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September 21, 2005: The election disaster of the ruling powers is fertile ground for the upswing of class struggle and for genuine socialism

Interview on the national elections given by Stefan Engel, chairman of the MLPD, to the "Red Flag"

stefan-engel.jpgRed Flag: The national elections on September 18th - originally intended as a blow to end the political crisis - have become a disaster for the ruling powers. Is our impression correct that they don’t even know themselves how things are going to go on?

Stefan Engel: For the first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, the national elections did not result in easing, but in deepening the open political crisis instead. Never before in post-war Germany has a situation like this existed after elections where it is totally open whether any government will be formed at all, and if so, which one it could be.
The monopoly associations, which had already reached agreements with their favorized government of CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union) and the FDP (Free Democratic Party) to aggressively intensify the anti-people course, have gotten even deeper in the defensive. Thumann, head of the BDI (Federation of German Industries), called the election results a "bitter disappointment". Quite obviously, the voters in Germany have brought about a situation which does not fit into the concept of the international monopolies at all. A French TV comment summed it up quite precisely, "Obviously, the German voters do not share the conviction that the poor will be better off if the rich become even richer." (Quoted in Frankfurter Rundschau, September 20th, p. 5)
Indeed, the masses unmistakably rebuffed the anti-people crisis program of the monopolies and the monopoly parties. In particular CDU-head Angela Merkel, who for weeks had herself celebrated as incontestable winner and new chancellor, miscalculated things and had to pay for that with a severe defeat in the elections. The CDU/CSU lost 3.3 percent, that is, it lost 1 891 521 voters compared to 2002 and 728 268 compared to 1998. At the end of May, the CDU/CSU still reached 49 percent in the polls because people thought that this could stop the Schroeder/Fischer government. But when, in her "new honesty", she revealed the extremely anti-people character of the government she was striving for, people realized very quickly that this would even worsen their situation. And so the peculiar situation arose that a number of the most resolute adversaries of the Schroeder/Fischer government even voted for the SPD (Social-Democratic Party) again in order to prevent Merkel.
However, it would be completely erroneous to assess this voting behavior as a demonstration of agreement with the Schroeder/Fischer government. Many people just could not believe it, when on the eve of the elections, Schroeder in embarrassing self-overestimation called himself "the winner," stating his claim to form the new government as follows: "Except for me, nobody else is able to form a stabile government". Was the government's instability emanating from his party not the reason for the early elections? Did not the "victorious" SPD lose 4.2 percent, that is 2,340,428 voters compared to the 2002 national elections and even 4,033029 votes compared to 1998? Is the SPD not facing the low point of its post-war development?
This is indeed the core of the intensification of the political crisis: that in these elections the masses punished the government as well as the bourgeois opposition. This attitude of the voters is directed against the entire traditional party landscape and, for the time being, it means the climax of the detachment of the masses from the bourgeois parties, parliamentarianism and its institutions. Even votes for the FDP were in part a method to oppose the CDU. At the same time, it expresses the polarization within the bourgeois camp. Only 77.7 percent of the voters participated in these elections which is the lowest voter turnout in federal elections since 1949.

Red Flag: Can you already dare to give a prognosis for a future constellation of the government?

Stefan Engel: The monopolies are pushing for a government that conducts political affairs according to their will. But none of the coalition constructions will lead to a stabile government. If, however, such a government is formed, one or the other bourgeois party would be subject to a test of endurance, especially because all the options being now discussed were vehemently excluded during the election campaign.
It is also possible that after a certain period of shame, a weak government would be consciously installed in order to announce early elections as soon as possible.

Red Flag: So you consider it a positive election result?

Stefan Engel: Yes, of course. It is the synthesis of what I said before. In particular, it is the erosion of the mass base of the SPD that will lastingly weaken the bourgeois influence on the working-class movement. This can allow a lasting development of the proletarian class consciousness of the working class, which for decades was overlaid by the petty-bourgeois reformist mode of thinking.
The election results also express the clear trend towards the left. That means that the search of the broad masses for a way out has unambiguously adopted a direction against capitalism.
Currently, this momentarily finds its specific expression in the more than four million votes for the Linkspartei/PDS (Left Party/Party of Democratic Socialism) that reached 8.7 percent on the national level.
Fascist and ultra-reactionary parties stayed far behind their expectations and got a nation-wide well-deserved election defeat.

