Kosmodromio spoke with Lucy Redler, member of the Νational Executive Committee (NEC) of DIE LINKE and member of Sozialistische Alternative SAV on political situation in Germany, immigration policy and the movement against restrictive measures.
Germany is entering a long pre-election period. How would you describe the political landscape in the Germany today and what does Die Linke hope for?
Before the outbreak of the Corona pandemic, the political situation in Germany was characterized on the one hand by a crisis of the two ruling bourgeois parties (SPD and CDU) and on the other hand by a political polarization between left and right. On the one hand, this polarization has expressed itself in gains by the right-wing populist AfD, which has sought to stoke fears of rising crime and immigration. On the other hand, polarization to the left has manifested itself, among other things, in large-scale protests on climate, anti-fascism and anti-racism. Or also by the fact that there is a large-scale campaign in Berlin for the expropriation of real estate corporations, which in the meantime achieved majorities in polls and this year wants to decide the demand for expropriation in a referendum.
Many young people in particular are becoming politicized. Unfortunately, DIE LINKE is not benefiting sufficiently from the trend for various reasons. So far, it is mainly the Green Party that have been able to profit from it, which is still seen as a party for environmental protection, although it proves the opposite every day in its governmental practice in various regional states.
The Corona pandemic and the fact that the effects of the pandemic in the first half of the year 2020 were not as dramatic in Germany as in other countries where the health systems were cut together (also by the anti-social policy of the Troika), has the effect that some politicians can now portray themselves as crisis managers. In the short term, this has helped the CDU in the national government to achieve some stability, while the SPD remains at a low crisis level. From today’s perspective, the formation of a coalition between the CDU and the Green Party seems most likely after the generel election in September 2020.
The Corona crisis has not only devastating health consequences, but also social consequences. DIE LINKE is the only force of the parties in national parliament that clearly positions itself on the side of those who have to bear the burdens of the crisis. For years, only DIE LINKE has been calling for better staffing levels in hospitals, better pay and for hospitals to be publicly owned. That’s good. At the same time, leading forces of the DIE LINKE keep hoping to be part of a national government made up of the SPD, the Greens and DIE LINKE. I think this is a mistake, because I don’t see how left-wing policies can be implemented with the SPD and the Greens, and I advocate that the place of DIE LINKE is in the opposition.
At the moment, the most important task of our party would be to build up resistance against the fact that workers, unemployed, young people and pensioners should pay for the burdens of the crisis. DIE LINKE rightly demands that the rich should pay for the costs of the crisis. But it would also be necessary to pay more attention to how the balance of power can be shifted in order to implement such demands and how the party can become a much stronger part of struggles on the streets, in companies, schools and universities.
At present, unfortunately, there are mainly protests from right-wing and rather confused sections of society in the form of the so-called “Querdenken“- protests against the Corona-policy of the government. DIE LINKE, trade unions and other left organisations must mobilize against this and put forward their own demands for solving the crisis.
Another important task of our party would be to popularize anti-capitalist and socialist ideas. As a result of the Corona pandemic, more and more people have understood that the market does not regulate anything. The task of DIE LINKE is not to regulate this market a little better, but to make concrete proposals for how key sectors of the economy could be put into public ownership and placed under democratic control and management.
When if not now is the time to spread the idea of a democratically planned economy in the interest of people and nature and to make it clear that there is a clear connection between the climate crisis, the economic crisis, worldwide pandemics and capitalism?
The Greek media cultivates a perception that Merkel is somehow ΄΄the protector of refugees΄΄, a magnanimous politician, faced with the constraints imposed by the anti-immigrant CSU. What is the truth and what is your party’s political position on immigration policy?
That Merkel is the protector of refugees is a myth. Journalist Isabel Schayani, who repeatedly reports from Moria for the German media, pointed out only a few days ago that the German government had promised to let 1553 refugees into germany after the fire in the Moria refugee camp. These are shamefully few, but to date even of these only 291 have been allowed to enter, although conditions are catastrophic.
When Merkel opened the border to refugees in 2015, she was responding for a brief window of time to a shift in public opinion in solidarity with refugees and because she knew that the refugees arriving in Hungary were ready to fight their way toward Germany, Austria, and Sweden and could only have been stopped with massive violence. This suspension of the Dublin rules was widely reported internationally. The fact that border controls were subsequently reintroduced and lots of measures were adopted that further worsened the right to asylum was hardly noticed internationally. But the fact is that the German government, with its role in the EU and the world, is one of the perpetrators of flight and has blood on its hands. It was the government that built the Fortress Europe with the other EU states and made deals with Erdogan to keep refugees out of Germany.
DIE LINKE demands the restoration of the fundamental right to asylum, save escape routes and rejects the illegalization of refugees, is against deportations, against any form of special laws such as the residence obligation as well as against refugee camps. The EU’s policy of sealing off refugees is inhumane – we do not want a Fortress Europe. DIE LINKE advocates the abolition of the border protection agency FRONTEX, which is the EU’s most important instrument for sealing people off.
The fact that DIE LINKE cannot prevent deportations in the federal states where it governs with the SPD and the Greens is for me another reason why our coalition partners should be strong movements on the streets instead of bourgeois parties in parliament.
During the quarantine we saw reactionary movements like the “Querdenken” coming forward. Chairwoman of Die Linke, Katja Kipping recently said that ΄΄ If the lockdown must be tightened or extended, that’s also due Querdenken΄΄. Could you provide us some context about the composition of this movement? In your opinion, what should be the position of the Left towards the restrictive measures and the pandemic?
The demos of the so-called „Querdenken“ have a reactionary and dangerous character. One can and should criticize the national government for many things: that they subsidize corporations with billions, while workers, parents, children are the ones who suffer; that the staffing situation in elderly care facilities and hospitals is still catastrophic; that the restrictions in the private sphere are very extensive, while everyone should continue to go to work, so that in capitalism the profits can continue to be made.
But in the „Querdenken“- protests, other demands are at the center. The abolishment to wear masks and the immediate reopening of all stores and institutions is the central demand of the demos. The concept of freedom behind this is not a democratic one, but an individualistic, neoliberal one.
At the demos, in addition to 10 to 20 percent organized by the far right/Nazis, there is a large proportion of esoteric or “alternative”-inspired anti-vaccination activists. This movement is clearly not a movement in which the ideas and problems of workers, the poor or the particularly oppressed are thematized. It is a movement with petty-bourgeois-individualistic ideas taken to the extreme, in which the “I”, one’s own private freedom, counts more than the common democratic rights to physical integrity and labor protection.
DIE LINKE rejects these demonstrations and that is a good thing. It is right to participate in the counter-demonstrations, but the most important thing is for DIE LINKE to set up its own left and social protests together with trade unions, social movements and left-wing organizations. There is a potential for this, at the moment it is of course complicated in the pandemic. But now is the time to prepare large-scale protests for the summer before the election date, so that we can really fight to make the rich, who are getting richer, pay for the crisis.