November 12, 2002: The Wind stands fair for the MLPD's Party Work

Interview of the "Red Flag" with Stefan Engel, chairman of the MLPD

stefan-engel.jpg Five weeks after the federal elections, the opinion polls say that meanwhile the SPD (Social-Democratic Party of Germany) immensely lost favor with the voters. Has the result of the federal elections been a chance product of the mood of the voters?

Stefan Engel: Schroeder and Fischer mainly won the elections, because the candidate of the CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union), Stoiber, provided a physical argument for voting against the CDU/CSU at any rate. Especially among the workers, Stoiber is very unpopular. He stands for an ultra-reactionary policy against foreigners in Germany, for sharp attacks on the rights and achievements of the working-class movement and for a conservative family policy which is designed to considerably restrict the achieved rights and freedoms of women. In contrast to the last federal elections, this time Schroeder and Fischer were elected with relatively few optimistic expectations.

The decisive trump card Schroeder and Fischer had played was their unambiguous declaration against an attack against Iraq. The population does not want a war and rejects the openly aggressive attitude of US-imperialism under the government of George W. Bush.

The reactions to the coalition negotiations, in particular from the camp of the employers' associations and the bourgeois media, give the impression that the Schroeder/Fischer government has made a shift to the left.

Stefan Engel: The close result in the federal elections, but also the motives of the voters to vote for the SPD and Alliance90/The Greens have, of course, limited the scope for the federal government. Therefore, the new government coalition had to make some concessions to its mass base in order to stabilize it again. By refraining from imposing a further increase of the "eco tax" after January 1, 2003, from expanding the speculation tax, introducing a minimum rate of the corporation tax and with the vague prospect of a comprehensive all-day care for children, the government sent signals designed to make up ground among the workers and the militant women and to keep them from fighting against the government.

All this cannot conceal the fact that this government will in any case perform its role as caretaker on behalf of the monopolies. This becomes evident in the "Hartz-plans," which are to impose pressure on the masses of unemployed people to accept subcontracted work on pain of a rapid impoverishment. In addition, social insurance for unemployed people will be cut, unemployment benefit will be combined with income support and the contributions for health insurance and pension schemes will be raised. Due to the crisis-prone development of the federal budget, these measures have indirectly frustrated the intention to reduce the "incidental wage costs". The health system is threatened by a further dismantling of the equal payment of contributions and a drastic cutback in the benefits for the masses of contributors. With the intended increase of the VAT, new indirect taxes are imposed on the masses at the same time, affecting especially the poorest. These plans are still strongly denied by the federal government. However, the chairman of the board of the Deutsche Bank (German Bank), Rolf Breuer, has publicly formulated the instructions to the government: On November 11, he categorically demanded: "Raise VAT now."

A massive deterioration of the wage and working conditions of the employees in the public sector - civil servants and white collar workers as well - is already being prepared. The masses are responding very sensitively to the increasing relativization of the government's position on the war against Iraq. All this will, of course, challenge the active resistance of the broad masses, and I am sure: extensive struggles will be waged.

The wage negotiations in the metal industry last spring showed that people are becoming considerably less reluctant to wage mass struggles against the government and that it is possible that the awakening class consciousness on a broad level is turning into the working-class offensive.

The donations scandal and the Moellemann affair caused serious trouble in the FDP (Free Democratic Party).

Stefan Engel: After the federal elections the latent political crisis has generally aggravated and has affected all parliamentary parties. The Green Party had to face a leadership crisis after the party congress - against the demands of the leadership - had insisted on the separation between office and mandate, thus virtually withdrawing from the party chairpersons Kuhn and Roth their authorization to continue the chairmanship. This shows that, despite the electoral victory of the Green Party, the rank and file of the party could not yet be completely won over to the course of the government.

