Left Party: Between criticism and self-criticism

Status: 10.12.2021 3:35 p.m.

The Left Party just had a committee chair in the new Bundestag. But the cast is causing a stir – a thesis paper is actually supposed to initiate a fresh start.

By Kerstin Palzer, ARD capital studio

The Left Party has shrunk. She came to a meager 4.9 percent in the federal election. For the parliamentary group, this means that they only exist in the Bundestag through a special regulation: because three leftists (Gregor Gysi, Gesine Lötzsch and Sören Pellmann) have won their direct mandates, the five percent hurdle does not apply. But it also means that from the previous 69 there are now only 39 left-wing MPs in parliament. And it means that the party can only have a single chair of the important committees in which the actual specialist work in the Bundestag is done.

Kerstin Palzer
ARD capital studio

Now one could assume that a party that finds itself in such a situation will pull together, close ranks and see which people bring the party forward in public. But that is probably not the case. The parliamentary group has to fill the committee on climate. Not unimportant, future-oriented. So luck in bad luck. But so far the group has not been able to agree on who should take this position.

Outraged writing

Klaus Ernst, former party chairman, is in discussion. Or Bernd Riexinger, also a former party chairman. Resistance is already raging, especially when it comes to Personnel Ernst. There is an outraged letter to the group from various members of left-wing national groups or boards. It says:

Klaus Ernst definitely doesn’t fit. Should you decide in favor of him anyway, a public dispute would also be likely. And we all know that such a thing is of no use either to our party or to the strength of the parliamentary group.

There is an open letter on the Internet with the ambiguous title “Not your seriousness” and signed by Fridays for Future people like Luisa Neubauer or Carla Reemtsma. This too is very critical of the latest personnel debate among the left: “It is a mystery to us how Die Linke, as an eco-social party, wants to send Ernst, of all people, to the climate committee. That will massively cost Die Linke credibility – inside and outside the party.”

“We lost everywhere”

After all, there is now a paper that calls for a fresh start for the Left Party. It was written by party chairmen Janine Wissler and Susanne Hennig-Wellsow. It is somewhat relentless: “We have lost everywhere. There is more than one reason for this, and many of them are certainly due to ourselves.”

This is new and urgently needed almost three months after the election defeat. On nine pages, the two party leaders analyze the dilemma in which the party is stuck. The letter is not yet public, it is ARD capital studio but before.

Hennig-Wellsow and Wissler write of a “necessary clarification of our similarities” and that it is no longer sufficient to act as a social corrective to the SPD and the Greens.

Where’s the Caretaker Party?

Hennig-Wellsow, who, as a successful organizer from Thuringia, came into the position of party leader in the first place, emphasizes the importance of East Germany for Die Linke when analyzing the error: “When East Germans are told something about transformation by West politicians, an entire generation does not think first on solar roofs or wind turbines, but remembers the brutal social uprooting in the post-reunification period. ”

That’s as correct as it is overdue. The left is no longer perceived by more and more people in East Germany as the care-taker party that it once was. Many no longer understand what the party actually wants or what goals it stands for. In a nutshell: what’s the point if I choose this? Hennig-Wellsow thinks that “we now have to get into the clear with ourselves” and that one has to reach “not only the heads, but also the heart and stomach of the people”.

And her co-chair Janine Wissler added: “We will remain plural, but we have to leave behind the impression of being ambiguous.”

The left’s dilemma

But that is exactly what shows the dilemma in which the party is stuck. Torn between voters who live in rural areas. Wherever rail connections have been massively dismantled in the last few decades, where there is no longer a supermarket or school in the villages, the ecological restructuring of a society is not the number one issue.

Shift workers who have to drive to the next district town at five in the morning don’t really care about the problems of an urban educated elite. There are starting points. The parcel deliverer in Stuttgart has a similarly difficult life as the nurse in Cottbus.

So far, however, the Left Party has not been able to convey to these people what they would get from voting for Die Linke. This is the shortcoming of a party that has been and is now again gaining ground in personal disputes. In addition, two women who were relatively unknown nationwide took over the chairmanship of the party.

Personal Race

Political scientist Thorsten Faas from the Free University of Berlin also draws this conclusion: “This election year 2021 was marked by a very strong focus on people. For Die Linke it was a big problem because many of its top people were new and not very well known. That was a major disadvantage and will also remain a challenge for Die Linke in the future. “

So now the party wants, if it were entirely up to its chairman, to deal more with the “local issues”. Do more, talk less, that’s how the nine-page paper could be summed up.

The problem, however, is that even in East Germany the party hardly has the staff to deal with the many problems that people face. And at the federal level, the impression remains that it is more about the dispute between Sahra Wagenknecht and her now many internal party opponents.

The dispute over the composition of the climate committee is just another chapter that distracts from the honest attempt of the party leadership to save this party.


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