THE COMMUNIST ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN IN GERMANY
Rote Fahne interview with Stefan Engel, chairman of the Marxist Leninist Party of Deutschland (MLPD), 24 April 2002.
Just like in the last federal state elections four years ago, a lot of surprising things happened again this time in Saxony-Anhalt.
It was actually foreseeable that the voter turnout would decline sharply and that the SPD and its federal state minister Hoeppner would lose. Surprising was the sharp decline of the SPD, which lost nearly 60 per cent of its voters in comparison to the election four years ago. The party now obtained only 231,842 votes compared to 536,501 in 1998. This is the heaviest loss for the SPD in a state election in the last 50 years, but also the sharpest decline for the SPD since Schroeder has been chancellor.
Both government parties in Berlin, the SPD and the Alliance 90/Green Party, were either rejected or actually even punished by the voters. The fall in the turnout from 71.7per cent to 56.5 per cent (minus 15.2 per cent) mainly shows that the bourgeois parties have considerably lost their attraction. All monopoly parties are experiencing a rapid decline of their loyal voters. This also applies to the CDU, which with 37.3 per cent, is among the election winners along with the FDP with 13.3 per cent of the votes.
If we compare the votes for the CDU with those of the last national election, we can observe that the CDU also lost votes in absolute terms. Only the FDP could really win votes, more than doubling the number of its voters with 154,246 votes. This reflects a shift of the balance of power within the bourgeois camp, as well as a change of attitude in favour of the FDP, especially of the associations of the monopolies. Again and again, the FDP is being praised by the Federal League of German Industry (BDI) for its clear program, which is nearly a literal copy of that of the employers' association. In addition, it propagates this program in a rather populist manner, often criticizing state-bureaucracy and the ineptness of the other parties. The PDS could not take advantage of the decline of the SPD in the election. It even lost almost 60,000 votes compared to the federal state election in 1998, even though its relative election result has risen from 19.6 percent to 20.4 percent. It lost votes mainly among young voters and in the big cities.
The process of detachment from the bourgeois parties, bourgeois parliamentarism and its institutions has deepened and accelerated. It has taken on a new quality, despite an intensified media election campaign and great expenses for this election campaign according to the statements of all bourgeois parties. All parties assumed that the federal state election in Saxony-Anhalt would be a test election for the national election on 22 September 2002. Now of course, neither the SPD nor the Alliance90/Green Party want to hear any more about it. However, the trend in Saxony-Anhalt is very clear. It increases the political instability in Germany and the effect of the manipulation of public opinion in the interests of the monopolies becomes relative.
The guiding line of the voters and non-voters was the protest against the ruling policy. This fact confirms our starting point in the assessment of the election campaign that Saxony-Anhalt is one of the weakest links in the chain of state-monopoly capitalism in Germany.
There are commentators describing the election in Saxony-Anhalt as a shift to the right. What is the view of the MLPD about this assessment?
You can only describe the election in Saxony-Anhalt as a shift to the right if you consider the SPD to be a left party. The biggest group of voters are the non-voters, who rejected every attempt of a fascist or right populist catching of votes this time. For example, the fascist group FDVP, which split from the DVU, fell from nearly 13 percent to 0.8 percent and also the Schill-Party did not manage to overcome the 5 percent hurdle despite the great media publicity in this election campaign. This manifests the basic antifascist attitude of the voters in Saxony-Anhalt and also a sobriety concerning the true character of the DVU.
The increase in votes for the CDU is also not an expression of right-wing views. Even bourgeois analysts point to the fact that most of the voters of the CDU and FDP are not convinced constituents of these two monopoly parties; they rather voted with tactical considerations. This means that many voters only elected these two parties in order to vote the Hoeppner-government out of office.
Thus, the trend continues which we could already experience in the previous federal state elections in Hamburg and Berlin. For the third time in a row, a federal state government was clearly voted out of office.
