“BREAK THE NEOLIBERAL HEGEMONY”

For a New LEFT Party

[This call published in: Junge Welt, 6/3/2006 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.jungewelt.de/2006/06-03/041.php?print=1.]

[With the “Call to a New LEFT,” the left party (Die Linke) and WASG in Berlin opened up the debate on the eve of their 2007 merger. At a press conference in Berlin, representatives of both parties Lothar Bisky, Klaus Ernst, Gregor Gysi, Katja Kipping, Oscar Lafontaine and Felicitas Weck presented this paper to the public.]


At the beginning of the 21st century, the peoples of the world moved closer together. Satellite television, Internet, international air service and developments in nuclear technology, biology and chemistry confirm that a common fate binds all people. Dependence increases. Environmental damage in one country has harmful effects in neighboring countries. National economies melt together. New inventions lead to an enormous increase of productivity. In less than a decade, the gross world product has doubled and world trade tripled. Energy consumption grows at a breath-taking speed.

While the industrial states heaped up ever greater wealth, hundreds of thousands of persons die day after day because they have too little to eat. Every ten seconds, a child dies of starvation even though twelve billion people could be satiated according to data of the World Food Organization (WFO).

Hunger and malnutrition are results of a barbaric worldwide economic order. Capitalism depends on its constant expansion. Capitalism conquers sales markets and sources of raw materials, even with military force. Freedom and democracy are not central but rather the oil- and gas reserves of the Middle East and the neighboring states of the Caspian Sea whether Afghanistan or Tschechnya, Iraq or Iran, Syria or Saudi Arabia. In the ruthless struggle for power and spheres of influence, the United States of America ignores human rights and the Geneva conventions. The US pushes aside international law and cancels the norm of international law that prohibits all aggressive war. According to the new doctrine, states that feel threatened have the right to attack others. This predatory capitalism in vast parts of the world leads to bitter poverty and terrorism. The US combats this terrorism with wars violating international law in which many thousands of innocent persons are killed. The US continues the spiral of violence and creates new possibilities for terrorism.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, a social order fell apart in which many people set great hope. In striving to give life chances and work to all their citizens and justly distribute prosperity, the East European states and the Soviet Union ignored Rosa Luxemburg’s two great maxims: “Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters.” “No socialism without democracy and no democracy without socialism.” The initial economic situation clearly worse than western countries and the less effective economic system forced state socialist countries to become enormously indebted to the West to raise the living standards of their citizens. Despite undeniable progress in producing social equality, the equality of the woman and overcoming education privileges, they degenerated to systems of bureaucratic tutelage, lagged behind economically and increasingly lost the support of their citizens.

The failure of these attempts at creating a socialist society, the crimes of Stalinism and the injustices of one-party dictatorships do not release the left from making a new start at overcoming the barbarism of capitalist society. Freedom and social security, democracy and socialism imply each other. In a democratic-socialist society, the freedom of the other is the condition of one’s freedom, not the limit of one’s freedom. A person who exploits and oppresses his fellow persons is not free.

UNBRIDLED CAPITALISM

Humanity’s dream of a world society of the free and equal lives. In South America, socialist presidents have come to power. They refuse to surrender the raw materials of their countries to international conglomerates. They promote democracy and a more just society.

In Europe, socialist and social-democratic parties assumed power at the end of the 20th century. However they were too weak to oppose the increasingly unbridled capitalism. Instead they submitted obsequiously to multinational corporations and the imperatives of international financial markets. Deregulation, privatization, dismantling democracy, tax cuts for corporations and the rich and cuts of social benefits were the new gospel. Neoliberalism, originally only an economic theory, becomes a substitute religion. Neoliberalism corrupts language and thought.

Neoliberal ideologists speak of the reorganization of the welfare state and mean its dismantling. They speak of future-oriented reforms and mean cutting social benefits. Protection against unlawful termination is watered down, collective bargaining agreements are pierced and the institutions of public necessities sold. More people work in insecure poorly paid jobs where they are shamelessly exploited or forced to self-exploitation. The social security systems that should give protection and social rights to people are privatized. The Hartz laws and Agenda 2010 passed by the CDU/CSU, SPD, FDP and the Greens are the culmination of this development in Germany.

The world of work is in change. Through the rise of productivity, fewer and fewer employees provide more and more services. This improvement should benefit everyone. However the opposite occurs. Stress and working hours grow in the employed population. The unemployed are under pressure and excluded. The labor market is made flexible. An extreme mobility is demanded of employees. Limited labor contracts, working hours around the clock and ever-longer distances to workplaces destroy family- and community life. The dissolution of social bonds and life worlds changes people and trigger s destructive potentials. Millions of people are unemployed and feel discarded by society. While corporate profits and assets income set new records, wages, unemployment benefits and pensions are cut.