Within the CDU/CSU a settling of scores with the failed candidate Stoiber arose as expected. The fact that Angela Merkel has taken up the chair was combined with the initiation of a strategy discussion in the two parties. The election results showed that, e.g. among women under 40, they received only 18 percent of the votes. This is a clear rejection of the family policy of the CDU/CSU that Stoiber fervently advocated during his election campaign. The social-democratization of the CDU/CSU Angela Merkel stands for is mainly the attempt to reach the potential voters of the SPD and the Green Party and, at the same time, to get prepared for a coalition variant with the Green Party.

The fact that the FDP had suffered such a setback is, in the first place, linked to the fact that it failed dismally with its project of a "new people's party" as a qualitative expansion of its mass base at the federal elections. Thanks to its undisguised support of the anti-worker demands of the employer's associations, the FDP was appropriately punished by the broad masses. This was the main cause of its election defeat, from which the blowing up of the Moellemann affair should divert attention now.

Most severely hit was the PDS. The participation in the governments of the federal states in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Berlin, but also the scandals in which Gregor Gysi was involved, who had accepted advantages, have made it clear for the voters that the transformation of the PDS into a bourgeois party has far advanced. It is the problem of the PDS that the process of its transformation into a bourgeois monopoly party is making it superfluous, because, a social-democratic party does already exist. The party congress of the PDS has prevented the open break-up of the party. However, it could not give any conclusive answers to the question of what caused the decline of the PDS and how it can be stopped. The crisis of the PDS is of a fundamental nature and will have the effect that it will further lose in importance.

Is the election setback for the PDS also a setback for the Left?

Stefan Engel: This view has been spread by the former PDS main guru Gysi in order to divert attention from the defeat of the PDS. In reality, the election defeat of the PDS indicates that the masses have become aware of the futility of achieving a fundamental change of their living and working conditions by taking the parliamentary road. At the same time, the loss of attraction of the PDS opens the way for the struggle for peace, for the protection of the natural environment, against neo-fascist terror and for the road of the working class towards the working-class offensive. Above all, the obvious weakening of the PDS paves the way for strengthening the genuine socialist alternative, represented in Germany by the MLPD. Thus, the MLPD could actually win political scope, although it did not participate in the elections but recommended an active election boycott. What matters in the near future is to use this new scope to further increase the efforts to build up the MLPD and its youth league REBELL.

The unforeseen course of the economic crisis seems to be a crucial problem of the government. According to the prognoses for next year, even the bourgeois economists are skeptical whether there will be another upswing of the economy in the foreseeable future.

Stefan Engel: I had a look at the current opinion poll "Deutschland-Trend" by Dimap-Infratest. According to it, 80 per cent of the people entitled to vote have declared that the new red-green federal government concealed from them the foreseeable extent of the financial problems before the elections in September. Not only the SPD, but all bourgeois parties were intent on deceiving the people before the elections by concealing the extent of the world economic crisis and, especially, its causes inherent in society. In the end, Schroeder and Fischer used the taboo word of Marx of the "economic crisis" in order to justify their own failure in the economic policy. However, this argumentation disappeared shortly after the elections. In reality, since the end of the year 2000, the world has been undergoing the deepest economic crisis since 1929. This is connected with the fact that this crisis takes place on the basis of the reorganization of the international capitalist production. This is expressed in some characteristic features:

