Article from the Mar. 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI
Germany: decisive time for new party
by Sean McGinley,
Socialist Alternative(German section of the CWI)
WITH UNEMPLOYMENT approaching six million, wages falling and the proportion of people living in poverty having increased significantly under the current government, Germany is experiencing recession and stagnation on a scale not seen since the Second World War.
The Schroeder government's response has been to dismantle the remnants of the welfare state, causing any illusions or hopes the working class may have had in this government to evaporate. Now, mass demonstrations at national and regional level, as well as the weekly "Monday demonstrations", express the sense of anger, betrayal and disappointment particularly in the former East Germany 15 years after unification.
The SPD (German Social Democratic Party) has suffered dramatically as a result, with members leaving in droves and a string of election defeats as activists and voters desert them. Against this backdrop, two groups of left veterans and trade union officials last July formed the Electoral Alternative for Jobs and Social Justice (WASG).
The response was positive, thousands attended their meetings and 700 attended the congress to form the WASG, which grew quickly, mainly in the West.
Early this year, WASG members voted to form a party - "Work and Social Justice - The Electoral Alternative" (ASG). While this is an important development with great potential, there are problems regarding the new party's programme and structures. The WASG was built on a top-down basis, preventing debate on the programme and character of the organisation - the leaders want to concentrate on parliamentary activity, with a programme based on the reformism of the 1960s and 1970s.
Only just over 3,000 have joined ASG, since many workers have been turned off by the leadership's approach. There is also substantial opposition to the party leadership among many ordinary members, who support more radical, socialist and anti-capitalist ideas.
Socialist Alternative (SAV) sees this as an opportunity to build a new workers' party and therefore participates actively in building ASG. So far, ASG has been unable to go beyond the existing activists and reach new layers of the working class. SAV believes that these people would be attracted by an active, campaigning party with open and democratic structures, and a socialist programme, which is the direction SAV members argue for.
This has led to the ASG leadership taking measures against SAV members, preventing them from standing for election or holding positions in the party - an attempt to force socialist ideas out of the party and limit the scope of debate on ASG's programme and character.
Grassroots members experienced how SAV members helped build ASG in an honest and non-sectarian way. Therefore even those who may not agree with all our ideas strongly oppose the measures of the leadership, who once again are resorting to undemocratic top-down measures to get their way.
The coming weeks and months will be decisive; particularly the elections in North Rhine Westphalia, where 3% have decided to vote ASG, with a further 19% considering doing so. An active, campaigning ASG would make major waves in German politics. SAV members will continue to work hard to ensure that happens.
Earlier reports from Germany