July 26, 2005: “I’m looking forward to an offensive and enthusiastic election campaign"

Interview which the chairperson of the MLPD, Stefan Engel, gave to the “Red Flag”

stefan-engel.jpgRed Flag: Federal President Horst Koehler dissolved the Bundestag on Friday. All party representatives have welcomed this step. What’s the view of the MLPD on this?

Stefan Engel: The MLPD is in favor of new elections, too, because it has been obvious since a long time that the majority of the people is rejecting the Schroeder/Fischer government. But I consider the way of dissolving the Bundestag as a farce. Schroeder should simply have resigned. By his manipulated asking of a vote of confidence in the Bundestag he intents to appear as the lesser evil in the direct comparison with the programs of CDU/CSU/FDP instead. It is already becoming apparent that his tactics will not work out. The main problem for him is that the social democracy is meanwhile split. With the ”Left Party” there exists a second social democratic party. The splitting of the social democracy will cause the decline of the capacity of the SPD to attach the masses to it all in all. This will make them unimportant as a caretaker for the monopolies. The managing director of the BDI (association of German industrialists) Mr. von Wartenberg already declared that the monopolies would welcome a change of government.

Red Flag: Opinion polls are showing that for the time being the ”Left Party” would be the winner of early elections. How is this to be assessed?

Stefan Engel: If the polls will be verified during the elections that 10 to 12 percent of the persons entitled to vote will vote for the ”Left Party”, this would mean in any case a success in committing a part of the disappointed social democratic voters and also progressive and militant people on the ”Left Party”. Especially in East Germany it has a great mass basis and would be the strongest party there. But I doubt that this party would satisfy the needs and interests of the militant opposition permanently. The first announcements of the party leaders that they could imagine going together with the SPD again some time already show that the basic differences between the SPD and the ”Left Party” are relatively small. This means the ”Left Party” is unable to represent a real alternative. It’s leadership will as well be ready to fall into line with the ”constraints” as they have been accepted by the SPD and the Greens. The new party is already now full of basic and concrete contradictions which are - out of different motives - at the moment (still) covered up by the common hope for a strong representation in the new Bundestag. For this reason I assume that the new ”Left Party” with its current composition and objectives is more likely to be an interlude in the party political scene in the medium term basis on the way to the left. In comparison the straightness and reliability of the MLPD in connection with its great willingness and ability for alliances will have a perspective and future without any doubt.

Red Flag: The MLPD initially intended to enter into a leftist electoral alliance itself. Was that wrong?

Stefan Engel: Of course we were in favor of a broad electoral alliance to be formed including the whole militant opposition against the Schroeder/Fischer government on an antifascist basis. We would have played the part of representing the genuine socialist alternative and the workers’ movement supporting the class struggle. Our offer to enter a broad leftist electoral alliance was refused or not answered by the leaders of the WASG and the PDS. This was not simple impoliteness but a basic decision about the character of the alliance. Accordingly a new left-reformist party project has been launched which explicitly does not refer to socialism - not even verbally. We, however, recognize that this ”Left Party” today is in opposition to the Schroeder/Fischer government and to a possible Merkel/Westerwelle government and thus could be a potential ally in the struggle against the redistribution from bottom to the top at the expense of the masses and in favor of the monopolies, in the struggle for world peace, in the antifascist struggle. To achieve this, it should, however, give up its policy of exclusion of the left and be ready for the unity on the basis of the struggle against the anti-people policy.

Red Flag: Has the ”Left Party” become an opponent in the election campaign?

Stefan Engel: Our opponent is the big coalition of SPD, CDU, CSU, FDP and Alliance 90/the Greens which is responsible for the current governmental policy and obviously not willing to make a fundamental change of its political course. A few leftist slogans and demands in the election manifestos of SPD and Alliance 90/the Greens are only tactical manoeuvres in view of to the leftist trend in the electorate. Our opponents are also the neo-fascists especially of the NPD who want to use the parliamentary level for their neo-fascist propaganda and who constitute the most objectionable representatives of the capitalist conditions. Fortunately they have fallen into a deep hole according to opinion polls.
Our relationship to the ”Left Party” is differentiated. I do not think much of the sweeping condemnation of this party as I read in the last issue of the ”Red Flag”. We are still seeking the unity with this party on the basis of joint struggle against the government while preserving the independence of the participants. We, however, criticize the reformist basic orientation of the new party as an illusion which is always including the reconciliation with the social conditions of state-monopoly capitalism. But let us not forget that the project of the ”Left Party” and its current alternatives is a product of the resistance against Hartz IV and the Agenda 2010 of the Schroeder/Fischer government. So the masses of the people who are supporting the ”Left Party” today are a potential, partly even now an active part of the militant opposition, and it is our task to win them over for genuine socialism with patient persuasiveness and not to offend them with sweeping remarks. I consider this to be particularly against the principle of solidarity and misplaced in a situation in which the new ”Left Party” is being attacked by the monopoly parties in a caustic, defaming and unobjective way. Regarding this we will even stand up for the ”Left Party” representatives’ against the shabby demagogic of the ruling monopoly parties.