In our election campaign, we particularly established contacts with many young people who were really active in the struggle against neo-fascism, while the appearance of skinheads from the right camp was more a marginal occurrence. I consider the decline of the neo-fascists, who obviously spent millions for election campaign expenses, to be one of the most important results in Saxony-Anhalt.
The MLPD took part in a federal state election in Saxony-Anhalt for the first time. How are the results to be evaluated?
More than 3,000 eligible voters voted for the MLPD. 2,620 people gave their second ballot to the MLPD. This result marks the continuation of a positive trend. In the last national election in 1994, which is the only comparable election for the MLPD, we received only 389 votes in the whole federal state of Saxony-Anhalt.
At the same time, you have to admit that this election result, of course, is not yet a qualitative leap in the electoral behavior of the masses towards the MLPD. The system of the relative isolation of the MLPD is still functioning. In TV and radio, the MLPD is still not or only rarely represented and is therefore, from the start, marked as being "insignificant". In is not in our power to get into the headlines in national newspapers, radio programs and the press as it was the case with the Schill-Party. This party, in fact, did not conduct an election campaign in the streets, but was systematically played up by influential people in the background and by the bourgeois media.
The only thing we could really rely upon was the effect of the systematic rank-and-file and persuasion work of the members and activists of the MLPD and the voter action groups in Saxony-Anhalt. When we made the decision last year to participate in the federal state election in Saxony-Anhalt, we did not dispose over one single local party group there. From this starting-point it was, of course, very difficult to start from 0 to 100. First we had to create the organizational preconditions for making the MLPD not only consciously known, but also to enable it to get more and more support.
By voting for the MLPD during the election campaign, 3000 people decided to help to build up the party in Saxony-Anhalt further. In relative terms, we have the best election results in Saxony-Anhalt which the MLPD could achieve up to now in elections above a regional level. We also got nearly two and a half times more votes than the electoral alliance of the revisionist DKP/KPD.
We mainly aimed our election tactics towards helping people not only to reject the ruling politicians and parties, but also to become active as "new politicians" and to take part in a process of social change. We thereby also dealt critically and self-critically with a general attitude of bitterness and disenchantment with respect to politics. Apart from the justified criticism of the bourgeois parties this also contains the petty-bourgeois idea that it is up to someone else to make a change in politics in place of the masses. We clearly told people that if things should really change, they must do it themselves. This is not comfortable, but it is the truth.
This argumentation met with great response. We managed to win many people for the voter action groups, nearly 2,300 people. About one third of them are young people, who in the most cases are not yet eligible to vote. No other party is can follow this example. The most significant success of the MLPD is that it could mobilize many people and arouse their activity to take their cause into their own hands. This is worth more than 100,000 votes.
Nevertheless, there must have also been disappointment regarding the election results.
Of course, this cannot be avoided. Nobody could seriously expect that the MLPD could achieve a great parliamentary success in its first participation in elections in Saxony-Anhalt. Although we, of course, wish that one day we will manage to break through our relative isolation and prove to be more successful in the eyes of the masses, too. From the start, the most important thing for us was to build up the party and its youth league in Saxony-Anhalt.
We conducted an excellent election campaign that was visible for everyone in 30 cities and regions with the help of groups, county and local branches from all parts of Germany. We received no state funds for the election campaign, no support from radio and TV media, but we did it jointly with the local people, whom we won for the voter action groups. From this work, 20 voter action groups emerged forming the basis for the future party building of the MLPD. That means that today, the MLPD is represented in 20 of 23 cities in Saxony-Anhalt with a population of more than 20,000. We also got several hundred applications for membership in the MLPD and the youth league REBELL and now have five local branches and seven units without branch status. We can expect these to increase considerably in the coming weeks.
