October 1, 1998: Kohl had to resign - a success of the new opposition

Interview with three members of the political leadership of the Central Committee of the MLPD (Marxist Leninist Party of Germany), Stefan Engel, Monika Gärtner and Peter Borgwardt, about the results of the national elections 1998

Red Flag: The national elections are over. Is the MLPD satisfied with the results of its election campaign?

Stefan Engel: The MLPD has set itself three major goals in this federal election campaign:

1. The Kohl government must resign! This goal has been achieved completely. The Kohl government has suffered a crushing defeat. The monopolies did not succeed in keeping their favorite government in power, despite all their bustling propaganda activities. In those places on which we focussed our street election campaign the parties in the government have irrefutably suffered losses above average.

2. Strengthening of the new opposition. This second goal has been achieved as well. The mere fact that the main slogan of the new opposition "The Kohl government must resign" has become the central slogan, but also the central argument for voting off the parties in power is an outstandingly good sign. The bourgeois parties did neither succeed in dispelling the idea of a new opposition. Struggles and demonstrations took place everywhere during the election campaign. I just remind you of the big demonstration in Düsseldorf with 12 000 participants against the cuts in the education sector by the SPD/Green government of the federal state of North Rhine Westphalia or of the big anti-fascist demonstration in Rostock. The latter made it clear just one week before the holding of the national elections that the NPD and DVU are no protest parties, but neofascist shock troops. The frank discussion raised the anti-fascist consciousness of the masses, especially of young people, and inflicted a bitter defeat on the neo-fascist parties in the federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The new opposition has undeniably scored this victory.

3. It was the intention of the MLPD to overcome at least in selective places the relative isolation and to strengthen the MLPD. Never before has the MLPD succeeded to such an extent in exerting influence on the shaping of political views as in this election. It was clear from the start that the election results can only be a relative measure of our influence. Nevertheless, it became evident that we gained a remarkable success with the first votes in some places. In 11 constituencies we could not maintain the number of first votes we received last time. In 13 constituencies the number of votes we got rose between 7 and 100 per cent as against 1994, in 17 constituencies the number was up by more than 100 per cent.

We know very well that today every vote for the MLPD presupposes a high level of class consciousness, because from the parliamentary point of view the votes for the MLPD have no immediate parliamentary effect. They can only bring about a political success regarding the rise in esteem of the party. This is the case e.g. in those places where we could score between 1 and 4.8 per cent in 24 wards as in Gelsenkirchen. Or in the constuencies of Eisenhüttenstadt, Eisenach, Sonneberg, where smaller party groups were able to gain a relatively big number of votes.

Our influence was reflected in the votes for other parties more than in those for us: It is therefore not by chance that particularly in these cities the CDU suffered heavy losses, but, on the other hand, the PDS could achieve extraordinary good results with the second votes. This relation shows that people agree with our arguments, but they think that they can only implement the policy to which they adhere by voting for a parliamentary force which can put it into practice.

Red Flag: It is the first time in the history of the FRG that a government was voted out of office. How has this been possible?

Stefan Engel: In my view, it is mainly the awakening of class consciousness on a broad front which has evolved in conjunction with the struggles against the cuts in sick pay in 1996. It was not possible to fob off the broad masses with the delusion about a new economic upswing or a turn-around on the labor market. People today did not buy this. At the same time, the SPD did hardly succeed in winning a convinced following because their arguments do not differ in essence from those of the Kohl-government. The main motive for the electoral success of the SPD was: »Kohl must be ousted!« However, this is not a sustainable basis for a backing of the SPD/Alliance 90-Green-government by the broad masses. On this basis it was possible that our persuasion work in the election campaign could have effect. Never before did we experience that people listened so intently, discussed so seriously our arguments as in the elections. This is an important starting-point for the further political development from which we have to draw adequate conclusions.

Red Flag: How will Germany be governed after the elections and which changes will there be now?

Peter Borgwardt: The bourgeois media are misleadingly writing about a »change of power«. But the power of the monopolies does still exist, only with the difference that now an SPD/Alliance 90-Green-government is taking charge.

The Greens want to enter the government as junior partners at any cost. From the point of view of the monopolies they have passed the test in the federal state of NRW. There, they smoothly fitted in with the running of the government.

At the core of the program of a Schröder/Fischer government is an anti-labor policy of the monopolies, its main method is the negatively oriented policy of class collaboration which has already been pursued until now by the rightist leadership of the SPD and the trade unions. The intented »alliance for work« is in reality an alliance for cheapening the cost of labor, that means, for an intensified exploitation in the enterprises, for further reductions in real wages, for exempting the monopolies from social contributions and for a further rise in their profits. In the last years alone this has resulted in the shedding of 2.5 million jobs in the industry alone. As before this is true for the future: new jobs can only be created by struggle, at the expense of the profits.

The old opposition is taking over the government. The PDS has announced a constructive opposition. It plays the part of being a left adjunct to the social-democratic-green government. We cannot expect a real opposition. CDU/CSU are playing the role of instigators of the implementation of the monopoly's program of crisis management.