Red Flag: Did the MLPD reach its goal, namely a respectable success?

Stefan Engel: Yes, indeed! I want to cordially thank all the election workers, voters and comrades for their rousing commitment.
The MLPD reached 45,166 second votes. This figure can be assessed correctly only if you compare it to former election results. In 1994, when the MLPD ran the last time for national elections in the entire country, we got 10,038 votes. That means that our result now increased by 4.5 times compared to 1994. The comparison is even more precise in relation to the MLPD votes per 100,000 voters. In 1994, this figure was 21, today it increased to 94. And in our best direct constituencies in East Germany we even reached 606.
Due to the different election behavior with respect to the first and second votes, the actual number of MLPD voters lies between 50,000 and 60,000. With one exception, all results of the 36 direct candidates are higher than those of the second votes. By two thirds of the voters, it increased by the factor of 1.5 or more and by one quarter of the candidates it is almost twice as high or even higher.
The votes for the MLPD cannot simply be compared to those for other parties where tactical considerations often play a decisive role. Under the condition of a far-reaching boycott in TV, radio and printed media and of other massive election hindrances, our votes are a conscious decision for the MLPD, its program, its representatives and for the socialist alternative. In particular, the "five percent clause" (i.e. restriction to 5 percent of the votes to get a seat in the federal parliament) suggests to the masses that votes for smaller parties are wasted votes. In the surveys, which play an important role in voting habits today, the MLPD was registered as "further parties" in order to brand it as irrelevant.
Thus it demands a relatively high class consciousness to vote for the MLPD today.
At the same time, these votes cannot even approximately reflect how the MLPD's actual influence among the masses has increased during the last two years. This, of course, is an annoying aspect of our election results!

Red Flag: Which factors determine this growing influence?

Stefan Engel: These are mainly the provable indirect effects of our election campaign. The interrelation between our election campaign and the election result of the Left Party has become especially evident in Gelsenkirchen. Here where the MLPD has a relatively large influence and conducted an excellent election campaign, the Left Party got its best results of all cities in the Ruhr district, results far above the average of North Rhine-Westphalia with almost 10,000 votes for the direct candidate.
Nonetheless, the Left Party is relatively weak as a political factor in Gelsenkirchen. Here the MLPD has essentially built up the left tendency, but it has obviously contributed to the many votes for the Left Party due to the effects of the 5 per cent clause. The malicious agitators against the MLPD in the PDS and WASG should get into their heads the fact that the direct candidate who is closely collaborating with the MLPD has the best result.
It is indisputable that we have gained great respect e.g. in Gelsenkirchen and also in many other cities and that many people are very close to us politically, but nevertheless vote for other parties. This is due to the fact that they want to achieve something immediately by means of their vote. On the one hand, this is understandable, but on the other hand, it is still combined with parliamentary illusions which are not yet overcome or with reformist ideas about the way in which changes can be brought about in this capitalist society. The petty-bourgeois-parliamentary mode of thinking therefore still exerts a relative large influence on the behavior at the polls, even though its effect has generally weakened.

Red Flag: What was the reason for the fact the MLPD has won more votes in East Germany than in West Germany?

Stefan Engel: In1994,we were still rather unsuccessful in the new federal states. This time the MLPD got 21,781 second votes (including East Berlin) which is almost half of all votes. Compared to the national elections in 1994,the increase in the second votes for the MLPD amounted to 100 to 400 per cent in West Germany; in East Germany, however, there was a rise of 340 per cent in Saxony and nearly 1,300 per cent in Saxony Anhalt.
First of all, this has to be attributed to a positive development in party building in East Germany in which the entire party has participated. Meanwhile, we have more members in East Germany than in West Germany in relation to the total population. Since the 7th Party Congress in 2004, membership in the MLPD rose here by 50 per cent, while in the entire party there was only a rise of 20 per cent. This marks a progressive shift in the balance of forces between the MLPD and the PDS. This development, of course, is concentrated in East Germany, where people have already gained experience with the PDS for some years - mainly when it has taken on "responsibility in government”. While in West Germany there was an increase in second votes for the Left Party between 160 and 430 per cent compared to 1998 - apart from the Saarland - , in the new federal states it saw an increase of only between 12 to 33 per cent. In Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, where the PDS is in the federal-state government and is directly and actively participating in the implementation of the Hartz IV laws, there was even a decline in the second votes by 22,775 votes, i.e. 8.8 per cent compared to 1998.