It is interesting that we got our best election results and the highest number of activists in the chemical triangle Halle, Merseburg, Leuna, Wolfen, Bitterfeld. The former industrial proletariat of Saxony-Anhalt is concentrated here. And here, the rank-and-file work was started to a certain extent before the election campaign. Everywhere where groups had already been founded last year and where comrades could establish themselves personally as Marxist-Leninists, we also put up direct candidates, all of whom got about twice of the number of first ballots as second ballots. For example, Hans Jeschke in Halle/Neustadt got 1.2 percent or Klaus Fuchs in Magdeburg/Olvenstedt 1.0 percent. We did not even get such a high proportion of the votes in other state or national elections, even in Gelsenkirchen or in the Ruhr District. However, this also shows that in those regions where the party has worked for some time, more people were willing to support this new movement. It is understandable that people who hear about the MLPD for the first time first want to get more information and make up their minds and do not join up immediately. For this reason it is very important that we now transform the voter action groups into action groups for party building. This will enable the foundation to become a stable house towards which people in Saxony-Anhalt can orient themselves.
Here I would like to express my cordial thanks to all supporters, activists and members of the party and the youth league for their great commitment in the election campaign in Saxony-Anhalt, to congratulate them and to extend to them my thanks on behalf of the Central Committee of the MLPD for their unselfish rank-and-file work. Everybody who took part in this campaign made lasting experiences and has memories which he/she can use for the accelerated building of the party in the own local branch. The election campaign was a very intensive and successful process of learning. We tried out new methods of party building with great success, new methods of work among the masses, we developed new arguments and, most important, we made a major contribution to workers' unity in East and West. We can be proud of this and we can build on this.
Chancellor Schroeder not only suffered a defeat in the election in Saxony-Anhalt. In the present collective bargaining in the metal industry, he has gone a bit far and expressed his opposition to a strike. Is he faced with another defeat?
I suppose that the provocative rejection of workers' strikes by Schroeder was one of the reasons why the SPD had to suffer such a heavy defeat in Saxony-Anhalt. Whoever so clearly takes sides with the monopolies, whoever so light-heartedly makes promises that he does not keep and, after all this, calls on the workers to refrain from fighting for their interests, does not deserve a different treatment. Of course, the leadership of the Metal-Union is not much interested in this strike and it was already intended to make a pilot agreement in the federal state Baden-Wuerttemberg last week. But apparently, the fighting spirit in the enterprises is so great that such strong warning strikes involving more than 900,000 participants developed that the Metal-Union-leadership has great problems in satisfying the workers with a foul compromise.
For this reason for the first time in a long time, the negotiations were broken off and the strike ballot was initiated. Berthold Huber had to reject the offer of the employers' association of 3.3 percent for a period of 15 months, because in his opinion this could not be "pushed through" among the trade-union rank and file. The dilemma of the Metal-Union is that it does not want a strike, but that it cannot affront the union members. This could backfire and have adverse effects on the national elections on 22 September 2002.
For which situation is the MLPD preparing for?
The whole time we demanded the full use the fighting force of the trade unions and we will continue do this in the future. In the strike ballots we will support the trade unions to vote for strike. However, we also demand the use of the entire trade-union fighting force. Metal-Union vice-chairman Peters has already prided himself with new tactics of struggle in which only selective strikes in a so-called "rolling system" should be staged. This is utter nonsense which, in essence is, designed to damp down the class conflicts. If the trade-union demands are to be asserted, the means and methods of the trade union struggle also have to be fully implemented.
We cannot exclude that the trade union leadership will prevent the strike in the last moment. Therefore, utmost vigilance is necessary. The workers are well advised to maintain their militant initiative and not to wait until the Metal-Union board acts. Therefore, it is necessary to mobilize intensively for the strike.
