Socialist Equality Party (Germany)
The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (Germany)

The Left Party and the petty-bourgeois ex-lefts

230. At the end of the 1990s, social-democratic governments returned to office in most European countries. But their rightward course rapidly undermined the dwindling support they had still enjoyed in the working class. In Germany, in the seven years of the Schröder government, the SPD lost more than 200,000 members and suffered heavy defeats in every state election. In France, the Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin, after five years in office as prime minister, received fewer votes at the presidential elections of 2002 than the fascist candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, while the representatives of the combined middle-class left received 10 percent of the vote. A vast gulf has opened up between the working class and the former reformist parties that various petty-bourgeois and post-Stalinist organisations are trying to fill. These organisations have one thing in common: they are the product of conscious initiatives by representatives of the ruling class; they are not centrist organisations moving towards socialism under the pressure of the masses. Their task consists of strangling from the outset every independent political movement of the working class.

231. For a long time, the Italian party Refounded Communism (Rifondazione Comunista) was regarded by all of these organisations in Europe as their role model. In 1991, Rifondazione emerged out of a section of the Italian Communist Party and took the entire spectrum of Italian ex-radicals, including the Italian section of the Pabloites, in tow. While it stood with one foot in the camp of extra-parliamentary protest movements, during the 1990s it provided various centre-left bourgeois governments with parliamentary majorities. In 2006, Rifondazione entered the centre-left government of Romano Prodi, which proceeded to enact substantial anti-working class spending cuts. This set the seal on their bankruptcy. After just two years, the Prodi government was so hated that it paved the way for the return of Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing government. In 2008, Rifondazione itself failed to get back into parliament and broke apart.

232. In France, the Pabloites prepared their integration into the structures of bourgeois politics by dissolving, in January 2009, the 40-year-old Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) and creating a new party that dissociated itself expressly from Trotskyism and rejected every link to a revolutionary socialist perspective. This was its reaction to the electoral successes of its presidential candidate, Olivier Besancenot, who, in 2002 and 2007, had received over 1 million votes. The programme of the new Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) does not go beyond advocating the reform of capitalism on the basis of a neo-Keynesian economic policy. The NPA strives for “a leftist coalition” with the Communist Party and the Left Party (a faction that split from the Socialist Party) in order to help the discredited Socialist Party win a new government majority. It provides an important base of support for the trade union bureaucracy, which, for its part, is deeply integrated into the capitalist state.

233. In Germany, the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and the Electoral Alternative for Work and Social Justice (WASG) united in the summer of 2007 to form the Left Party. The Left Party unites two bureaucratic apparatuses under one roof, both of which have decades of experience in patronising and suppressing the working class. The Party of Democratic Socialism is the successor to the Stalinist state party of the GDR. In 1990, under Hans Modrow, it organised German reunification and afterwards, as social tensions deepened, undertook to maintain order in East Germany. The WASG developed in the final phase of the Schröder government. It was created by longstanding bureaucrats from the SPD and trade unions who were alarmed over the decline in the SPD’s membership. The initiative for the fusion of the two organisations stemmed from Oskar Lafontaine, one of the most experienced German bourgeois politicians, who for 40 years had occupied leading positions in government and in the SPD.

234. Petty-bourgeois renegades from the Trotskyist movement—such as the Socialist Alternative (SAV) and Marx21—have amalgamated with the Left Party and claim it to be the starting point for the building of “a fighting mass party with tens of thousands of members”. This is a grotesque deception. At no point does the programme of the Left Party go beyond the framework of bourgeois reforms. It defends capitalist private property and the bourgeois state and expressly placed itself behind the federal government’s bank rescue package, which put billions in public funds at the disposal of the banks. Where the Left Party takes part in government, it bends over backwards to fulfill the dictates of the financial world. In the Berlin Senate, for example, it has been in coalition with the SPD since 2001 and participated in an unparalleled downsizing of the public service. The Left Party’s occasional leftist phrases are exclusively aimed at subordinating any mobilisation against social cutbacks or war to the requirements of German imperialism.