Red Flag: It is obvious that the MLPD was able to extend and accelerate its party building in connection with this election campaign considerably.

Stefan Engel: From the strategic point of view, this is even the most important result. Under the conditions of an extensive manipulation of public opinion, the election results are always only a very relative measure of the development of class consciousness, but also of our work. In this election campaign, hundreds of thousands of people heard about the MLPD directly - about 10.5 million people via the TV publicity slogans. Together with the collection of signatures for the admission to the elections and the following election campaign, we talked with about one million people. We reached hundreds of thousands of people in at least 185 rallies and open-air discussions of our top candidates or representatives of the Central Committee.
We have conducted a very effective election campaign employing new methods. 1.8 million election papers were distributed. Thousands of people were included in the work for the first time, thus better getting to know the theory and practice of the MLPD, being able to thoroughly check the candidates and experiencing directly the principles of genuine socialism.
The MLPD has used the nationwide election campaign to start systematic party work in 202 cities and make it known to the public. Altogether we did a party work in 360 cities in this election campaign, which means more than 50 per cent of the cities with more than 20,000 inhabitants.
Exactly in those places where we took up work for the first time, there was an extraordinary increase in votes, as in Rhineland-Palatinate (plus 417 per cent) or in Schleswig-Holstein (plus 244 per cent). This shows that the MLPD candidature that covered all areas has absolutely proved to be correct. In all constituencies the MLPD got votes, also in those regions where it did not undertake election campaign activities. The lowest number of votes were 21 votes.
We can already aim at founding a number of new small party units with one to two members and local party units. Compared to the figures of the 7th Party Congress in 2004, we have an increase in membership of 7 per cent altogether in the period from June 1 to September 18. An increase of another 12 per cent is possible in the next weeks, when the expressed intentions of people to join the party are decided positively.

Red Flag: In the automobile industry, but also in other branches of industry, the monopolies have announced massive job cuts. Has the election campaign also exercised influence on the development of the working- class offensive?

Stefan Engel: It has become noticeable that the monopolies could hardly refrain from announcing new drastic measures for the intensification of the offensive of the monopolies until the election day. Only one day after the national elections, Siemens announced the cutting of more than 10,000 jobs.
A drastic intensification of exploitation is on the agenda of the VW group as well. It is obviously the intention to cancel the company wage agreement, which was split by the wage settlement of November 3, 2004. In many plants the workforce is confronted with the threat of closures and relocation. 30,000 jobs altogether are at stake.
Here the big noise about the so-called losses is the well-known part of the business aimed at gaining maximum profits. In reality, the point in the new round of the offensive of exploitation of the monopolies is the intensified struggle for supremacy in the world market.
Nearly every day mergers and takeovers are being announced amounting to billions of dollars. According to a study of the investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, 9,300 international takeovers have occurred since the beginning of the year till mid-August. Due to the increase of mergers and takeovers, there will be the second largest amount for takeovers in 2005, after the record year 2000.
Different from previous years, this year the ruling powers could not use the hustle and bustle of the election campaign to set back the readiness to fight and the class consciousness of the core of the industrial proletariat. The workforce of Siemens, VW and other groups had no reason at all for abstaining from the struggle or postponing struggles in the hope that the problems will be solved automatically after the elections. In combination with the job cuts, Opel (GM) has increased the speedup at work unbearably. The readiness to fight and to take a firm stand again in the struggle against the intensified exploitation and for the for giving regular jobs to trainees is significantly growing.
Three days before the elections, the employees of the municipal transport services in Bavaria took up the struggle against the extension of the weekly working time and temporarily brought to a standstill the traffic in cities like Munich.
The MLPD has put the main emphasis of its election campaign on the promotion of the transition to the working class offensive on a broad front. Its slogans „30-hour workweek with full wage compensation!” and „Fight for jobs like at Opel!” met with great sympathy. There the fact that the MLPD has the prime name supporting the development of independent struggles and having the necessary know-how is playing an important role in the discussions. A public mass debate has emerged about the necessity for the reduction of working hours with full wage compensation, which in the meantime is supported also by some well-known critical economists like Hickel, Bosch or Bontrup.

