leninist forces.

Despite smear campaigns against the MLPD, there is a growing desire of the workers for a closer cooperation with the party.

At the same time, we are reaching only a fraction of the industrial proletariat today. This has become a main hindrance to the continuation of the working class offensive.

The initiative for a consultation of automobile workers with international participation on October 3-4, 1998, could become a focal point in the process of clarification for the working class offensive. It has set itself the task of developing a militant platform as well as permanent structures for the working class offensive in theory and practice. This is supported by the MLPD.

In addition, the MLPD must strengthen its Marxist-Leninist basis in the automobile companies. We must not be deluded by the present relative calm in most of the industrial enterprises. As long as the bourgeois election campaign is going on, the severe contradictions in the industrial companies and within the trade unions will be covered up.

After the election, irrespective of the results, these contradictions will break out sooner or later. The party must systematically prepare for this situation.

The bourgeois election campaign is not very successful among the youth

Red Flag: It seems that the election campaign has brought a lot of bourgeois politicians to throw their weight behind the youth.

Stefan Engel: I don't think they are going to be very successful with that among the youth. The federal government's attempt to keep the latest report on the situation of children and youth under lock and key has completely failed. This report documents the drastic deterioration of the material living conditions of the masses of youth in the 1990's. According to the report, 11.8% of all children and young people in West-Germany and 21.9% in East-Germany are living in poverty.

The DGB (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund: German trade union umbrella organization) figures that in 1998, one out of four applicants for an apprenticeship won't get one; that is a total of 200,000 young people. While in 1991, 13 % were unemployed after completing training, today these make up more than one fourth of this group. The reformist trade union leadership is supporting the concept of giving temporary jobs to young people after completing training in a company. This is a complete fraud because it merely postpones the problem of job destruction for a few months.

In political terms, too, the most important attacks are concentrated upon the youth. Under the pretext of fighting neofascist hooligans during the football world championships, internationally coordinated emergency exercises were organized. At the same time, real fascists are given a lot of leeway.

The so-called " young people's alliance for politics for the future" takes into account the growing dissatisfaction with the Kohl-government among the youth and their search for a social perspective. It is a project of the old opposition, together with the right-wing trade union bureaucracy, aimed directly against the rebellion of the youth and the new opposition. It culminates in a central day of action on September 19 in Frankfurt. MLPD and REBELL will appear there, but will not mobilize for it. Our rank and file work focuses mainly on other points.

REBELL and the RED FOXES - trump cards of the MLPD in the political offensive

Red Flag: How do you evaluate the development of REBELL and RED FOXES?

Stefan Engel: The youth league REBELL and the children's organization RED FOXES are real trump cards of the MLPD in the political offensive, assuming, of course, that they are really played. At the third league delegates conference of REBELL in 1996, the MLPD had assigned three main tasks for rank and file work: to orient itself toward the masses of the youth, to develop the work of the RED FOXES as one of its most important independent tasks and to develop a democratic organizational life in REBELL.

Even if REBELL has not yet fully put these tasks into practice, the children's festivals at Whitsun, the current children's and youth camps in Alt Schwerin and, last but not least, the struggle for the Initiative of REBELL in the political offensive in connection with the national election campaign all demonstrate the lively struggle for self-transformation within REBELL.

The preparation of the 4th league delegates conference of REBELL with the practical field of the political offensive in connection with the national election campaign must become the culmination of self-transformation within REBELL. The central leadership of the youth league issued its report to the members of REBELL on time. In the meantime, essential prerequisites for making a qualitative leap forward to a youth mass organization as a school of the proletarian mode of thinking have matured.

During the preparations for the league delegates conference, the MLPD must help REBELL to really make leap in the quality of its work on the basis of the proletarian mode of thinking. That goal cannot be reached merely or even mainly by a "process of discussion". It rather requires consciously organizing the dialectical unity of theory and practice during the preparations.

Nolte's new outfit does not change her reactionary women's politics

Red Flag: A short time ago Nolte, minister of women's affairs, visited Harald Schmidt (a German showmaster) , wearing a jeans jacket and T-shirt instead of her usual ruffled blouse and pleated skirt. Has the Kohl government changed its women's politics?