For the first time in a long time, the employers' association announced lockouts. This would be political provocation and leads to an aggravation of the situation for which the workers have to prepare themselves from the beginning. It is necessary to organize independent strikes against these lockouts at once. A strike of the Metal-Union would not only have economic implications in the present situation. It would also be used by the workers for settling their own political accounts. Even the strike ballot will be a vote against Gerhard Schroeder. The workers will express by this vote that they are not his voting fodder, but that they are able to assert their independent class interests against a government led by social democrats, too. Thus, this can be a very important signal for the further development of the working class struggles against mass unemployment, wage cuts and the cutbacks in social achievements. Therefore, the party as a whole and the party groups which today are doing work in the factories and trade unions will already focus their work on their activity in the factories and trade unions now. On the whole, it is necessary that we properly conclude the tactical main task All-rounded Strengthening of the MLPD in connection with the Participation in the Federal State Election. Many applications for memberships have to be dealt with, new local branches and units without branch status have to be founded and new structures for the party building in Saxony-Anhalt have to be established. This does not happen by itself and must be carried through with the necessary seriousness. In our next tactical main task we have to focus on the strengthening of our party building, especially at the main line of struggle, the factories and trade unions.
For May 9th to 12th, the MLPD has announced comprehensive activities on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the death of Willi Dickhut. What is the significance of these events?
For us, the 10th anniversary of the death of Willi Dickhut is an occasion to give our many new members the opportunity to get to know the MLPD better, its history and its foundations. They are inseparably linked to the person of Willi Dickhut. Here we are not advocating a cult of personality as some people suppose, but we are honoring the life work of Willi Dickhut, which is an essential basis for the founding and the building of the MLPD as a Marxist-Leninist party of a new type. For many people it is not quite clear what constitutes the new feature of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany as opposed to the old communist movement. The most important lesson of Willi Dickhut was that the party has to be build on the basis of the proletarian mode of thinking and that socialism as well is only functioning if the proletarian mode of thinking is the guideline of social development.
The activities on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the death of Willi Dickhut have three components:
* First, a festive event in which we will honor the life work of Willi Dickhut. This is surely the biggest and broadest activity and will take place in the city hall of Wuppertal.
* Secondly, on Friday the Willi-Dickhut-Museum will be opened in Gelsenkirchen-Horst in the rooms rented in the Workers' Education Center. It is an education facility intended mainly to help young people to learn the history of the working class movement from the standpoint of the revolutionary perspective of the MLPD and also to learn from the experiences of the working class movement in Germany. The working class movement here has got very rich experiences. Willi Dickhut reviewed and reappraised all these experiences and he was able it to draw creative conclusions from them for the advancement of the international Marxist-Leninist and working class movement. Therefore, guests from at least 15 countries from all over the world are expected to attend these activities and festive events.
* Thirdly, a seminar will take place on Saturday/Sunday at the comprehensive school Berger Feld in Gelsenkirchen where there will also be the opportunity to get information on the significance of the life work of Willi Dickhut for party building in Germany, but also to discuss about the international Marxist-Leninist and working class movement. Books of Willi Dickhut have already been translated into many languages. Especially his analysis of the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union has become a standard work of the international Marxist-Leninist and working class movement in the struggle against modern revisionism.
These activities for the 10th anniversary of the death of Willi Dickhut are a certain highlight of the work between the two party congresses of the MLPD. They intend to contribute to popularizing our ideological-political line and our Marxist-Leninist views and to help many people gain access to them. Here I would like to call on the youth in particular to use the opportunity to participate in the various events. Such an opportunity to get to know the MLPD comprehensively and to learn from the many experiences will not be given again for a long time. Especially the many activists and sympathizers can substantiate their decision whether to join the MLPD.
In the coming days and especially in connection with May Day, it is important to mobilize broadly for these events and organize participation. We intend to make the commemoration on May 9th the biggest event of the MLPD since the Party Congress of Gelsenkirchen. All people who have gotten to know the MLPD in connection with the election campaign in Saxony-Anhalt are cordially invited to attend. It is an excellent opportunity for meeting activists, gaining new experiences and impressions, exchanging views and learning all-sidedly something about the path and aims of the revolutionary party. Willi Dickhut symbolizes the significance of party building for the future!
Thank you very much for the talk.
Rote Fahne 17/02 25.4.2002