  • Due to the close international interrelation, the imperialist blocks of the USA, Japan and the EU are simultaneously hit by the crisis. This makes it difficult to shift to the markets of the rivals by means of exports and other measures.
  • The overproduction crisis and the international structural crisis, which has emerged in connection with the reorganization of the international production, are interpenetrating each other. This results in an unprecedented enormous push in the destruction of capital and jobs. In Germany, it is expected that mass unemployment will reach record figures that will exceed four million according to official statistics. Even on the doubtful assumption of a beginning relative revival next year, unemployment would increase for the time being, due to the continuing structural crisis.
  • The non-monopolistic bourgeoisie has been hit especially hard by the crisis, a fact that is expressed in the rapid rise of insolvencies. The retail trade sector experiences the steepest decline in the post-war period.
  • Since April 2000, several stock-market crises occurred which were closely interrelated with the course of the world economic crisis and aggravated this crisis. The enormous losses of value amounting to several hundred billion US dollars expropriate the small investors on a mass scale. However, even the international monopolies have in part big problems with respect to their capacity to pay. This applies in particular to banks and insurance companies which have invested big parts of their capital in shares.
  • The crisis regulation by the state is being disorganized and undermined, because the measures of the nation-states are almost ineffective due to the international dimension of the crisis. At the same time, there is a lack of international instruments that are capable of assuaging the crisis of the world economy. All this is combined with gigantic financial break-downs.
  • For the first time, in this world economic crisis the international monopolies themselves are the starting point of the crisis. More than half of the 500 biggest international monopolies of the world are more or less affected by it.
  • The interrelation of structural crisis, overproduction crisis and stock-market crises has set off an international bank crisis, in which also some international monopoly banks, the power centers of international finance capital, are involved.
  • This gave rise to a convulsion of the entire financial structure of the imperialist countries and has driven some developing countries into state bankruptcy. In the imperialist countries, too, budget crises, state bankruptcies and state crisis management programs are increasing, shifting the burden of the crisis rigorously onto the masses of the people.
  • All this aggravates the latent and open political crises as a starting point for the rise of class conflicts and mass struggles against shifting the burden of the crisis on the masses.

The world economic crisis altogether is combined with a deep destabilization of the social basis of imperialism. Last but not least, the world economic crisis has also encouraged the USA and Great Britain to step up their belligerent aggression against Iraq. The main reason lies in the international competitive struggle to control the gigantic oil reserves and markets in Iraq. While Germany, France, Russia and China have signed comprehensive contracts and maintain trade relations with Iraq, Great Britain and the USA are more or less excluded from this deal for political reasons. Only a new government in Iraq that can find the favor of the USA could change the situation and secure the economic predomination of the USA. After the danger of war receded temporarily, this danger has recently increased again. The Bush government systematically prepares the attack against Iraq and authorized the Pentagon plan of action. It plans an invasion of 200,000 to 500,000 soldiers after intensive air raids. Already this week, the British government will begin to mobilize 15,000 soldiers for a ground war in Iraq. The active resistance against the growing military aggression of the imperialists becomes a permanent task.

The Central Committee of the MLPD is presently working at a new issue of the theoretical organ about the reorganization of the international production. How far has the process of knowledge advanced until now?

Stefan Engel: In the issues Nos. 29-31 of the series Revolutionärer Weg, entitled "The Reorganization of the International Production" that will appear soon, we have comprehensively analyzed the present development of state-monopoly capitalism. The reorganization of international production indeed entails all-round repercussions, which, as a result, will lead to a significant destabilization and crisis-proneness of the entire imperialist world system and will form the basis for a new upswing of the struggle for socialism! From the monopolies ruling at a national level, a stratum of international financial capital has emerged that dominates the whole world market and increasingly sets the stroke for the individual national economies. This weakens the economic role of the individual nation-state. In the context of an extensive privatization in the whole world, state-run enterprises were and are sold to the international monopolies or are closed down, if they do not meet the requirements of the monopolies regarding the capital expansion yielding maximum profits. This led to an increase of unemployment figures by hundreds of millions of working people and to an unbearable aggravation of the misery of the masses of people in the developing countries. This entire development is linked to the intensification of the international competitive struggle between the international monopolies and, more and more, also between the individual imperialist countries which, on grounds of the uneven development of the process of the reorganization of the international production, are pushing the redivision of the markets and spheres of influence.

Production has been reorganized by the international monopolies and this has brought about a socialization of the productive forces on an international scale. This general situation marks a new stage in the social development of imperialism, in which the ruling monopolies have grown out of their nation-states without having been able to dissociate themselves from their national power base on which the struggle for dominating the world rests. This has deepened the general crisis of capitalism and increasingly directed the international class struggle against these international monopolies and financial capital. Most important, the material preparations for socialism have enormously accelerated in this process, and, by the internationalization of the productive forces and of capital, have adopted an international dimension. At the same time, the material preparations for socialism are the material basis for a new upswing in the struggle for socialism on a worldwide scale.