Stefan Engel: Nolte's modernized outfit cannot conceal the reactionary character of the government's women's politics.

Bonn's austerity program brings tremendous changes in day to day life. Social achievements are being abolished and the problems are being shifted to the family, especially to the women. This applies especially to the consequences of mass unemployment. Who assumes the responsibility when young people become unemployed directly after leaving school? Who steps in when old age homes become too expensive or inhumane? And who takes over, when the facilities for child care or free time activities for young people are rigorously cut back?

The feminists have no better concept than, once again, to identify men as their opponents and to bring about division by orienting towards a struggle of distribution between men and women for the far too few existing jobs and the moderate financial means. It is no coincidence that the starting point for a new formation of the militant women's movement on March 8, 1998, was the attack upon the reactionary politics of the Bonn government in its whole range and petty-bourgeois feminism within the women's movement.

The MLPD actively supports the idea of the second women's political consultation on November 21-22nd. The MLPD will stand up against the double exploitation and oppression of the masses of women in state monopoly capitalism and the perspective of the liberation of women in socialism and, at the same time, help to make this meeting a platform of the entire spectrum of the militant women's movement.

Theoretical omissions of the old communist movement in the women's question

Red Flag: The next number of the theoretical organ of the MLPD, REVOLUTIONARY WAY, will be devoted to the topic "Class struggle and the tasks and goals of women's liberation". Can you tell us, as the leader of the editors' collective, how the work is getting on?

Stefan Engel: The doctrine of the mode of thinking showed us the enormous significance of the way of life as a source of the struggle between the petty-bourgeois and proletarian mode of thinking. Without further developing the ideological-political line of the MLPD on time, we cannot succeed in becoming the party of the masses.

The bourgeois state leaves the fundamental contradiction in society between social production and the private capitalist appropriation unresolved. The bourgeois family order leaves the contradiction unresolved between the social production of the means of life and the private production and reproduction of human life. Today, we are experiencing a complete crisis of the bourgeois family order which adversely affects the lives of the masses more than ever before. We have to unveil the social roots for this if we want to struggle for the liberation of women.

At the beginning of our work we were confronted with a number of theoretical omissions and uncompleted discussions in the old communist movement on these questions which need clarification. Friedrich Engels' writing "The origin of the family, private property and the state" was attacked by the revisionists Bernstein and Kautsky, but was also controversial within the communist movement. Its critics upheld the world outlook of economic materialism, which had already been criticized by Marx, Engels and Lenin. Economic materialism is based on the idea that the superstructure is determined one-sidedly by the basis and it rules out the reactive effect of the superstructure. Economic materialism is part of the world-outlook of revisionism. Within the women's movement, it led to the restriction to the demand for equal rights. That is why the ideology of the bourgeois family order penetrated the communist and working-class movement more or less deeply.

We found out that there is a dialectical relation between the crisis ridden development of the capitalist mode of production and the latent crisis of the bourgeois family order. That is an essential element of the 5th phase of the general crisis, the destabilization of the capitalist system.

Red Flag: How does this comprehensive theoretical work accord with the hustle and bustle of daily events in the election campaign? Don't these come into conflict with each other?

The next party congress is being prepared

Stefan Engel: That is not so easy, especially because of the danger of being completely engulfed by day to day tasks. Therefore, we have to comprehend the perspective of party building in all its aspects. It is this view with respect to the future which, in the end, decides on whether we cope with the situation in party building and class struggle tactically. This view demands that we look ahead to the preparation of the 6th Party Congress of the MLPD in 1999. Its main task is to direct party building and class struggle towards the transition to the new millenium.

That will be the result of a thorough evaluation of all experiences made since the Solingen Party Congress. This encompasses all theoretical and practical insights from the work on the basis of the proletarian mode of thinking. At its last plenary session, the Central Committee already appointed a commission for its report and other important commissions for making preparations for the party congress. Of great importance is a commission to revise the party program, which includes, for example, the development since reunification and the working out of the doctrine of the mode of thinking.

After concluding the political offensive in connection with the national elections with a phase of thorough evaluation, we will begin this year with building up preparatory groups for the 9th International Whitsun Youth Meeting.