This is the time of the new opposition as we have already predicted during the election campaign. This has never been as important as today! The working people will make their experience with the SPD in government and sooner rather than later will they be disillusioned. A resolute struggle against mass unemployment, against the dismantling of social services and depriving people of their political rights can only be waged by the new opposition with the militant working-class movement as its core.

Red Flag: It seemed that never before has there been such a feverish excitement in the run-up to the elections. What were the reasons for this?

Peter Borgwardt: The manipulation of the public opinion, especially by means of the mass media, is an integral part of bourgeois parliamentarism. What was done in this respect puts everything in the shade that we have seen up to now. People have been increasingly and artificially kept in suspense during the last two weeks by means of opinion polls predicting a »tight race« between Kohl and Schröder. Obviously this situation never existed as has been proven by the clear election results. The lie of a »tight race« mainly aimed at mobilizing undecided voters.

Such polls are a deliberately applied method in the system of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking in society and not at all objective, scientific documentations.

This was mainly directed against small parties, in particular against the MLPD. In the Ruhr district, a special campaign was launched against the »lost votes« for »extremist parties« during the last week.

A vile method of the media-based election campaign was the propagation of the lie of the neo-fascists as being »protest parties«. The PDS received an unprecedented coverage in the media. Without doing anything it was blown up as a »left« and »socialist alternative«. The censorship practiced by the media was mainly directed against the MLPD. The MLPD could be watched for about ten minutes inclusive all elections spots on nationwide TV-programs during the entire election campaign - the parties represented in the federal parliament for about 900 hours! In the press the censorship exercised by the media was complete - particularly in those areas where we conducted our best election campaigns. This censorship was most completely practiced in Gelsenkirchen where the press did not report anything about the election campaign of the MLPD even though it was the most active and conspicuous campaign of all the parties. Even the biggest election campaign meeting of the MLPD in the Hans-Sachs-House, attended by 1200 people was totally ignored.

It is no exaggeration, if we speak of a real dictatorship of the media in the interest of the monopolies and their parties.

More and more people who have learned of the MLPD in connection with its offensive street election campaign are greatly annoyed about such a practice and are no longer prepared to tolerate it. This only shows that the struggle against the manipulation by the media is more and more becoming a part of the new opposition. The legal action taken by the MLPD against three newspapers in Gelsenkirchen, the »WAZ«, »Buersche Zeitung« and »Ruhr-Nachrichten« for manipulation, censorship and obstruction of the election campaign aims at strengthening this direction.

Red Flag: If there is such a manipulation, does it make sense to participate in such elections?

Monika Gärtner: Of course, our efficiency was limited considerably by such measures. We had, however, no alternative but to conduct an election campaign under these conditions. The better our election campaign was conducted the more insolent and persistent the censorship became! Undoubtedly we could thus reach only a small minority of the voters in the FRG. But the MLPD has taken up the challenge of the censorship: the offensive street election campaign has proven that a real and inspiring impact on the masses can be achieved in complete self-reliance and based on the masses. We can say without exaggeration that we conducted the most political, most imaginative and most militant election campaign of all parties.

The voter action groups with about 3500 members altogether proved to be a very suitable form of the interaction between the self-organizations of the masses and the party. The performance of the comrades and workers in an intensive common process of learning was magnificent: 143 stalls and rallies at market places and in commercial centers; 105 activities in front of factories and rallies; 104 processions in streets with speeches, music, discussions through residential areas; about 50 000 personal talks; 102 meetings attended by 12 700 visitors; 15 709 campaign posters which were put up and had often to be replaced on grounds of the destructive rage of the neo-fascists; 45 letters of the candidates with a circulation of 170 000 copies; 150 000 distributed election programs; 19 election newspapers, 9 among them were newly edited - and a completely independently funded election campaign which in addition contributed to a permanent financial strengthening of the party!

The bourgeois parties conduct election campaigns employing large amounts of materials for the manipulation of public opinion. The proletarian parliamentarism proved to be an education for self-liberation.

The success in this election campaign was tied directly to the prerequisite of attacking the petty-bourgeois parliamentary mode of thinking and going over to the offensive with the proletarian mode of thinking. The system of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking in society makes people actually get entangled in and fettered by habits, patterns of thinking and behaviour as well as reservations. Many people e.g. believe that they know nothing about politics. They have often no confidence in themselves to play an active part, and they are accustomed to voting for some representatives acting on their behalf. Many people think that a vote for the MLPD would be a lost vote even though they often largely agree with the politics of the MLPD, because we would not take the five per cent hurdle and could not cause anything to happen immediately. In our offensive street election campaign we succeeded in breaking up these fetters of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking on a general background of the awakening of class consciousness on a broad front. This brings about - in connection with an organized activity and the Marxist-Leninist education work - a receptiveness and ability to learn, a profound consolidation of the proletarian mode of thinking. One can imagine this process as being similar to the development of a butterfly in a cocoon. Only after breaking up the constriction of the shell the butterfly is able to develop freely and fly!

Red Flag: In what respect has the MLPD and in interrelation with it the new opposition changed itself in this political offensive?

