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A Revolutionary Break from Die Linke in Germany

Germany’s Left Party is in a profound crisis. This weekend, over 100 young people are gathering in Berlin for a conference. Their goal is to break from Die Linke and begin building a revolutionary organization.

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A flag says "Linksjugend-Solid," the youth organization of Germany's Die Linke party.

Die Linke, the Left Party in Germany, has been in a profound crisis for the last year and a half. In September 2021, the party just barely squeezed into the Bundestag with 4.9 percent of votes — the worst results since the party’s founding in 2007. Sahra Wagenknecht, the party’s most well-known figure, is openly talking about splitting away soon. In the last year, the party has seen its support collapse in state elections, while the hashtag #LinkeMeToo drew attention to sexualized violence inside the party.

From a great distance, Die Linke might seem like a left socialist opposition party, but it is in fact part of the German capitalist state. In the last 15 years, the Left Party has been part of 13 different coalition governments at the provincial level. “Leftist” ministers have been responsible for privatizations, deportations, and evictions. The party has long been moving to abandon many of its formally anti-war positions. When Israel rained bombs down on Gaza in 2021, for example, the party leadership declared its support for Israel’s “self defense” — including the murder of 66 children. More recently, Die Linke has supported sanctions (i.e., economic war) against Russia while emphasizing that it’s willing to “compromise” on its opposition to NATO.

Amid the ongoing crisis, the normally staid and extremely bureaucratic party has seen an unusual level of debate — at least within the Berlin chapter of its youth organization, Linksjugend-Solid, a majority of whose members passed resolutions against “government socialism.” They called on their mother party to leave the Berlin government — which is currently sabotaging the referendum to socialize big landlords. They also spoke out against both NATO and Putin, and they expressed solidarity with Palestine. In the right-wing press, party leaders denounced their own youth organization and cut off its funding.

Although left-wing activists could win certain votes inside Solid Berlin, their perspectives were limited by Solid’s bureaucratic apparatus, which has few active members — open general assemblies in Berlin, for example, never attract more than a few dozen young people, and many of those are bureaucrats and careerists. This is why these young socialists organized a faction called Revolutionärer Bruch — for a Revolutionary Break with the Left Party and Solid. They began working together with Klasse Gegen Klasse, the German sister site of Left Voice, to win support for revolutionary ideas.

In their founding document, the faction argued that Die Linke had not in fact drifted off course — from the beginning, it was always a reformist party oriented toward joining bourgeois governments and holding back the class struggle. The faction declared that their goal was to build a radically different kind of party, focused on the independent self-organization of the working class in the fight against exploitation and oppression. Their document sketched an emergency program against the current crisis, including the nationalization of energy companies under workers’ control. The document also took a firm stance against imperialist war and sanctions, with the perspective of building an anti-war movement in NATO countries, Russia, and Ukraine.

This Saturday, over 100 people are signed up for a conference in Berlin that will attempt to draw up a balance sheet for Die Linke, 15 years after the party’s founding. The second weekend in January is always important for the German Left, marking the anniversary of the Social Democrats’ assassination of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. On Sunday, thousands of leftists from across the country will join the traditional demonstration. This is a particularly interesting weekend for a revolutionary break: it was in January 1919 — on New Year’s Day, to be precise — that Luxemburg, Liebknecht, and others decided to leave social democracy and found a new communist party.

Besides Klasse Gegen Klasse, different revolutionary socialist groups will be participating in the conference. Many groups of Trotskyist origin joined Die Linke when it was founded, including SAV (ISA), SOL (CWI), Funke (IMT), and Marx21 (post-IST), and they have been there ever since This conference is calling on them to draw a line, end this long-term cohabitation with reformist ministers, and take steps toward building an anti-capitalist and revolutionary pole.

Klasse Gegen Klasse is publishing contributions to the debate from many different activists. A draft declaration for the conference attempts to formulate an alternative to Die Linke ’s reformist strategy — a strategy based on class struggle. It lists different campaigns on which participants can collaborate in the coming months, and it calls for socialist groups to form a revolutionary front for elections. Controversial questions up for debate include whether revolutionaries should critically support Die Linke in the Berlin elections, taking place in just a month, and what lessons are to be drawn from different broad left and anti-capitalist parties in various countries.

The organizers are optimistic that it will represent a big step forward in building an alternative to what Luxemburg called “government socialism”: an independent revolutionary socialist youth in the heart of the imperialist beast.

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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. He is on the autism spectrum.

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