However, the petty-bourgeois Attac movement denies this objectively progressive development of the socialization of production within the framework of the reorganization of the international production. Therefore, it is in essence geared to reforming imperialism and cannot understand that the time for revolutionary change has come.

The significance of this issue of the theoretical organ of the MLPD mainly lies in the proof that the social basis for class struggle has changed profoundly, a fact that also requires certain changes in the strategy and tactics of class struggle. The entire party has to deal with these changes of reality and must gear its work to this new situation accordingly. For this purpose and for the preparation for Revolutionärer Weg, Nos. 29-31, the study of Marxist-Leninist political economy is currently being intensified in connection with the study movement about the life work of Willi Dickhut.

As has become known now, on October 28, 2002, the EU Council of the Ministers of the Interior decided to declare Jose Maria Sison, the founding chairman of the CP of the Philippines, a terrorist. What is the MLPD's stand on this far-reaching decision?

Stefan Engel: The MLPD protests resolutely against the criminalization of Marxist-Leninists and their equation with the reactionary terrorists around Osama Bin Laden and Al Quaida. Also the PKK or, e.g. the Colombian guerilla organization FARC have been put on the list of terrorists. According to the wording of this legislation, any kind of solidarity can be arbitrarily reinterpreted as support for a criminal, terrorist association. The crucial point is thus not only the intensified oppression of revolutionary movements that stand in struggle for national and social liberation from imperialism, but also the drastic restriction of political activities of progressive people, especially of Marxist-Leninists. It is remarkable that the German Minister of the Interior, Schily, is the main driving force of this intensification.

The worst terrorism emanates from the USA which interfere in the whole world, thinking that they can eliminate disagreeable governments by warlike aggression; which, as they like, eliminate persons like they did this week in Yemen, where a target person and his companions were reduced to ashes by a CIA rocket. This was even justified by the US government as a new form of the "war against terror". No progressive person can approve this development, for it is the source of a reactionary aggravation of the political climate that can also develop into a real smear-campaign against Marxist-Leninists. The most important weapon in the struggle for the defense of democratic rights and liberties is the solidarity with the interests and struggles of the masses.

How has the MLPD developed in these times of change?

Stefan Engel: The increase of workers' struggles, but also the development of the people's movement, are, of course, a good basis for developing our party work, for recruiting new members and establishing new relations with the masses. Accordingly - and especially since spring - also the membership of the party and its youth league have grown significantly. The growth-rate has stabilized and is about two to three times above the level of the last years. It is most important to pursue the strengthening of the party in an all-round way and not to get lost in the ups and downs of the day-to-day struggle. Up to the 7th Party Congress next year, we want to achieve a 25 percent increase of membership compared to the last party congress.

The recruiting campaign that has started right now must be seen in this context?

Stefan Engel: In a short campaign until the end of this year we will focus on winning over new members, new subscribers to Rote Fahne (Red Flag) and new supporters for party building. It is important to place this into the center of the activities again and again in order to avoid that our many new contacts and sympathizers are left alone. Instead, we want to focus our attention on winning them over for party work, thus to enhance the power of the party.

The 6th plenary session of the CC took place recently. What were the results?