In the course of this development, voter turnout declines and rightwing parties are much in demand. The social democratic party in Germany that has turned neoliberal loses members and voters. Those who once stood for peace and social justice support wars in violation of international law like the CDU/CSU/FDP and the Greens, a low tax rate and constant cuts in the social net.

The time has come to gather the scattered forces of the left. The PDS emerging from the SED (Socialist-Unity party of East Germany) has changed. It has gained many new members and become a democratic socialist party. Its new name, the LEFT party [Die Linke] – corresponds to these changes. Disappointed unionists, social democrats and representatives of social movements founded the WASG. Over four million voters in the 2005 Bundestag election gave the LEFT party and WASG the mandate of forming a new left party.

LEFT UNITY MOVEMENT

The LEFT [Die Linke] understands itself as a unity movement of people of different political and social origins who fight for more social justice. The LEFT seeks a solidarian society where the free development of each and every one is the condition of the free development of all. It seeks an open society in which people have equal rights and chances – independent of origin and skin color, religion and nationality, gender and sexual orientation.

The LEFT wants to venture more democracy and supports extending basic rights. Citizens should have the possibility of improving their living conditions through petitions and referendums. Political engagement is expressed in both membership in a party and involvement in non-governmental organizations and social movements. The LEFT will take up the demands of non-parliamentary movements and support their participation in the political decision-making process.

The LEFT will not repeat the mistakes of traditional anti-capitalist organizations or be tied in the global capitalist system. The LEFT relies on the contributions and gifts of its members and state grants.

The political representatives of the LEFT are committed to the democratic resolutions of parties and the promises given before elections. Unlike representatives of other parties, they do not act as lobbyists of corporations or economic associations.

The LEFT hopes for the peaceful cooperation of the nations. The LEFT wants foreign policy to be peace policy and urges a preventive policy for conflict avoidance. It condemns imperialist wars for sales markets and raw materials and defends the right of the people to control the use of their resources. It insists on fulfilling international law and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. As long as the nuclear powers do not disarm their nuclear arsenals, other states will get nuclear weapons.

PROTECTIVE LAWS

The LEFT confesses democratic socialism. Capitalism is not the end of history. Since the weak can only be free when laws and regulations protect them from the arbitrariness of the strong, the LEFT relies on regulation instead of deregulation. The basic moral values of society should be enforced in the economy. Laws and regulations must insure that capital exploitation is committed to the public interest, as the German constitution requires (Art. 14). Key areas of the economy and vital necessities must be converted to public ownership and subject to democratic control.

The LEFT fights for the equal rank of men and women. The women’s movement is one of its political roots. Therefore it argues for social security systems that start from an individual legal claim. This should also be true for social-, tax- and labor law. The LEFT seeks equality in wage policy for women. That women receive lower salaries in Germany is not acceptable.

The LEFT seeks the production of equal living conditions in the East and West. The neoliberal thesis according to which unemployment can be mastered through lower wages and longer working hours is clearly refuted by developments in East Germany. Unemployment was and is twice as high in the East. The LEFT does its utmost that persons in the East and West are treated equally in income, social benefits and pensions. Positive cultural and social experiences of East Germans like longer collective learning must spread to all Germany.

The LEFT wants a more just distribution of paid work by reducing working hours and creating jobs in socially meaningful areas, above all in public service and public employment. It seeks an economic order that gives the possibility of sharing in working life to all people. Forced unemployment is an act of violence that often leads to isolation and exclusion, even though there are important activities beyond classical paid work. The distribution of collectively gained wealth should reward living labor and not dead capital. An economic policy according to the Scandinavian model unites high employment with a sturdy social net. Above-average investments in education and research, in the public infrastructure and an efficient public service are the foundations for good economic development and increased prosperity. The LEFT supports a financial- and tax-policy enabling the state to fulfill its obligations. Through just taxes and fees, high incomes and mammoth assets could properly share in financing state functions. A five-percent taxation of the financial assets of the richest Germans would bring a hundred billion additional euros to the public treasuries every year.

AGAINST PRIVATIZATION

The LEFT wants to end a policy that sells public assets and dispossesses the population. Instead of neoliberal privatization, it supports a social or public and communal responsibility for education and health care, water- and energy-supply, urban development and housing, public transportation and important parts of culture. Elected representatives should ensure vital necessities. Reducing jobs in public service expands unemployment. In hardly any other industrial society – not in the US, Great Britain or even in the Scandinavian countries – do so few citizens work in public service in relation to the total number of employees as in Germany.

