June 20, 2005: " A Good Start for the Offensive for Genuine Socialism"

Interview of the "Red Flag" with the chairman of the MLPD

stefan-engel.jpgRed Flag: Since the electoral disaster of the SPD/Alliance Greens in Düsseldorf we are also experiencing a governmental crisis of the Schroeder/Fischer administration. Hectic activities for the preparation of early reelections characterize the present situation. After the positive response of the stock market, you get the impression that this may be promising.

Stefan Engel: The stock markets are speculating that a government will finally take over office again that has a mass base in the population. However, this is a more a wish than a realistic prognosis. The times when we had stable governments are over. This also applies to an expected change of government. With the “No” of the masses to the EU constitution in France and the Netherlands, the entire European project has entered a state of crisis. This has, of course, enormously aggravated the political crisis in Germany.
The heads of the SPD and the Greens are quarreling and passing the buck to each other. Nobody wants to take the blame for the disaster! Quite a number of social democrats - especially in North Rhine Westphalia - are fed up with election campaigns and electoral defeats for the time being. Even Super-father Fischer of the Greens is already becoming sullen.

Red Flag: Are the CDU/CSU and FDP on the way up?

Stefan Engel: Within the CDU and CSU a dispute is taking place over the extent to which the further course of an intensified dismantling of social achievements and democratic rights and liberties should be stated frankly and directly in the election campaign and in a future government. To be clear, the intensified course is not being called into question and is also being strongly demanded by the monopoly associations. The point here is only the question of the form and labeling of the intended attacks. Perhaps Merkel can relieve the situation for a while, but she cannot solve the problems either. Every government that wants to continue the present policy of the monopolies will soon lose the confidence of the masses.

Red Flag: How do you assess the development of the consciousness and the mood among the masses?

Stefan Engel: Declining ratings for the bourgeois parties have already become an everyday feature. However, at present the struggles of the working class and people's movement are developing significantly. Last Friday 5,000 workers at BASF in Ludwigshafen demonstrated for higher wages and salaries. In Hemer and Lahr, mass demonstrations against the announced job cuts at Grohe took place, some of which were even organized independently. At DaimlerChrysler in Mettingen a militant company meeting was held that lasted for more than six hours and in which a huge number of workers made militant contributions. A new struggle of the car makers at DaimlerChrysler lies ahead. The workers resolutely rejected the intended extension of the working time and wage cuts in a new service contract. In the mining industry open mass layoffs are being prepared and the miners have already announced their determined resistance. In the printing industry the wage negotiations have failed due to the militant resistance of the workforce that defended the 35-hour workweek.
All this is based on the development towards the working class offensive since 1 May 2003 and the experiences during the strike at Opel (GM). In North Rhine Westphalia every announcement of the worsening of social conditions by the federal state government gets a prompt response; thousands of students demonstrated against the introduction of tuition fees! Hundreds of people demonstrated against the renewed transport of nuclear waste. I also consider the protests of numerous "small parties" against the undemocratic obstruction in the elections prior to the early national elections to be of significance.

Red Flag: Obviously the SPD leadership wants to make up ground by some sort of a shift to the left.

Stefan Engel: In the meantime this is already taking on grotesque forms - like the visit of the Karl Marx Museum in Trier by Franz Muentefering shows. Poor Marx! However, the pseudo-left slogans of the SPD will not be very successful. The discrepancy between the hypocritical criticism of capitalism and the uncompromising policy of the SPD leaders on the instructions of the German section of international finance capital is just too wide. The blue- and white-collar workers or the unemployed will not forget this so soon!

Red Flag: What has become of the left electoral alliance that Lafontaine proposed on the day after the regional elections in North Rhine Westphalia?