Stefan Engel: The 6th plenary session could establish that we succeeded in resuming the offensive of party work in an all-round way since spring and enhance it step by step. In the entire organization, a real mood of optimism is noticeable, and one can realize significant changes in the rank-and-file work. In particular, the experience in systematic party building in the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt in connection with the 2002 state election there was very important. The comrades learnt there that the party's persuasive work stands or falls with the capability of leading the struggle over the mode of thinking of the masses. In the election in Saxony-Anhalt, it was mainly the petty-bourgeois-revisionist mode of thinking which led many people there into resignation, self-doubt and disorientation. It was necessary to openly take up, discuss and overcome this petty-bourgeois mode of thinking together with the people in order to win over new members for the party. During the wage negotiations, the situation was similar. The development of the fighting strength of the trade unions was only possible in those cases in which the workers learned to cope with the petty-bourgeois-reformist mode of thinking. The failure of the "Alliance for Jobs" was a victory over the policy of class collaboration of the reformist trade-union bureaucracy. These experiences with the struggle for the mode of thinking of the masses have been systematically evaluated in the organization and have the effect that the entire rank-and-file work has been organized much more convincingly, profoundly and lastingly. Also, the study movement on the lifework of Willi Dickhut was of high importance for stimulating the rank-and-file work.

At the same time, we also realized that our growing influence and links with the masses make more demands on our members. On an average, the various units of the organization has three to five times more connections, contacts and tasks than they had before the last party congress, the 6th Party Congress. In a growing number of workers' struggles, the workers increasingly turn to the MLPD and its comrades as a reliable political and organizational force. Compared with this high increase, the rise in party membership of 14 per cent is still relatively moderate. In reality, we have won even many members more, but at the same time, the number of comrades who leave the party (death, withdrawal, non-admission after the period of candidacy) is still too large. It is seldom that political differences are the reason. It has to do with the fact that our cadre work requires a new quality, otherwise there will be the danger of chronically overstraining our members and leaderships.

What do you mean by "overstraining the members and leaderships"? Did the last party congress not confirm that the members of the MLPD have achieved a relatively high ideological-political level?


Stefan Engel: This is indisputably still the case. The MLPD can be proud of its membership and the members can be proud of their MLPD. However, we simply must do more in order to enable the comrades to solve the concrete problems in the economic-political analysis, in the analysis of the development of class consciousness, in strategy and tactics and in party building by consciously applying the dialectical method. The conscious application of the dialectical method at the level of the doctrine of the mode of thinking is the key to the successful future development of the MLPD towards the party of the masses. Concerning the cadre work, it is especially the capacity for a proletarian culture of debate that is the focus of attention. It is necessary to concern oneself scientifically with the struggle between the proletarian and the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking in the respective development of the cadres and to help the comrades to cope with the influence of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking. Presently, the scientific application of the proletarian culture of debate is the key to decisively developing the party work towards a higher level. We face an underqualification of the leaderships compared to the increasingly complex tasks of party building. Therefore, more educative work is needed.

The last party congress also decided to launch a movement of criticism and self-criticism towards the party of the masses. How did this movement reach its goals?

Stefan Engel: The 6th CC plenary session could establish that in all fields, in which the movement of criticism and self-criticism was to start a process of self-transformation of the party, important progress and changes could be achieved. However, the problems have not yet been solved till the end. Whereas at the last party congress we set ourselves the task "of learning to move and lead masses of people", meanwhile this task has more and more turned into a direct necessity. This is the qualitative difference between the task of the last party congress and the next one - the entire party must become aware of this. New questions arise from this and must be taken up accordingly in the tasks of the movement of criticism and self-criticism. Such a new task is the orientation of the party work towards the new questions of the imperialist world system that have been raised by the reorganization of the international production. The realization of a cadre work of a new type by a corresponding culture of debate and the related guidance and control on the basis of the proletarian mode of thinking, is another question. Last but not least, it is necessary to concern ourselves in our strategy and tactics with the question of what it means that every concrete task has to be perceived and understood as a preparation of the international revolution.

The CC plenum has decided to prepare the 7th Party Congress in the long term, in order to consolidate the positive process of the party and to advance clarity on its tasks. We reject such methods of restricting the members' rights the way the PDS practiced when it started to prepare its last party congress only one week before. In our organization, the members are the "masters of the party" and this is expressed in particular in the way we prepare and hold our party congresses.

On November 2nd and 3rd 2002, the Fifth Women's Political Counsel was held in which also the MLPD participated actively. How do you assess the result of the Counsel?