Red Flag: The Monday demonstration movement is mobilizing for a nationwide demonstration on November 5th in the capital of Berlin. What significance does this have in the present situation?

Stefan Engel: This demonstration is taking place at exactly the right time. After whatever kind of new administration will have been formed, the militant opposition will come together and make unmistakably clear that any continuation of the anti-people policies like Agenda 2010 or the Hartz-Laws will meet with determined resistance.

Therefore I also agree with the proposal that the content of the demonstration should go beyond the rejection of the Hartz-Laws and be directed against the entire reactionary course of the monopolies.
That includes the newly announced plans for massive job cuts in industry, the attacks on collective bargaining agreements, the protection against wrongful dismissal, health care, the prolongation of the operating time of nuclear power stations, the plans for the massive extension of waste incineration., etc.

Along with the extension of the content of the demonstration, a broadening of mobilization should take place, especially by the trade unions and social organizations. The MLPD and its youth league Rebell will actively participate in this demonstration and will also take over responsibility for the preparations.

Red Flag: You have given out the motto: „secure the victory!” How do you understand this?

Stefan Engel: In his book “On War”, General Clausewitz wrote that an offensive is successfully completed only when victory has been secured and not already after a successful battle. In our offensive for genuine socialism in connection with the participation in the national elections we have gained important ground. The MLPD conducted its best and most successful election campaign ever. In order to secure this success and develop it into a lasting strengthening of party building for the MLPD, it is necessary to take a number of important measures.

For the first we have to stabilize the hundreds of contacts that we have established in this election campaign. Some of these people are going to work with us closely in the future. Others want to know more about the MLPD and we have to do everything possible to satisfy these needs. Others again are deciding to support the party by becoming permanent donators, to subscribe to the “Red Flag” or to become members of MLPD or Rebell. Up to now we aimed at raising membership by 20 percent by the year’s end. We now have to correct these figures, namely to the top! Till the end of the year we want to raise party membership by 30 percent, taking the 7th Party Congress 2004 as a starting point. We have to invest a lot of time to reach this goal and even concentrate upon this work in the coming time.
During the election campaign the possibilities of the CC to directly guide and control the groups and members have reached certain limits. We have to begin again, step by step, to build up a leadership at the land level in all federal states in order to stabilize and accelerate the development of the party. First of all, a land branch in North-Rhine Westphalia should be built up already this year with an elected land leadership and land control commission.
On the grass-roots level some groups have grown out of their shoes. We will therefore found a number of new county branches where all-round party work can be done.

Of course we have to continue our good work and extend our sphere of influence. We have therefore decided to run for the coming land elections in the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt in March 2006. Our work is especially fruitful in Saxony-Anhalt, which is the weakest link in the chain for the monopolies. In the national elections we had our best results there with an average of 0,4 percent for the first and second votes. Here we can imagine achieving a break-through in the ballot on the land level.
We have won a lot of new members, many comrades have taken over new tasks within the past weeks. It is therefore also important to “secure the victory” by intensifying education, schooling and study work. Only if theory and practice form a unity will the party be able to advance.

Red Flag: Can you finally say something as to the future development?

Stefan Engel: The instable political situation in connection with the increasing strength of the MLPD is the foundation for an upswing in class struggle and for an advance in party building! The objective and subjective conditions for a struggle for social change in the direction of genuine socialism have definitely improved.

The MLPD has succeeded in gaining mass influence in spite of massive manipulation and obstacles in the election. Because of its ideological clarity, its organizational determination and its growing tactical flexibility, it will be able to take a big step ahead in the coming time to win over the decisive majority of the working class on its way to becoming the party of the masses. I am convinced of this.

Red Flag: Thank you very much!

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