Monika Gärtner: The success in the political offensive is inseperably linked to the thoroughness of self-transformation in the systematic work among rank-and-file as well as in the work of the leadership of the MLPD. Our program of self-transformation consisted of the eight trump cards which we played at the beginning of the election campaign and all of which could score points! The camps of election campaign activists in East Germany were a new and successful method of the focused party building; in the street processions masses of new children and young people were won. Meanwhile there are 13 new groups of RED FOXES and the youth league REBELL has been considerably strengthened. The combining of the election campaign with political tasks in struggle was particularly impressive and appealing, e.g. the anti-fascist struggle in Rostock, the struggle for regular jobs for young people completing training in Solingen or the preparation of the consultation of automobile workers. However, this work can only be developed if people transform themselves. Karl Marx once said: »In revolutionary activities the self-transformation coincides with the changing of conditions.« We can say without exaggeration that not a single participant in this election campaign is the same as at the beginning! The self-transformation mainly touched on three central issues:

First on the relation with the broad masses of the people. Everybody who doubted that workers, women and young people can do something or who wanted not to be recognized as Marxist-Leninist could not effectively play a part in this political offensive. The many and small steps - like acting self-confidently, attacking bourgeois standpoints or delivering impromptu speeches - all this required a continuous development of one's own persuasiveness and of a firm confidence in the masses.

Second, the self-transformation was related to the understanding of the wide range of opportunities and responsibilites resulting from the political and economic development. The awakening of the class consciousness was the general prevailing condition for the political offensive in connection with the national elections. A deep clarity and persuasiveness could only be created if people understood, for instance, that below the surface of the propaganda of an economic upswing actually a new world economic crisis is being prepared.

Third, the self-transformation was mainly related to not only developing and spreading conclusive and concrete arguments, but also to starting immediately an organized cooperation. Only in the long-term organized cooperation between the broad masses and the Marxist-Leninists the organized force can develop which in future class conflicts will be able to oppose the monopolies and the state. In brief, a self-transformation on the basis of the proletarian mode of thinking was required in this political offensive in which the struggle for the mode of thinking of the masses was the permanent guideline for the political work. The greatest success was achieved where this task had been accomplished at best.

Red Flag: What is the development of the new opposition now?

Monika Gärtner: The new government, every kind of coalition as a new caretaker of the monopolies is already faced with scepticism. The time of an euphoric mood, like e.g. the assumption of power by Willy Brandt, belongs since long to the past. Now it is essential to consolidate and develop the process which has been started with the political offensive in connection with the national elections. The voter action groups will evaluate their work and will dissolve afterwards. Everybody who has begun political work needs a personal perspective of further organized activity in the new opposition. This ranges from the positive work in trade unions, the militant women's movement, the close relation with the MLPD as regular donor to the membership in the MLPD and REBELL.

The new opposition cannot be built in the election campaign, but in the struggles of the workers in the transition to the working-class offensive, in the militant women's movement as a link between the working-class movement and the broad masses, in the rebellion of the youth, in the international liberation struggle. It is of particular importance to consolidate the long-term organized cooperation between the party and the self-organizations of the masses. Therefore one climax of the political offensive is not the election day, but the consultation of automobile workers with international participation which will take place next weekend. Other milestones will be the consultation on women's issues on November 21/22, 1998, the national delegates' congress of the youth league REBELL in November, the International Women's Day on March 8, 1999 and especially the 9th International Whitsun Youth Meeting in 1999 in Gelsenkirchen.

Red Flag: The central committee has declared the overall strengthening of the MLPD to be the central task to advance the class struggle. How is this to be interpreted?

Peter Borgwardt: After a slow beginning the winning of new members is now gaining momentum. In the voter action groups in particular there are a number of colleagues who have gathered experiences with the MLPD in the last months. Some of them have already decided to join the party; others are still in the stage of reaching a decision. This must be actively advanced and accompanied by the groups.

We believe that we can achieve our goal of winning 25 per cent of new members by the end of the year. Regarding the membership of REBELL and especially the children's organization RED FOXES this goal can surely be surpassed. This requires not only a fast admission, but the party and the youth league have to gear themselves in good time to a fast increase in membership so as to ensure that the education and organization work does not lag behind. With regard to achieving our goal in the donation campaign we are entering the final stage. After concluding the work of the voter action groups it is realistic to win a major part of the donors who have become active there as regular donors in the future. This requires a systematic work of persuasion and of taking care of them.

In connection with the evaluation of the political offensive the party groups and leadership committees are preparing for the group meetings as well as for the county delegates' conferences; and the youth league REBELL is also preparing for its 4th national delegates' congress. This also marks the transition to the preparation of the 6th party congress of the MLPD in 1999. The CC has taken up this task already in summer. Meanwhile the comrades are working on the elaboration of the draft report to the congress; the revision of the party program is under way and the work with the theoretical organ REVOLUTIONARY WAY number 27 »The class struggle and the tasks and goals in the struggle for the liberation of women« is going on persistently.

We are still one year and a quarter away from the turn of the millenium. The MLPD seeks to undertake a demanding set of tasks by then. The successfully conducted political offensive in connection with the national elections has created an excellent basis for this task.

Red Flag: Thank you very much for this talk.

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