Stefan Engel: The Fifth Women's Political Counsel has undoubtedly been a further step regarding the diversity and the wide range of the militant women's movement. What impressed me most was, however, how the different groups of the women's movement and the trade-union women in a natural and interested way ask for the activities and positions of the MLPD. This victory over modern anti-communism in every social movement is a decisive precondition to overcome the relative isolation of the MLPD and to confer to the movement real independence from the leading strings of the monopoly parties. Obviously, the work among women is at the top of a development that has to be studied and understood by the entire party.

The MLPD could make important progress in its youth work as well?

Stefan Engel: It has become evident that Rebell, especially with its summer camps, could better attract the masses of the youth. At the same time, it proved rather difficult to deal successfully with the effects of petty-bourgeois antiauthoritarianism among the masses of young people. The CC plenum dealt in an all-round way with the phenomenon of antiauthoritarianism which long since has lost its similarity with the antiauthoritarianism of the 1968 students movement and the petty-bourgeois "ML"-movement of the nineteen-seventies. Petty-bourgeois antiauthoritarianism today has become a component part of the system of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking which is spread officially among the young generation in schools, media and in culture, carried by some "examples". It adopts many shades and forms, all of which paralyze, disorientate, disorganize and demoralize the power and creative force of the young. Modern antiauthoritarianism presents itself very progressive, critical and as in opposition, but, in its ideological core, it is reactionary and conservative. It is a phenomenon of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking that paralyzes the youth, undermines its discipline and fighting power, and creates egoism, individualism, and, partly, also vandalism and self-destruction. For those in power, petty-bourgeois antiauthoritarianism today is the decisive means to undermine a lasting upswing of the youth movement and its turning to Marxism-Leninism.

The CC plenum has reached the conclusion that the party still underestimates this struggle against modern antiauthoritarianism, when its various effects are falsely dismissed as being "appropriate for the youth". However, an acceptance of antiauthoritarianism makes it impossible to do youth work as mass tactics of party building. Rebell has been given the task of especially fighting modern antiauthoritarianism in the preparation of its central delegates' conference early next year. Antiauthoritarianism, however, is not only a problem of the young generation, but has deeply penetrated the world of the adults and the habits of their education. Therefore, the struggle against antiauthoritarianism is, in the first place, a discussion within the party which has to play an important part in the preparation of the party congress.

The MLPD has obviously a good record this year which gives rise to great expectations?

Stefan Engel: Obviously, the wind stands fair for the MLPD's party work. It is increasingly capable of making good use of this fact for party building and for increasing its social influence. Even the Office for the Protection of the Constitution had to admit this indirectly. After repeatedly inventing unrealistic stories about the continuous decline of the MLPD during the last years, the new interim report of North Rhine-Westphalia shows a far more realistic view. It mentions the "further intensification of the youth work", the "active resistance against Bush's New War" etc. The class enemy has obviously very clearly noted the new impetus the MLPD has got.

We have learned this year to correctly concentrate our forces, to prepare ourselves more profoundly and also to realize a guidance and control that actually helps our comrades in the rank-and-file work to resolve the problems and go over to the offensive. The preparation of the party congress will be put especially under the central idea of the movement of criticism and self-criticism. If we prepare, carry out and evaluate every task in this sense, then the further preparation of the 7th Party Congress will be another milestone in the development of party building, which will give new impetus to the development of the class struggle, the struggle of the broad masses and the youth.

It is not by chance that this interview appears in the first issue of the Rote Fahne in a new shape. Which advice do you want to give it?

Stefan Engel: Rote Fahne as journal of the MLPD is urgently needed by broad masses of people. However, it can be their indispensable point of orientation only if it is closely linked up with the questions, problems, interests, considerations and criticisms of the masses. This is the most important key to the further development of Rote Fahne. The unerring yardstick will be, how many new correspondents Rote Fahne can win, how many photographers, writers of letters to the editor and people who sell and who criticize the paper. For this, I wish full success!

Thank you very much for this conversation.


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