Stefan Engel: The idea of a left electoral alliance has withered away to a plan for founding a new left-reformist party under the overall control of the party leaders of PDS and WASG. In concrete terms, an open list of the PDS has been drawn up for the national elections which will be opened for WASG representatives. Now an embarrassing dispute over parliamentary seats is going on which could actually bring the entire project close to failure again. For example, the PDS claims the first 5 places on the list in Berlin for itself and tries to dictate terms to the smaller and organizationally weaker WASG, which is offering resolute resistance against this attempt. Completely ignored up till now has been the programmatic unification, which normally is the first thing that has to be settled before uniting. In Germany we do not need a new left-reformist party on the reformist ruins - no remake of the SPD before Schroeder, which is also based on the fundamental lie of the social market economy. The working class and the broad masses of people need a new social perspective! And this can only be a new movement for genuine socialism!
Under certain circumstances, a real left electoral alliance could have been an important signal for overcoming the splits within the left in the struggle against the neoliberal policy of the monopolies at the expense of the masses. Only this would have mattered! However, when the positions and the participation of the MLPD are consciously excluded, then this has to be regarded as a consciously drawn line of demarcation between them and the revolutionary left. A left list without Marxist-Leninists would be like a football team without forwards.
The MLPD immediately welcomed the proposal of Oscar Lafontaine for a left alliance on the basis of the common struggle against the anti-people government and took it up positively with proposals as regards content. Apart from a noncommittal, delaying letter of the PDS chairman Bisky, there was no response. This is also an answer!
This disrespectful treatment of the MLPD, which I consider without exaggerating to have the biggest potential for mobilizing people, corresponds to the treatment if its own rank and file within the party. I think it remarkable that the heads of the parties are discussing - and the results are already presented to the media as definite agreement. Even before the ballot among the WASG is held, the head of the PDS issues an ultimatum to the head of the WASG to make a decision. If this joint candidacy of PDS/Open List comes about, this will already give rise to conflicts and splits even today.
I am sure: the members of the MLPD would revolt, if one of our officials would exhibit only to some degree such behavior. And rightly so!
In the last weeks, in a very short period of time, the entire party rank and file of the MLPD discussed the political situation, but also the resulting demands on the MLPD and its attitude to the early reelections. This resulted in a great variety of views and experiences, in a clear basis for taking decisions and a high level of unification within the MLPD and the Rebell. Such a democratic style is, of course, very attractive for people from outside.

Red Flag: Is the MLPD determined to run for elections independently in the meantime?

Stefan Engel: Yes, of course. Running for elections independently has, of course, the advantage, that we can determine the pace, the argumentation, the program and the style of the election campaign independently. On grounds of the short time we had to start with the preparation of our own candidacy immediately, with putting up candidates and collecting signatures. We have decided to organize this as a contribution to strengthening the militant opposition, too. So we have opened our lists widely for the candidates of the militant opposition, as far as this was possible in such a short period of time. We also consciously adopt progressive positions, demands and activities in our election campaign.
At the same time, we keep open the option for a participation in a real left electoral alliance. This is not easy for us, because there are many justified reservations and because this would also necessitate compromises that you naturally have to make with the partners of an alliance in accordance with the common cause. However, we will not make our activities for an offensive of genuine socialism dependent upon the question of whether PDS and WASG accept our serious offer.

Red Flag: How has the preparation of the independent candidacy of the MLPD/Open List started?

Stefan Engel: Within a very short period of time we succeeded in putting up regional lists in all the 16 federal states as well as direct candidates in 36 counties. Among them are also non-partisan representatives of the working class and people's movement or, for example, also members of PDS and DKP. This expresses an excellent initiative for which I would like to thank all members and friends very much. Last weekend thousands of talks were already conducted and about 1,800 signatures for the regional lists and 600 signatures for the direct candidates were collected. About 700 members have put their names on the lists of the voter action groups of the MLPD/Open List. Also the collection of donations for the election campaign and the winning of people for subscribing to a trial offer of the Red Flag started very well. As in the past, the MLPD and its friends are challenged most by the biggest tasks! The fact that we have to collect 40,000 signatures within 8 weeks for the admission to the election is, of course, not an easy task. However, with every newly won election supporter the movement "The country needs new politicians!" is also growing. For this reason the end result will not only be signatures on paper, but a growing mass of people who, together with the MLPD and its youth league Rebell, will take matters into their own hands.

Red Flag: Thank you very much for this talk and we wish you further success in the election campaign of the MLPD/Open List that started so enthusiastically.

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