Germany’s new leftist powerhouse -

Germany’s new leftist powerhouse

Die Linke traces its roots back to Communist East Germany


Germany’s new leftist powerhouseResults from Germany’s recent election sparked a rush of headlines about a so-called “shift to the right” in European politics. There is some truth to this: the pro-business Free Democrats, who made huge gains, will now be part of the new coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, while the centre-left Social Democrat Party (SPD) recorded its worst result in postwar history. But while the SPD floundered, another party on the left—the far left—saw huge gains. Die Linke, which traces its roots back to Communist East Germany, earned a whopping 12 per cent of the vote. Two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the strong showing by the most radically left party in the Bundestag suggests that some of the old divisions between east and west have yet to be bridged.

In a campaign where other parties were criticized for vague policies and platforms, Die Linke (“The Left”) adopted a strong stance on issues like the war in Afghanistan—it was the only party to call for an immediate German withdrawal. As for the slumping economy and unemployment, Die Linke adopted the election motto “Wealth For All,” a message that no doubt appealed to disaffected workers.

In the former East Germany, where Die Linke has traditionally found its support, “a core of the population remains uncomfortable with the free market orientation of the country,” says James Skidmore, chair of the department of Germanic and Slavic studies at the University of Waterloo. And while many have left for the apparently greener pastures in the West, those who remain, Skidmore notes, still feel some nostalgia for the past. “Lots of my old work colleagues are now supporting [Die Linke],” one laid-off worker told the BBC. “People are frightened that the gap between the rich and the poor is growing wider.”


Germany’s new leftist powerhouse

  1. A good summary of the situation. It's a short article so didn't go into detail: while it's true that the base of the Left Party's support is in the eastern states (the former GDR), it has been growing rapidly in the West, where it was formally a minor party. It has won seats now in four state parliaments in western Germany–so the "five-party system" that has been a reality in the East since German reunification is now becoming the norm in the West as well.

  2. Continuing comment:

    In the East, it's not only a party of the unemployed but of the insecure middle class–a pluralistic "Volkspartei" with equal or greater strength than the other two big parties, the CDU and SPD. But this is not the result of the Left's recent breakthrough in the federal election: it has surpassed either the CDU or SPD in state elections for a number of years.

    Its consistent pacifism (including opposition to any foreign deployment of German troops) enabled it to win an electoral bonus when the German Luftwaffe killed a number of civilians in an attack against a suspected Taliban convoy in Afghanistan a few weeks before the election. All of the other parties–even the Greens–supported the German intervention and were forced to explain the tragedy to voters, while the Left was able simply to argue: "We warned this would happen. The policy is a failure. Let's get out."

  3. Continuing comment:

    While the Left is a complicated party, it should be noted that it has participated as a junior partner in coalition governments in two German states: there, and in hundreds of local governments primarily in the East, the Left has won a reputation as a pragmatic, moderate, responsible party. So it has been able to profit from a radical stance on social and foreign policy in federal politics and a reputation for good government in local and regional politics.

  4. Die Linke (“The Left”) adopted a strong stance on issues like the war in Afghanistan—it was the only party to call for an immediate German withdrawal.

    This is so consistent with far left parties. Our very own NDP have been saying this forever and a day. And we know that the NDP is anti-Israel, ant-American and has a powerful Islamic influence in it's party.

  5. Dear Andy,

    You are promoting a European style McCarthyism by describing Die Linke as "far Left". Die Linke holds the same political position that the German SDP (Social Democratic Party) held before it moved under the umbrella of the neo-liberal establishment, refusing to do business with a party which upholds true social democracy.