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150 Young People in Berlin Break from Reformism

A conference last Saturday discussed a “revolutionary break” from Germany’s Left Party, Die Linke.

Nathaniel Flakin

January 18, 2023
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Young Die Linke members at a meeting on January 14, 2022 deciding to break with the reformist party.

January in Berlin is a good time to break from reformism. On January 1, 1919, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg left social democracy and founded the Communist Party of Germany (KPD).

Last Saturday, 104 years later, 150 young people gathered at Berlin’s House of Democracy, an institution created in the East German protests of 1989. Their goal was to break from a different reformist party: Die Linke.

For months, these young people had been carrying out a faction fight inside Die Linke’s youth organization, Linksjugend-Solid. Their faction, Revolutionärer Bruch (Revolutionary Break), criticized Die Linke’s involvement in Berlin’s government, as well as many other provincial government coalitions across Germany. This means they’re responsible for repression, racism, and austerity. In Berlin, it means they are helping sabotage the referendum in which 59.1 percent of voters called for the nationalization of big housing companies.

This struggle led to Saturday’s conference, which Revolutionärer Bruch organized alongside Klasse Gegen Klasse (Left Voice’s sister site in Germany) and which was attended by several other revolutionary socialist groups. Also in attendance were midwives from a hospital in Munich fighting the closure of their delivery ward, and the group Palestine Speaks, which has been victim of terrible police repression under the Berlin government.

In their founding statement, these young activists pointed out that socialists in Germany need to be fighting for an emergency program against inflation and militarism. The German government is investing an additional €100 billion in its army while working people struggle to afford exploding energy bills. Die Linke, which could help organize resistance against these policies, is instead trying to manage the capitalist state and “prevent the worst,” as they like to say. Rosa Luxemburg said the exact opposite: she believed that the role of a socialist party, “in bourgeois society, is essentially that of an opposition party. It can only enter on scene as a government party on the ruins of bourgeois society.”

At the opening panel, Freddy Hölzer of Revolutionärer Bruch explained that “we don’t just want to break from Die Linke organizationally” — after all, people resign from Die Linke all the time — “but we want to break with their strategy.” The long-term goal is to build up a revolutionary socialist party. A step in that direction could be to found a political front for revolutionary socialists to collaborate, independent of and in opposition to reformism.

Reformism is an international phenomenon, so the conference discussed the experiences of Podemos in the Spanish State and Syriza in Greece. These neoreformist parties once promised an end to austerity, but then joined governments and implemented the very policies they had criticized. The New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) in France was also the subject of debate, with the presence of a young member of the new organization Révolution Permanente. This helped participants understand why it is not enough to achieve the unity of all anticapitalists without strategic agreements.

After a series of workshops, the closing session of the conference focused on two immediate tactical questions: First, was it the right moment to break? This is always tricky. Revolutionärer Bruch is small — but then again, Linksjugend-Solid is an empty bureaucratic shell. Almost half of the Berlin branch’s youth organization had joined the faction. With Die Linke in crisis, and growing demoralization among its members, it is important to show a bold perspective.

Second, how should revolutionaries approach the elections that will take place in Berlin next month? Die Linke is campaigning to stay in government — the party aims to renew its coalition with the Social Democrats and the Greens. A section of the conference, led by the group Workers Power and its youth organization Revolution, argued in favor of giving critical electoral support to Die Linke. But Revolutionärer Bruch and Klasse Gegen Klasse argued that this would only alienate us from Berlin’s workers and activists who are fighting the government’s policies. Instead, a campaign for a spoiled ballot and a new working-class alternative would be the best way to win support.

In the end, two-thirds of the conference voted for the draft declaration proposed by Klasse Gegen Klasse, which announced an immediate break with Die Linke and which refused to give any electoral support to Die Linke Berlin. This does not mean breaking off all contact with reformist parties — on the contrary, revolutionaries work to build campaigns that include members of Die Linke and even the SPD. The statement includes a long list of campaigns in which the activists work together.

The next day, thousands of people took to the streets to remember Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. Around 100 people joined the bloc of Revolutionärer Bruch, with a banner demanding “Not one cent for militarism,” an old slogan of the revolutionary socialist movement in Germany. They were calling to fight both exploding energy prices and the climate crisis.

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Nathaniel Flakin

Nathaniel is a freelance journalist and historian from Berlin. He is on the editorial board of Left Voice and our German sister site Klasse Gegen Klasse. Nathaniel, also known by the nickname Wladek, has written a biography of Martin Monath, a Trotskyist resistance fighter in France during World War II, which has appeared in German, in English, and in French, and in Spanish. He has also written an anticapitalist guide book called Revolutionary Berlin. He is on the autism spectrum.

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