Red Flag: Wasn’t the development of this electoral alliance foreseeable?

Stefan Engel: Of course we have taken this possibility into account from the beginning. But it is always correct to fight for a leftist electoral alliance that makes sense. We will even now not give up our struggle to unite with the people with whome we are standing together in our fight against Hartz IV on a broad basis of struggle against the government. In situations of crisis like today the possibilities of cooperation are widening which we always to use independent of the question whether it will be successful or not in the end. Even when the ”Left Party” and the MLPD are marching separately today and are in competition with it to a certain degree in the election campaign we may never forget that the main potential for the militant opposition is still oriented towards the ”Left Party” today. One should not only look at the immediately coming election results but has to give the people time to make their experience with the newly formed leftist reformism. To take an arrogant stand and say this is all nonsense doesn’t get us any further. It is our task to accompany the masses in their experiences with patience and criticism and to help them to cope with a still widely spread petit-bourgeois reformist and petit-bourgeois revisionist mode of thinking.

Rote Fahne: How is the preparation of the MLPD for the general elections going on?

Stefan Engel: We have prepared ourselves in time to run for election independently, and so it has happened. The socialist alternative must now run for election with a list of its own. Some people who are not members of a party are standing as candidates on this list, making our open list an expression of our declared wish for unity on the basis of the struggle against the government. During the first seven weeks we could already collect 40,000 signatures, that is more than 95 per cent of the necessary signatures that we have to present in about three weeks. The signatures for the seven federal state lists and the 30 direct candidates have been collected before the deadline in a great initiative of friends and comrades. Never before people have so willingly supported the candidacy of the MLPD with their signatures. Never before has the MLPD been able to launch an election campaign from a standing position in such a short time and never before the organization has worked so effectively and convincingly. Our members can be proud of their party and the party can be proud of their members, too.

Rote Fahne: What are the conclusions that have to be drawn from these first experiences with the offensive for genuine socialism?

Stefan Engel: The openness of the people for genuine socialism even in cities where the MLPD up to now does not or only in a limited way work, like in Emden, Cottbus, Bremerhaven, Brandenburg, Wörth, Kaiserslautern, Koblenz, Neuwied etc. shows that here a big potential for advancing party building emerged. For this reason the CC has taken the decision to immediately place the extension and acceleration of party building in connection with our nation-wide candidacy for the general election into the center of attention of our offensive for genuine socialism. To achieve this we have started to rearrange our forces within the party. In the places where we are already working the winning of new members has to be pushed up very much, and at the same time we have to start all over an organized party work in a series of cities and factories. In this context I would like to emphasize that in the meantime more than 70 local voter action groups have developed, which after seven weeks have nearly 3,000 members altogether. With this we could in a short time develop an active potential of support for the election campaign of the MLPD/open list, which in the course of the election campaign is to be extended to 5,000 members. It must also be stressed that a fair number of Turkish organizations like ATIF/ATIK, AGIF and ADHF have in the meantime declared their support for the candidacy of the MLPD and called upon their members to support the MLPD in its election campaign or to elect the MLPD. We express our cordial thanks for this support in solidarity!
I assume that the MLPD will appear conspicuously in this election campaign and that it will be difficult to ignore the MLPD in the media as it was the case in earlier regional or nation-wide elections. Even in the regional elections in North Rhine-Westphalia in May this year the SPD thought it necessary to rail against the MLPD repeatedly, even though we did not stand for these elections. In any case we have to reckon with some head-wind. But head-wind is suiting us!
Nevertheless, we have to realize that the elections will be decided in the first place in the media and that, of course, even now efforts are being made systematically to place the MLPD among "other parties" and correspondingly deny it the access to the mass media. We will offset this by means of an offensive street election campaign. However, even though we will conduct the most active election campaign without the media this will reach only a small part of the population. Thus, the results of the election are only partially in our hands. What is sure even today is the fact that party building will advance in huge steps.
The Central Committee, the members of the MLPD and its youth league Rebell as well as the friends of the party who have come together in the voter action groups are ready for this challenge and I am looking forward to an offensive and enthusiastic election campaign.

Rote Fahne: Thank you very much.


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