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The Issue with the German Left Party "Die Linke"

Posted on: 2022/02/18 | Author: Lian

The parliamentary landscape of Germany is not that unique in a global comparison. In fact, it might to a degree even serve as a microcosm of global politics as a whole. You have all the staples of contemporary politics: a social-democratic party (SPD), a conservative religion-based party (CDU/CSU), a Green Party (Alliance 90/The Greens), a neoconservative party with fascist elements (AfD), a libertarian/neoliberal party (FDP) and a catch-all post-Soviet Left Party (The Left). Terribly straightforward landscape without unique eccentrities like the Five Star Movement of Italy.

Obviously, more parties than those mentioned exist, but the ones named above are arguably the only ones relevant on a federal level, as they are the only ones represented in federal parliament, the Bundestag.

This post attempts to identify the main problems of "Die Linke" (The Left), which represents the only relevant leftist party in Germany, and explore why it has lost more and more trust among the voter base and will most certainly continue down this path despite the crises of the world supplying fertile ground for driving people to the left.

Who is Die Linke?

If you are acquainted with political ideologies to a degree, you might at this point ask: "What is the actual ideology of this party?" And the fact that I cannot easily answer this does beautifully illustrate the main issue Die Linke suffers from.

Die Linke is a party that constituted itself almost 15 years ago as a merger of two precursor parties: the PDS (Party for Democratic Socialism) and WASG (Voters' Initiative for Labour and Social Justice). This merge showcases the lack of ideological focus upon which Die Linke was built: the PDS is a successor to now-defunct East Germany's majority party SED (Socialist Unity Party), which followed a Stalinist tradition; however, PDS as what was legally its successor party identified as mostly critical of East Germany and decidedly anti-Stalinist. To an extent, the PDS represented the post-USSR, post-Marxist left that emerged globally during this time. WASG on the other hand split off the social democratic party (SPD) over controversial social reforms in the early 21st century that saw the social democrats move more and more to the right.

The PDS' member base was colorful, consisting of anything from Marxist-Leninists, utopian socialists, GDR reformists, people for whom the social democratic party was too conformist, Trotskyists, to other people who somewhat identified with a more "radical" approach to social and global issues. WASG on the other hand consisted of social democrats and union workers upset with the current course of the social democratic party.

Ideological Confusion: Die Linke's Main Issue

Die Linke, as the name "The Left" suggests, is desperately trying to be a pluralist party representing anyone to the left of the established parties. And that's where its prime issue lies: a lack of ideology, focus and consistency.

It's a party where anyone is welcome, from idealist young Fridays For Future activists to Marxist-Leninists who believe in pushing the party to the left from within. The opinions prevalent within the party's membership range from "pro-Israel, pro-USA, diversity and representation politics focused peacebringers to the world" to Trotskyist entryists attempting to build a working class movement from within, and everything in between. From rainbow capitalism to the conservative labour movement to revolutionary vanguards, Die Linke has them all.

The lack of focus in the party's ideology naturally leads to a strongly divided membership base. Prominent members and leaders of the party such as Sahra Wagenknecht are notorious for bringing internal debates and controversial topics into the public and media, attacking their own party members in front of the world to see. No real decisions can be made or solid programmes published because there is always a large split within its own membership concerning these questions. To this date [Update 04/2022: The party has since made clearer statements], Die Linke has no real opinion on compulsory vaccination: is it necessary for securing social justice and saving lives, or is it oppressive and the dictatorship of pharmaceutical capital's profit interests over the population? Are pharmaceutical corporations good for once, or not? Do we support publishing the vaccination's patents? Do we support lockdowns, or not? All of these questions have no official answer two years into the pandemic, because the membership of Die Linke is not united on the issue.

And that, along with a lack of clear statements on other issues like housing or the war, leads to voters' confusion: who am I voting for if I am voting left this election? What position will the elected representative even support? Will they even do anything in parliament? Will I get people like Sahra Wagenknecht who openly call for partial abandonment of social issues in order to appeal to disenfranchised right wingers, or will I get people who support full identity politics at the expense of working class people? Or will I perhaps elect a Leninist?

The actual politics of the Left in practice speak volumes: deportations in Left-controlled states are at an all-time high, public transportation in Berlin gets privatized, no significant progress is being made to expropriate major housing corporations. Congresses of the Left are not dissimilar to a battlefield: with anti-imperalists calling for exiting NATO and the European Union on one side and those who support a full federal European Union with a peacekeeping army in the name of defending democracy and liberty on the other.

The Left is alienating itself from its potential voters in every move they make: because there is no consistent ideology, nothing they really stand for except for generally acceptable buzzwords like "peace", "social justice", "courage" or "solidarity". There can be no programme in the moment of crisis, because there is no common ground on which to analyze the state of the world and build a programme that focuses the working class' interests into a revolutionary movement.

And all of that reflects in the membership base of Die Linke: barely any actual working class people are involved, with the majority of the membership being intellectuals, students, artists and middle class idealists. The state of Die Linke is that of a party that wants to please anyone and in the process manages to please noone.

And that's why it will even further lose its political relevancy unless they make serious internal reforms and kick out half the membership in order to maintain a steadfast, stable foundation on which to make decisions.

Edit History / Appends