The LEFT speaks up for the ecological conversion of industrial society. To preserve the foundations of life for future generations, we need a sustainable economy and responsible relations with the atmosphere, water and earth. The leading industrial nations that contribute the most to the pollution of the air and water are obliged to fundamentally change their dealings with natural resources.

The LEFT rejects electricity production from nuclear energy. The environment may not be sacrificed in the international distribution battle around scarce and expensive sources of energy. The problems of energy supply increase. Energy must be affordable for everyone and its production environment-friendly. Therefore the energy economy may not be subordinated to the law of maximizing capitalist profit. Energy prices must be approved by the state. Environment-friendly sources of energy and technologies must gradually replace nuclear technology and fossil fuels.

The LEFT wants economic democracy. Dependent employees and their union should have the right to a political strike, the general strike. The rights of participation and joint determination of employees in businesses must be extended. Personnel must agree on the existential decisions for the future of a business. The LEFT champions a revitalized understanding of solidarity between full-time employees, employees with insecure working conditions and the unemployed.

The capitalist economic system leads to the concentration of assets in the hands of a minority. Five hundred corporations control half of the gross world product. This concentration of economic power endangers democracy. Power that is not democratically legitimated may not determine social conditions. The LEFT wants the primacy of politics. Intensely concentrated economic areas must be de-cartelized. For that reason, we would tighten the cartel law. Only then can the market and competition have their desired effect and increase social prosperity. The market and competition lead to an efficient economy, decentralization of economic decisions and thus to limitation of economic power. The LEFT relies mainly on promoting the 2.9 million businesses with less than ten million euros in sales and the million small businesses in Germany that have fewer than ten employees.

The LEFT opposes the social deforestation. It wants to improve the welfare state and revive the systems of social security so they can hold their ground to the challenges of the future in a changing world of work. They should be based on a citizen security financed by a tax on all incomes. With citizen security, provision for one’s ole age should be more reliable. Avoidance of old age poverty of pensioners and the battle against the increasingly unequal income distribution in old age should be central. A legal minimum wage and a repression-free basic social security should enable everyone to lead a life befitting human beings, even those who have not paid in enough to the security systems. The protective rights of employees must be expanded. The LEFT is oriented in the model of a democratic welfare state and pleads for minimum social standards that protect against poverty and make possible participation in democracy.

The LEFT strives for equal opportunities in education and turns against all elitist exclusion. From kindergarten spaces to learning as a lifelong process, the institutional, material and cultural conditions must be created so all talents and gifts can be developed and used. The LEFT urges more investment in early childhood education, the right to free kindergarten and learning standards for kindergarten. They should insure that children receive the same learning prerequisites before they come to school irrespective of their origin. The LEFT recommends abolishing the three-tier school system and introducing an integrated comprehensive school system. This system should be oriented in personal and material development and in the fields of intellectual, cognitive and musical learning in the Finnish educational system. The changeover from half-day to full-day schools is an essential prerequisite for that orientation and for the vocational activity of parents.

The LEFT wants freedom of information. It turns against all monopolies in the sphere of the mass media. Strengthening public radio and extending freedom of the press must promote journalist- and cultural diversity. The interconnection of journalistic and political power represents a danger for democracy. “Information capitalism” is not a mere fiction but becomes a threatening reality when production, distribution and storage of information are concentrated in monopolies and the collective memory of humanity is privatized…

DEVELOPING ALTERNATIVES

The LEFT seeks a united Europe. This vision can only be successfully realized on a welfare state basis. Contracts and laws prevent the dumping competition between countries by prescribing minimum standards for basic rights, wages, social benefits, taxes and pollution control. These contracts and laws should regulate the cooperative life of Europeans.

The response to the Europeanization of political conflicts and social battles is a European LEFT party that develops the political alternative to the Europe of the neoliberals.

The LEFT stands up for its goals in local parliaments and state parliaments, in the Bundestag (lower house of the German parliament), the European parliament and in non-parliamentary movements. It opposes neoliberal policy and seeks to break its hegemony. To that end, it needs a politics that changes the spirit of the times. Protest, initiatives and alternatives that point beyond capitalism form a strategic unity in the work of the left. The LEFT assumes power when it can improve the living conditions of people and open up alternative paths of development. It will only enter in coalitions with other parties in compliance with its principles. Public institutions of vital necessities may not be privatized. The cutbacks in staff in territories, communities and the country must be stopped and the curtailment of social benefits prevented.

Against the superior force of capital, democratic progress and the improvement of living conditions can only be achieved for a large majority in a broad reform alliance. Resistance against unbridled, neoliberal capitalism forms all over the world. All who want a more peaceful, just, ecological and social cooperative life are called to join in founding the new LEFT party.

Berlin, June 2, 2006