WASG removes Berlin leadership

At its meeting on May 13, the national executive of the WASG decided to remove the regional executives in Berlin and the east German federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, says Tina Becker

At its meeting on May 13, the national executive of the WASG decided to remove the regional executives in Berlin and the east German federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. In both areas, a majority of WASG members had voted to stand against the L.PDS in forthcoming regional elections.

The WASG conference on April 29-30 mandated its leadership to take "all necessary steps" to avoid rival candidates - a motion that was strongly supported by the Socialist Workers Party's German section, Linksruck. Presumably, Linksruck member Christine Buchholz used her position on the executive to vote for the removal, which the bourgeois daily Süddeutsche Zeitung described as "a severe encroachment of inner-party democracy" (May 15).

It looks as if only a single member of the executive opposed the measures, comrade Thies Gleiss (a member of the Internationale Sozialistische Linke, one of the two German affiliates of the Fourth International - the other being the Revolutionäre Sozialistische Bund). He is one of the remaining leftwingers on the executive, after three others resigned at the recent conference (see Weekly Worker May 4).

While criticising the decision of the Berlin majority to press ahead with separate candidates, comrade Gleiss condemns the administrative measures taken. As an alternative, he advocated that the WASG in Berlin should not stand against the L.PDS, but should also refrain from supporting it.

It would have been better to have proposed a joint slate with the L.PDS. Then WASG candidates could have called for a critical vote for their bloc partners, producing election literature that criticised the L.PDS's disastrous record in government. None of this would have contradicted the fight for a swift merger of the two organisations, and would have laid down an important marker in the new, unified party for a struggle against participation in any government which administers capitalism.

However, it seems as if comrade Gleiss's preferred scenario may become a reality anyway. The L.PDS has already started to select its candidates for the September 18 elections - without any input from the WASG (minority or majority).

One of the consequences of the heavy-handedness of the executive, comrade Gleiss asserts, is that some in the Berlin WASG "will have been downright pushed into the sectarian adventures that the measures were supposed to have prevented" (www.linkezeitung.de, May 15). He is referring, of course, to those such as the Socialist Party's German section, Sozialistische Alternative, which dominates the Berlin WASG politically, although not numerically (at the European Social Forum in Athens, a member of Workers Power's tiny German section, Arbeitermacht, told me that his group also supports separate candidates).

The Berlin WASG organisation has referred the matter to the party's arbitration body - besides preparing a legal challenge in the courts! SAV member Lucy Redler, the main candidate in Berlin, is "certain that a court will rule against these measures" (www.sozialismus.info, May 15). The day after their removal, members of the executive went ahead and handed over the 3,000 signatures needed to stand in the elections to the Berlin returning officer.

The comrades also went ahead with a conference of all Berlin members on May 16 - despite the fact that the national executive declared this gathering unconstitutional and tried to cancel it. An overwhelming majority - 87 out of 88 - voted to go ahead with separate candidates, although this margin of victory clearly reflects the split in the Berlin organisation. The minority has been busy setting up counter-structures with the blessing of the national executive (and the organisational help of Linskruck).

We believe that the tactic of insisting on separate candidates has weakened the opposition and is, in effect, a diversion. Rather than fighting over the programme of a new joint party in Germany, the left is wasting time and a lot of effort. Neither the WASG's social democracy nor the L.PDS's soft-focus Stalinism are political redoubts behind which the left should make some sort of do-or-die stand.

The left urgently needs to raise its vision from this sterile squabble in Berlin. What sort of political party does the working class of Germany need? What are the lessons of the German Social Democratic Party of Bebel, Kautsky and Luxemburg? What can we draw from the mass Communist Party of the 1920s? Now, as the working class of this centrally important country begins to emerge from the political ice age imposed on it by Nazism and the cold war, is the programme of social democracy really the answer?

In the absence of any kind of historical perspective, comrades on the left of the WASG are being propelled towards another unnessary schism. The SAV-convened 'meeting of the WASG left opposition' in Kassel on May 20 is in danger of constituting itself as an unprincipled, de facto split. To counter this danger, communists will present this short platform to the assembled comrades and strongly urge them  to change course before it is too late.

l For a unified left party in Germany - as quickly  as possible.

l For negotiations with WASG members in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

l Against attempts to block or slow down the formation of a new left party.

l Yes to a democratic and transparent merger process.

l No to federalism in WASG.

l Yes to unified campaigns.

The new party:

l must have a programme that goes beyond attempts to rescue the welfare state.

l must present a vision of society that goes beyond capitalism. It needs a Marxist programme for a genuinely democratic, working class socialism.

l must take a stand against participation in any government which is committed to administering capitalism. As a junior partner in bourgeois governments, socialists will inevitably end up attacking the working class.

l must enshrine in its statutes the right to form factions and platforms. Factions must have the right to fully inform the members of the unified party of their viewpoints in their own publications - and should be given space in the party's press