The MLPD is in the midst of a deep process of self-transformation

Red Flag: Those are very far reaching goals and tasks which the MLPD is taking on. Isn't it a big problem to accomplish all of this?

Stefan Engel: The work of the party and REBELL has developed excellently on the whole. We are in the midst of the deepest process of self-transformation since the founding of the party. Never before in the history of our party building have there been so many changes as within the past two years. The direction that party building and the class struggle must take are becoming clearer all the time. But to the same extent that clarity is being reached, the contradictions, hindrances and resistance which have to be overcome also become clearer. This is a challenge to the struggle between the proletarian and the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking because it is well known that those obstacles are the greatest that have to do with one's own self-transformation.

A person with courage sees self-transformation as the essence of life itself. A person who is timid gets into panic and becomes dismayed because he fears self-transformation.

The petty-bourgeois mode of thinking can only be overcome in an offensive manner because it is reproduced spontaneously from the social system of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking. The problems arising today in party building have their roots in the extent of the self-change that is necessary, in the dimension of the future development. In today's situation of the all-encompassing self-transformation of party work, every contradiction that is not solved tends toward being systematized and of taking a petty-bourgeois direction as a result. Mistakes become a real problem when principled criticism and self-criticism are evaded and petty-bourgeois ambition becomes the driving force. Today, the decisive question with respect to ambition is one's personal attitude toward self-transformation.

But, in the meantime, this process of change cannot be held up and the party has consolidated itself for setting off for the new millenium. This is also expressed by the fact that important forces from the centers of the transition to the working-class offensive, from the militant women's movement and the youth movement have become members of the MLPD.

Red Flag: Apparently the MLPD is acquiring a new significance for the masses of which it still must become aware.

Stefan Engel: This forward movement is coming into sharp contradiction with a deeply internalized view of being accustomed to gradual changes and the relative isolation of the MLPD.

Today we are experiencing that, on the basis of our agitation and propaganda, it is possible to directly initiate struggles to a certain extent and to determine the course of militant actions. The MLPD is certainly capable of acquiring a certain social significance and has become, in an organizational sense, one of the most effective forces of the left.

A real movement to master the dialectical method

Red Flag: The expectations of the masses for the MLPD make great demands on each and every member, his self-confidence and independence in orientation. How can this be accomplished?

Stefan Engel: The dialectical-materialist method is the decisive link in order to stay on course independently and really be able to gain mass influence. Today, it is important to master the dialectical method on the level of the mode of thinking. That means that every question must not only be answered theoretically from the point of view of Marxism-Leninism, but also with respect to its scientific method. Last year, a real movement to master the dialectical method emerged and became a main feature and a guarantee for the successful self-transformation of the party. The main problem is a metaphysical understanding of dialectics. That means talking about the dialectical method a lot, but hardly being able to apply it in theory and practice. The dialectical method must be aimed at finding the dialectical laws in practice, in the practically existing work of the party and in class struggle.

But it must also be taken into account that there is no development of the proletarian mode of thinking that takes place in leaps and bounds. This means that the mastering of the dialectical method is a process which takes time and energy and which cannot be artificially accelerated. But it does require strong discipline and an iron will for real self-transformation, because it calls common sense, as the way people are used to thinking, into question. Actually, no member and no member of the party leadership can afford not to take part in this movement.

The MLPD must be strengthened

Red Flag: Will the MLPD be successful in winning new forces for its future tasks?

Stefan Engel: The strengthening of the MLPD has become a link for the further development of class struggle, for the transition to the working class offensive and the development of the new opposition. Without a considerable rise in membership in the MLPD , and I am thinking about a multiplication, mass influence on a national level cannot even be imagined. Our members also need comprehensive training, qualification, accompaniment, schooling and education. In short, a type of cadre work, which qualifies the comrades for their complicated tasks which they do not learn in the capitalist society. The solution of the question of the cadres decides upon the question whether the historic opportunity for the forthcoming maturing of a historical period of transformation can be used for an upswing of the struggle for genuine socialism or not.

Only a long-range view allows us to comprehend the essence of all our daily politics. This must determine the course with which the political offensive in connection with the national elections 1998 is further developed and must lead to a substantial strengthening of the MLPD. That will get us in the right direction for the year 2000.


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